Long before you embark on your business career, you can begin setting yourself up for success. By getting the grades needed to earn admission into respected business schools, choosing relevant high school coursework, taking advantage of opportunities to develop your leadership skills and learning about your education and career options, you will be ready for college. Business is one of the most popular college majors year after year, but taking these simple steps will place you among the most well-prepared freshmen in your business school.
Excel in Your College-Prep Classes
Business degree programs are competitive, particularly at the sort of prestigious college of business that will impress your future employers. Just because you get into a college does not necessarily mean you will get into its undergraduate business program. Unlike many other majors in less competitive fields, aspiring business majors must often wait until their junior year of college to be accepted into their major program of study. The admissions process for the college’s or university’s business school often takes into account the student’s GPA earned through their freshman and sophomore coursework, their scores on standardized tests and any leadership experience, work experience, community service experience or awards they have attained.
To gain acceptance into your top-choice schools, you will need to start off strong. It is important that you take classes in high school that are college-preparatory in nature, both to start getting ready for the demands of college classes and to show college admissions officers that you can handle the challenges of earning a business degree. College prep classes are more difficult than regular high school courses, but they give you the opportunity to learn more. Taking advanced placement (AP) classes can further prepare you for your college coursework. Whatever classes you take in high school, you should work hard to earn good grades in them so that you have a competitive GPA for college admissions.
Colleges sometimes use terms like “selective major” and “screened major” for programs of study that have more rigorous admissions requirements than general university admission. Business is a screened major at some schools, as are science and engineering.
Look for Business Classes
The more you know about the basics of the business world and business practices before you get to college, the better prepared you will be for your college coursework. Find out if your high school offers introductory business classes in fields like marketing, entrepreneurship, management and general business education. Most high schools at least offer a course or two in economics and accounting, both of which are crucial for business majors – and eventually, business professionals – to understand.
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Even if business classes aren’t available at your school, the courses you take can still help you build the skills you will need as a business major. Any kind of personal or consumer finance class that your high school offers can offer you a better understanding of basic financial reporting, balancing financial accounts and understanding financial concepts such as inflation, investment types and recession. As computer technology continues to advance and evolve, it plays an ever greater role in business, so taking courses to become computer literate is always a good idea. In addition to basic computer courses like keyboarding and word processing, which teach students to type quickly and accurately and to create letters, memos and presentations, you might consider classes in computer programming, troubleshooting or website development.
While you don’t have to be a math whiz to succeed in business, you need a solid understanding of math and its practical applications. Take algebra, calculus and, if offered, a business mathematics course. High school calculus is available in an AP format.
Gain Leadership Experience
School isn’t everything, either in high school or in college. What you do outside of school can help you prepare for success as a prospective business major. Working in the real world is a great way to begin developing skills in management, customer service and problem solving. It might not be glamorous, but many life skills – from becoming used to making change and using cash registers to learning how to interest with customers and coworkers – can come from your first job.
If you don’t have a job yet, there are plenty of other ways to gain valuable experience. Volunteer at a local organization and think of ways you can solve problems, whether those problems are organizing supplies or coming up with new ways to attract donations. Extracurricular activities also offer great opportunities for growth. Of course, taking part in business-focused extracurricular activities like Future Business Leaders of America and DECA are great options, but so are leadership roles in just about any club.
Part of what colleges are looking for is evidence of your commitment to something you are passionate about – so whether that passion is sports or music or academics matters less than the strength of your commitment to it.
Research Your Degree and Career Options
While you always want to go into your college education with an open mind, you should spend some time prior to college figuring out what you really want to do. Business encompasses many different major programs of study and different careers. During high school is a great time to do some research into the field. If possible, look for ways to network with current business majors and established business professionals, and don’t be afraid to ask your connections questions about what they’re doing and why they chose it. While business is a competitive field, there’s also plenty of room for connection and collaboration.
If possible, look into setting up a job shadow, in which you spend a short time – usually, a few hours to a workday – with an established professional in a field that you are interested in, observing what that person’s work is like and asking questions about the career.