Undergrad Business or MBA?

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Undergrad Business or MBA?
By Purplerain (Purplerain) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 08:13 pm: Edit

Which plan is the best?

Plan A: Get a good liberal arts education in LAC during undergrad years or prestigious national university, get a real chance to explore interests, major in English or other humanities (<-- concentrate in these areas). Get some work experience with English degree? (This might be a bit tough) Pursue MBA a few years later.

Plan B: Double major in English and Business during undergrad years at a university known for a top notch undergrad business program. Get work experience for a couple of years with solid undergrad degrees, then pursue competitive MBA program at around 25.

Or is there something in between? And do recruiters know that a certain school has a good business program? For example, Indiana Univ. Bloomington is a second tier school, but it has a top notch business program.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 10:35 pm: Edit

Some of us parents have opined in other threads that we view business as a slacker major. Your problem is that, while our view may not always be accurate, our "mistake" still keeps you from getting the job.

You may also note that the only top tier U that offers an undergrad business degree is U. Penn, and they've developed the Wharton brand for it. This is no accident. IMHO, you would be better off pursuing a degree in econ, accounting, or some more traditional academic field over a business degree. Then get some experience and go for an MBA if you think you still need it.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 11:16 pm: Edit


While my own decision support your conclusions, I think that your list of top tier Universities must be extremely limited to only include Penn as an academic source for a business undergraduate.

I think that we can safely credit USNEWS for the ubiquitous distinctions between "tiers", and then assume that the so called top tier universities should comprise a few more than 8 schools. Sloan, Haas, Marshal, Olin, Stern, McCombs. Kenan-Flager, McIntire, and a few others seem to merit inclusion, alongside with Wharton.

By Purplerain (Purplerain) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 12:47 am: Edit

It seems as if my main question still hasn't been answered.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 12:54 am: Edit

You would really have to tell us the undergrad schools you have in mind other than Indiana. If you're tallking top LACs, second tier, etc.

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 06:30 am: Edit

MASSDAD, I believe your statement above:

"You may also note that the only top tier U that offers an undergrad business degree is U. Penn, and they've developed the Wharton brand for it."

is innacurate. There are several "top tier" universities that offer an undergraduate business degree. Few would disbute that Cal-Berkeley, Mass Inst. of Tech. and Michigan aren't top tier universities and all three have top tier Busines programs at both the undergraduate and MBA levels. Cornell is another top flight university with a top flight MBA program that is currrently in the process of starting an undergraduate program in Business.

Other schools that are arguably top tier that also have respected undergraduate business programs are:

Carnegie Mellon
North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Notre Dame
Washington University-St. Louis

So Wharton is not unique among top tier universities in their having an undergraduate Business program.

PURPLERAIN, I agree with Massdad and everybody else on this forum. The study of Business at the undergraduate level is not the best course of action. Business is a highly practical field and usually requires real-world experience to maximize your understanding and appreciation of the field. I certainly recommend Plan A...provided you get into the right school and follow the right path. Going to just any university will not provide you with the kind of armament or bargaining chips you will require to break into corporate America in an enviable position, nor will going to an elite university without properly thinking things through and following a carefully laid out plan. Allow me to explain.

It is preferable to follow plan B if all of your options are second tier universities. A Business Degree from say Indiana or Purdue will serve you much better than an English degree from Pepperdine or George Washington University. And yes, Indiana has a great business school with impressive links to Corporate America.

However, if you can get into an elite institution like Amherst, Haverford or Williams... Brown, Chicago or Georgetown,... Cal, Michigan or UVA, then I recommend you go for Plan A. Major in English, History or whatever but take a few electives in subjects that will make you marketable. Subjects like Mathematics, Computers and Statistics. Hone your presentation and graph/report skills. Those come in very handy when you are interviewing with major corporations. Learn a foreign language like Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, French or German if possible. In this ever shrinking world, the need to understand other cultures and languages is crucial and highly desirable. And above all, get internships with major corporations in your summers. An English major does not have the benefits of a career center or office to assist in finding jobs, but major universities like the 9 I mentioned above have huge career fairs at least twice a year and most major companies hold information sessions during the course of the year. You will have to be aggressive and resourceful, but the opportunities are plentiful.

I hope this answered your question.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:53 am: Edit

Xiggi, Alexandre, I stand corrected.

I do note, however, that it seems all the schools both of you mentioned also have big engineering programs. I wonder if the undergrad business degree is the refuge for... ?

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 12:06 pm: Edit

Good question Massdad. I am not sure what brought about the existance of the business schools at those elite universities. I think that the schols of Engineering may have had something to do with it, but not entirely. Afterall, Stanford and Northwestern are elite universities with excellent engineering departments and awesome MBA programs, and yet neither of the two have an undergradaute business option. At the same time, schools with great programs in Engineering, like Illinois, MIT, Michigan, Cal-Berkeley, Purdue, Penn State etc..., have strong connections to industry as a result of their school of Engineering and may have seen a Business school for undergraduates as a natural extension to their already existing link to Industry. It is a fascinating question to geeks like us! LOL

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 01:25 pm: Edit

The problem with an undergraduate business degree is that there are so many kids who have them. I believe that business wins hands down as the most common undergraduate degree. And though there are schools and programs with excellent business programs, the major is still common enough that you are running with alot of competion with you.
The MBA from a top school is a whole different story. Most MBAs from top programs find lucrative jobs directly from the school (though these days it has been tough for even them). This is the the creme dela creme of business degrees and paired with a good solid undergraduate program is the hallmark of many executives in name firms. So it is often not enough to get that undergrad business degree from a name program; it is getting that MBA from such a program. The MBA from Southeast ABC university may not have much clout at all. The catch, of course, is that it is really tough to get into these top programs and good undergraduate grades along with top GMAT scores and substancive work experience is essential.

My advice to my son who was thinking along your lines once upon a time was to get a good solid liberal arts degree armed with some business courses on the side and over the summer. He was able to tuck those classes into his curriculum without much trouble and took some inexpensive state school classes in business over the summer instead of using precious top dollar tuition money during the year. I don't think it makes that much difference whether you take Management1 or Accounting, but it sure can be an issue where you take an upper level English course. He was in a top 25 college so he graduated with an English degree from there and enough business courses to have gotten an associate degree in business in any number of local/community colleges. He did get a substancive job offer from career services at his college and despite his mediocre grade looks like a good catch for several firms who like that combo far better than the business major for U of Colorado, U of Md and U of Delaware with some pretty good grades. I think if he gets a tough job and takes some substantial courses at night over the next few years and gets that gpa up, he will still be in the running for Law school or a good MBA program, though his grades as an undergrad will be a definite impediment.

By Purplerain (Purplerain) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 03:57 pm: Edit

Thanks Alexandre, Janimom, and MassDad for your advice.

Alexandre, Janimom -

I agree with your opinions. Plan A does seem like the better option with the elite colleges. However, wouldn't a double major at a top 25 college in Business and English seem more marketable? My ill-conceived logic is that an undergrad Business degree at a top 25 college will open up various job opportunities. Coupled witn an English degree, corporations and firms may be more willing to hire me.

Mom101 - The schools that I had in mind are known for their top undergraduate business programs. Some of them may also be known for a wonderful English department (or humanities/social sciences). Others are simply just top 25 colleges that are overall good. I still have to do some research/trimming the list:

Reach Schools
* Washington U. in St Louis
* University of Chicago

Match Schools
* New York University
* UNC at Chapel Hill
* University of Virginia
* UC Berkeley
* University of Michigan Ann Arbor
* UC San Diego
* Vanderbilt University

Safety Schools
* University of Southern California
* UC Davis
* Indiana University in Bloomington
* University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 04:09 pm: Edit

Be careful Purple rain, few people can honnestly have both UNC and UC Berkeley as a match, even if you have a 1450 on your SAT and a 4.0 GPA. An out of state student with those figures will still be a reach. Now if you have a 1500+ on your SAT, it is another story altogether.

As far as the number of schools you apply to, I would go for 3 reaches, 4 matches and 2 safeties.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 04:20 pm: Edit

I'm assuming you are in state CA. Even so, UCB is not a clear match. If you're not in state, as everybody on these boards knows, I argue against paying out of state for any UC. I wouldn't even consider a UC in state with your stats other than UCB and even then.... I do however, know many, many kids who got into WUSL with your stats if they didn't need fin aid, safer with your stats than UCB. Why the total absense of good LACs, Claremont for example, strong in both english and business?

By Uva123 (Uva123) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 08:42 pm: Edit

I'm considering the similar options as purplerain. I am entering UVA this fall and considering undergrad business. I'm considering MBA or law school but that seems far off as of now. Should I go for McIntire and then just figure out everything else later?

By Ariesathena (Ariesathena) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:42 pm: Edit

PurpleRain: I'll echo MassDad and others - undergrad business is considered a bit of a slacker major. Someone once said that it's pretty useless; with an English degree, your employer believes that you can write and spell; with a philosophy degree, they believe that you can think; with a business degree...??

I really believe that business and management is best learned after spending a few years working; taking business at the undergrad level, wihthout significant work experience, is like taking chemistry without labs.

Try economics or accounting if you want to make yourself more marketable. Also, only take those courses if you enjoy them; if you like your classes, you'll show up, pay more attention, work harder, and get more out of them - which is sometimes more important than the courses taken.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:46 pm: Edit

I don't agree with the above thinking if you can get into a TOP (Wharton, MIT) undergrad business progra, The world is changing and while this may have been true in the past I think we are going to see a clear trend towards specializing early. Note Donald Trump's kids are at Wharton.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, August 01, 2004 - 11:54 pm: Edit

So was The Donald. But I don't think his kids need to have the same concerns that we do.

Wharton may be an exception, and I think I noticed a bunch of Cornell kids (Hotel school of all places and ILR ) on several rosters that H had for investment banking. But, you know, I do know some kids who have great gpas out of Wharton that are still looking for jobs, and the type of jobs is nowhere what graduates from top MBA programs are getting. Nor our the pay levels. Perhaps after a couple of years. I seemany Wharton + top MBA combos, but again, I can check on those numbers as H has them, having worked in human resources for consulting and investment banking for years. The Wharton grads that I know who are his colleagues are all Wharton MBAs, not one just has an undergrad degree even from Wharton or top schools, and the ones that I saw on the rosters could well be in the lower level jobs. I will check because I am curious.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 12:01 am: Edit

I'm not saying this is a substitution for an MBA. It's not and grads of these programs will not be competeing with top MBAs for top jobs. I'm just saying I don't think it's a "slacker" major and is as good as economics and many others these days.

By Fenix_Three (Fenix_Three) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 01:21 am: Edit

I am so happy after reading these responses. I am hoping to major in Econ or Applied Math at Berkeley, but my dad insists that I try to get into Haas... So right now the plan is to do prereqs for both business and econ (as a backup). I'm secretly hoping to get rejected by Haas so I can pursue my passion for econ :)

What's the pay like for an econ vs undergrad business? I mean, I'd rather take the well rounded education experience anyways.

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 03:32 am: Edit

I majored in Economics and got jobs with IBs. I did not compare my package to that of Business majors, but I doubt it was different. There were as many people who majored in non-business fields (mainly Economics, Engineering and Match) as there were people who had majored in Business.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 04:08 am: Edit

There is no difference. The top in each arena will get the top jobs. Some employeers might appreciate one more and others will like the other.

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