Starting in fall 2006, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business plans to employ new admissions policies for its Bachelor of Business Administration program. Rather than requiring students to apply for admittance as juniors, the new pilot will accept freshmen and sophomores into a three- or four-year program.

Sowmya Krishnamurthy

These reforms are intended to create an array of benefits for both students and administrators. Students can acclimate to the rigors of business earlier, therefore alleviating post-transition stress, and they will be enabled to pursue minors and study abroad. From the administration’s standpoint, expansion will improve the Business School’s overall competitiveness against other top undergraduate business institutions like New York University’s Stern School or the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which offer four-year programs immediately upon entrance. For those students confident on pursuing a business career, the ability to gain acceptance into the Business School from the onset of college improves the quality and quantity of applicants.

Theoretically it’s a win-win situation, although realistically it could prove otherwise. The first potential problem is the usage of a tiered admissions process, where undergrads begin their BBAs either as freshmen or sophomores. This will inherently cause a discrepancy between the preparedness of the two groups; those who start earlier have the seeming advantage of a year’s worth of experience under the Business School’s modus operandi, which does little to quell the transition of sophomore entrants.

More importantly, by admitting candidates earlier, the program encourages students to choose their majors too prematurely. Due to the lack of application-based learning in high school curriculum and the overwhelming number of major options, few 18-year olds know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives. And why should they? The purpose of freshmen year in college should be intellectual exploration, studying an array of disciplines before settling down with one, especially at a university that offers such a multitude of quality academics. I myself have taken advantage of this as a BBA student. Prior to junior year, I contemplated a number of professional pursuits from political science to communications before finally deciding on marketing. But only via introductory “trial and error” courses was this conclusion made. The uniqueness of the old admissions scheme was the feasibility of enrolling in a school like the College of Engineering, and later switching during third year, creating an educational duality of sorts. Quite possibly my most rewarding class, English 239 with Buzz Alexander, was taken because I was in the Honors Program prior to the Business School.

Even those purists that from the day of birth have set their minds upon studying only accounting can take advantage of a holistic education. College is meant to create well-rounded people as much as professionals. No matter what field one chooses, there is something to be said about possessing a multidimensional skill set of English, mathematics, history, etc. The ability to succeed within a particular industry and functioning in the real world as a whole are not one and the same.

Perhaps the greatest challenge the Business School faces will be the admissions process itself. Currently, students must display a variety of aptitudes in their BBA applications through a series of essays, resumes and transcripts. Those selected display strength in both college academics and extracurricular activities. For the class of 2006, I assume that admissions criteria will be similar but relate solely to the high school years. The predicament that subsequently follows aligns with that of University undergraduate admissions as a whole: How do we account for obvious incongruities between schools, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc., yet retain the fairness of the process?

The former admissions protocol easily mitigated such inconsistencies by the sheer fact that only University experiences were considered. By no means was there total equality, but at least on campus everyone had similar exposure to resources and opportunities; the playing field was more equalized than before.

It is still too early to fully gauge the success of the Business School’s new admissions policies. Although there are causes for concern, there is also ample potential for improvement. With growing student demand and increased visibility within academic circles, the Business School is correct in taking a dynamic view toward enrollment, and it will be interesting to see how implementation proceeds.

 

Krishnamurthy can be reached at sowmyak@umich.edu.

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