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Does Your Undergrad Major Matter for Business School?

At EXPARTUS, we often work with young professionals, and college students, who are planning on applying for an MBA in the next couple of years. With so little work experience to rely on, they want to optimize every part of their background in order to get in to their target schools. And so, we are often asked about whether the choice of undergraduate major will help or harm for a b-school application.

The reality is that most top business schools just don’t focus all that much on undergraduate major. There are many good reasons for this; for one thing, undergraduate major doesn’t always correspond particularly well to career path.

Many people enter into college without a clear picture of what they want to do with their life, so their undergraduate track consists of courses they feel interested in, feel they can be successful in, or feel like they are “supposed” to take. It’s only once they have some experience in the working world that these candidates choose a career track, and business school is often their path to make their career goals happen.

In a similar way, most MBA programs are more concerned with how a student fared during their undergraduate years, and what they’ve done with themselves since, than what specifically they earned their degree in.

We looked through recent class profiles for 20 top MBA programs, to get a sense of the undergraduate majors represented. As you’ll see when you look through the list, the range is extensive. Depending on the school, humanities majors make up anywhere from 13% to more than 50% of the incoming class; business majors make up anywhere from 15% to more than 50%; and STEM majors make up anywhere from 20% to 45%.

Making the Most of Your Pre-MBA Years

The takeaway here is simple. If you’re still in college, and planning on an eventual MBA, focus less on what you’re doing and more on doing it well. Study hard so you can report an excellent GPA, and consider preparing for the GMAT now. Pursue extracurricular activities in line with your passions, particularly if you have the opportunity to take on a leadership role.

If you’ve already graduated, focus on building a career you can be proud of. Look for opportunities to take initiative at work, whether that’s identifying and solving problems, taking on extra duties, or striving for a promotion. Develop relationships where possible with mentors who will help you take your career to the next level.

Your undergraduate degree is just one tool that helps you to launch your career. From there, it’s all about what you make of it.

Schools with highest humanities percentage:

– Tuck (51%)

– Stanford (48%)

– Wharton (46%)

– Columbia (42%)

– Haas (41%)

Schools with highest business percentage:

– Chicago Booth (55%)

– IESE (52%)

– Kellogg (45%)

– UVA Darden (44%)

– INSEAD (44%)

Schools with highest STEM percentage:

– IESE (45%)

– IE (45%)

– MIT Sloan (43%)

– INSEAD (38%)

– Harvard (38%)

The Full List

Here is the full list of data we pulled from class profiles for 20 of the world’s top business schools. If you’d like to learn more about choosing the best MBA program based on your resume, experience, and career goals, as well as advice for early-career MBA applicants, you can get in touch with EXPARTUS at info@expartus.com.

School % Humanities % Business %

Stem

Notes
Chicago ~20% ~55% ~25% Exact numbers not available. Top three majors were Business, Economics, and Engineering.
Columbia 42% 31% 25% Social sciences accounted for 80% of humanities degrees (34% of total undergrad majors)
Fuqua 38% 29% 32% Business degrees include accounting
Haas 41% 24% 27% Top three majors were Business, Engineering, and Economics.
Harvard 21% 41% 38%  
IE 15% 40% 45% Business, Economics, and Engineering majors make up three quarters of the IE student body
IESE 27% 52% 45% IESE included students with multiple degrees, so numbers do not total 100%
INSEAD 13% 44% 38%  
Judge 36% 31% 33% Business degrees include both accounting and finance
Kellogg 28% 45% 29%  
LBS Information not available
MIT Sloan 20% 38% 43% Engineering was the largest undergrad major, representing nearly a third of the students
NYU Stern 38% 42% 20% Top three categories were Business, Social Science, and STEM
Oxford Said Information not available
Ross 30% 38% 32%  
Stanford 48% 15% 37% 11% of students hold advanced degrees
Tuck 51% 23% 26% Tuck includes Economics degrees with Humanities degrees; Finance degrees with Business degrees
UVA Darden 19% 44% 31% Admitted UVA Darden students hold 65 different undergraduate majors
Wharton 46% 26% 28%  
Yale 33% 39% 28%  
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