Building a business theme for your college application

Do you dream of owning your own company? Are you interested in commerce, trade, or sales? Are you a born leader? Perhaps you should consider a career in business. Business schools can be highly competitive, so if you want your application to stand out, then you should definitely consider a business theme.

1. Academics

To create a strong Business theme, you will need to take a variety of challenging courses in high school. Business covers so many academic areas, you really need to consider your options and just take challenging courses across the board.

Here are the main areas you want to be sure to cover:

• Math: at least one math course per year, ending with AP Calculus, if offered
• English: one course per year, ending with AP English Literature, if offered (business majors need to have strong written communication skills)
• Science: at least one course per year, ending with AP Physics, if offered
• History: one course per year, ending with AP Government, if offered
• Foreign Language: one course per year, ending with the AP level, if offered

Elective options will vary greatly from school to school. Remember that you are trying to put forth the most advanced curriculum possible and show that you have been able to handle a difficult course load in a variety of subjects. Depending on what your school offers, here are some electives to consider:

• AP Micro/Macroeconomics
• AP Psychology
• AP Computer Science
• Accounting
• Business

A note about high school business/marketing/accounting classes:

At certain schools, these classes are very simple and very introductory. Taking them is not necessarily a bad thing, as they can introduce you to the world of business and ignite your passion to study the subject further. That said, be careful about taking “fluffy” classes when you could have demonstrated a more difficult curriculum by taking a harder class in a core subject. Ultimately, this choice will be up to you and your options at your specific high school, but it is something to keep in mind.

It is also wise to seek out college courses that you might be able to take. Lots of colleges offer various courses to high school students, and these are likely to be much more interesting and advanced than some of the courses offered at the high school level. Check with your local colleges to see what your options are.

Summer Programs:

Tons of colleges offer summer programs and camps to aspiring business students. Wharton, which is part of the University of Pennsylvania and is widely considered to be one of the best business schools in the world, offers four different ones, even. Research some different summer programs and apply to a bunch of them. These camps immerse you in a competitive and
fast-paced environment where you will learn how to make presentations, solve complex problems, think on your feet, write proposals, and even learn a little bit about business law. Depending on your schedule and financial situation, you might even be able to attend a different summer program each year you are in high school.

2. Extracurriculars – Clubs/Leadership

When thinking about becoming a future leader in the world of business, so many high school clubs can give you relevant experience both in the actual area of business, and in general leadership. As a result, you do not have to stress to make sure that all of your extracurriculars are business-related (although at least some should be). Every leadership position you hold, no matter what club it is in, will be relevant to your overall business theme. In other words, if you realize your junior year that you are leaning towards majoring in business in college and you want to try to construct a business theme when you start applying to schools, it is far better to keep your position as president of the Art Honor Society than to quit AHS just to join your school’s entrepreneur club for a year and a half. Of course, if you’re feeling really motivated and have the time, you could always do both!

There are a couple of nationally recognized business-oriented clubs for
high school students that you should highly consider participating in if they are offered at your school. In both, students are given opportunities to participate in competitions, conferences, workshops, and networking
events in order to gain business, marketing, and entrepreneurial skills:

• DECA (formerly known as Distributive Education Clubs of America, now only known by its acronym)
• FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America)

Some other clubs that may be offered at schools and that could fit into a business theme:

• Boy’s/Girl’s State
• Speech/Debate Team
• Odyssey of the Mind
• Student Government
• Inventor’s Club
• Entrepreneur Club
• Future One Percenters of America
• FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America)
• Any club where you have demonstrated commitment and have a leadership role

3. Extracurriculars – Academic/Scholarship

Options for special academic projects are limited only to your own creativity. Some opportunities may be available through certain clubs or classes that you may be involved in, but if you find that your clubs and/or classes are not giving you chances to let your academic and practical business knowledge shine, you may have to seek out a special project on your own.

First, talk to some of your teachers. Come up with a proposal for an extra credit research project (learning to construct a good proposal is a business skill in and of itself!).

Here are some ideas:

• Construct a business plan for a potential new business
• Study an existing business’s history and write an analytical paper about what has worked, what hasn’t, and ideas you would have to improve the business if you were in charge
• Look at an existing business from an ethical perspective and write an ethics analysis
• Research several businesses and write a research paper comparing and contrasting them
• Research the process of creating a start-up company and write the proposals/plans for funding, etc
• Create a marketing plan/advertisement for a new product

Another place to ask around is in your community. Many towns have entrepreneur meet-ups and networking gatherings. Attend some meetings and see if you would be able to make a presentation at one. These groups are usually formed by adults, but they are always welcoming new faces and new ideas. Most of them would likely be happy to hear a fresh voice and also offer you feedback that may help your presentation become even stronger.

If you are able to make a presentation at a community meeting or in front of your school/class, make sure to get it on video. You can submit this as a media file in the “Additional Information” section of the Common Application. After all, in the business world, your presentation skills will be just as important as your written work.

Apply for scholarships. Some business scholarships are based on academic merit and community involvement alone, while others require you to
create proposals and complete research projects. If you do a special project in the course of applying for a scholarship, you can include that work with your application.

4. Competitions/Achievements

In order to have the best access to nationally recognized awards and competitions, it is most advantageous to join clubs at your school like DECA, FBLA, FCCLA, and Odyssey of the Mind. They all sponsor a multitude of competitive events in every field of business from problem solving to fashion merchandising to hotel sales/management to innovation. Competing as a part of a school-sponsored team or even on
your own is a wonderful thing to be able to add to your application, not to mention a great way to gain experience in working under pressure and presenting your work in public.

Although they are not directly business related, competitions in math, science, and technology fields are good ones to have under your belt as well. Business-savvy individuals typically have excellent mathematic skills, so any kind of math related competitive events will strengthen your application. The same is true for technology–the business sector is constantly expanding its technology departments, so any skill you can demonstrate in this area will look very impressive.

If for any reason, these types of competitive events are not available to you, see what you can manifest on your own. Perhaps others in your school have entrepreneurial spirits as well and would really enjoy a school-wide innovator’s showcase. Perhaps you can stage a school-wide competition
like the TV show “Shark Tank” where people present their business ideas and a panel of judges decides which one most deserves their funding. Part of being excellent in the business world is being able to pitch your ideas
and create something out of nothing. If your school is not offering it to you,
maybe it’s time to offer it to your school. This is a great way to gain leadership skills as well, and colleges are always looking for excellent leaders.

5. Major and Supporting Documents

In thinking about your future major, think about what area of business appeals to you most. There are different ways you can go here, and all of them fit well with a business theme. This is where you just need to analyze your own interests and choose the subject that you find most interesting.

Obviously, you can chose “Business” as your potential major if the college you’re applying to offers it (and most do). This will give you an excellent foundation and will open many career doors for you. For those who want
something a little different, or maybe a little more specific, here are some ideas:

• Finance
• Accounting
• Economics
• Entrepreneurship (many schools now offer this as a minor, only a few have it as a major at this point)
• Business Administration
• Marketing
• Communication (especially with a focus on advertising/marketing)
• Information Technology (might be better suited for a science/tech theme, but you could argue it from a business perspective if the rest of your application supported it)
• Specific business areas like Hotel Administration, Construction
Management, Golf Resort Administration, etc.