Does Your Major Matter for B-School?

You’ve mapped out your future and made a plan. The next step: b-school. You majored in English literature in undergrad and you’re concerned that you’re at a disadvantage applying to business school, despite the fact that you’ve had four solid years working in a corporate environment. You probably think finance majors are a shoo-in at a top ten b-school. Let’s investigate these assumptions.

To see how your major fits in at a prospective b-school, a good place to start is by looking at the profile of the current class. A simple search will help you find this information quickly. Some schools are more detailed in their analysis of undergraduate majors, but you should at least get a rough idea of how you would fit in. To help you get started, I’ve compiled a list of undergraduate majors at various business schools for the current class. I included some of the top business schools according to U.S. News & World Report. The percentages indicated in the table below were found on the universities’ websites.

School STEM Business/Economics Humanities/Social Sciences Other
Harvard University 38% 41% 21% N/A
University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) 28% 26% 46% N/A
University of Chicago (Booth) 24% 55% 14% 7%
MIT (Sloan) 43% 37% 20% N/A
Stanford University 37% 15% 48% N/A
Northwestern University (Kellogg) 29% 45% 28% N/A
University of California–Berkeley (Haas) 27% 42% 23% 8%
Dartmouth College (Tuck) 26% 23% 51% N/A
Yale University 28% 39% 33% N/A
Columbia University 25% 31% 42% 2%
Duke University (Fuqua) 32% 44% 23% 2%

*NOTE: Economics majors are included in the 51%. Most schools lump economics and business majors together.

A quick look at the table will give you assurance that all majors are accepted and indeed welcomed at top business programs. These schools want their incoming classes to be diverse and well-rounded. They want students from a variety of academic backgrounds, not just those who studied business in undergrad.

Points of Interest:

University of Chicago (Booth)

Prefers business and economics majors – 55% of the Class of 2018 had backgrounds in these fields but only 14% came from humanities or the social sciences.

University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)

Favors students from humanities or the social sciences, with 46% of the current class having a background in these fields.

Stanford University

Also favors those with humanities or social sciences – 48% of the current class hail from these backgrounds and a mere 15% of Stanford’s current class majored in business!

MIT (Sloan)

Predominantly favors those from a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) background, with 43% coming from these fields. This shouldn’t be too surprising since MIT is, after all, a technical institute!

Dartmouth (Tuck)

Appears to overwhelmingly prefer students with a humanities or social sciences background. But, their stats are a bit misleading since the 51% listed in the table also includes economics majors, as noted above. Most schools list economics majors as a separate category or include them with business majors.
A closer look at the table reveals that some schools have percentages that add to 101% or 102%. Let’s chalk that up to rounding errors.

What can we learn from all this? Well, if you majored in history, you may be better off applying to Stanford or UPenn (Wharton) rather than Chicago Booth. On the other hand, if you were a math major, Harvard or MIT might be a better choice.

As a final takeaway, it’s not worth worrying about your undergraduate major. If you want to pursue an MBA, go for it! You can use these stats to determine where you might be best suited. Remember, schools are interested in the whole student, not just your major!