The following checklist is intended for students who have elected one or more of the following as their major or minor business, economics, international business, and international economics and who are interested in pursuing graduate or professional studies after completion of their B.A. at Hollins University. There are several steps involved in the process of selecting and applying for admission to a graduate/professional program. Since the application process can take more than one calendar year, it is strongly recommended that the student set a reasonable timetable to complete the different tasks in fulfillment of the recommended steps.
- You should think of solid reasons for planning to go to graduate school. If your desire is to take the graduate/professional studies path mostly because you do not want to look for a job, you might find yourself heading in the wrong direction. You want to seek the advice from our university’s Career Center.
- Consult the latest Peterson’s Graduate and Professional Programs Guide. Peterson’s provides an annually updated guide that gives wide-ranging information on graduate and professional programs offered by accredited colleges and universities in the United States, U.S. territories, Canada, and by those institutions outside the U.S. that are accredited by U.S. accreditation institutions. Advice on graduate education includes information on:
There are other guides that might help you expand or narrow your search concerning graduate/professional programs, including The College Blue Book and The World of Learning.
- Admission tests and GPA requirements
- Financial aid, such as: fellowships, scholarships, grants, internships, teaching assistant (TA) positions, research assistant (RA) positions, federal work-study programs, federal and private loan programs
- Faculty research: research interests of faculty members (do their interests fit or meet your interests?)
- Other factors to consider when selecting a graduate school or program
- When and how to apply
You want to devote several days or weeks to this first step for several reasons:
(a) To find out what you want; that is, which program is more suitable for you given your interests and academic background (economics? M.B.A? political science? public policy? law?) IMPORTANT: Most M.B.A.s seek prospective students who have work experience.
(b) To gather information about the school or department that offers the program(s) that you are interested in and whether funding or scholarships are available.
(c) To know the length of the program of studies - if it is a two- or three-year terminal degree (for example, M.B.A. or law) or if there is a possibility to conduct research, as in the case of an M.A. in economics with an automatic pass to the Ph.D. in economics program, given satisfactory completion of the qualifying exams.
(d) To find out about the geographic location of the schools you are interested in and to consider issues such as cost of living, preference for city or suburban/rural setting, work opportunities in and outside campus.
- Consider taking whatever entrance exam needed for your program either during the summer after your junior year or in the fall of your senior year. In many cases, applicants must submit their applications and supporting documents (including, but not limited to, a letter of intent, resume, letters of recommendation, and official transcripts) to their graduate/professional programs by the end of the fall semester of their senior year. Students who wait until the spring semester of their senior year to do this might appear to be less serious about wanting to go to graduate/professional school or to show signs of procrastination – neither is a good signal to send.
- How heavy is the math requirement in your program(s)? Are there advanced math/economics prerequisites or expectations to enter the program? [NOTICE that this requires planning in advance, with the help of your advisor and department chair.] You may want to contact, by phone or email, the chair of the department or school offering the program. Also, you may benefit by contacting the student representing the graduate program(s) you choose. Finally, go online to learn more about the orientation of the department and specific program(s) you are interested in.
- Contact Educational Testing Services (ETS) at www.ets.org/gre to find out how to prepare for and when/where to take the GRE. If you are thinking about going to law school, contact the Law School Admission Council at www.lsac.org to find out about the law admissions exam: LSAT, and how to prepare for it and when/where to take it. IMPORTANT: Preparing for the GRE plus subject test or GMAT or LSAT can take several weeks. It is advisable that you prepare for these exams during an extended school recess period such as summer or the J-term. This is critical information for our junior class.
- Seek information on how your program ranks in comparison with other similar programs. For students interested in business economics, you may want to visit The National Association for Business Economics Web site at: www.nabe.com. The University of Pennsylvania has a Web site with comprehensive resources for students interested in graduate studies in economics: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/gradprof/grad/gradecon.html
- Contact Hollins alumnae who have earned a graduate degree in order to learn about their experiences on the process of applying for a graduate program and on graduate student life.
- Prepare a cover letter and curriculum vitae (CV) or resume before the application deadline. It is strongly recommended that you have this ready before coming to Hollins for your senior year. You should also have staff at the Career Center and faculty members from your department read through your dossier before you submit it. IMPORTANT: One of the benefits and strengths of earning an undergraduate degree at Hollins is the emphasis placed on developing solid written communication skills. You should take advantage of this benefit and use your thesis or honors project as evidence of critical thinking when you write your letter of intent. Good writing skills are expected for entry into most graduate/professional programs.
Work a while after graduation
All good business programs want applicants to have at least two years of work experience after receiving the bachelor's degree. They make exceptions for foreign students and for older students who worked several years before coming to Hollins.
Any worthwhile business program requires a year of college calculus, though we have had graduates accepted who have had Intuitive Calculus (MATH 152) instead. Some business schools have strong quantitative programs and they require even more math. You may also want to take more statistics.
Do the steps suggested in "How to Get a Good Job."
For graduate school preparation, your grades will have to be even better — and think about running for a top student government position. M.B.A. programs tend to accept leaders.
Perform very well on the GMAT
Performing very well on the GMAT is absolutely essential to getting into any business school. Performance on graduate exams is often similar to performance on SATs, so it is imperative to remedy any weaknesses you had on your SATs. Buy GMAT preparation books early in your sophomore year and test yourself repeatedly. You may also consider taking a GMAT preparation course either in the spring of your junior year or that summer. GMAT scores are averaged, so plan to take them early in your senior year when you are feeling well and rested. About half the GMAT exam is math oriented, so it's important to be at ease with the math questions on the GMAT.
Here is a list of Business Week's latest ranking of the top thirty business school M.B.A. programs in the nation:
- 1. University of Chicago (Booth)
- 2. Harvard University
- 3. Northwestern University (Kellogg)
- 4. University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
- 5. University of Michigan (Ross)
- 6. Stanford University
- 7. Columbia University
- 8. Duke University (Fuqua)
- 9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)
- 10. University of California - Berkeley (Haas)
- 11. Cornell University (Johnson)
- 12. Dartmouth College (Tuck)
- 13. New York University (Stern)
- 14. University of California - Los Angeles (Anderson)
- 15. Indiana University (Kelley)
- 16. University of Virginia (Darden)
- 17. University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)
- 18. Southern Methodist University (Cox)
- 19. Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)
- 20. University of Notre Dame (Mendoza)
- 21. University of Texas-Austin (McCombs)
- 22. Brigham Young University (Marriott)
- 23. Emory University (Goizueta)
- 24. Yale University
- 25. University of Southern California (Marshall)
- 26. University of Maryland (Smith)
- 27. University of Washington (Foster)
- 28. Washington University - St. Louis (Olin)
- 29. Georgia Institute of Technology
- 30. Vanderbilt University (Owen)
Economics is one of several majors frequently used to prepare for law school, especially for those students interested in corporate or business law. Law schools look most favorably on a traditional disciplinary major, as long as you do very well in it (see the Hollins pre-law page).
Here's an interesting fact: a study by Michael Nieswiadomy in the Journal of Economic Education (fall 1998) looked at the LSAT scores of students who applied for law school admissions, categorized by majors. He showed that the LSAT scores of economics majors ranked highest among all disciplines. Such good performance may be attributable to the rigors of the economics curriculum and an emphasis on developing critical thinking skills.
Choose the right courses
Even though law schools say there are no particular courses in any discipline that will especially aid an application, they often recommend courses that emphasize comprehension, analysis, and writing. Certain courses introduce you to different aspects of the law and can help determine your area of interest; Business Law (BUS 222), Constitutional Law (POLS 363), and Civil Liberties Law (POLS 364) are three examples. Courses in critical thinking, logic, and mathematics are also suggested.
Earn excellent grades
Depending on the quality of the law school, that could well mean at least the top 10 percent of your class.
Perform very well on the LSAT
Performing very well on the LSAT is absolutely essential to getting into any law school. Buy LSAT preparation books early (in your sophomore year) and test yourself repeatedly. Then seriously consider taking one of the LSAT preparation courses either in the spring of your junior or the summer before your senior year. LSAT scores are averaged, so plan to take them early in your senior year when you are feeling well and rested.
Do a law-related internship
Law schools say internships don't matter much on an application, but they can help you decide whether law school is worth the struggle.