Ask a Scholar: Time for Business School?

Jason Fertig

This is one answer given to the "Ask a Scholar" question about business school. Click here to read another. 

Dear Ask a Scholar,

I was going to graduate this December with a double major in business administration and computer science. Unfortunately I had to withdraw from the computer science senior project. Therefore, now I can only graduate with a major in business administration and only a minor in computer science. I wanted to know how this fact is going to affect my chances of being accepted to a good graduate school and whether postponing my graduation and retaking the course would improve my situation. I am applying for an MBA. Thank you in advance.  

Answered by Jason Fertig, assistant professor of management at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, Indiana. His main intellectual interests include credentialing, online education, and management history. He has published commentaries for the National Association of Scholars and the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, in addition to scholarly work in journals such as Human Resource Development Review and the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies. 

Dr. Fertig holds a bachelor’s of science degree from Rutgers University, a master’s of business administration from Temple University, and a Ph.D. from Temple University. He has taught at Temple University, Rider University, St. Joseph’s University (Pa.), and Franklin and Marshall College. He also has industry experience as a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers and as a software analyst with Johnson & Johnson.

I often hear similar questions when mentoring my senior undergraduates.  Minoring instead of majoring in computer science will not affect your ability to get into a good graduate school.  As a matter of fact, staying in school for another semester and incurring the costs and fees associated with being a student may alone be enough to say “time to move on.”

I would be interested in knowing this student’s goals for graduate school.  Is this student looking simply for a credential?  In that case, go apply to B-School; you’ll likely get into a respectable place if the grades are good.  Just be careful about borrowing money for your graduate work.  Can you handle $20,000+ more debt if loans will be used?

On the other hand, if this student wants a real education, there is little to gain from jumping directly to B-School from undergraduate work and studying more theory and reading more cases (without having any experience to make real connections).  To be honest, the common advice of two years of experience is still not enough to truly benefit from B-School. At that point, the young adult would gain more from skills training, such as a Dale Carnegie course.

The MBA is not the golden ticket that it once was (See H. Mintzberg – Managers Not MBAs).  During a hot market, consulting and financial firms scoop up MBAs, but during down economic times, experience tends to trump all in hiring decisions.  You don’t want to be overeducated and inexperienced.  That’s a recipe for frustration.

If an education is truly desired, go out and work.  Experience the world. Flip burgers if you have to flip burgers.  Whatever you do, learn a business. When you sufficiently understand a business, then consider the MBA. I know that other life situations will be in play then, but that’s also when a person will have the most both to offer and to gain from the MBA classroom. 

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