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Article: Business is the most popular major but that doesn't mean it's a good choice.

cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 11,913 Senior Member
edited January 28 in Parents Forum
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/01/28/business-is-the-most-popular-college-major-but-that-doesnt-mean-its-a-good-choice/?utm_term=.e207f867bb28#comments

Found this to be disturbing:
Students majoring in business spend less time studying than anyone else on campus, according to the National Survey of Student Engagement. They also spend less time reading and writing than other majors. One analysis of 10 public four-year universities in Texas found that of the 40 courses needed for a business degree, only one required a writing assignment of 20 or more pages, and only three required assignments of at least 10 pages.

Any thoughts?
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Replies to: Article: Business is the most popular major but that doesn't mean it's a good choice.

  • barronsbarrons Registered User Posts: 24,481 Senior Member
    How many profs these days want to read 20 page papers? Most biz classes involve problem sets and cases--not long reading and writing assignments. A case should be done in 5-10 pages.
  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 11,913 Senior Member
    How many profs these days want to read 20 page papers? Most biz classes involve problem sets and cases--not long reading and writing assignments. A case should be done in 5-10 pages.

    One issue with not having 10-20 page essay assignments is students don't learn how to write/discuss complex topics which can't be covered in 3, 5, or 10 page essays.

    The article also stated that with the exception of the math intensive business majors such as accounting*/finance, the math proficiency for most business majors also left much to be desired.


    * My accountant relatives/friends would laugh at this one as from their recollections, the level of math required in their profession was a joke in their view....especially for HS classmates from my STEM-centered public magnet.
  • marvin100marvin100 Registered User Posts: 9,014 Senior Member
    prof2dad wrote:
    Business executives are busy and often have no time to read lengthy writing.

    Apparently business students aren't so busy:
    Students majoring in business spend less time studying than anyone else on campus, according to the National Survey of Student Engagement.
  • JenJenJenJenJenJenJenJen Registered User Posts: 659 Member
    "One medium-sized financial firm I worked for in the Boston area made it a point to unofficially have a policy of NOT HIRING undergrad business majors UNLESS they were from elite undergrad BBA schools like Wharton, NYU-Stern, Berkeley-HAAS, UVA-McIntire, UMich-Ross, etc." @cobrat, that is really interesting. Since Business is the most popular undergrad major, and a huge number of these kids are relatively under-desirable with poor skills, maybe we'll see what happened with all the lawyers a few years ago -- too many to justify pushing the major on undergrads.
  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 11,913 Senior Member
    edited January 28
    @cobrat, that is really interesting. Since Business is the most popular undergrad major, and a huge number of these kids are relatively under-desirable with poor skills, maybe we'll see what happened with all the lawyers a few years ago -- too many to justify pushing the major on undergrads.

    Actually, this has already happened IME...including in NYC/Boston areas. Only thing holding up the reporting is the fact this doesn't really affect undergrad b-majors from the elite tier of colleges and the continuing idea that if the major has the word "business" in it, it must be better at providing prereq skills above and beyond "Liberal Arts" majors to give them a leg up on the job market.

    From what I've observed and heard from other HR friends and HR folks in the firms I've worked at, in most cases the business major is treated no differently and sometimes like my firm...regarded more skeptically than a "Liberal Arts" graduate.

    A large part of this has to do with the quality of the students entering those majors/schools and how much initiative to go beyond the minimums(What they/their parents think is "What's needed for the job"). Vast majority tend to not go beyond the minimums which in past generations was a common attitude of most vocational HS/higher vocational institute students.
  • prof2dadprof2dad Registered User Posts: 621 Member
    edited January 28
    "Apparently business students aren't so busy"

    Yes, they are not as busy as business executives. But when they enter workplace, their writings will be on busy executives' desk. Thus the business communication training on their writing ought to focus on their ability to be concise and to the point.

    "Things were reportedly so bad that it caused major embarrassment with clients/senior executives"

    I heard similar complaints from our regular employers. Effective writing is indeed very important! We even complained to our English department. The response from the English department was a big smile and something like: "the writing problem is not unique to business school students, it occurs at all academic units."

    For example, just talk to any STEM professor and you will almost surely get the same dissatisfaction on the quality of writing. At all, we are dealing with the texting generation.
  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger Registered User Posts: 1,260 Senior Member
    Business executives are busy and often have no time to read lengthy writing. Therefore, when a long report is really needed, the first thing in this report is a 1-page executive summary section. In a nut shell, the writing challenge in business school education is actually more about how to write concisely (often less than 2 pages), straightforwardly, and meaningfully.

    This is my experience as well. Memos to senior executives usually have to be under 2 pages.

  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 11,913 Senior Member
    edited January 28
    For example, just talk to any STEM professor and you will almost surely get the same dissatisfaction on quality of writing. At all, we are dealing with the texting generation.

    The situation at that prior firm and a few others with similar attitudes occurred in the early-mid '00s.

    Well before texting became commonplace.

    As for STEM majors, according to a former supervisor who is an engineering graduate, there was a similar problem at several engineering schools back in the early '70s which prompted senior engineering executives to bombard engineering deans with complaint letters/phone calls. Only it was mainly in the areas of written communication skills and learning how to socially interact/relate to non-engineer colleagues and clients.

    One consequence of that was the ramped up requirements in the areas of writing and humanities/social science core requirements.

    One former supervisor who is an engineering graduate recalled his entering freshman engineering class was the first at his undergrad to be held to the new ramped up requirements. And while most complained, he appreciated those classes and is disappointed whenever he hears engineering colleagues or younger reports complain about those classes.

    IME, most engineering/CS majors and graduates writing skill levels tend to range from competent to excellent. While some may complain about doing it, none of the ones I've known/worked with were lacking in written communication skills.
  • saillakeeriesaillakeerie Registered User Posts: 1,311 Senior Member
    Most colleges have non-business requirements for business majors. Math classes. English, history and science. Typically students have a lot of flexibility in picking classes that satisfy those requirements. There are a lot of kids who are not really looking to be challenged and thus pick the easiest of those requirements. Avoid being challenged. Probably not a surprise that they come out of school with weak math and writing skills. Make them liberal arts majors and they likely will have the same problem.
  • prof2dadprof2dad Registered User Posts: 621 Member
    "A large part of this has to do with the quality of the students entering those majors/schools"

    In some schools, this could be an issue.

    In some other schools, it is quite the opposite. For example, I believe Penn State has a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2 for entering its business school (3.5 for finance). The average GPA for the entire Penn State over 4 years is like 3.1. It is also generally true that the average GPA in senior year is higher than the average GPA in junior year, which is in turn higher than the average GPA in sophomore year, which is in turn higher than the average GPA in freshman year. So at least in Penn State when students enter its business school, they are actually of higher quality.

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 60,307 Senior Member
    prof2dad wrote:
    I heard similar complaints from our regular employers. Effective writing is indeed very important! We even complained to our English department. The response from the English department was a big smile and something like: "the writing problem is not unique to business school students, it occurs at all academic units."

    Do you mean general writing skills like writing with correct grammar, writing an intelligible sentence, etc., or stylistic issues that differ when writing about literature (as one does in English courses) versus writing about business topics?
  • InigoMontoyaInigoMontoya Registered User Posts: 1,474 Senior Member
    Therefore, when a long report is really needed, the first thing in this report is a 1-page executive summary section

    Agreed the executive summary is critical - and in my experience most find it hard to distill the important facts into short enough bullet points that an executive will spend the time to read.

    But then there is the rest of the report. Which could be quite lengthy. Those who are capable of working at the detailed level and the executive summary level are quite valuable.
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