Nation’s top business school to revamp admissions policies

The Mendoza College of Business (MCOB) announced a change in its admissions policies on February 26. This new policy places a cap on students admitted to the business school (550 per graduating class), a policy already adopted by most other elite private undergraduate business programs in the country. With 550 business majors per graduating class, however, MCOB will retain the highest percentage of business majors of all of these schools.

Furthermore, this new policy requires prospective students (high school seniors as well as transfer students) to be vetted for pre-approval to the business school. This policy also opens the business school for the first time to transfer students.

Though First Year of Studies (FYS) will remain intact (and all students admitted to Notre Dame as freshmen will still gain admission to FYS rather than a particular college), pre-approved business students will automatically enter MCOB upon completion of freshman year. The university press release announcing the change states that students who do not gain pre-approval will be evaluated on “academic performance to date at Notre Dame or elsewhere, a written statement addressing the reasons the students want to pursue a business major, and a holistic evaluation the University currently provides to all applicants for first-year and transfer admission.”

This new admissions policy will involve collaboration between MCOB, the Admissions team, and FYS. It will go into effect for the freshman class of 2015.

A Necessary Cap

The press release begins with the words, “[i]n response to the growth of its undergraduate business school…” Professor of Finance Martijn Cremers reinforced this statement, saying that a cap on the number of students is indeed necessary for the health of the business school and the flourishing of its students:

“Mendoza has become a bit ‘too successful’ in recent years, at least in terms of the number of students who are interested in taking our classes and doing a business major,” Cremers told the Rover. “This hopefully means that we are doing a lot of things right, and if so, I think the whole university is better off for it. But it also provides a significant challenge.”

Dean Roger Huang of MCOB told the Rover that “enrollment has been shooting up substantially. [Thus] we targeted 550 as the long run average of the Mendoza College.” He continued by saying that a projected 35 percent of sophomores of the 2014 class will declare a business major.

Huang explained that the faculty are stretched and facilities are not adequate: “In the short run we can adjust to everything, but it is not sustainable.”

He continued: “This cap is about educating students the right way. We don’t want to just reach students and not be able to do so properly. We will be able to do that if we have the long term average.”

Furthermore, the business school must be kept at a size that can accommodate the students taking business classes through the Business Economics minor, the Integrated Engineering and Business Practices Program, and the Science Business program.

“We need to be able to maintain those offerings,” Huang stated. “Right now with our growth we would have to curtail these offerings.”

Furthermore, Huang emphasized that this was a “university wide decision, emphasizing that this decision is best for Notre Dame as a whole.

Senior accounting major Annie McDonough questioned the need to limit the Business School.

“Since the business school has done so well and has helped boost people’s opinions of Notre Dame, why would we want to limit the potential for that to grow even more?” McDonough asked.

Huang responded to this basic idea thus: “We must ask: at what point do we start losing balance? We are a comprehensive university. We are not a Notre Dame college of business. We are a true university in every sense of the word.”

Huang continued, “This is a rebalancing of our student enrollment. Just so that all the programs are balanced. Just as we have to have balance within the business school, when other programs are out of line in terms of having more seats.”

Cremers concurs.

“I agree that the implementation of some kind of limit is necessary, as the resources available to the undergraduate program at the business school are limited, and have to remain limited in order to keep a balanced undergraduate program at the overall university. I understand and support that. The limit should improve the experience for the students that are doing a business major and hopefully makes it easier for non-business majors to take electives in Mendoza.”

The curricula of the business majors themselves will not change because of the cap. Furthermore, students majoring in Science Business and other programs like it will not have to go through the pre-approval and approval process.

Approval & Discernment

The press release states, “After the first year, a small number of students who were not pre-approved to major in business will be allowed to do so.” Students vying for this small number of spots include not only freshmen who did not gain pre-approval, but also students who intended to major in another discipline but want to transfer to business, as well as transfer students from outside the university.

“My main question is thus whether the new admission policy strikes the right balance between the proportion of students that is pre-approved before they arrive on campus versus the number of open spots available at the end of the freshman year,” Cremers explained.

Senior accounting major John Maniaci voiced similar concerns.

“I came in pre-med and switched to business after my first semester … I appreciate the idea that you can be pre-admitted into Mendoza if you apply into the business school outright, but I would argue that more spots should be left open for individuals who choose to switch majors upon coming to Notre Dame,” he said.

Huang spoke to this concern: “Letting them know up front is better than letting them know at the end of freshman year. If you do it up front then people that all they want to do is business, then if they aren’t admitted they will go elsewhere. But if they say ‘it’s Notre Dame, I still want to come’ they will come.”

Sophomore accounting and Program of Liberal Studies major Colin Devine voiced doubts about accelerating the process of discernment in a harmful way.

“I know I have benefited greatly from deeply considering dropping both of my majors at various times as this crucible has taught me much about myself and what I want to learn from my education,” he said. “I worry that this recent decision, as well-intentioned and necessary as it is, will rob students of that crucial time on campus when their answer to the question: ‘What are you studying?’ is an honest ‘I don’t know.’”

But in Huang’s eyes, freshman year will still be one of discernment for prospective business majors: “Freshman year will be a discernment period. The discernment period is still meaningful in that they can always opt out if they change their mind and don’t want to be in business after a year.”

He continued: “The admissions team is going to make materials available to make discernment” easier. He noted that the admissions team is going to make counseling avaliable as well to students as they apply to Notre Dame.”

This will enable students to understand certain aspects of different business majors better. For example, it will enable accounting majors to know of the CPA and all the requirements ahead of time.

Dean Hugh Page of First Year of Studies and Donald Bishop of Admissions emphasized classes as the venues through which students who are not pre-approved can distinguish themselves. Additionally they both iterated the theme of discernment.

Page said that students will be considered for admission based on how they make use of their courses during freshman year in respect to three purposes.

“The first is discernment: i.e., the process by which one considers—at least from a theological point of view—the matter of intellectual calling,” Page explained. “The second is that of exploration: the responsibility we bear, individually and collectively, to engage those intractable problems and mysteries that have fired the imaginations of women and men throughout the ages. The third is that of formation: the shaping of character and values through sustained intellectual engagement with ideas forged in the epistemological domains constituting the university’s core curriculum.”

Bishop elaborated.

“The other key element will be [the students’] statement on why they want to study business. We also think the first-year advising will assist many in understanding more clearly their motivations for business or other majors,” he said. “We also plan to establish a more active research effort to show the high placement outcomes of other majors … too often parents and high school students think more simply and feel that being a business major is the only way to get into a fast-track higher quality first job … we can show with better effort in research that many of our non-business majors have career options and first job options that people would view as exceptional.”

Madeline Gillen is a senior history major living in Welsh Family Hall who loves reading fiction. What is your favorite fiction book? Let her know at