Carlson School admits its first freshman class

by Sam Black

Anthony Albanese, a freshman, drove to his hometown of Rochester, Minn., this weekend to crown this year’s homecoming king at his high school.
In his royal high school past, Albanese studied two languages, had good grades and standardized test scores, and was involved in extracurricular activities. All these accomplishments made him a prime candidate for the Carlson School of Management’s first freshman class.
This fall, for the first time in its 75-year history, the school’s undergraduate program admitted a freshman class. There are about 1,320 undergraduate students in the program, which is ranked 16th among all business schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report.
The decision to expand the program by admitting about 220 freshmen came after an internal review of management students’ needs. In the past, said Jerry Rinehart, the school’s director of undergraduate studies, students interested in management were admitted into the University as freshmen in the College of Liberal Arts. Students typically had to spend two years in CLA before they could be admitted to the Carlson School, he said, and many complained about feeling like they were in a holding pen.
Four years ago the school started to address the needs of incoming freshmen by assuring them admission to the school at the end of their sophomore year in CLA if certain academic standards were met. The guaranteed admissions program grew from about 45 students in 1992 to almost 175 last year, Rinehart said.
Last fall, with the help of the Office of Admissions, the Carlson School began visiting high schools to search for prospective students.
There was some concern that the school would be getting into something it didn’t know much about, Rinehart said. “We asked ourselves if we could do a good job with freshmen,” he said. “We didn’t want to do it if we couldn’t improve their undergraduate experience.”
Martha Douglas, a spokeswoman from the dean’s office, said the expansion will improve the undergraduate experience for students involved. The freshmen will be able to be more deeply involved in their areas of study, extracurricular activities and mentor matches, she said.
This change has made the Carlson School of Management more competitive with other business schools, especially in the competition for top-notch college applicants in Minnesota and nationwide. As a result, the freshmen admitted are among the best at the University and the nation.
“We are probably the most competitive of any program at the University for undergraduate admission standards,” Rinehart said.
Albanese believes the school gives the University something approaching the prestige of an Ivy League institution. “It’s on the up and up,” he said. “Anyone you talk to will tell you it’s a great program.”
Although the program will continue to admit students who apply after their sophomore year in college, the search for next fall’s freshmen has already begun.
New courses developed this year for the lower division program cover topics including information and technology, professional skills, international business and business careers.
The business-careers course “will give freshmen students a clearer understanding about the major they choose and what they have to do in order to prepare for it,” Rinehart said.
The added students and courses haven’t put undue pressure on the staff or faculty thus far, he said.
The expansion was made possible, Rinehart said, with the help of a large grant made by Carlson School of Management alumnus Robert Kierlin, president and CEO of Fastenal, Co., located in Brooklyn Center and Eden Prairie.