Early admission policy triples CSOM applications

Dan Haugen

When marketing senior Suzannah Johnston was accepted to the Carlson School of Management and the University of Wisconsin-Madison four years ago, she chose to come here in part because she could start her business track immediately instead of waiting to apply during her sophomore year.

Since the Carlson School switched to a first-year undergraduate admissions process, the number of annual first-year applications has more than tripled. While other factors supported the rise in interest, there is evidence the early admissions process has contributed.

“I think there has been an indirect effect,” said Robert Ruekert, Carlson School associate dean for undergraduate programs. Feedback has been positive and because students appreciate the four-year experience, the school’s reputation has improved, he said.

Carlson School started admitting first-year students in 1996. Previously, students took general prerequisite courses at the University for two years before applying to the business school during their sophomore years.

Those not accepted would sometimes be left scrambling to find alternative academic plans, occasionally delaying graduation, Ruekert said.

The current system removes some uncertainty for students and gives them more time to get involved with Carlson School student groups, he said.

Nationally, there is no consensus on business school admissions. The Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business surveyed 414 accredited U.S. business schools during the 2002-03 school year. Of the 287 that responded, 68 percent said they admit first-year students.

“There’s no one single best way to admit into colleges,” Ruekert said.

Some students said they believe basing admission on college coursework instead of high school transcripts would be a more accurate way to measure potential.

“I did well in both, but college is more of a reality check,” said Amanda Kirk, an applied economics sophomore in the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences. “A stronger GPA in college has more weight.”

While most Carlson School undergraduates are accepted for their first years, many also transfer to the school. Last fall semester, 121 juniors were accepted, including 67 from within the University.

“We kept the door slightly open,” Ruekert said.