Business Essentials is also one of the first online-only programs, designed to let students do the coursework at their own pace and allow flexibility for other opportunities, such as summer internships.
A key hurdle for the online-only format was getting buy-in from Kenan-Flagler faculty for the idea, says Kelly. While initially skeptical, the business faculty now appreciate the chance to scale up their curricula for a much broader audience than just business majors, says Kelly. The program makes online tutors available around the clock to help students more fully understand the coursework, making for a more rigorous program than many expect, he adds.
CAREER DEVELOPMENT IS ALSO A PART OF MANY SUMMER BUSINESS PROGRAMS
Many summer programs include a career development component, but the Bridge program takes it up a notch, with dedicated support from teaching assistants from the MBA program and a culminating Career Day where students can meet up to 35 corporate recruiters, 90 percent of whom are Bridge alumni, says Doscher. “They come from the same feeder schools, so students feel somewhat relieved that these aren’t straight, stuffy recruiters,” he says. “They’ll open more doors for people behind them,” which is more than students typically get from seminars where there’s no affinity between students and recruiters.
Students who complete the Bridge program right after their junior year or earlier, have an advantage over those who take it after graduation, says Doscher. “They go into senior year loaded with interviews with firms, he says. “It’s become more vital to do it sooner because they use it to get internships for the following summer.”
For Mimi McCauley, who completed Bridge in 2006 before her senior year at Yale, the biggest benefit was being walked through the nuts and bolts of preparing a professional resume and cover letter and how to conduct oneself in various kinds of interviews. As an economics major, she had not learned how to work with Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations until doing the Bridge program. She received a full-time job offer from an investment firm while in the program but ended up turning it down.
COURSE MATERIALS OFTEN SERVE AS BACKGROUND SUPPORT AFTER THE PROGRAM
While the course materials were too extensive for her to fully absorb during the month-long program, McCauley found herself referring back to them a year later after getting her first job as a healthcare investment analyst at Great Point Partners. She believes Great Point probably highly valued the program since, as a smaller firm, it can’t invest in a thorough training program for new hires.
These programs are not cheap. The more comprehensive ones run around $10,000, sometimes excluding room and board, while the Kenan-Flagler online program costs $3,200. Despite the added expense, parents are often big advocates of these programs, recognizing the role they can play in helping students land their first, if not first few, jobs, says Kelly at UNC. Kenan-Flagler offers 10 to 20 full or partial scholarships each year to qualifying students, who in exchange serve as ambassadors for the program. Villanova offered six full scholarships this year. Tuck offers scholarships covering 20 percent to 50 percent of tuition to up to 30 percent of the students in the Bridge program.
Rachael Cohen, a sophomore majoring in mathematics who has just completed her first three weeks in Villanova’s program, initially felt guilty asking her parents to pay for it, especially since she doubted they fully understood its value and purpose. But she says what she’s learned in the first weeks has boosted her confidence that it’s a wise investment for her future and will make her more marketable.
THE ADVANTAGES OF THE ONLINE MODEL
Sam Ellis’ career services counselor steered him toward the Business Essentials program in his junior year, touting the additional career options that the certificate would provide and the reach of Kenan-Flagler’s professional network. The online program’s flexibility is what he liked best since it let him balance the coursework with up to 35 hours a week of training to play Varsity football that Fall, he said. The tradeoff was having to do the coursework by himself with limited team-oriented assignments. He also missed the classroom Q&A, but said access to tutors made up for that.
His biggest gain from the Kenan-Flagler program has been his understanding the importance of business communication. As a strategy consultant at IBM Global Business Services, “its importance is magnified in a situation where a particular role is client facing on an everyday basis,” he says.
The Villanova program was still fresh in his mind when John Dunham sat down with traders at Morgan Stanley’s headquarters in November 2009 to pick their brains. He was preparing for a formal interview for an internship at the financial giant that networking with a former high school headmaster had opened up.
‘IT ALLOWED ME TO MAKE THAT FIRST GOOD IMPRESSION’
“I was able to talk intelligently about what was going on in the markets and was able to pick up on what they were following as far as global macro indicators,” he says. “It allowed me to make that first good impression, which I think is key, especially in this tough job market.”
Dunham landed the internship for the following summer and one year later, after graduating in May 2011, started his first job as a fixed income sales analyst at Morgan Stanley.