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Dr. Kat’s List: Five Colleges Where it All Adds Up

In the U.S., the Friday after Thanksgiving, considered to be the busiest shopping day of the year, is commonly known as “Black Friday.” The moniker is attributed to it because that day many U.S. businesses turn their first profit of the year, and in accounting terms, are “in the black.” Whether you want to crunch numbers as a CPA, spearhead tax reform with the IRS, or make sense of stocks and bonds as a financial analyst, if you are interested in accounting and finance, November is a great time to look at schools with a fiscal focus. With that in mind, the expert counselors at IvyWise have compiled a list of schools for you to take into account as you start your college search.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana & Champaign, IL
The College of Business at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is home to programs in accounting, business administration, and finance. The school follows the Project Discovery curriculum, which emphasizes critical thinking skills and the use of cooperative and collaborative learning methods, and includes courses such as “Decision Making for Accountancy, Assurance and Attestation,” “Risk Measurement and Reporting,” and professional development workshops. This public institution also houses the Zimmerman Center for International Education and Research in Accounting (CIERA), which produces the International Journal of Accounting, a leading publication in both the academic and professional realms of the field. In addition, CIERA annually hosts the Illinois International Accountancy Symposium. The symposium is held in locations throughout the world including Athens, Warsaw, Taiwan, and Hawaii in conjunction with local universities in each location.

As the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system, UI-Urbana-Champaign offers its 31,000 undergraduate students 150 programs of study in 17 colleges and 1,000 student organizations from the climbing club to the Chinese mahjong club. The school also has claim to the largest Greek system in the world (68 fraternities, 36 sororities) and is home to the Fighting Illini, who participate in more than 20 NCAA Division I sports and are part of the Big Ten Conference. The campus, about 140 miles south of Chicago, is home to the third largest university library in the country (only Harvard’s and Yale’s are larger), its own airport, and has been highlighted for its impressive landscape and architecture. Students can enjoy the urban twin cities of Urbana and Champaign, and the extensive farmlands nearby, home to one of the country’s largest Amish populations and an Amish theme park that offers the chance to play tic-tac-toe against a chicken.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Recognizing the widespread impact of accounting methods on economic behaviors from agencies to individuals, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach, mixing finance and economics with broader perspectives on business organizations and environments. Wharton offers programs in accounting, business and public policy, and insurance and risk management, among others, and hosts several related conferences and workshops throughout the year (the school recently co-sponsored the Journal of Accounting and Economics Conference). Outside of the classroom, Penn’s students can participate in the Wharton Entrepreneurial Program (WEP) or work with NGOs to teach business savvy in developing countries as part of the Penn International Business Volunteers program. Thanks to the more than 400 student organizations on campus, Penn students can also report on the Occupy movement for The Daily Pennsylvanian, calculate ROI in the Wharton Accounting Society, or express their interests in everything from Scrabble to Tae Kwon Do.

Through the school’s “One University Policy,” Penn’s 9,865 undergraduate students can take classes from any of Penn’s undergraduate schools and pursue new areas of interest. Given this private university’s location in Philadelphia, students have access to culture and entertainment both on-campus and in the surrounding community. The Penn campus is home to the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Morris Arboretum. Off-campus, students can cheer on one of the city’s five professional sports teams or experience American history firsthand at sites like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
In recent years, students at Brigham Young University have earned top honors at national tax and audit competitions hosted by powerhouse firms such as Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst & Young. Plus, the accounting program under the university’s Marriot School of Management is the only program in the U.S. to be recognized twice with the American Accounting Association’s Innovation in Accounting Education Award. The Bachelor of Science degree in Accountancy allows students to take courses such as “Business Law in the Environment” and “Money, the Financial System, and the Economy.” Understanding the global nature of today’s financial culture, the Marriot School also provides high-proficiency business language courses in more than ten languages (the college as a whole offers studies in 85 languages) and 75 percent of the entire student body is bilingual.

In addition to accounting, students at this private university, located in Provo, Utah, can choose from 190 majors in 10 colleges. Given the school’s religious affiliation, ethical decision-making is emphasized in all programs. Students in the Marriot School are required to take at least one course in management ethics and the entire BYU community is united by the Honor Code. While BYU’s nearly 28,000 undergraduates must complete some religious coursework, the school is not exclusive to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In addition to its accounting program, BYU is known for its strong performing arts offerings and many of the school’s performing arts clubs tour internationally. Off-campus, students can enjoy the Peaks Ice Arena (a 2002 Winter Olympics venue), the nearby Sundance Resort, and the Wasatch Mountain Range.

Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN
More than 90 percent of students graduating with a degree from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University are employed upon graduation. The average starting salary is almost $53,000, and Bloomberg Businessweek magazine gave Kelley an A+ for undergraduate job placement in 2010. Offering majors in seven related areas, including accounting, finance, and business economics, Kelley balances tools of the trade (auditing, taxation, and systems management) with an emphasis on strong communication skills. Students can hone these skills with internships at a number of Fortune 500 companies including Google, Kraft, and Walt Disney or join Beta Alpha Psi, a co-ed fraternity for finance students and professionals. For additional professional preparation, students can utilize one of the on-campus research centers such as the Center for Education and Research in Retailing, the Center for Global Sales Leadership, or the Center for International Business Education & Research.

This public school’s 32,000 undergraduate students can choose courses from more than 50 academic departments and participate in any of 650 student organizations. Known for its competitive NCAA Division I athletics programs, Indiana University is home of the Hoosiers and is a member of the Big Ten conference, though they do not have an official mascot. Off the field, the surrounding community of Bloomington offers even more entertainment to students; one of USA Today’s top student-friendly college towns “B-town” is home to the annual Lotus World Music & Arts Festival, as well as boating, caving, and rock-climbing attractions.

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
The undergraduate business program at University of North Carolina’Kenan-Flagler Business School admits about 350 students each year. Given UNC’s total undergraduate enrollment of 18,600, and the popularity of the program, Kenan-Flagler is one of the nation’s most selective undergraduate business programs. Following the fulfillment of UNC’s general education and Kenan-Flagler’s core requirements, students can pursue a wide array of electives from “Sustainable Business & Social Entrepreneurship” to “Hedge Fund Strategies.” Kenan-Flager offers several international study options for students seeking a more global perspective. The GLOBE (Global Learning Opportunities in Business Education) program pairs UNC students with students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Copenhagen Business School for an 18-month, five-country intensive business education. A shorter alternative, the school’s Global Immersion Electives allow students to earn credit via a 1-2 week intensive study abroad program. Program options include “Doing Business in China” at Peking University in Beijing and “Working Languages: Spanish in Costa Rica.” There is also a semester exchange, which allows students to study business topics at one of 17 partner universities worldwide.

Stateside, UNC Chapel Hill’s students can choose from 77 bachelor’s degree offerings in 14 schools. Outside of academia, students have access to 535 clubs/organizations from BoUNCe (a satirical news magazine) to Frisbee golf. The greater Chapel Hill community offers students a thriving music scene, the Morehead Planetarium, the annual “Festifall” street fair, and Bon Appetit magazine has hailed it “America’s Foodiest Small Town.”

The bottom line is, if you are interested in accounting and finance, these schools might be worth adding to your list. Thoroughly researching the undergraduate options available at schools that interest you may yield a successful financial career and years of happy returns.

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