MBA Admissions Q&A: UC Berkeley-Haas |

MBA Admissions Q&A: UC Berkeley-Haas

By Mike Grill

Updated April 10, 2021 Updated April 10, 2021

The UC Berkeley-Haas MBA application process is rigorous, like that of any other top business school, but when you consider that its admissions team are trying to find students who "fit with [its] distinct culture and defining principles," you can begin to see why.

MBA applicants are often concerned that a lower GMAT score could diminish their prospects of winning a place at their dream school. But, even those who don't do so well on the standardized test can "demonstrate readiness for the rigors of an MBA through strong undergraduate or graduate program performance, or through post-college coursework," according to Morgan Bernstein, executive director of full-time MBA admissions at UC Berkeley-Haas. Looking for other insights into the school's application essay questions, acceptance rates and more? Read on!

Morgan Bernstein; UC Berkeley-Haas
What is the typical acceptance rate to the Berkeley-Haas  MBA program?

We typically admit 12-13% of our applicants.

What are the most important aspects of the Berkeley-Haas MBA application process besides GMAT score, prior GPA, and current job position?

There is no one aspect that is the most important. However, fit with our distinct culture and four defining principles ('Question the Status Quo', 'Confidence without Attitude', 'Students Always', and 'Beyond Yourself') are very important elements of our review. Berkeley-Haas brings in one of the smallest classes among our peer schools and we strive to ensure that each student will contribute to the community.

What is a common mistake you see applicants make?

We encourage candidates to present their authentic self in the admissions process. We find that some candidates write what they think the admissions committee wants to hear instead of what is really true for them. Most commonly this results in responses that lack conviction or clarity.  

What is something you would like to see applicants do more often?

Engage with us! We appreciate that the application process can feel overwhelming and intimidating, and we are here to help. Meet us at an event, connect with us through an online chat, or come visit us in Berkeley. The bottom line is that we want our candidates to succeed. We want to admit them, or at least provide them with the information they need to determine whether Berkeley-Haas is the right fit.

What does the Haas application process look like?

Candidates submit their written application including test scores, transcripts, essays and letters of recommendation. Once the application is complete, it goes through a thorough review process by admissions staff. After this review, about 25-30% of candidates are invited to interview. Interviews are conducted primarily by our students and alumni. An interview evaluation is then added to the application and reviewed by the admissions committee. A final decision is then made. 

We have three application rounds and while we make offers in each round, we encourage candidates to apply as early as they are able to submit their strongest application.

How can a candidate overcome a lower GMAT score?

The good news about standardized tests is that they can be taken more than once. If a candidate is disappointed with their score, and believes that a higher score is achievable, then we would encourage them to sit for the exam again.

We find that GMAT scores are indicators of academic readiness, but candidates can also demonstrate readiness for the rigors of an MBA through strong undergraduate or graduate program performance, or through post-college coursework.

That said, we also remind candidates that test scores are just one aspect of the application review process and will be weighed against other factors such as work experience, extracurricular activities, leadership potential and cultural fit, to name a few.

MBA admissions tips

Essay(s): Sometimes candidates overthink the essays. These are not trick questions, there is no hidden meaning, and certainly no 'right' answer. The best response is the one that is authentic to you!

Interview: Our interviews are primarily conducted by students and alumni. Among other things, they are assessing your fit with our culture and defining principles. Applicants who can articulate why they are specifically interested in Haas and how our culture appeals to them will be best prepared.

Letter(s) of recommendation: Do choose recommenders who can share specific examples about your background, achievements, contribution and impact to the organization. Don’t choose recommenders based purely on title.

CV/résumé: The résumé is often the first document that admissions officers review. It provides a snapshot of your candidacy in one page. Take the time to clearly articulate your accomplishments, highlighting the skills or experiences that are most relevant for business school.

School visit: A school visit is likely to bring the Berkeley-Haas experience to life for you, and we encourage you to partake in our campus visitation program which runs from September to April. Visitors can sit in on a class, have lunch with students, attend an information session delivered by our student ambassadors as well as engage with staff from admissions and financial aid. That said, a visit is not required and does not factor into our admission decisions. 

There are also many ways to connect with us virtually such as through webinars, chats and video tutorials. We also travel the globe between June and October and look forward to meeting candidates in person.

This article was originally published in July 2016 . It was last updated in April 2021

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