The MBA Summit: How To Get Into A Top Business School

DelMonico: I would echo that. I think context definitely matters, and we do look at that. We want to get a sense not just of the absolute numbers of data points, but also the context in which they reside. That’s why, in terms of GPA or quantitative preparation, it really depends. It’s not a one size fits all solution. Courses might make sense depending on the rest of your profile. Retaking the GMAT might make sense depending on the rest of your profile. I won’t get into specifics in terms of how we look at it, but I’m happy to, and the rest of the team, is happy to talk to you as a candidate about how we would look at it.

Below a certain quantitative percentage on the GMAT, we might want that first. Whereas if you’re kind of on the margin, maybe courses might be more helpful. It really does depend on the overall profile. The GPA itself is so reductive. I think we all dig much more deeply into not just what the final GPA is. We go semester by semester, course by course. We really want to get a sense of what your trajectory is, so we’re not hung up on that final number at all.

Byrne: All right. Any special advice for international applicants? We’re at a period right now where I believe interest in U.S. programs from internationals has fallen. There’s concern about visas and all the anti-immigration rhetoric from this administration. What’s your advice to an international applicant right now?

Kwon: Well, I think the one challenge for international applicants is that they don’t have the ease of coming to campus to visit that U.S. applicants do, but all of us provide opportunities for applicants to get to know us, either through webinars or through in country events. So I highly encourage applicants to do that. The homework is so important because that is one of the key ways that an applicant can differentiate themselves. But also for them to think of themselves as unique applicants. I think so many international applicants, particularly from the very highly represented regions, worry that they’re just going to be another applicant in the pool, but take heart that we do review every single
application because we want to find those special people who are going to fit in our community. We can’t do that with just a test score and a resume.

Bernstein: I would just add, just recognizing in these times of uncertainty, around securing visas, that those things are not playing into the admissions decision. We are still looking to enroll a diverse class that has a strong international representation and all of our programs do have international student offices that can work with admitted students to answer their visa-specific questions. There will be resources to help admitted students navigate that process and just to take heart in knowing that we are still very much interested in candidates from outside of the United States.

Byrne: A lot of people in the military use the MBA to transition to civilian life. It’s a very common way to parachute into a company or organization after you’ve been in the military. How successful are military applicants as MBA students?

DelMonico: They’re incredibly successful along both dimensions. First of all, employers love veterans, so in terms of placement, that’s never an issue. But in terms of on campus and and the discipline and qualities that veterans bring really adds a lot to our community. Even academically, we, and this is where context matters, I think, it’s an example. We have a lot of military candidates who come and apply and have very low test scores. Typically, they were in Afghanistan or they were somewhere far flung taking the exam, so we have to understand that context, and we definitely do, but we know that veterans, when they come to campus, regardless of their background, will put in the work it takes to get it done. And we value that. We keep track of how our students are doing, and we’ve never, as far as I can recall, never had a veteran have any sort of academic challenges because they will just put their heads down and do the work.

Byrne: Soojin, you agree?

Kwon: Wholeheartedly. They bring a maturity that the average applicant doesn’t have as much of. They bring leadership skills from their experience. As Bruce mentioned, they’re highly valued by recruiters, so we’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t recruit the kind of students that our employers want. They’re very successful academically, career-wise, and we love them in our process.

Byrne: Is there any advice you’d give a military applicant who’s been in that very structured environment for so long coming into an MBA experience? How should they best prepare for it?

Bernstein: In terms of advice, one is definitely reach out to the veteran’s club at whatever program you’re interested in, or even programs that maybe aren’t on your list initially because the veteran’s programs, in particular, are incredibly willing to help support other candidates who are coming through the process. They were just recently there. They know how difficult it is to make the transition out of active duty, and suddenly you’re thrust into this education environment, and whatdoes that look like? My other advice would be to talk to a lot of people about different possible career paths. I think one of the biggest challenges or hurdles that veterans see as they’re approaching the application process is not being able to necessarily envision what that post-MBA goal looks like and being a little uncertain about how to craft their essays around that. So again, I guess this is advice for anybody really, but specifically for this audience, talk to as many people as possible to see what the different outcomes could be to allow you to write more authentically about one that really connects with you.

Byrne: That’s great advice. The world of work has changed dramatically and will change even more dramatically in the near term with artificial intelligence and machine learning. How well does your school prepare people for this new world of work? Soojin.

Kwon: We’re constantly looking at what we’re doing within our program, and the recruiters that we’re bringing to campus. Are we providing students the kind of skills that our recruiters want? It’s an ongoing process for us internally. We’re seeing the evolution of what students’ interests are, not just the kind of jobs that are out there. Students are coming in telling us they want to do things that 20 years ago wouldn’t have even been on our radar. So we are definitely paying close attention to how we structure our career development, our academics, and all of the co-curricular experiences that go around that.

DelMonico: I would echo that completely. The curriculum is constantly evolving. Every year it’s a little bit different, not major shifts, but trying to keep up with what recruiters are looking for, what the marketplace wants, same on the career services side. One other thing I would point out, too, is that students are taking classes at our School of Forestry, computer science, law school, the whole gamut, and I think that really allows you to tailor your education to suit your particular interests and your particular professional aspirations. That can make a big difference.

Bernstein: I would just add that I think Berkeley Haas, being in the Bay Area, gives us an advantage in terms of access to a lot of the new innovations and thinking, whether that’s bringing industry leaders onto campus or giving students a front row seat at some of these organizations. I know we also are working on a couple of certificate and dual degree programs that will soon be announced that are specifically around the big data space.

Byrne: Right. Well, our time is up. Can you believe it?

DelMonico: I can’t.

Kwon: Say it isn’t so.


Candid perspectives from MBA students, admission officials, and employers