5 Essential Tips On Applying To Berkeley Haas

Applying to Berkeley Haas

Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley. UC photo

Berkeley Haas is the second-oldest business school in the US, and it’s been questioning the status quo since its 1898 founding. The school’s distinctive (call it quirky) culture is the stuff of legend, and its backyard proximity to the densest concentration of tech companies in the world is luring imaginative nonconformists of all stripes. Across every dimension, Berkeley Haas students, faculty, and staff are known for their exceptional talent and creativity, high-caliber of work, diversity of experience and explicit commitment to inclusiveness.

If this sounds like your people, read on. My Fortuna Admissions clients who hone in on Haas are looking to join a diverse global community of conscious leaders who wield the tools of business to make a positive impact and contribute to a larger purpose.

As former Berkeley Haas Associate Director of MBA Admissions, I’m practiced at discerning the qualities that distinguish the most exceptional applications. While I’ve written on how to tackle the new Haas MBA essays, as well as Haas’s optional essay, there are several important things to know about Haas to position your broader narrative for admissions success.

HERE ARE FIVE KEY INSIGHTS TO BRING TO YOUR BERKELEY HAAS APPLICATION:

1. The Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles are a REAL thing.

The four principles – Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself – are truly reflective of the school’s culture and not just marketing fodder. Prepare to demonstrate how and why these principles speak to you. In the Haas interview, for example, you may be asked which one resonates most. There isn’t a right or wrong reply to this and it’s not a trick, but your ability to be authentic and honest in response depends on whether you’ve taken the time to get introspective about both the principles and your fit with the program.

2. Berkeley Haas takes pride in being part of a larger public institution.

It’s important to demonstrate some awareness that Berkeley Haas is part of the University of California system, with Berkeley being its flagship campus. The University of California was founded in 1868, born out of a vision in the State Constitution of a university that would “contribute even more than California’s gold to the glory and happiness of advancing generations.” UC Berkeley students – Haas students included – are reputed to be “scrappier” than peers at private institutions as well as lauded by recruiters for being less “entitled,” which ties directly to the Confidence Without Attitude principle.

3. Diversity of cultures and perspectives are hallmarks of Haas.

The school is committed to recruiting the most diverse students, faculty, and staff to enhance the mission, community, and academic excellence. In the essay prompts you’re asked to consider, the Admissions Committee is seeking to uncover the less visible forces that shape candidates’ lives, opportunities, decisions, and character. Whether you’re someone with privilege or not, you can express your values, political engagement, awareness of social justice, and/or access to education in terms of social mobility – all of which are very important to Haas. This school seeks students who demonstrate self-awareness and community engagement, which is an invitation to recognize your privilege and convey a deep understanding of what that means to you. Overall, Haas genuinely fosters a climate of inclusion, empathy, and compassion. Even if you don’t identify as a member of a marginalized group, it can be valuable to show how you are an ally and welcoming of different ways of thinking, which ties to Questioning the Status Quo and Beyond Yourself.

4. It’s okay to be a little bit “Bezerkeley.”

The term “Beserkeley” has a history in popular culture and media lingo. In 2004, the current top definition for the word “Bezerkeley,” a popular spelling variant of the word, was created on Urban Dictionary. The word as read on the site is defined simply as “Berkeley, California,” as if the name of the city alone were enough to express the out-there atmosphere associated with the locale. How does this apply to Berkeley Haas? The Admissions Committee does place some value on being a bit quirky – if this is authentically who you are. (But don’t fake it if you’re not!) The acceptance of those who might have taken a path less traveled, or who have an unusual talent or hobby, is what makes the Haas student body so unique. The essay prompts tend to be less conventional by design; the admissions committee wants to find out what makes you tick, up and beyond your work and academic acumen. You should approach the prompts with enthusiasm, gusto and as a signal of your fit for the program.

5. Community engagement is requisite.

The student-driven and deeply participatory atmosphere at Haas is another vital differentiator to connect to your narrative. Haas’s culture of engagement extends beyond studies into institutional operations, with feedback loops between student government and every administrative function/office within the program. Student viewpoints are taken very seriously and are actively solicited. Admissions interviews are predominately conducted by student interviewers, for example, and their reviews of candidates are weighed equally to those conducted by alumni and professional staff.

As such, if you’re among the fortunate to be invited to interview, know that current students, who serve as interviewers, can be tough evaluators. You will need to cite two-to-three clubs you plan to join at Haas, as well as link at least one club with experience or position you’ve served in the past to demonstrate your commitment, sincerity and track record of community engagement. So earlier on in the application process, be sure to reach out to student leadership to have a few examples of how you’ll be an active participant.

For more admissions insights to bolster your Berkeley Haas application, view my recent articles:

How To Tackle The New Berkeley Haas MBA Essays

Haas’s Optional Essay: Addressing Barriers of Power & Privilege


Fortuna-AdmissionsSharon Joyce is an Expert Coach at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Berkeley Haas Associate Director of Admissions. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.