Berkeley Haas Launches Deferred Admission Program

Undergraduates at UC-Berkeley will be able to apply early to the Haas School of Business full-time MBA program under the new Accelerated Access program. Photo by Noah Berger

The best and brightest aren’t always ready to jump into an MBA program. Sometimes they need a little seasoning in the workplace first. But there’s a problem. Potential superstars keep slipping through the fingers of top schools while they wait for the students to cross a threshold of minimum professional experience.

Because B-schools are full of problem solvers, schools began to seek out ways to bring these superstar students into the fold early. And that’s how deferred admission programs were born. Deferred admission allows undergraduates on the cusp of graduation to apply early, secure a seat, then get the experience they need — usually from two to five years — before beginning their MBA journey. Among the elite schools, you can find such programs at Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Booth, Columbia, and, most recently, MIT Sloan. Many have similar parameters, but each differs in some significant way: some are more flexible about application requirements, for example, and some offer more in the way of special programming and career development support.

Now, one more elite U.S. school is joining the deferred admission club: Last week, UC-Berkeley announced that undergrads at any of its schools can defer admission to the full-time MBA program at the No. 8-ranked Haas School of Business.

The new program, Accelerated Access, will allow UC-Berkeley undergrads in their final year of study to apply early for a spot in the full-time MBA program and defer for two to five years to gain the required professional experience, says Morgan Bernstein, director of strategic initiatives, adding that the program was put on the fast track for launch when Ann Harrison assumed the school’s deanship in January 2019.

“I think a deferred MBA admissions program has been on the horizon for a while, but certainly I think the timeline became accelerated with Ann Harrison in the house,” says Bernstein, who is directing the launch of the new program. “One of her top priorities is further integrating new voices from the UC-Berkeley community and creating innovative programs that foster across disciplinary learning. So one of the goals for this year is not just to attract talent from the traditional pre-MBA tracks, such as engineering and economics, but also to connect with students in disciplines that might be considered nontraditional like the humanities.”


Morgan Bernstein. File photo

Under Accelerated Access, UC-Berkeley undergraduates will apply to the MBA program during the final year of their bachelor’s studies. Successful applicants will gain conditional admission, and can enroll after a flexible two- to five-year deferment period. The school sees the program “as a great way to create a more diverse learning environment for the students and make an MBA a more realistic path for those who may not originally been considering it,” Bernstein tells Poets&Quants.

In a news story on the Haas website, Harrison said Accelerated Access is a way for the B-school to reach across campus to offer new opportunities to students who previously might not have considered an MBA. “We’re so excited to offer this program exclusively to UC-Berkeley students this year,” the dean said. “We have so much talent here in the Berkeley community — and this is another way that we are cultivating and committing to that talent.”

Will the program be expanded outside Berkeley at some point? Like Wharton, which began as a UPenn-wide program before expanding after two years to include any qualified undergrad applicant, the Haas School expects to make that move, first to the wider UC system and then to the world — but when has not been decided, Bernstein says.

“The plan is to expand it, yes,” she says. “We don’t have a definitive timeline yet. I know certainly right now our focus is on UC-Berkeley, again, in support of the dean’s priority to further integrate with the community right here in our own backyard.

“We will expand Accelerated Access at the UC system and then more broadly, but we don’t have a defined front of mind at this point. Right now we know that if we can better educate some of our undergraduate students who are in what would be considered nontraditional disciplines — at least nontraditional from a pre-MBA track perspective — if we can educate them about how to connect the dots between environmental studies and business, or history and business, or math and business, or we can at least create that opportunity for them, it should increase the pipeline of future students for us.”


Accelerated Access is not just about MBA applicants getting work experience under their belts. It’s also about them exploring the world they live in.

“We’re hoping that during this deferment period that admitted students will explore full-time work that prepares them to contribute to our mission-driven community, but also that aligns with their passions,” Bernstein says. “And for some that’s going to mean pursuing traditional roles like a consultant, or a banker, or a software engineer, but for others that might mean starting their own business, or teaching in South America, or doing field research in sub-Saharan Africa. So that’s one of the areas where we really hope Accelerated Access will appeal to our undergraduate students: giving them the flexibility or the freedom to take some risks during the deferment period with some supports that our staff will continue to provide during that timeframe.”

Once the program is up and running, the Haas School has a target population of about 15 students in each full-time class of around 300, Bernstein says, adding that the number will depend on the number of applicants they receive. “Longer term, we expect to enroll about 15 students per class, but certainly it will take us a few cycles to build that pipeline, and given that students can defer for two to five years, that’s a little bit of a moving target,” she says.

There are two application deadlines in the pilot cycle: Thursday, April 2, 2020 and Thursday, June 11, 2020. The application process is similar to that of the full-time MBA program, with requirements including a resume, two letters of recommendation, two short essays, undergraduate transcripts, and a score from either the Graduate Management Admission Test or Graduate Record Exam. An interview also will be required for admission. However, Haas will entice Accelerated Access applicants in the most effective way: with money. The $200 application fee will be waived, and the school will be creating up to five $100,000 scholarship awards to mark the 10th anniversary of the school’s Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself, embodiment of which will be among the criteria that are considered for the awards.

Will Haas find many applicants who want two degrees from the same university? Shaibya Dalal, who earned a BA in political science in 2011 from UC-Berkeley and returned in 2018 as a full-time MBA student, said she couldn’t be happier that she chose Cal twice.

“The MBA culture at Haas is incredibly collaborative — whether you need notes from a class, advice for your start-up, or even help moving furniture, you can rely on Haasies,” Dalal said. “My peers are kind, generous, open-minded, and intellectually curious. Constantly being around such brilliant people has challenged and stimulated me in completely new ways.”

A kickoff event for the Accelerated Access program will be held on Tuesday, January 28, in the Haas School’s Chou Hall from 6-8 p.m.


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