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At 20, He’s The Youngest MBA Ever At Berkeley Haas

Harrison Shaw will start classes this fall at the University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business. A 20-year-old, Shaw is the youngest person ever to enroll in the full-time MBA program at Haas. Courtesy photo

When Harrison Shaw applied to the full-time MBA program at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, he was an incredibly unique candidate.

“I was a teenager from a dorm room,” Shaw says matter-of-factly, with great understatement.

Now just 20-years-old, Shaw is officially the youngest person to ever be accepted and to enroll in the full-time MBA program at the Haas School. He’s already moved back to Berkeley and has just completed the school’s Week Zero orientation as one of 330 Class of 2022 students, the largest ever full-time class of MBAs at Haas.

BERKELEY’S MBA PROGRAM ‘TOOK A CHANCE ON ME’

Shaw grew up in Temecula in Southern California where he excelled from a young age. He also seemed destined to end up at Berkeley-Haas, which prides itself on “questioning the status quo,” one of the school’s defining principles. In his application, Shaw recalled a third-grade LegoLand build-a-car racing contest. There were just two rules to the competition — the cars the students raced had to be constructed from materials in the room, and they couldn’t be released until after a light turned green. When it was Shaw’s turn, he waited patiently as the light switched from red to yellow to green. As the other third graders released their cars, Shaw hesitated for a moment and then chucked his car across the room and the finish line, easily beating all the other students in the race.

The teacher, of course, scolded Shaw, he recalls. But it was that early creativity and questioning of the status quo that made Shaw and Haas a mutually beneficial match.

To be sure, Shaw knows he’s not a typical MBA candidate. Especially not one that would normally be accepted to a school of Haas’s standing. “They took a chance on me,” he admits. Berkeley-Haas has not released class profile data for this fall’s incoming class, but last year students in the incoming class boasted an average of 5.3 years of work experience with a middle 80% range between 3.6 to 8.2 years.

Shaw brings no full-time work experience but the kind of background that makes him as seasoned as the older classmates he encounters in class. As a high schooler, Shaw played varsity lacrosse and earned the 2018 Student Academic Award Honoree recognition in Riverside County. Shaw was immediately drawn to the University of California in Berkeley and the Haas School of Business. But he didn’t pursue an undergraduate degree in business, instead deciding to graduate in just two years while graduating Magna cum laude and was nominated for Undergraduate Student of the Year.

Shaw on the campus of UC Berkeley. Courtesy photo

SHAW WAS ACCEPTED TO ALL FULL-TIME MBA PROGRAMS IN WHICH HE APPLIED

Soon after arriving in Berkeley for his undergraduate education in 2018, Shaw launched his startup, Lynx Verification, which has built cryptographic document verification software. The venture earned a spot in Berkeley’s prestigious Skydeck accelerator. He also created a nonprofit called Rich Young Lions which is meant to support marginalized and under-privileged youth in the San Francisco Bay Area and help with financial literacy. Not surprisingly, Shaw earned the Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholarship, the school’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarship.

No doubt all of that packaged nicely into the kind of application packet that adcoms would likely drool over. Besides Berkeley, Shaw says he was also accepted into every other full-time MBA program to which he applied. Not wanting to offend other schools by sharing which schools admitted him, he prefers to only say that every one of them is “in the Top 10.”

At the end of the day, however, Shaw was “super attracted” to Haas. “There’s pretty much nowhere else that I could envision myself,” he says. “What (former) Dean (Rich) Lyons created with his defining leadership principles really drew me to the school.”

He’s not alone. An internal study from 2018 found that one in four Haas students chose the school specifically for the defining principles. Shaw also learned he could simultaneously pursue a master’s in financial engineering, which sealed the deal for him. “That just got me really fired up,” he says. Talking to the new dean, she authorized him to pursue a master’s in financial engineering certificate. “And also just got me really fired up.”

TARGETING PRIVATE EQUITY

Shaw wants to use his time at Haas to land a full-time job in private equity.

“Growing up the way I did, it was a lot of resourcefulness,” Shaw says, adding that the ability to go into something structured and create and make it better is something in which he’s skilled. “Being creative is something that’s super valued in that field.”

Public service is also important to Shaw, he says, which is another reason he chose Haas. “There’s a sense to Haas that it’s more than just business and also it’s extremely academically rigorous,” he says.

Shaw said in his Haas admissions essay that he was built to question the status quo. And Haas also had to question their own admissions status quo by admitting Shaw.

“They had to break a rule for my age,” Shaw laughs. “I remember hearing there was a decent amount of controversy.”

DON’T MISS: DESPITE COVID, BERKELEY’S INCOMING MBA CLASS HAS ALREADY BONDED. HERE’S HOW or THE FUTURE OF THE MBA IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW AT UC BERKELEY or AT BERKELEY HAAS, THE HARDWORK TO BALANCE B-SCHOOL CASES IS UNDERWAY