MIT Sloan and Berkeley Haas are both highly selective business schools. Much of that has to do with the quality of these two institutions and their highly desirable locations. Both programs are relatively small business schools that prioritize student culture.
Berkeley Haas outwardly states, “We believe that a fundamental step in redefining the business leader is to get our culture right, because this culture encourages students to develop the mindset and behaviors of innovative leaders.” MIT Sloan’s motto is ‘Ideas Made to Matter,’ and its culture is built around inventing the future.
Employer recruiting is also comparable. If you’re aiming for a top MBA job, either the Berkeley- or MIT Sloan-punched MBA will easily get you in the door. Most national and multinational recruiters come to the Bay Area and make two stops, Stanford and Berkeley, just as most big-time recruiters make two stops in the Boston area, at Harvard and MIT Sloan. Both programs orient towards the tech industry. “Sloan is a mission-driven school that looks to solve the world’s problems in innovative ways,” shares Dawna Levenson, the Assistant Dean of MIT Admissions.
PoetsandQuants wrote about their similarities:
Berkeley’s proximity to Silicon Valley puts the school at the forefront of entrepreneurship, venture capital, and technology. Of all the east coast schools, MIT Sloan comes closest to the same Berkeley focus. No wonder so many apply to both schools, even though they are so far from each other.
At the same time, there are notable differences between the programs. Haas is a public institution whereas MIT Sloan is private. Separated by some 3,000 miles, one is on the West Coast and the other is on the East Coast. MIT Sloan remains in the M7 and has better brand recognition over Haas, especially in some regions abroad. “The Berkeley brand is unsurpassed in Asia,” shared a representative of Berkeley Haas.
Here, we explore MIT Sloan and Berkeley Haas with insights from MBA Admissions Officers and other valuable perspectives. We also worked closely with the former MIT Sloan and Berkeley Haas Admissions Officers on our Stacy Blackman Consulting team. Finally, we reviewed this smackdown with Executive Directors and Admissions Officers at both programs and incorporated their insights, perspectives and advice.
Admissions: what does MIT Sloan seek?
“MIT Sloan seeks applicants who can navigate problems of progressive complexity, ability to adapt to ambiguous situations, independence of thought, humility and consideration for others. MIT Sloan looks for the exceptional in arenas such as academic, professional, civic, good citizens, great attitudes. I always sensed a special something, a spark, in the candidates I recommended for admission that set them apart: it’s a sense of self not everyone has,” shared a former Assistant MIT Sloan MBA Admissions Director who is now with the Stacy Blackman Consulting team.
Current Assistant Dean of MIT Sloan Admissions Dawna Levenson says that “MIT Sloan looks for evidence of three main factors: academic ability to be successful in the MIT Sloan classroom, desire and ability to make an impact, and ability to work well in a team environment.” Students at MIT Sloan are engaged, creative, and encouraged to think outside the typical MBA frameworks.
We asked the former Assistant MIT Sloan MBA Admissions Director who is with the Stacy Blackman Consulting team what MIT Sloan does not want. “We didn’t love any sign of arrogance or super competitiveness.”
Admissions: what does Berkeley Haas seek?
Berkeley Haas has rigorous admissions standards, and its student class has stronger GMAT and GPA performance than the MIT student class. Beyond that, “Haas is really focused on its experiential learning and its Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself. Candidates need to know the principles and talk about why at least one of the principles resonates with the candidate,” shared a former Berkeley Haas Admissions Officer who is now on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team.
We asked the former Haas Admissions Officers on our Stacy Blackman Consulting team what Haas does not want. Their consensus was:
Haas tends to get annoyed with that applicant who knows nothing about Haas or why they are applying there. Applicants need an authentic application approach and speak for themselves and not be robotic or formulaic.
Eric Askins, current Haas Admissions Director, adds: “Candidates should be familiar with the Defining Leadership Principles and be able to craft their narrative in a way that allows us to see how they could fit into the culture at Haas.”
Application Essays, Tips & Candidate Evaluation
Admissions requirements, inclusive of essays and interview, are very different between MIT Sloan and Berkeley Haas. Sample MIT Sloan cover letters and sample Berkeley Haas essays from successful admits are instructive to applicants.
Haas’s application essay prompts have historically focused on personality and moments. For example, one of the current Haas application essay prompts is “What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why?” Haas MBA admissions has asked creative and open-ended questions for many years. This essay is a new version of that style. Berkeley Haas looks for candidates who align with its Defining Leadership Principles. As a result of this approach, MBA students form a tight-knit community and friendships for life. The culture is one of making a positive impact, powered by the innovation culture of the San Francisco Bay Area innovation economy.
For the Haas creative essay, the former Haas Admissions Officers on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team recommends thinking about what you lose time pursuing or find completely absorbing. This likely includes your hobbies, sports, or artistic pursuits. After you have identified a meaningful activity, then you need to describe why. The “why” is more important than the “what” because it reveals something about who you are.
By contrast, MIT Sloan takes a different approach in its application. MIT Sloan currently requires all applicants to submit a cover letter, organizational chart, and video essay with their application. The MIT Sloan cover letter format has been used for many years to select candidates. In some ways, this structure reflects MIT Sloan’s goal to admit candidates with practical (though innovative) ideas and experience. Also, the cover letter is a way to describe your key accomplishments and use them to prove that you embody the outlined criteria for admission. Those criteria are: independent, authentic, and fearlessly creative — true doers.
For the short video in which the applicant is asked to introduce him or herself, the areas evaluated include presence, passions, and interests. The former Sloan admissions official who now consults with MBA candidates for the Stacy Blackman Consulting team advises, “The video should give MIT Sloan Admissions a clear picture of who they are as a person, their personality, personal presence, and what really makes them tick. MIT Sloan Admissions is asking themselves: Is this person ready to be put in front of recruiters? Will they represent the brand well? Is this someone we want on our teams? Be your best self, bring some energy to it, show your enthusiasm.”
The interview process is also different between the two programs. MIT Sloan has a traditional interview but it is very behavioral, with questions that may include how to deal with conflict, how to challenge management, how to become a leader in tough circumstances etc. All who are invited for an interview by MIT Sloan are required to submit two additional essays 24 hours prior to their scheduled interview. Haas’s interviews are usually conducted by second year students, who are looking for fit with the program. Questions about the particular classes and clubs, a resume review, and post-MBA goals are typical interview topics at Haas.
Admissions Stats, Demographics & Class Size
MIT is slightly more selective than Haas, with acceptance rates hovering well under 20% for both programs, while Haas has stronger GMAT scores and GPAs. These admit rates are lower than even Kellogg and Booth. In the last decade, we have seen an uptick in the average GMAT scores by about 5 to 10 points for both programs.
|Class of 2022 Admission Stats||MIT Sloan||Berkeley|
In Fall 2020, Haas experienced a larger drop in international enrollment, from an average of 33% over the past 10 years to just 21%. Peter Johnson, assistant dean of Haas’s full time MBA program, said this drop was due to visa and travel challenges posed by the COVID pandemic. He added that interest from international applicants has been very strong and that the school expects international enrollment to return to a normal range by Fall 2021. Minority representation remains difficult to compare due to varying classification criteria.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion is one of Haas Dean Ann Harrison’s top three priorities and much has been done to diversify the applicant pool. Haas began publishing its strategic diversity plan in 2018, which it regularly updates on its website. Goals include raising $20 million over the next five years to support DEI student scholarships,” shared a representative of Berkeley Haas.
In September, MIT Sloan appointed veteran social justice leader Malia Lazu as lecturer to help build an inclusive innovation economy community. The former executive vice president and regional president at Berkshire Bank joined Associate Dean of Innovation and Inclusion Fiona Murray and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ray Reagans in creating a series of community conversations called “The Inclusive Innovation Economy: Ideas + Actions.”
At MIT Sloan, beginning with orientation, leadership and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) topics are woven throughout the entire student experience. One of MIT Sloan’s goals is to have graduates leave campus equipped with field-tested leadership frameworks they can apply to make a lasting impact from any position in any organization.
|Enrollment Stats||MIT Sloan||Berkeley|
|Total MBA Enrollment||900||502|
*Estimated, as a percentage of US citizens and permanent residents. Visit https://mitsloan.mit.edu/mba/admissions/class-2022-profile for the full class profile.
Poets are equal at both schools now, which can be seen via humanities education, which is comparable at 20% and 23% at MIT Sloan and Berkeley Haas, respectively. Haas had just 14% from humanities a decade ago and has increased significantly since then. Those with engineering and math degrees account for 45% of MIT Sloan’s students, a full 18 percentage points higher than at Berkeley Haas, which correlates with QS World University Rankings having named MIT the world’s top-ranked school in engineering and math for nine straight years, along with MIT’s spirit of collaboration between its schools, particularly in the realm of entrepreneurship. On the other hand, Berkeley is slightly more open to enrolling business and economics undergraduates than MIT Sloan. About 39% of Berkeley’s Class of 2022 have business or econ backgrounds, versus 35% at MIT Sloan. Data is aggregated in different ways between the programs so check the program websites for details.
“Haas is the heart of what’s next, the center of the Silicon Valley innovation economy, and we lean heavily into that economy through our relationships with the top Bay Area companies and their leaders,” said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. “These deep relationships that we’ve built over the years— in areas of tech, consulting, fintech, and at startups—offer an incredibly rich variety of internship and employment opportunities for students, many who choose Haas for these unique Bay Area experiences.”
For a Haas student, studying in the heart of Silicon Valley provides access to industry lecturers, case studies, team projects for local companies, on-site company visits and more. Silicon Valley is home to technologists, innovators, life science visionaries, and venture capitalists.
The location can facilitate finding the right job for technology talents and interests. The Bay Area is a prime location for students aspiring toward international business. “California is a gateway to South American and Asian economies, and many of the world’s global companies are headquartered in the Bay Area,” shared a former Haas MBA Admissions Officer on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team.
Poets&Quants wrote, “Berkeley is located in one of the most livable and desirable places in the world: Northern California. The area’s diverse geography ranges from the sandy beaches of the Pacific coast to the rugged, snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains in the east, both a mecca for those who enjoy the outdoors, whether biking, kayaking, or skiing. Berkeley is a 15-minute BART ride to San Francisco or about half an hour by car. Berkeley is the funky and eclectic west coast equivalent of Cambridge, with used bookstores, record shops that still sell vinyl, lots of cafes, and limitless purveyors of beads and bumper stickers that carry protest messages.
MIT Sloan is located in the heart of Cambridge’s Kendall Square neighborhood. The school is surrounded by biotech companies, tech giants, startups, and research labs, as well as a wide array of restaurants, outdoor activities, arts, music, and culture. And with nearly 60 colleges and universities in the Boston area, creative, intellectual energy is a key part of the fabric of the city.
Cambridge’s neighbor, Boston, is one of the country’s intellectual, technological, and political centers. It is home to the Red Sox and Fenway Park, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the North End (Boston’s Little Italy) and a thriving restaurant, entertainment and cultural scene. Each year in mid-April, the Boston Marathon welcomes the world’s elite runners. Steeped in history, the Freedom Trail and historical buildings and monuments spotlight the city’s leading role in the American Revolution. Cape Cod’s Sagamore and Bourne Bridges — the gateway to Massachusetts’ famed beaches and seafood culinary delights — are approximately one hour away from MIT Sloan. Ferry service to Provincetown, the funky and eclectic community at the very tip of Cape Cod, is available from Boston, while ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are easily accessible on the Cape. And the Berkshires, home to Tanglewood, arts and culture, and hiking, kayaking, and skiing is located a couple hours away in the other direction. New Hampshire’s White Mountains and Vermont’s Green Mountains are also easily accessible, as is the Maine coastline. Spring and summer weather is often very pleasant. And although winter months can usher in cold and snow, there isn’t anything like the fog that tends to stubbornly cling to the Bay Area for much of the year.
Even though the two schools are on opposite coasts, 3,000 miles away, there’s a similar vibe. Close community defines both programs and enables an environment of innovation, ideas and impact. “I advise applicants to draw their own conclusions. I ask clients to visit the schools or engage virtually to get a sense of whether one would fit in,” shared a former Haas Admissions Officer on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team. Both programs are known to be collaborative, with self-aware, well-rounded and inspired student culture. For institutions that attract smart, already accomplished, yet still highly ambitious people, the competition among students is kept to a minimum.
As rankings suggest, these schools are typically ranked in the top 10. Poets&Quants– which factors into consideration all the major rankings weighted by their individual authority–awards MIT Sloan a rank of sixth, while Berkeley is right on its heels in the eighth spot, making it our highest ranked public university business school. Similar patterns can be seen via the US News annual rankings.
|Poets & Quants 2020||US News 2022||US News 2021||US News 2020||US News 2019|
Jobs, Pay and Employment Location
Both programs have comparable salaries of around $140-150,000 on average upon employment with a bonus of around $32,000. When it comes to pay, employment rate and placement, both schools provide solid on-ramps to lucrative MBA jobs, as you can see from their employment reports.
Key aspects of employment are noted in the chart below. The most significant differences are in geographic location for career placement: Northeast versus West Coast, which reflects each school’s home base. If you want to work on the West Coast or Silicon Valley, Berkeley has the edge. If you want to hang out on the East Coast with access to career opportunities in Cambridge, Boston and New York, among others, MIT Sloan has an advantage. Overall, tech and consulting outplacement are similar.
Interestingly, tech industry placement is near 30% for both programs, which is significantly higher than the tech outplacement of most other M7 programs (compare to HBS at 19%) and aligned with Stanford GSB, which places into tech at a rate of 28%. Tech industry placement has grown by about 7% at both programs since one decade ago when it was 20% and 26% for MIT Sloan and Berkeley Haas, respectively.
The flipside is that finance industry outcomes at both Berkeley Haas and MIT Sloan are about ½ of that of other M7 programs, where we see Wharton, Booth, HBS, and CBS placed into finance at a rate of 30-36% –double that of Berkeley Haas or MIT Sloan. Of all the other M7 programs, Kellogg’s outcomes in finance are similarly low as that of Berkeley Haas and MIT Sloan. “Haas is not known for its finance program. But any finance person applying to Haas should know that if their number one reason is because of Haas’s finance program, then they probably aren’t being honest. It could be because they want to stay in the Bay Area (or move back) and continue in finance. Regardless, if it’s finance, then they need to do some specific research about what finance courses/professors are right for them.”
Still, financial services is a top-3 industry for Haas MBA grads, many who accept jobs in investment banking on the West Coast. “If you want to do investment banking, and you want to cover tech clients or other sectors from the Bay Area, then you should come to Haas,” said Bill Rindfuss, director of strategic programs in finance and member of the Career Management Group at Haas. Haas polls Bay Area investment banking offices each year and regularly reports the top aggregate number of summer associates (among business schools), the gateway to full-time investment banking jobs. With tech’s dominance in the region, many other finance roles intersect with tech, through fintech, VC, or roles in corporate finance or corporate development. Impact investing and sustainability form another intersection with finance that’s very important to Haas, through its Sustainable and Impact Finance initiative.
As shared with us by a MIT Sloan representative, “At MIT Sloan, Finance aligns with MIT Sloan’s areas of core expertise including FinTech and social impact investing, and it was one of the first business schools to introduce courses on blockchain and cryptocurrencies. MIT Sloan is home to the Golub Center for Finance and Policy. Finance staff includes such heavyweights as Nobel Laureate Robert Merton who pioneered the Black–Scholes–Merton model; Finance Prof. Gary Gensler was sworn into office in April of 2021 as Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. MIT Sloan’s Master of Finance (MFin) degree program is a rigorous 18-month STEM curriculum, with the option to accelerate in 12 months, MFin emphasizes a foundation in how markets work and is engineered around financial theories, quantitative models, and industry practices.”
|Jobs & Pay Data||MIT||Berkeley|
|MBAs employed 3 months after commencement||95.50%||89.50%|
|West Coast Location||29.70%||74.90%|
The flagship program at both schools is the full-time, two-year MBA. Both Berkeley Haas and MIT Sloan now have deferred admissions programs for college seniors.
Haas’s MBA program also offers joint degree options in Public Health, Engineering, and Law, some of Berkeley’s top-ranked graduate programs. The MBA/MPH is the longest-running and most successful of the three. The MBA/JD is recently redesigned to make it more student friendly. Haas has two joint programs with the top-rated College of Engineering: the undergraduate Management, Engineering, & Technology and the MBA/MEng programs. Haas also has a part time program (called Evening & Weekend MBA or EWMBA) and an executive, EMBA, program and the program houses the undergraduates that are part of the Haas school. Haas also has a top-ranked Master in Financial Engineering.
MIT Sloan also has an executive (EMBA) program, whose students have an average of 17 years of work experience, as well as the MIT Sloan Fellows program for mid-career professionals who, on average, have 14 years of work experience. MIT also has a dual-degree program, Leaders For Global Operations (LGO). Over the course of two years, LGO students earn both an MS from MIT’s School of Engineering and an MBA degree from Sloan. The program features internships at elite partner companies.
At MIT Sloan, five core buildings make up the Sloan School on the east campus of the institute. A 250,000 square foot building called E62 — all buildings across MIT are designated by numbers, not names — opened in 2010. E62 is a world class, LEED Gold-certified, modern six-floor structure with new classrooms, study rooms, and a 200-seat dining hall. Interior bridges connect E62 and buildings E40, E51, E52 and E60.The recently renovated E52 was re-designed with a nod to the Art Deco style that characterized the original building. Its new Samberg Conference Center’s top two floors is a 20,000-foot glass-encased addition that looks out at the Charles River and the Boston skyline. Each of the Conference Center’s two floors can accommodate 300 guests.
In 2017, Haas opened Chou Hall, a six-story LEED and Zero-Waste certified building nestled in redwood trees, with a top-floor event space, a street-level cafe, and balconies and outdoor meeting spaces on every floor. The campus also includes a complex of three buildings connected by bridges and surrounding a courtyard where students gather for lunch, study sessions, and social events like Consumption Functions. A new entrepreneurship space is in the works on campus.
MIT Sloan’s teaching methods are designed to suit the course: lectures, simulations, team-based projects, and case studies. MIT Sloan offers a portfolio of 15 Action Learning Lab programs that encompass the MIT motto, “mens et manus”—mind and hand—and address a wide range of interdisciplinary subjects.
Berkeley estimates that case studies make up half of the classroom instruction, while team projects take up 15% of the class work. Good old-fashioned lectures, experiential learning, and simulations make up the rest.
There is no forced grading curve at MIT Sloan or at Berkeley Haas. Faculty individually decide how to grade in each class and many feel that there is significant grade inflation. MIT Sloan grades on a 5.0 point scale (students need a 4.0 to graduate).
MIT Sloan has a one semester core with five required classes and the option of one elective. There are no waivers, regardless of your level of experience or your background in any of the core subjects. The incoming class at MIT Sloan is divided into cohorts which are then carved into core teams that are meant to be as diverse as possible.
MIT Sloan has over 90 electives in its course catalog, offering its MBA candidates three formal, completely optional tracks: finance, enterprise management, and entrepreneurship & innovation. Essentially, it means you can load up on electives in either one of these areas, often taking the courses with students who are committed to one of these fields. The MBAs in the E&I track do a required trip to Silicon Valley with faculty; the students in the finance track do a similar trip to Wall Street. Students in the EM track take EM Lab in their first semester and participate in the Management Practice Hack-a-thon in their second semester. There are also a fair number of track-related activities, including alumni events organized by the school. In addition, MIT Sloan offers three optional certificates: Business Analytics, Healthcare, and Sustainability.
MIT Sloan offers dozens of courses in entrepreneurship to choose from; the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship is located on Sloan’s campus, serving as the nexus of MIT’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. The Trust Center has multiple Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and a professional advisors network to mentor MBAs interested in launching their startups. The Center itself was remodeled and expanded in 2016 to better accommodate startups on campus and host larger events centered on entrepreneurship along with introducing its Protoworks makerspace, where students are able to explore and experiment on their entrepreneurial ideas through initial physical prototyping. The Trust Center is also home to delta v, MIT’s student venture accelerator, which provides a capstone educational opportunity for student entrepreneurs, preparing them to hit escape velocity and launch into the real world.
At Haas, the incoming class of just 296 students is divided into four cohorts of 74 students each who go through the core classes together as well. Haas has recently beefed up its offerings in its three priority areas — innovation, inclusion, and sustainability — by adding a new certificate in business sustainability, courses in carbon footprinting, and CSR metrics. As part of a recent core curriculum reform Haas is enhancing training in business communications and persuasion skills, doubling coursework in statistics and data analytics, and creating a new course on leading diverse teams — likely a first for any leading business school in the United States and consistent with the school’s focus on diversity and inclusion.
Berkeley Haas is only 30 miles away to Silicon Valley, and Haas over a dozen electives in entrepreneurship: “Opportunity Recognition–Technology and Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley,” “Entrepreneurship Workshop for Startups,” “Business Model Innovation in New Ventures,” and “New Venture Finance.”
“Haas was among the first—if not the first—business school to teach entrepreneurship 50 years ago,” shared a representative of Haas’s MBA program. He added, “About 20% of MBA graduates in the most recent class sought to work for startups or start a company. The Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program supports students’ journeys with programs like LAUNCH, which leads about 40% of student startups to incubators and accelerators, the most common path to preparing a company for seed funding.” Haas offers over a dozen electives in entrepreneurship: “Opportunity Recognition–Technology and Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley,” “Entrepreneurship Workshop for Startups,” “Business Model Innovation in New Ventures,” and “New Venture Finance.”
Check out our other MBA program smackdowns at the links below:
About The Author
Stacy Blackman is the founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting (SBC). We are the only consulting firm in the industry that has a complete panel of former MBA Admissions Officers from the top US and European MBA programs. In fact, 75% of our consultant team hails from the top seven US MBA programs, either as graduates or former MBA Admissions Officers–including from MIT Sloan and Berkeley Haas. The SBC team has MBA expertise at every top b-school and understands career paths in every industry, both traditional and non-traditional. Stacy Blackman Consulting offers a limited number of free consultations weekly for inquiries that have been pre-screened by our tenured team.