Application Do's & Don'ts from the Full-time MBA Admissions Team

By Morgan Bernstein

The Full-time MBA Admissions team at Berkeley-Haas

“What can I do to increase my chances of getting into Haas?”

Ah, the million dollar question!  Unfortunately, there is no formula for the business school application.  A high GPA does not guarantee acceptance, just as a weak GMAT does not mean denial.  It’s a holistic process – we promise.

What does holistic mean in this context?  It means we’re looking for the complete package.  We want to know you’re academically ready for the rigor of our program. We hope to see work experience marked by impact, progression and leadership.  We’re impressed by well-articulated career goals that tap into Haas resources. We seek evidence of community involvement and cultural fit.

We know that sounds a bit nebulous, but the good news is it’s up for interpretation—there’s no right answer.

In lieu of offering you a prescription for acceptance, we’ll gladly share a small collection of application “do’s and don’ts” from the Full-time MBA admissions team.  

  • Do your homework.  Engage with students, attend an event, visit campus or join us online. Get first-hand insights into life as a Berkeley MBA student and be more authentic in your responses.
  • Don’t procrastinate.  Give your recommenders at least six weeks, and yourself eight to ten (at a minimum!).  The application is a marathon, not a sprint.   
  • Do fill in the blanks.  Have a gap in your resume?  Underperform one semester of undergrad?  Don’t have a direct supervisor writing a recommendation?  Use the space provided to tell us why.  Admissions officers have wild imaginations, and we’d rather you fill in the blanks for us.
  • Do show self-awareness.  Is your quant prep not up to par? GMAT below our range? Enroll in a Calculus or Statistics course and/or retake the GMAT.  Don’t wait for admissions to ask you to do it, because we won’t.  
  • Do take initiative.  Have a question?  Check our website first.  We love your inquiries, but appreciate it when you ask thoughtful questions versus things that can be found online.
  • Do show passion.  We love Haas and we want to know you do too.
  • Do answer the questions asked.  We ask our questions, our way, for a reason.  If the other MBA programs to which you’re applying didn’t ask the exact question we did, then don’t copy/paste essays. Same goes for the optional essay.  Steer clear of repurposing essays.
  • Do ask for help.  Turn to a good friend for feedback on your essays.  Have them answer two questions about your essays: 1. Does this sound like me?  2. What question do you think I was answering?  If you don't like what you hear, revise.
  • Do mark your calendar.  Our application deadlines, notification dates and deposit deadlines are posted online. These are firm deadlines.  Familiarize yourself with the comparable deadlines at other programs to which you've applied and plan ahead.
  • Don’t expect an exception.  See above re: firm deadlines.  We don’t grant deposit extensions. We only consider deferrals for medical reasons or military deployment, period. 
  • Don’t forget to proofread.  Every year we read compelling applications that go south because the applicant left in mention of another program (I can't wait to join the Haas community in New York.  Yikes!)  Please proofread and don't give us reason to doubt your attention to detail.
  • Do enjoy the process.  When the going gets tough, step back and remember the investment you're making in your future.  We promise, business school is worth the time and effort!  

Good luck, really.  We hope to hear your story in one of our application rounds: October 1, January 7 or March 11.

The Full-time Berkeley MBA Admissions team


Topics: Bay Area  |   Tips  |   Application  |   Full-time  |   Admissions Tips
Morgan Bernstein
Morgan was the Executive Director of Full-time MBA Admissions at Haas from 2016-2019 as well as a graduate of the program. She enjoys making personal connections with prospective students and guiding them through the MBA admission process.