Application tips and insights from Berkeley MBA admissions directors

By Rahul Sampat

What do admissions directors from top MBA programs want applicants to know? I thought it would be interesting to explore this question across all three Berkeley MBA programs, so I brought my perspective on our Evening & Weekend MBA Program and sat down to talk with colleagues Morgan Bernstein, associate director of admissions for the Full-time MBA Program, and Susan Petty, senior associate director of admissions for the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program.

Here's what you shouldn't overlook, leave to the last minute or fear in your Berkeley MBA application:

What part of your program’s application do prospective students tend to overlook—or leave until the last minute?

Morgan Bernstein of Full-time Berkeley MBA AdmissionsMorgan Bernstein says that full-time MBA applicants may underestimate the importance of a strong résumé. “A truly successful résumé is more than just a collection of responsibilities and achievements,” she says. “It tells a story.”

“The résumé is likely one of the first documents we review to help give us a snapshot of a candidate. I think sometimes candidates think of this as a ‘check-the-box’ activity, but it has the potential to set the course for the initial application review.”



Rahul_Sampat_blog_author-1.jpgFor our evening and weekend MBA program, I’d say International transcripts cause a lot of confusion. Many applicants assume that they need to provide an official transcript copy in the application process, but an unofficial copy is actually sufficient.

The official copy is only required if the student is recommended for admission. Also, applicants often delay or overlook the TOEFL because they are so focused on the GMAT.

Susan Petty says that the EMBA applicants sometimes put off taking the GMAT, due to anxiety—see next question!

What are MBA applicants most afraid of in the application or application process, and why should they not fear it?

Susan Petty of Berkeley MBA for Executives AdmissionsSusan finds that some prospective executive MBA students fear the GMAT, particularly because many of them have not taken or studied for exams in a long time. “Our applicants often dread the GMAT or GRE because it's been 10+ years since they've taken a standardized test, and because their demanding jobs and schedules make it a challenge to prepare for the exam,” she says.

“But what they sometimes don't realize,” she continues, “is that preparing for the test benefits them because they brush up on skills they may not have used in a long time, which can later help them handle the rigor of the program.”

I also find that applicants to the evening and weekend MBA program worry that their GPA or GMAT/GRE scores will be too low. It’s important to know that we evaluate all applicants holistically, not just based on test scores.

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One way all of our programs evaluate candidates holistically is through interviews. For the full-time MBA program, Morgan shares that those interviews can be a source of anxiety, noting that many candidates worry they won't be invited for an interview if they haven't heard back by a certain date.

“Interviews are required for admission to the full-time program, but we do not have set dates for invites,” says Morgan. “Interviews are extended on a rolling basis, often all the way up until decision notification week. If you don't hear from us right away, don't panic! We may not have gotten to your application yet.”

On the part-time side, some applicants worry about whether the field they work in can work against them. For example, sometimes people who work in engineering worry that their candidacy will be affected by our program's mission to reflect industry diversity and by our location in the tech-heavy Bay Area. Reviewing our class profile sheet gives them a feel for the mix of people that form each class.

Finally, what do you most want people to know about your application process?

Applicants to the evening/weekend MBA program should know that our program gives part-time MBA students the same access to resources as our full-time students, which isn’t always the case at other [part-time] MBA programs.

I also like people to know that there's an equal chance of admission in all 3 rounds for the EW program, so it doesn’t matter which round you apply in, and that each application is evaluated thoroughly, read two or three times at a minimum.

Susan and Morgan both say that the thoughtful evaluation process is a hallmark of the EMBA and Full-time MBA programs, as well. “We interview almost every prospective EMBA student, because cultural fit is valued here at Haas,” says Susan, who thinks this approach is evidenced by the EMBA program's eclectic representation of industries and jobs.

“We strive for diversity in industry, job function, and experience, so that's how we craft the class. Our goal is to make sure the class is representative of a variety of industries and job functions.”

For the full-time program, Morgan says, ”Every application is reviewed by a member of the admissions staff, regardless of the standardized test score, GPA or work experience. We know that our applicants invest a lot of time and energy into the process, and we want to get to know the stories behind each individual that makes up a full-time MBA class.

Additionally, the full-time program has a unique interviewing process. “The vast majority of interviews are conducted by current students on campus or by alumni in the city/region where an applicant lives. Admission committee members typically do not conduct interviews,” Morgan says.

If you’re considering applying to one of our MBA programs, know that what our admissions teams all have in common is a dedication to providing you with an exceptional application experience, from start to “submit” and beyond.

For more, check out our guide to crafting your best MBA application, and, see part II of this conversation.

What to consider when putting together your MBA application

Posted on January 9, 2016
Themes: Applying
Rahul Sampat
Rahul was Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA Programs for Working Professionals from 2015-2019. He hopes these blog posts provide you with useful insights into the Berkeley MBA experience and questions you may have about the MBA in general.