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Six fears students face when applying for an MBA (and how to overcome them)

By Rahul Sampat

Spiders. Public speaking. Heights. You probably recognize these common fears, but would you be surprised to learn that applying for an MBA also prompts fear in a lot of people? That’s because applying for an MBA can call up lots of emotions, from insecurity about being compatible with the program, to worry about the cost, to uncertainty about the return on investment.

Read on to learn more about the nagging fears that keep students from applying for an MBA and find out how to squash these relatable qualms.

1. Am I good enough for a top MBA program?

Many prospective MBA students fear that they are not good enough for the program they aspire to attend. If the accomplishment feels out of reach, candidates will not apply. They fear it is not worth the hassle — nor the application fees — only to receive a rejection.

Do not be overly critical of yourself.

First, assess your current starting point. How do your GMAT scores look? For reference, last year at Berkeley, the mid-80% range of GMAT scores for the evening and weekend program was between 640-740. For full-time MBA students, the mid-80% range was 690-750.

If your test scores don’t fall within this range, don’t fret. Tests can always be retaken.

It’s equally important to understand that acceptance into a program doesn’t only boil down to GPA and test scores. There are many other factors that can make you an ideal candidate at top business schools. For example, at Berkeley, the holistic approach to weighing applicants also considers a candidate’s:

  • Character
  • Qualifications
  • Experiences

2. Is my quantitative profile strong enough?

MBA programs at top business schools won’t waste any time tapping into your quantitative rigor. For example, the first-year curriculum at Berkeley includes coursework in:

  • Data and Decisions
  • Economics for Business Decision Making
  • Financial Accounting
  • Macroeconomics in the Global Economy

Brush-up your skills.

Doubts about whether you have a strong enough background to participate in the conversation and understand the material may be valid. However, your doubts can be allayed with a little attention to detail and preparation.

If you want to apply for a top business school, it makes sense to brush up on — or learn — relevant skills. You can do this by leveraging free online resources like:

3. Can I afford an MBA?

It’s reasonable to ask yourself how you will pay for an MBA program and whether the investment will be worth the return.

Research ways to share the cost.

Though the cost of an MBA is an essential consideration, so is the support system that may help lessen the financial hit. In some instances, employers will help cover the costs of an MBA, recognizing it is an asset for them as well. Not only does an MBA improve your managerial and critical thinking skills--immediate benefits on the job-- employers can also benefit from the expanded professional network you gain in an MBA program.

Additionally, most top business schools offer a variety of scholarships for domestic and international students. More than 50 percent of students in Berkeley’s evening-and-weekend MBA program receive some form of financial assistance. Moreover, for the 2019-2020 academic year, Berkeley Haas awarded nearly $9 million in scholarships to full-time MBA students.

The return on investment of an MBA might also alleviate your concerns. Consider the post-graduation statistics of Berkeley alumni:

4. How can I make an MBA work with my full-time workload?

When considering an MBA, many students automatically think of a full-time MBA program. The thought of attending school full time draws attention to challenges, especially how you will be able to maintain your job and still progress in your academic journey.

Top business schools offer flexibility for professionals seeking to advance their credentials by offering executive MBAs and evening-and-weekend programs:

Consider part-time MBA programs.

MBA for Executives

The executive MBA is a part-time MBA program that gives students a schedule that concentrates your classes into a shorter timeframe--the Berkeley MBA for Executives is a 19-month program--that intensifies your learning. Like you, your classmates are executives and professionals intent on honing their leadership and management skills. You gain not only knowledge, but a valuable network as well. According to The Economist, Berkeley's MBA for Executives ranks #4, globally.

Evening and weekend MBA

Evening and weekend schedules provide students the chance to further their professional career, on their terms. At Berkeley, you have the choice of an evening or weekend class schedule. Plus, while it is typically a three-year program, students can accelerate the program by taking a heavier load of courses or by taking summer courses. Berkeley ranks as the #1 part-time business school in the nation, according to U.S. News.

5. Do my professional passions align with an MBA?

Anyone who wishes to further their leadership and management skills should be viewed as a candidate for an MBA. An MBA program will teach a broad range of soft and hard skills that will help you earn a job you’re passionate about upon graduating.

Look for a program that supports your goals.

Berkeley Haas ranks ninth worldwide in the effectiveness of career services. Between face time with business leaders in Silicon Valley through programs like Haas@Work, the school's strong alumni network, and its connections in the area, students have success finding jobs almost immediately after graduating.

The best way to get a feel for the opportunities at Berkeley is to visit the campus, sit in on a class, talk to other students, and attend an information session. View Berkeley’s events calendar for upcoming events and your chance to observe the campus culture.

6. How do I apply?

After researching the program of your choice, and brushing up on the skills or test scores that can improve your odds of acceptance, you may decide to begin the application process.

Knowing where to start can be overwhelming and confusing. At Berkeley, the application process begins online. You will be required to:

  • Submit transcripts
  • Take a GMAT or GRE
  • Submit an essay
  • Provide two letters of recommendation

Next steps may include an interview and an English proficiency exam. Berkeley keeps the application process straightforward and transparent to minimize the anxiety often associated with applying for an MBA program.

Are you ready to move forward in your professional life? Apply for your MBA at Berkeley today.

Compare Berkeley MBA programs

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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.