What can you contribute to an MBA class?

By Om Chitale

One of Berkeley Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles is Beyond Yourself. When working to shape our world ethically and responsibility, Beyond Yourself means putting larger interests above our own.

Demonstrating your allegiance to Beyond Yourself starts at the application phase. 

MBA applicants commonly describe their pursuit for an MBA in terms of:

  • “I want to achieve something new”
  • “I want to change careers”
  • “I want to advance”

While these are valid goals, what sets you apart from other candidates during the application process is thinking about the “I” in terms of “us”. 

How will your contributions to an MBA program impact the entire academic community?

Learn the types of data and personal accounts that will showcase your potential contributions to an MBA program, how different perspectives make a more profound educational experience, and how to mine personal experiences for a compelling MBA application. 

Contributions the MBA admissions office focuses on

The application review process for the Evening & Weekend Berkeley Haas MBA, Full-time MBA, and Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives programs is quite holistic, meaning that your whole application is examined to determine the value of your experience and expertise, including your: 

Professional accomplishments

Your work experience and leadership potential is best demonstrated through your letters of recommendation and your resume. Make sure both elements of your application showcase:

  • Years of work experience
  • Scope and responsibilities of job(s)
  • Rate of progression
  • Potential for further growth
  • Formal and informal leadership experience
  • Impact achieved
  • Opportunities you’ve taken advantage of with professional organizations or events and clubs at work

Academic performance

The MBA program at Berkeley Haas is rigorous. Your academic readiness is evaluated from the following:

  • GMAT, GRE, or Executive Assessment exam score
    • Consider only the highest score submitted
    • TOEFL/IELTS (international students only)
  • Past academic performance
    • Rigor of coursework
    • Caliber of institution
  • Quantitative proficiency
    • Q% on GMAT/GRE/EA
    • Undergraduate major
    • Quantitative coursework
    • Quantitative experience at work

Personal qualities

Aside from professional and academic experience, the admissions office at top MBA programs want to see students who fit the culture of their school. Character contributions can be demonstrated through your essays, letters of recommendation, and video interview. Consider:

  • Contributions outside of work, including community involvement, active membership or leadership in organizations, and interest in various hobbies or causes
  • Examples of how you demonstrate and embrace the four Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles:
    • Question the Status Quo
    • Confidence Without Attitude
    • Students Always
    • Beyond Yourself

Character contributions can be hard to verbalize but can have the biggest impact on how you can contribute to a master’s program. 

Why it's important to focus on character contributions

When we talk about diversity in an MBA program, it’s not just about gender or race. It’s also about ethnicity, religion, culture, socioeconomics, sexuality, age, personal and professional backgrounds — both the visible and invisible aspects of an individual that create a unique story. 

A room full of different outlooks benefits everyone. Diversity stimulates conversation, broadens perspective, and provides more comprehensive education which assists students as they enter an increasingly global business world

Evening & Weekend Berkeley Haas MBA program alum, Shivam Goyal, MBA 19 and senior product manager at Adobe, says when demonstrating how you can contribute to an MBA program, "It is important not to discount the uniqueness of your own journey." 

We all go through life, enduring unique moments, having individual experiences, and meeting special people that transform our story in a very personal way. Leverage this distinctiveness. 

When writing your MBA application, ask yourself questions like:

  • What lessons from your childhood have made you who you are and led you to an MBA program?
  • What have you learned at your previous jobs that can help your colleagues in an MBA program? 
  • What lessons from previous education contribute to your unique story? 

"Admissions committees care less about big achievements or awards and more about personal anecdotes that will help them assess you as a human being. When you dig deep and think about what triggered the events in your life to get you where you are today, it helps you understand and demonstrate who you are,” says Shivam. 

Inclusive, diverse, and comprehensive education is essential, and that’s why Haas places a special emphasis on what you can contribute to an MBA class. Our driving force is to cultivate a diverse network that helps extraordinary people achieve great things by embracing our culture.  

Does this sound like you? Check out our eBook Five Signs You're Ready for an MBA.

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Editor's note: This post was originally published in June 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Posted on August 11, 2020
Themes: Applying
Om Chitale
Om was the Director of Diversity Admissions at Haas from 2019-2021, as well as a graduate of the full-time MBA program (class of 18). He started his career in consulting at Deloitte, then switched paths into education access and equity work through an Education Pioneers Fellowship in Memphis. He's now Sr. Program Manager of Inclusion Recruiting Partnerships and Communities at LinkedIn.