What to consider when putting together your MBA application

By Morgan Bernstein

If you read our first MBA application tips post, featuring my conversation with fellow admissions directors from each Berkeley Haas MBA program, you probably noticed some common threads, as well as distinguishing differences. Because there were a few more questions to address, we got back together to continue our conversation.

Morgan Bernstein of Full-time Berkeley MBA AdmissionsI'm Morgan Bernstein and, once again, I brought perspective as the associate director of admissions for the Full-time Berkeley MBA Program, while Rahul Sampat shared insights on behalf of the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program, and Susan Petty did the same for the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program.

What is some universal advice for how you should approach any business school application process?

RAhul Sampat of Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA AdmissionsRahul recommends that students look at the requirements and class profile sheet before beginning the application; “It will likely answer many questions right off the bat,” he says.

He and Susan both say that people considering an MBA should consult with the people who will support the process—such as supervisors, family members, and friends. “An MBA is a big thing to take on,” says Rahul. “There is only so much time in the day, and something will end up having to take a back seat from time to time. It’s important to be up front with those you love and those who rely upon you.”

Susan Petty of Berkeley MBA for Executives AdmissionsSusan also recommends that you be selective in choosing the people who will write your recommendations. “Make sure your recommender is someone who has served as a supervisor, knows you well, and can write a thoughtful and detailed recommendation,” she says.

Beyond selecting recommenders and putting together a comprehensive, thoughtful application, Susan also suggests that an application should be a personal representation of the student: “It’s a great time to reflect on your life, the path you’ve been on, and where you want to go,” she concludes.

In the full-time MBA program, we want people who want us, and this authentic interest comes through in the tone and content of the essays and recommendations, as well as through the level of effort demonstrated throughout the application.

My best advice? Try not to focus on what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. There is no “right” answer to the essays or the application.

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What is the one thing people should do before they hit “submit" on an MBA application?

Come to an event on campus or attend a class,” Rahul urges. “This lets you experience the program culture first-hand and make sure that the program and the school is a fit for you.” He also suggests reaching out with questions, “We are happy to talk applicants through any issues.”

We all encourage prospective students to take part in admissions events, a great way to get a feel for Berkeley-Haas culture. I always tell people, though, that the best way to experience the full-time Berkeley MBA is to come to campus if at all possible.  

Another recurring theme for us is the importance of not rushing a submission. “Do not submit your application in a hurry,” says Susan. “Look it over carefully, proofread it, and make sure it is your best work.” 

Above all, the resounding and unifying answer to this final question is to make sure the program and school are the right fit for youI relate it to making other important selections in life, like key relationships, and suggest that you seek a program as if you are seeking a best friend, a partner, or a family.

After all, the MBA experience—the friends, the memories, the network, the brand—will be a part of your identity for the rest of your life.

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Posted on January 30, 2016
Themes: Applying
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.