The UC-Berkeley Haas part-time MBA program was named best in the country by U.S. News & World Report for the fifth straight year in 2017.
Just because part-time MBA students at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business meet only on evenings and weekends doesn’t mean their degree is worth any less than those who finish in two years, says Jamie Breen, Haas assistant dean. Graduates of the part-time program have learned the same materials from the same faculty and are Haas MBAs through and through, Breen says.
Most importantly, she adds, that’s just how employers will see them.
This weekend (July 28-30), the 253 newest members of the Haas Evening and Weekend MBA program will gather for orientation on the campus of the Northern California school, meeting second- and third-year EWMBA students and taking part in team-building (read: fun and lighthearted) exercises while familiarizing themselves with a campus they will see for much of the next three to five years. Though most students are regional, hailing from California or elsewhere on the West Coast, many have seen little of the UC-Berkeley campus before, and the “WE Launch” orientation is a chance for them to connect with the culture of the school.
“One of the things that we have that is unique is the fact that we have this very strong culture,” says Rahul Sampat, Berkeley Haas admissions director. “We really try to measure for that when we have students apply and in the interview process as well. We trying to bring in folks that have at least one of the school’s four defining principles” — Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, Beyond Yourself — “but most of them exemplify most of them.”
FLOATING ABOVE, AND LEADING THE WAY
Rahul Sampat, Berkeley Haas admissions director
The Berkeley Haas EWMBA program has been ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report for the last five years (2012-2017). The ranking is mostly based on surveys of business school deans and directors at part-time MBA programs, with scores rounded out by other factors including test scores, GPA, student work experience, and enrollment. The latter accounts for only 15% of a school’s score but is hugely important as measure of a program’s health, because while part-time programs are still how a majority of MBA seekers get their degrees, part-time enrollment has been dropping for many years — even at the elite programs.
Berkeley Haas has floated above the enrollment sag, with just over 800 total enrolled students now compared to just under 800 three years ago. The school had 255 new students in 2015, 252 in 2016, and 253 this fall, Sampat says — steady as she goes. In just about every other metric, the business school in the heart of the jewel of the California university system is handily surpassing its peers. Its part-time program boasts the highest average GMAT score, 694, of any of the 301 schools in the U.S. News ranking, with the next closest schools 16 points back (Chicago Booth and UCLA Anderson tied at 678). At a 47.4% acceptance rate, Berkeley Haas is also the most selective school in the top 25; you have to go all the way down to No. 28 Kennesaw State University Coles School of Business (41.2%) to find a school that is more choosy. (And in common with most part-time programs, it’s a lot easier to get into Haas as a part-time student than it is as a full-timer where the acceptance rate is an extremely low 12%.) In that all-important survey of deans and directors — accounting for 50% of each school’s score — Berkeley Haas scored a 4.5 out of 5, second only to Chicago Booth’s 4.7.
There’s no secret, Sampat tells Poets&Quants. It’s simply that Berkeley Haas never rests on its laurels. “We are constantly innovating, both in admissions and in the elements of the program,” he says.
Adds Breen: “We sit within a school that is highly ranked and that helps us stay highly ranked. We start from a position of strength.”
A LOT OF MONEY AND A LOT OF FREEDOM, TOO
One very unusual aspect of Berkeley Haas’ EWMBA program: It only has one entry per year, rather than rolling admissions. But in other ways, the program is similar to its peers. For one thing, it’s overwhelmingly male: 72% of 2016 enrollees were men (compared to 63% at NYU Stern and 71% at UCLA Anderson, each tied for No. 3 in the U.S. News ranking, or 73% at No. 5 Northwestern Kellogg). Cost is $3,169 per credit, which at 42 credits amounts to $133,098 — not so daunting compared to the $6,441 per credit at Kellogg, and not so exorbitant set against the likes of the estimated three-year total of $119,556 at Anderson. Likewise, estimated room and board at Haas is $25,656, a big chunk of change but less than both Stern ($32,918) and UCLA ($29,819). All this leads to Haas’ indebtedness numbers, which stack up well against its peer schools: 39% have debt, with an average of $83,288 — less than UCLA (53%, average $96,202) and about the same as Stern (44%, $85,067).
We’re talking about a lot of money, yet in a survey last year of 220 Berkeley Haas part-time students, 74% had changed jobs since starting the program, while 47% reported moving to a new industry or functional area. The spirit of freedom in Berkeley is strong. There’s temptation, too, for those considering switching it up entirely and starting their own businesses, including the Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program, which helps students interested in exploring entrepreneurship get the most out of their time on the Berkeley campus and in Silicon Valley; the Global Social Venture Competition, for aspiring entrepreneurs who can offer solutions to social and environmental problems while demonstrating a healthy business model; and the UC-Berkeley Startup Accelerator at Skydeck, a program run jointly with the UC-Berkeley College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology and the Vice Chancellor for Research, aimed at accelerating the launch of startup companies with scalable business models.
Moreover, the program format — designed so that most students end up taking the same classes in the final section — amplifies the bond between students. “The cohort model really sets us apart from a lot of other part-time programs,” Sampat says. “We only have one entry per year, which allows us to create the kind of community and belonging that doesn’t exist in other part-time programs.”
Berkeley / Haas MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018
Now that the Haas MBA essay topics have been announced for the 2017-2018 season, we wanted to offer our thoughts on how to approach each of these prompts for business school applicants targeting the UC Berkeley MBA Class of 2020.
The Haas admissions website notes that the adcom seeks “candidates from a broad range of industries, backgrounds, and cultures. Our distinctive culture is defined by four key principles – Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. We encourage you to reflect on your experiences, values, and passions so that you may craft thoughtful and authentic responses that demonstrate your fit with our program – culturally, academically, and professionally.”
Berkeley / Haas MBA Essay Question Analysis 2017-2018
Let’s take a closer look at each prompt.
Tell us a six-word story that reflects a memorable experience in your life-to-date. Elaborate on why it is meaningful to you. (250 words maximum)
Tip: A successful six-word story will pique the reader’s interest in the forthcoming explanation. Together, the story and explanation will share a specific and personal experience that helps the reader get to know you better, giving insight into your character, values, or how you would uniquely contribute to the Berkeley-Haas community. View sample six-word stories and video tips from the admissions committee.
Dispensing with their longstanding request for a representative song, Haas instead asks applicants for essentially a “snapshot” of a memorable experience. Given the structure of the response—six words followed by a short explanation—we suggest taking the following approach.
- Choose the story. This ideally needs to be something interesting that will be memorable to the admissions team. In an ideal world, the story will fit with your overall positioning as an MBA applicant seeking to attend Haas, too. You may start by making a list of your top 10 most memorable experiences, then reflecting on what each reflects about your character or values. Consider what you want the adcom to know about you the most.
- Draft the 250 words to explain why this was an important experience. This will also need to provide context for the six words you come up with. This is the place to establish the who, what, when and where for the six-word statement. Then, you should dig into why the experience mattered to you.
- Craft the six-word story, which could be considered a “headline.” The words have to offer enough of a sketch to really pique the interest of the reader, but some ambiguity can be a good thing (after all, you want to push the adcom to read the 250 words). It would be worth reviewing the adcom’s personal samples, as some convey an overall lesson or attitude drawn from the memorable experience, while others draw on more concrete imagery. You may even wish to send just the six words to a friend or colleague and ask them for their reaction—do the six words capture the mood of your experience? Is the person intrigued or confused? This may help you gauge how to tweak the headline.
Respond to one of the following prompts: (250 words maximum)
- Describe a significant obstacle you have encountered and how it has impacted you.
- Describe how you have cultivated a diverse and inclusive culture.
- Describe a leadership experience and how you made a positive and lasting impact.
Tip: Responses can draw from professional or personal experiences. Through your response, the admissions committee hopes to gain insight into your achievements, involvement, and leadership footprint.
This prompt presents applicants with a range of experiences they might discuss: a challenge that yielded a significant paradigm shift, a team building situation based on diversity, or action that led to long-term positive results. We recommend that applicants begin by reflecting on their honest answer to each of the three options. While you may naturally gravitate toward one of them, generating at least two potential topics for each and then evaluating strategically will help you hone in on your best option in light of our next piece of advice.
Once you’ve got your list of examples, we recommend that you cross-reference each with (you guessed it) the four Haas principles. The adcom has signaled that fit with the program’s values is very important to them, so this should take priority in your topic selection. That is, facing an obstacle that required Questioning the Status Quo or entailed Confidence without Attitude will be a better choice than touting an experience that isn’t a fit with any of the four Haas values. Select the experience that feels truest to you while also allowing you to demonstrate that you’re the kind of student Haas wants to admit.
After you’ve identified your topic, you’re in for another challenge: distilling all of the relevant context for your story and an account of your actions in just 250 words. Effective responses will provide the essential who, what, when, and where of the situation in just 1-2 sentences, establishing all of the relevant players and what was at stake for you (and other important stakeholders). You’ll then want to comment on your actions and the outcome with comparable brevity before moving into the why or how of your chosen prompt. Applicants should aim to spend at least one-third of the essay commenting on what the experience meant to them and/or how they have grown as a result. And, space permitting, it would be a nice touch to end with a remark about how this experience has positioned them to make an impact on the Haas community and/or their chosen post-MBA industry or sector.
- Briefly describe your immediate post-MBA career goals. (50 words maximum)
- How have prior experiences motivated and prepared you to pursue these goals? (250 words maximum)
Tip: You are encouraged to reflect on both what you want to do professionally after business school and why this path interests you.
This is a fairly standard career goals essay, requesting one’s post-MBA plans and how they are a culmination of one’s experiences and interests. Given the order of the prompts, applicants should open this essay by describing their plans upon graduating from Haas. Due to the short length, the response should be concise in covering the particular role and responsibilities you are interested in.
Regarding prior experiences, rather than offering a chronological account of each of one’s previous jobs here, it’s likely a better strategy to capture one’s “path to business school” by commenting more broadly on industry and functional experiences, and zeroing in on projects or interactions that sparked one’s interest in one’s post-MBA plans. Candidates should use their best judgment (with an eye to the word limit) here.
Either way, the discussion of one’s path up to this point should lead logically to your future plans. If space permits, applicants should give the adcom a sense of what they want to do and what they hope to accomplish with their careers in the long term. The adcom will be interested in hearing applicants explain the reason they’ve chosen this path, with a particular emphasis on the impact they hope to make on an organization, sector, or region.
Because Haas ends its essay section with the career goals essay, this response will be the culmination of one’s message to the adcom. Applicants may therefore wish to close their response by tying together the themes and Haas principles that they’ve introduced in their other responses, and end on a note of enthusiasm about the program.
Use this essay to share information that is not presented elsewhere in the application, for example:
- Explanation of employment gaps or academic aberrations
- Quantitative abilities
- For re-applicants, improvements to your candidacy
New applicants should exercise discretion when responding to this prompt, as providing an optional essay creates extra work for the admissions reader. This will be a good place to address extenuating circumstances that have influenced one’s academic or professional history, to address weaknesses in one’s application, or to explain an unusual choice of recommender. The wording of this question is open enough that applicants may also choose to discuss an element of their background that is not reflected in their other materials (including data forms and résumé), though they will need to demonstrate sound judgment in doing so – i.e. the nature of the content should be such that it makes a material difference to one’s application – and should summarize the information as concisely as possible.
Meanwhile, re-applicants should seize this opportunity to cover developments in their candidacy that have not been covered in the previous essays. This response should be fairly action-oriented, with a focus on describing the steps that one has taken to become a stronger applicant to Haas since being denied, as well as the results of these efforts in terms of new knowledge and strengthened skills. This also poses an opportunity to demonstrate an enhanced familiarity with and commitment to Haas’s MBA program.
Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Haas MBA essay topics. As you work on your Haas MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Haas School of Business offerings:
Posted in: Admissions Tips, Essay Tips & Advice, Essay Topic Analysis, Essays
Schools: Berkeley / Haas