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What is the reputation of Berkeley Haas?
Haas is likely the top-10 MBA program that most often flies beneath many candidates’ radars. Ranked #7 by U.S. News, #12 by Financial Times, and #13 by Bloomberg Businessweek, it is a powerful program with a number of strengths. Its admission rate hovers around 12% per year, usually putting it in the top 2 or 3 most selective MBA programs, along with Stanford GSB and Harvard Business School. I must admit that I smile when I hear people say, “I’m applying to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton, with Haas as my safety school.” Haas’ admission rate is a little more than half that of Wharton—it shouldn’t be anyone’s “safety school”!
One of the reasons that Haas has maintained such a selective standard in admissions is its small class size of less than 250 people. In the U.S., only Yale has a smaller class among top-tier MBA programs, and Yale has announced that it will be expanding its program as it moves into a new facility. Small size can have both advantages and disadvantages. Every student in the class will know one another through their two years, which creates a very tight-knit bond. In larger MBA programs, you may certainly feel like a cog in a giant machine and potentially get lost in all the commotion. Haas is also known for its incredibly friendly atmosphere. In fact, one of its four Defining Principles is “Confidence Without Attitude,” an accurate description of nearly all of its students. On the downside, a small class also means a smaller network of alums to help you get your dream job upon graduation. A huge percentage of Haas graduates remain in California and the West Coast of the U.S.
With such a small class and low admissions rate, the Berkeley-Haas admissions committee has the luxury of selecting only candidates who it feels confident will be a perfect fit with the school’s unique culture. The program is known for asking interesting and unusual questions in its application. This past year, the first essay question was not about a candidates goals or why they want an MBA, but asked, “If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why?” This is a great example of what the admissions committee looks for in candidates—a little panache to go along with the standard B-school qualifications.
Utilizing its location in the San Francisco Bay Area, Haas maintains strong connections with Silicon Valley. It places a large number of graduates into the Tech industry every year, although it’s trying hard to avoid being stereotyped as just a “tech school.” Leveraging the strengths of its parent institution, UC Berkeley (often referred to as “Cal”), Haas offers opportunities in Cleantech, Nanotechnology and Biotech that are unmatched at any other MBA program. It also has a strong emphasis in ethical leadership and social responsibility, especially social entrepreneurship. Digital media is also a strong suit.
If you’re looking to break into Venture Capital or Private Equity in Silicon Valley, you won’t have quite as many recruiters busting down your door as you would at Haas’ cross-town rival, Stanford. However, as one of our Veritas Prep Haas Specialists put it, “if you get off of campus and knock on a few doors, you can definitely pick up some offers in Silicon Valley VC firms.” Haas graduates are proud of the fact that Berkeley is a public school that may require a little more elbow grease to accomplish your goals.
It’s easy to dismiss Haas as the “other Bay Area MBA program” living in Stanford’s shadow, but don’t do it! It stands as one of the preeminent MBA programs worldwide. I would highly recommend you visit the campus to see for yourself if this small MBA program with a strong reputation is the right fit for you.
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Travis Morgan is the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep and earned his MBA with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He served in the Kellogg Student Admissions Office, Alumni Admissions Organization and Diversity & Inclusion Council, among several other posts. Travis joined Veritas Prep as an admissions consultant and GMAT instructor, and he was named Worldwide Instructor of the Year in 2011.