Applying to Berkeley Haas

In a world filled with business schools, Haas maintains a high degree of distinction. That distinction can be seen just by reading through the Haas essays, which at times seem more like questions from a psychologist rather than from an admissions committee. Indeed, the essay questions are indicative of a school that is serious about admitting applicants who can maintain almost paradoxical balances—applicants who are committed to traditional business learning, but display a bit of personal panache. Applicants who would be willing to stand alone based on personal conviction, but are willing to unite in the name of teamwork. Applicants who are looking to make waves in the marketplace, but remain cognizant of social and ethical responsibilities. If you can paint a picture of yourself that reflects these traits, in addition to satisfying the more common admissions requirements, then you stand a good chance of being accepted into the Haas family.

The Haas learning model continues to emphasize three main themes: Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Management of Technology, and International Business Management. For the last several years, Haas has benefited from a symbiotic relationship with nearby Silicon Valley. This has resulted, not surprisingly, in an intensified focus on entrepreneurship. Haas now boasts multiple opportunities for students to cultivate and test their business ideas as well as to interact with mentors and experts. The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, founded in 1991, supports a variety of activities such as the Berkeley Business Incubator, UC Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum, and entrepreneurship fellowships and internships.

Technology has also been a natural outgrowth of Haas’ geographical location. The Management of Technology Program offers a number of opportunities including courses such as Strategic Computing and Communication Technology, Information Technology Strategy, and International Trade and Competition in High Technology. The program also features research initiatives, and the annual Leading Edge Technology Conference.

The final theme, International Business Management, is highlighted in Haas’ course offerings in addition to its International Business Development (IBD) and International Exchange programs. IBD offers students the opportunity to participate in a global consulting project with a team composed entirely of Haas students. In terms of exchange programs, Haas offers several in locations such as London, Barcelona, and Hong Kong.

Although the Haas learning model is rooted in general management precepts, students can obtain certificates in any one of the three themes in addition to Corporate Environmental Management and Health Management. Displaying an understanding of these themes and how they would benefit you should be a critical part of your application.

Demonstrating the teamwork dimension is also important, as Haas admissions counselors are actively looking for applicants who display team spirit. The learning model promotes a cooperative, intimate environment in which students participate in multiple group assignments and interact closely with faculty. To demonstrate fit with these characteristics, you should display a pattern of getting involved and a sense of community.

The Haas learning model has a strong bent towards applying abstract theories to real-world situations. This approach begins with the faculty, a majority of whom have significant experience within the marketplace, and extends to the students, who boast an average of more than 5 years of work experience. The maturity dimension is highly valued at Haas and gaining acceptance with under three years of work experience can be challenging. As an applicant, you should try to display a diversity of experience and insight into how complex issues such as globalization, ethics, environmentalism, and politics impact business operations.

Insider Information

As other business schools scramble to revamp their programs in order to promote a new focus on ethics and social responsibility, Haas will benefit from its reputation as a pioneer in the field. With a required course in ethics, numerous electives, programs, and events focused on the topic, Haas gives full treatment to the interaction of business, ethics, and social responsibility. The National Social Venture Business Plan Competition is a hallmark of that interaction, as business schools across the country compete for a total of $100,000 by presenting plans that outline business propositions that have a societal or environmental component. Although a majority of Haas grads pursue careers in the traditional areas of consulting and finance, they all are all influenced by Haas’ incorporation of social issues within the learning model. As you present your profile, make sure that you reflect a cognizance of societal and ethical issues that extend from business issues.
“The archetype of the Innovative Leader is deeply anchored in the distinctive culture at Berkeley, and is tightly woven into the curriculum.”
Haas Dean Richard Lyons

What Makes Haas Different?

The Haas Culture The Haas “Defining Principles” were first articulated by the school in 2010. These principles are a reflection of the type of student Haas accepts, and the way they develop those students into innovative leaders. The Defining Principles are:
  • Question the Status Quo “We lead by championing bold ideas, taking intelligent risks and accepting sensible failures. This means speaking our minds even when it challenges convention. We thrive at the world’s epicenter of innovation.”
  • Confidence Without Attitude “We make decisions based on evidence and analysis, giving us the confidence to act without arrogance. We lead through trust and collaboration.”
  • Students Always “We are a community designed for curiosity and lifelong pursuit of personal and intellectual growth. This is not a place for those who feel they have learned all they need to learn.”
  • Beyond Yourself “We shape our world by leading ethically and responsibly. As stewards of our enterprises, we take the longer view in our decisions and actions. This often means putting larger interests above our own.”
For students, the Haas culture translates into extensive collaboration inside and outside of the classroom. Teamwork is the cornerstone of the Haas experience. Small groups are formed in practically all classes, allowing students to exercise different team roles based on their interests and areas of expertise. Versatility is often a prized attribute of Haas students in the eyes of employers, and is one reason why the school places graduates into such a broad range of industries and functions.

Innovation The Haas tagline for some time has been Leading through Innovation, and the Innovative Leader is now a hallmark of the school’s marketing message. The school combines theoretical and experiential learning opportunities to develop confidence and judgment for real-life situations. Industry thought leader Henry Chesbrough is a professor at Haas, and a deep set of electives in open innovation, product development, and design are natural complements to the strong entrepreneurship support expected from a top business school.

A key distinction at Haas is the focus on technology and the school’s ability to place students into the tech industry.
Technology While “innovation” is not limited just to high tech, a key distinction at Haas is the focus on technology and the school’s ability to place students into the tech industry. Haas sends over 25% of each graduating class into the tech sector, which is high compared to other top tech programs like MIT and Stanford but about the same in absolute number of placements. This is of course enabled by the school’s proximity to Silicon Valley as well as the wealth of resources available on the larger Berkeley campus, particularly in the engineering school. Haas offers a distinctive Management of Technology certificate (open not just to business and engineering students but other UC Berkeley grad students as well, such as those in Environmental Design). The Haas Technology Club is one of the largest and most active student groups on campus. The Haas School even has a CIO (Chief Information Officer) featured on the Leadership page of its website.

Besides the expected focus on innovation in software and management of Web 2.0 and social media, Haas also supports student interest in areas less common at other top business schools, including:
  • Cleantech The Haas School’s emphasis, combined with Berkeley’s tradition for innovation, leads to unique programs such as the school’s push for the commercialization and advancement of clean technology. Student members of the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative have teamed up with scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) to create a program called Cleantech to Market (C2M) which sends five student teams out each year to study the commercial opportunities that might arise out of the various clean energy technologies under development at LBNL.
  • Digital Media Another focus of interest among many students is entertainment and the convergence to digital forms. Haas students are very active in the Berkeley Center for New Media and the Digital Media and Entertainment Club, which puts on the annual >Play Digital Media Conference. The DMEC also hosts on-campus speakers and organizes career treks to New York and Los Angeles (you can find the DMEC on Facebook).
  • Berkeley offers opportunities unheard of at other schools, especially in the areas of nanotechnology and biotechnology. The campus-wide Nano Club hosts the Berkeley Nanotechnology Forum every year, and electives in biotech are available at Haas.
  • Experiential Learning Haas now has an experiential learning requirement as part of the revised curriculum. Opportunities range from Haas@Work, which puts student groups into actual company projects, to the International Business Development (IBD) program, a global management consulting initiative. Haas provides students with two overlapping skill sets: an ongoing emphasis on leadership and a toolkit of knowledge and relationships that provide the foundation for effective decision making.
Social Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship Haas prides itself on being the preeminent institution for research, teaching, experiential learning, and community outreach in areas of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Woven into the core curriculum, Haas offers more than a dozen different programs and initiatives around social responsibility and business sustainability. Nonprofit management is also a focus here. With the University’s radical history and the very liberal government and policies in the surrounding City of Berkeley, it is to be expected that many are attracted to Haas because of an interest in changing the world. This is a positive quality that can be nurtured through the ecosystem of the Haas School, including the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership and a specialized curriculum, plus a range of social venture courses.

Global Reach Nearly every business school currently espouses a “global perspective,” but Haas is one of the few that combines its international focus with its emphasis on experiential learning. The International Business Development program places about 150 students a year in all corners of the globe for three-week consulting projects. This program allows students to confront and solve business challenges in unknown business settings, forcing them to apply innovative thinking and problem solving skills while developing a global business mindset. While the MBA itself is sometimes seen as a little regional – most graduates stay on the West Coast after finishing the program – Haas has an expanding network of connections in the business and academic communities around the world and 31% of full-time MBA students come from foreign lands.

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