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Admissions Director Q&A: Morgan Bernstein of UC Berkeley / Haas

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Clear Admit is delighted to share admissions insights from Morgan Bernstein, the Executive Director of Full-time MBA Admissions at UC Berkeley / Haas.  Bernstein was part of the admissions team for five years before stepping into her current role, and she knows things from the other side as well. A successful applicant herself, she graduated from Haas with her MBA in 2009.

This past summer, Clear Admit’s Jeanette Brown had an enlightening conversation with Bernstein.  Read on for more about the ins and outs of admissions at Haas, determining your fit with the program, the application and interview processes, and more.

Clear Admit: Can you talk a little bit about your background. You do have an MBA from Haas. When did you come back to admissions? What precipitated your return, and what did you do before your return?

Morgan Bernstein: I can reassure everyone that working in admissions was not what I wrote about on my MBA application!

I actually envisioned going to work in marketing for a tech company. And, believe it or not, I was one of the few graduates who actually did what I wrote about on my application. My summer internship was at Google. My first full-time job was at Ebay in the category manager role, which was a combination of marketing and strategy. It was a typical post MBA job. It was pretty glamorous from the outside. I was running a book of business that was getting a lot of attention from the organization. I was travelling internationally. I had a little bit of a fashion budget, because that was actually the category I was overseeing.

But I pretty quickly realized that it wasn’t a job that I was passionate about. I had never bought or sold anything on Ebay before going to work there. Once I realized that it wasn’t the right fit, in the sense that I didn’t wake up every day and look forward to going to work and feel really energized at the end of my day, I started looking for a change. And one of the things that I’ve always connected with is coaching and helping others excel to achieve their full potential.

CA:  Do you have a background in that?

MB: I don’t. I think it just comes from playing soccer and sport my entire life. And then wanting to mentor others as a coach. Maybe that’s where is comes from. So my next move was to continue with the marketing function. But I actually went to work with a management company. That company was helping high school and college students do their best in their programs. I managed the marketing for them. But again, it turned out not be a great cultural fit. I found myself trying to figure out what was the right next move.

I had stayed in touch with the career management group at Berkeley Haas. One of the benefits of being an alum is that you still get access to career management. I had lunch with them, and they noted that there was an assistant director role open in admissions at Berkeley Haas. I was a volunteer with admissions as a student and really liked it. I am passionate about the program, so I went to talk to them. Within a week I had had my informational interview, my in person interview, and a job offer.

I came back to Haas as an assistant director of admissions in 2011. I thought I would be here for one or two years while I figured out what came next. Now seven years later, I am leading the team. I couldn’t be happier. I am grateful that I wake up every single day, and even on my toughest days, I still look forward to going to work.

CA: What are your toughest days?

MB: The toughest days are when I have to make tough decisions about the class, about who to admit, who not to admit. It combines different strategic directions to pursue in terms of what audiences are we going after, where can we win, where are we losing. You want to do it all.

I see my role not so much as the gatekeeper for Berkeley Haas. I see my role as a coach and a partner for so many candidates who want to pursue graduate management education. Sometimes I get frustrated that I can’t help everyone who wants to pursue that, and that I need to scale down a little bit and be more realistic about what we are at Berkeley Haas and what I can achieve in my role.

Read on for more about fit at Haas.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.