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

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CA: Could you provide three pieces of advice you would offer a candidate preparing for a Haas interview?

MB:  You can be assured that we are going to ask you why do you want an MBA, why do you want to go to Berkeley Haas, and what do you think you want to do afterwards. Having some very clear and authentic answers to those questions is going to be important. Because we have our students and alumni primarily conducting the interviews, and they are very proud of the program, to the extent that you can authentically show that you are really excited and interested in Berkeley Haas, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Other than that, it’s just the usual things. Prepare, be professional, have a list of questions, show up on time. I do think that sometimes, especially folks who come on campus to interview and are interviewing with students, they may take it a little more casually. I would just reinforce that no matter who you are interviewing with, or where, treat it just as you would a professional interview. Even down to following up with a thank you note after the interview. If you forget to ask an interviewer for their business card you can reach back out to our interview coordinator, who can help provide that directly to you.

CA: Any changes in the works to the admissions process at Haas?

MB: There are always things that we are exploring behind the scenes to try and make the process a little bit more efficient and user friendly. In 2017-2018 we switched application programs. We moved onto Slate, which is more of a backend thing. But ultimately I think it provides a much more positive user experience, which is good. That was a major change for last year. We’re just trying to fine tune some of that, this year. In terms of things that a candidate might notice, we are exploring ways to get interview invitations out a little bit sooner. One of the downsides of having such a thorough review process is that it can take us several weeks to get our interview invitations out.

I can appreciate that that’s a stressful time period for candidates. We are exploring ways that we can try and get some of those notices out earlier, or perhaps become a little bit more transparent about when candidates can expect to hear from us, by posting some set dates.

I don’t think there is going to be any major changes this year. Every cycle, we explore using video essays. I don’t think we’re going to do that this year. Butomething that we consider every year, knowing that a few other programs are using them and have felt that they’ve been valuable in the evaluation process. I wouldn’t rule it out. But right now not a top priority.

CA: Are there things that we haven’t touched on about the admissions process specifically that you’d like to highlight or draw attention to?

MB: One thing I would just want to remind people is that it will all work out.

There is so much stress and pressure, whether that’s the pressure that candidates put on themselves or pressure from mentors or bosses or family. Not to discount any of those because to a certain degree I think those pressures are also what drive us. But candidates need to have faith in the process.

As I reflect on some of my own experiences, and as I think back about applying to undergrad, I must have applied to 10 or so programs. Far more of them told me “no” than told me “yes”. I was pretty bummed, thinking “gosh I’m great, how come they don’t think I’m great.” Now that I reflect back on it, I realize that I ended up in the place that was just the right fit for me. And that the admissions directors knew that. As I think about some of the schools that were at the top of my list, I don’t think I would have thrived there. I don’t think that they were a good match in terms of what I was interested in or in terms of the person, or leader and student that I was. I don’t think I would have thrived in that environment. I know it’s hard. It’s hard to leave your fate and your future to the hands of these admissions directors, many of whom you’ve probably never met.

But to the extent that you can, trust that we are curating classes, we are selecting students that we believe will be the most successful in our programs. When you get selected into an MBA program, and you will, you have been selected for a reason.

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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.