2012 UC Berkeley Haas MBA Admissions Q&A with Stephanie Fujii

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2012 UC Berkeley Haas MBA Admissions Q&A with Stephanie Fujii

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Linda Abraham: My name is Linda Abraham. I have the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today’s Q&A. First, I want to welcome all applicants to today’s Q&A, and I’d like to congratulate you and commend you for taking the time to learn more about UC Berkeley’s Haas MBA program.

I can’t emphasize the importance of knowing about the programs that you’re applying to, both in terms of deciding where you should apply and in terms of enhancing your application and increasing your admission chances. You’re doing the right thing by being here today. You can ask the expert in the Haas program any of your questions about this topic and school.

I also want to give a special, special welcome to Stephanie Fujii, the Executive Director of Full-Time MBA Admissions at Haas. Thank you all for joining.

At this point in time, I’d like you to start posting your questions. I’d also like to take advantage of my role as moderator and ask the first one; and that is, Stephanie, again, welcome. What’s new with Haas?

Stephanie Fujii: Thank you, Linda. Well, we have a lot going on that is really exciting at Haas. I think last year when we spoke, we were just launching our new curriculum (BILD), Our Defining Principles. So, this past year, going into it we’ve taken a lot of feedback from our students, we have changed some things around and restructured.

For example, one of the new courses that we launched, which is Problem Finding, Problem Solving, was taught to a group of 60 students. For the type of hands-on learning that was required there, our students felt that was too large, so we made that smaller, to groups of 30 students each in that course. So, we’re really taking a lot of that type of feedback in terms of the content and delivery of our new courses, and have revised the curriculum.

It’s an exciting time because we have made very concrete the values and the principles that we feel are unique to our program, and we’ve revised our curriculum to really support the development of innovative leadership. Part of that is really selecting for those people where the values really resonate with them; but it’s also identifying those core capabilities required for innovative leadership and continuing to integrate them into the curriculum.

A couple of examples: This is all on our Web site for people who are really interested in this. Our program, which is Berkeley Innovative Leader Development, is really the theme that now runs throughout our entire curriculum, and it highlights the ten core capabilities that we feel are just critical for success in terms of innovative leadership. Those include experimentation and influencing without authority. Again, we’re continuing to check in with our students and our faculty to make sure that those are woven throughout the curriculum.

Linda Abraham: Is it their Web site where the ten capabilities that make up the Innovate Leadership are listed on the Web site?

Stephanie Fujii: Yes. There is a section under Curriculum that refers to BILD, or Berkeley Innovative Leader Development that talks about the ten capabilities and how we’re teaching them.

Linda Abraham: Great. I think that would be very useful for applicants to review. I know that they frequently talk about leadership in this very general term. If they could hone in a few of the capabilities that they already have – very specific terms – that probably would be very useful for them.

Stephanie Fujii: Absolutely. I think one of the courses that I just mentioned that I would really recommend is to learn more about Problem Finding, Problem Solving. That’s now one of the core courses. It’s sort of the gateway to all of our experiential learning courses. It’s really designed to take our students out of their comfort zones.

I don’t think there’s a course like this being taught at any other business schools. It’s really teaching our students that, for innovative leadership, it’s not enough just to be able to solve the problems, but they have to identify what those problems are and what the challenges are going to be further upstream. It’s teaching different ways of thinking: design thinking, systems thinking, and creative problem-solving; different ways of looking at a problem and reframing it to really be able to anticipate the challenges ahead. It’s gotten a lot of mixed reviews from our students just because it is so different from what they were expecting.

I was actually just talking to one of our second-years a couple of weeks ago who said that while he was taking the course, he thought, "This is not at all what I was expecting. It’s very strange. I’m not sure how this is going to relate."

He said that over the summer he was using a lot of the frameworks and tools that he learned in that course. He actually e-mailed his professor and said, "Thank you so much. I get it." It was really exciting to hear that type of feedback, that our students are able to take what they’re learning and just apply it immediately, and that it is something very different.

Linda Abraham: It’s doubly gratifying when it was somebody who was initially critical or that skeptical.

Stephanie Fujii: Absolutely.

Linda Abraham: In a nutshell, basically, it’s the evolution of BILD and the evolution of the focus on innovative leadership. To just distill what you said so well in a little bit more detail, that would be the biggest new things at Haas right now, right?

Stephanie Fujii: Yes. We’re looking at how we’re doing on that and how we can continue to strengthen that, and also looking at ways to measure our success and our performance. So, it’s not just that qualitative feedback, but looking at ways to measure how our students are learning these ten capabilities.

Linda Abraham: Thank you. Let’s get to some of the applicants’ questions. Grace asks, "Can you describe the healthcare management program at Haas? How many applicants are admitted each year for the healthcare program?"

Stephanie Fujii: From that, I’m assuming that Grace is talking about our dual degree. It’s the MBA/MPH Masters in Public Health, and it’s a two-and-a-half-year program that is integrating the Business School curriculum with the curriculum at the School of Public Health.

Off the top of my head, I’m not sure how many applicants we get. It’s definitely a smaller subset, but we look to admit anywhere from ten to about 15 to 18 students in that program. It is a very popular program for students who are really interested in the healthcare sector, obviously; a lot of different areas to focus on within that, whether it’s biotech, pharma on the provider’s side, or consulting. So, there’s a wide range of areas that our students are going into.

We also have a number of students who are interested in healthcare who don’t do the dual degree. They do the regular MBA. Because we are a general management program, they’re able to get that foundation. But 60% of the courses that our students take are electives, so there’s a lot of flexibility to really customize your course of study. A number of our students who want to focus on that area can really design their curriculum around healthcare courses including taking courses at the School of Public Health, and they choose to do that through our two-year MBA program instead of the dual degree.

Linda Abraham: How many courses can Haas students take outside of Haas?

Stephanie Fujii: It depends on the number of units, but typically about two to three courses outside of the Business School will automatically count towards your graduation requirements. There are a number of courses that are cross-listed with the Law School, with the School of Public Health, and with other graduate programs at Berkeley, and we do have students who might petition to receive more credit for outside courses, depending on their course of study. So, again, there’s flexibility built into the curriculum.

Linda Abraham: That’s great. Thank you very much. Here we have a question that’s kind of a technical question from Vinod. He writes, "Hello. I’m an international applicant from India. I have a quick query about a question in the personal data section. The question is this: ‘Permanent resident and non-U.S. citizens, indicate visa type you expect to hold at the beginning of the fall semester.’ I do not hold a U.S. visa right now. Should I select F-1 student option? Thanks."

Stephanie Fujii: Yes. If that is the visa that you expect to hold while you’re a student here, that’s what you would indicate.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Aswin asks another question for international students: "Does an international student have a chance to get financial aid if he applies in Round 2?"

I will add: Does the likelihood of financial aid decline if you apply later in the cycle?

Stephanie Fujii: All of our scholarship and grant opportunities are open to domestic and international students; so, yes. For the majority of our scholarships and awards, you are able to apply for them once you’ve been admitted to the program, so there are only a few that are awarded at the time of admission. After that point, they’re open to all of our admits to apply for. They’re all listed on our web site, describing the time and the amounts, so definitely look at that.

For Round 2, we do still have money to give away. But to answer your question, Linda, yes, your chances for receiving money do decline the later that you apply. Similar to our offers of admission, we continue to give out awards until there is no more money left. We don’t reserve a certain amount for each round. It really depends on the strength of the pool and the candidates.

One other thing that I would mention is that we also have a loan for international students that does not require a U.S. co-signer. The terms and the details of that are also available on our website. It’s a three-year loan that we’ve secured this year, so that will be in place for the next three years.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Alay asks, "Haas believes in innovation through leadership. Can you explain more about any specific criteria based on which you admit students?"

Stephanie Fujii: Sure. I mentioned our defining principles earlier. The defining principles that we came up with are: Question the Status Quo, Competence without Attitude, Beyond Yourself, and Students Always.

We spent a lot of time coming up with those eleven words. We talked to all of our stakeholders, our students, our alumni, our faculty, and recruiters who hire our students to really understand what it is that makes us unique. So, our defining principles aren’t aspirational. They are a codification of the culture that exists here, of the people within our community. In those conversations, we found that these are qualities that many leaders – many CEOs – have said that they absolutely agree are critical qualities for successful leadership. So that is something that we are looking for in the application.

We’ve revised our essay questions this year to really align more closely with those defining principles to really understand who the people are that are demonstrating these qualities. Who are the people that really value the principles that we’re talking about here at Haas? So, I would say that that’s certainly a start.

For example, for Question the Status Quo, are you somebody who is able to think about things differently? Do you have the courage to speak your mind? Do you have the resilience to learn from mistakes? Those are some of the questions that we’re asking to evaluate that.

Linda Abraham: How about speaking your mind constructively?

Stephanie Fujii: Absolutely. I think that is an important part of it: Are you asking questions to add value to the dialog; not just questioning for the sake of questioning? I think that’s a great clarification.

We had a lot of people last year who really interpreted that ("Students Always") at sort of the surface level: "I’m taking a class," or "I’m learning about this."

That’s certainly part of it, but I think the underlying behaviors that we’re looking for is: Are you somebody who is curious about the work that you do and about life in general? Do you want to and do you actively seek to learn from others who have really different backgrounds from yourself? It’s asking those types of questions to really understand who in our applicant pool understands our defining principles, who exhibits them, and who really values them. I would say, from the admission perspective, that’s really the foundation when we talk about people we think will be successful in our program, who will be innovative leaders.

Then we’re looking for other elements that align with our capabilities. Are you somebody who experiments in the things that you do? How do you influence without authority? A lot of our capabilities really line up with those defining principles. We don’t expect that people are going to come into our program having mastered all of them, of course. They are going to learn and develop through our program.

Linda Abraham: To whatever extent they have those capabilities, they can enhance them in your program.

Stephanie Fujii: Absolutely, but we want to make sure that they are going to be a good fit and really be able to thrive in our community culture and our program.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you for the wonderful answer and the great question, both of you. Vishal asks a question about recommendations for someone from a non-traditional background. He is a fairly young applicant. He’s 23. He started a business when he was 18. He’s currently leading a team of 25. He’s had a lot of projects. In addition to his entrepreneurial experience, he’s been active in politics as a local party worker and student leader. What would you recommend for him?

Stephanie Fujii: For recommendations, what we’re looking for is, "Is this is the only external voice that we have about your professional accomplishments?"

I think it’s important for anyone – regardless of your professional background – to really think of what those experiences are that you want to be highlighted through this voice. What are those experiences that are really significant that demonstrate your leadership, your potential, your impact?

Then, think of those people who can really speak to your performance and your accomplishments with regard to those specific experiences. I think it’s important to choose people who have worked closely with you who can really provide those detailed examples. We see a lot of recommendations that are glowing with praise, but without the examples to really back up why someone is such a strong team player or why they have strong communication skills, for example.

I think for folks who are entrepreneurs, we typically recommend: Are there mentors or board members who can talk to the success that you had as an entrepreneur? Are there clients who you can reach out to? Again, really think about those people who have seen you excel in your role and who can provide the detailed support to really talk about why you’ve been successful; or, if you haven’t been successful, what you’ve learned through those failures.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you. So, I guess the non-traditional applicant has to think a little bit about non-traditional recommenders who can still comment about their effectiveness as a leader.

Gloriane asks, "Is the Round 3 application at Haas like the Round 2 application at other schools? I assume your Round 3 application is in January. Is that correct?"

Stephanie Fujii: That is correct. In terms of timing, it does line up with the second round of a lot of other programs. I will say that, in the past couple of years, our third round – and, by the way, we do have four total rounds, so it’s not our final round – but our third round has become more competitive because of the strength of our first two rounds.

Now, every year is different, but similar to scholarship money, we don’t save a certain number of seats per round, so we’ll continue to admit people, depending on the strength of each round. As I mentioned, the past two years, the first two rounds have been incredibly strong, and our yield from those rounds has also been strong.

I think for our Round 3, it’s always best to wait until you have the strongest application possible. It does not benefit you if you rush to apply Round 1 and you haven’t spent time on your essays or if you need to retake the GMAT to make sure that it’s within that competitive range. You certainly don’t want to rush to apply early. Take the time that you need. But I would say admission and financial aid do become more competitive by the third round.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you. Juan asks, "Should Consortium applicants worry about sprinkling, ‘Why Haas,’ in the school-specific essay part of the application, or should we not worry about that?

Stephanie Fujii: I wouldn’t worry about that. We recognize that it is a common application. We do have specific questions for Haas that we ask you to answer, and through that, that’s where we’re really gauging the fit with our programs.

Then, I would also add that we will not admit anyone without an interview. So I think the interview – if you are invited to interview – is a great place for you to express and reinforce why you think our program is such a good fit for you.

Linda Abraham: Jessica asks, "Can you describe the not-for-profit and public leadership area of emphasis? How does that fit into the general curriculum?"

Stephanie Fujii: We have areas of emphasis. We are a general management program, and we don’t have majors or concentrations, but we have about 11 different areas where students can really focus their studies. It’s really a combination of curricular and extracurricular activities that allow people to really go deeper into an area to really emphasize that throughout their course of study; and non-profit and public management is one of them. We do have the Center for Not-For-Profit and Public Leadership, and through them there are a number of elective courses that our students can take and a number of extracurricular activities that are equally valuable.

One of our most popular programs, for example, is the Board Fellows Program, where students apply to be a board member of a local non-profit organization, and they do that for a year. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our students to get that real-world experience of leading a non-profit organization.

On the curricular side, one of our experiential learning courses is Social Sector Solutions. That’s where our students are put into teams where they work with a consultant at McKinsey, and they are engaged on a consulting project for a non-profit organization. There are both inside- and outside-the-classroom opportunities for our students to get that hands-on experience.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you. I’d like to ask the audience a question now, just so we have a little better idea of where everybody is at here. I want to know how many of you have not yet decided to apply to Haas and are really attending this Q&A to get more information so that you can make an intelligent decision. Please raise your hand if you have not yet decided to apply to Haas, and you’re here to gather information. 19% are in that category. The next question is: How many of you are currently working on your application for the next round, which is the second round now that they’d be working for? How many of you are working on an application? That’s 19%.

Then, the last question is: How many of you are planning to apply later in the cycle? We’ve got 26%. I guess most people who are here are pretty much decided they want to apply. We don’t have quite 100%. I guess some are undecided and some just didn’t want to respond. You have an interesting idea of the makeup of the crowd here.

Now let’s go back to the questions. I’m getting a lot of questions that are like, "I have this strength. I have this weakness. How is going to affect my application?" "My GMAT score is 760, but my undergrad GPA is 2.5." "I have an entrepreneurship background in this particular sector. I’m involved in this. How does that play out? How does this achievement play out?"

Can you give us a little insight into the evaluation process?

Stephanie Fujii: Absolutely. It is a very holistic process. We’re often asked, "What is the most important part of the application?"

It’s all important. We recognize that our applicants have unique experiences and backgrounds. So, to really understand what they’re going to bring to the program, we have to look at everything. There could be someone whose undergraduate performance is lower within our competitive range, so we might place a little more weight on the GMAT score in that case. They could have incredible, really different work experience that we think would bring a unique perspective to the classroom, so that will weigh heavily.

There isn’t a formula. It really depends on that combination and how it comes together; and then how the overall class comes together. We want to enroll as diverse a class as possible.

By the way, we do have a number of podcasts on our web site that talks about each section, what we’re looking for, and how we evaluate it. So, for those of you who haven’t checked those out already, definitely listen to them.

Linda Abraham: Is that on iTunes or on the Web site?

Stephanie Fujii: It’s on our Web site. I think it’s also on iTunes, but you can definitely find it under the Learn More section of our web site, under Podcasts.

In terms of academic performance, we’re trying to answer the question, "Can you succeed academically in our program?" We are looking at your undergraduate record. We’re looking at GMAT scores, TOEFL if that applies. It’s not just the number. It’s the context around that.

I’ll give you an example. For undergraduate record, it’s not just your GPA. It’s really if there was a trend in grades over time. How rigorous was your major? What’s the caliber of the institution you attended? Were you involved in a lot of extracurricular activities outside of classes? Did you have to work part time or full time? We’re really trying to understand everything that went into that undergraduate performance. Then we’re looking at that in conjunction with the GMAT, the TOEFL to get that overall assessment of your ability to succeed in our program.

For professional experience, we are looking for diverse backgrounds in terms of industry and function, but we’re asking the same types of questions: "How have you progressed over time? How have you demonstrated leadership? What is the type of impact you’ve had on your team or on your organization? How does this prepare you for your career goals after business school?" We’re really trying to evaluate the quality and the richness of that work experience.

Then, the final category is personal qualities. For that, we’re looking at involvement. We’re looking at passion. We’re looking at fit with our defining principles and with our culture, and really just trying to get an understanding: "We’ve got the transcript. We’ve got the résumé. Now we’ve got these essays where we want to learn everything else about you as an applicant in 250 words or less."

Linda Abraham: Everything in 250 words or less!

Stephanie Fujii: Exactly. No small challenge. We really do want to understand who our applicants are. What are they passionate about? Why, at this point in their career, are they thinking about business school? We just really want to understand their story. I think it’s important for people to really make sure that they are being authentic and genuine in their application so that we can get to know them.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much. Let’s go back to the applicants’ questions. Grace asks, "I’m a permanent resident of the U.S. I have a green card. Am I still considered as an international student or not? Some of the scholarship loans are for international students and some are not for international students."

She’s not just asking, "What bucket do I fall into?" She’s really asking what she’s eligible for.

Stephanie Fujii: I think where that really comes into play is, obviously, with our loan program. We do have one scholarship for second-year students that is specifically for international students. That would be for students who don’t qualify for U.S. federal loans, in particular. So, for that one particular scholarship, she would be considered a permanent resident instead of an international student.

But for our other scholarship and awards, we do have some new ones coming on, but those aren’t based on citizenship. It might be based on where you did your undergraduate education, so that will be one of the criteria in that selection process.

Even though she didn’t ask it, I will say that the way that we evaluate applications is we read by country of education because we have developed expertise in terms of educational systems, grading systems, and understanding of the different schools within each country. That is how we read applications. But we are obviously taking into account just international experience in general: where someone grew up, where they’re working, and how that all comes together.

Linda Abraham: We have one question from an applicant who writes, "Is the applicant at a severe disadvantage when their status is ‘Unemployed’ at the time of application?"

Stephanie Fujii: I think, for any part of the application, we want to know your story. We certainly recognize that it’s been a challenging economic situation. I think, as long as the applicant is able to explain what happened, why, and what this person is now doing with their time, those are the things that we’re looking to ask. It’s not a severe disadvantage as long as you can explain it and make us understand how you’re using your time since you’ve been unemployed and the steps that you’re taking to move to that next career move.

Linda Abraham: Thank you. Juan asks, "Are those stories we use in the essays restricted to a certain time period?" Do you want them to go back to early childhood, or do you prefer the last two years?

Stephanie Fujii: We leave it wide open. We don’t necessarily specify "professional" or "personal". We really want to know what those experiences are that you think the Admissions Committee really needs to understand to understand who you are as a person. I will say that for some of the essays, probably it would be better for it to be a more recent example when we’re talking about leadership.

I’ve used this example before. Several years ago, we had an applicant who wrote about his leadership when he was in preschool and sort of leading a rebellion against naptime. That works, but I will say that that is one-off.

Typically, especially for leadership, if it goes too far back, we’re wondering, "Why is this person going so far back?" I think it goes to a piece of advice: Don’t leave any question unanswered, because we will make up answers and it will not always be to the applicant’s benefit.

I think that, if it’s an older example, if it’s explained well and if it makes sense in terms of why this example was selected in terms of the person’s personal and professional development and how it has impacted who they are today, then that makes a lot of sense. But I think that you only have a certain number of examples that you’re able to share with the Admissions Committee, so choose wisely.

Linda Abraham: And if you’re going to go back in time, let’s say more than five years or certainly before college, would it also be wise to make sure that you provide more recent examples, as well so that you’re actually establishing a pattern of behavior as opposed to just providing one leadership example from 10, 15, or 20 years ago?

Stephanie Fujii: Yes. I think that’s a great piece of advice. I would say that, in terms of time horizon as well as the balance between personal and professional, I think that you are trying to tell us who you are. There are so many different sides to each applicant, so having that balance so that we really get that whole sense of who you are and what you’ve accomplished is really important.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you. Now, there’s another question; a follow-up from a different participant: "For the unemployment question, what are the things one should be doing while unemployed?" I guess to use your time wisely, what would you like to see them doing?

Stephanie Fujii: I think that’s really up to the individual.

Linda Abraham: You don’t want them to be sitting at home watching television?

Stephanie Fujii: If there’s a good story behind it, I’m happy to read about that. I think it’s: How can you be productive in your time? Are you taking time to reflect? Are you actively networking with people? I think, especially for people who are looking to switch careers, are you doing things that are going to add to your experience, whether it’s volunteering or getting involved with a professional organization that’s really going to help you make that transition? We just want to know how you’re spending your time. I don’t think there’s any one answer out there.

Linda Abraham: If there was, you’d get it every time.

Stephanie Fujii: Exactly. If there was, I’m not going to tell. We’ve seen people do a lot of different things. This is another tip for when you’re writing your essays. The "what" is obviously important, right? But the "why" is so much more important. So, whatever you tell us, just make sure that you’re explaining your thinking behind it. I think that we want to know that you have reflected, that you’ve been introspective, that you understand why you’re choosing certain things, whether it’s to share with us or certain decisions that you’ve made in your life.

So, again, whatever you are doing with your time, just make sure that you’re explaining why you’ve chosen to do those activities.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much. Tavishi asks, "How descriptive do you want us to get in the Why Berkeley Haas essay? Do you like it to be more general or quite specific?" That’s a hard question to answer.

Stephanie Fujii: It is a hard question. We’ve seen it all different ways. I will say that if somebody’s listing, "I’m going to take this course, this course, and this course," I think that’s a waste of space. I think it’s a missed opportunity. We just want to get the sense for why you feel that our program is such a good fit for you; that you understand what you’re going to get out of our program. So, the level of detail that you need to support that depends on the reasons and how you’re presenting your story.

Every program is different, and I think that two years goes by really quickly. We want to feel that our applicants have really thought about how they’re going to use business school to help them in their career goals.

Linda Abraham: I was thinking about this recently. I know that you don’t like – and we also counsel that applicants should not – regurgitate school Web sites in their essays. They also shouldn’t regurgitate their résumés in their essay. We already have that. We already know what you offer.

The reasons for the "why" are really the connection between the two. So, the story is something that you presumably don’t know, and they can also engage and show the human side of the applicant. But the magic happens when the applicant can connect the school’s program with what they want to do afterwards, with their reasons for going to that school. Would you agree with that?

Stephanie Fujii: Absolutely. I keep coming back to this idea of the applicant’s story. What we’re looking to understand throughout the entire application is, "What have you accomplished so far? How are you going to build on that foundation through our program, specifically, to achieve your dreams?"

Linda Abraham: You have to have a dream, then.

Stephanie Fujii: Of course. You have to have a direction that you’re going in. Applicants always ask, "What happens if we change our minds?"

Well, our students certainly change their minds and their program. It’s not that we’re going to pull out that essay upon graduation, and if you haven’t done what you said you were going to do, that you don’t get to graduate.

There are tons of opportunities. Our students get exposed to things that they just didn’t even know existed, and it takes them in different directions; and that’s really exciting. However, I think if you’ve gone through the process of really thinking through, "This is my foundation, this is what I’ve done with my life so far, these are the types of things and these are the opportunities and the tools that I’m going to get through business school," for one direction, you can shift gears and do that if you change direction. However, we want to make sure that you’ve gone through that process.

Linda Abraham: Thank you. That’s great. Ronald is asking, "Having an eight-year professional experience, will I be differently evaluated from the majority of applicants with five-year work experience? What advice do you have for older applicants?

Stephanie Fujii: Again, we’re evaluating the quality and the richness of the work experience, not necessarily the quantity. That’s because it really depends on the industry, the function, and the company that you’re in, in terms of how quickly you can progress and how much responsibility you had at what point in your career. We just need to understand that.

I do think that for some of our applicants with longer tenures, we might expect to see greater leadership or great progression. Or, if it’s somebody who has switched jobs, and there’s sort of that breadth of experience that you get there, we want it all tied together in terms of why. Again, it’s, "Why did you make the move that you did? How is this preparing you for your future?"

Really, it’s with respect to the type of experience that you have, but we’re asking the same questions, regardless of the industry, function, or length of experience. We’re looking at that progression, the leadership, and the impact.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much. We have a couple of questions here regarding reapplication. The first one is from Harsha: "Do you have any advice for re-applicants on how they can improve their chances upon reapplication? With re-applicants having to write four new essays as well as an update essay, how much weight is still given to the old application?" Then, I have another one to follow up on that.

Stephanie Fujii: For all of our re-applicants, we will see your previous application and your new application. What we’re looking for is how you have strengthened your candidacy since the last time you applied.

I think, for anyone who is reapplying, it’s really important to look at your old application with a very critical eye to understand what the areas were, that were not as competitive, and what you can do to strengthen and improve those areas of your application.

Sometimes it’s a case of making sure that you get more leadership experience, for example. Or it could be retaking the GMAT. It could be that you had a lot of leadership experiences; you just didn’t present them as strongly as you could have in your application. So, I think that the applicant really has to go through that with a critical eye to evaluate what the areas are that can be strengthened.

That optional essay is very important for re-applicants because we will look at it. That’s your opportunity for you to tell us what you’ve done to strengthen your candidacy. So, we will look there. Because we have changed our essay questions, we are going to look at those responses to really understand, again, how you fit with our defining principles and with our culture. With the experiences that you’re sharing there, do we feel like that signals to us that, yes, you understand what we’re looking for when we talk about those four defining principles?

Then, we will go back to look at your previous application, just so that we have that context of where you were at that point in time as a marker to compare against where you are now.

Linda Abraham: The second re-applicant question I promised you, says – and there may be just a misunderstanding that you can clarify for Ketan – "I found out there was no specific place to present improved candidacy statements." He says he contacted your office and was told to put it in the optional essay. However, he took the lack of such an essay as a formal question as a discouragement of re-application.

Stephanie Fujii: Oh, absolutely not, and I apologize, Ketan, that you got that feeling from that. We do have in our instructions that, for re-applicants, you should use the optional essay to talk about how you’ve strengthened your candidacy. So, that is the correct place for you to put it. That’s where you should talk about how you’ve strengthened your candidacy.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Thank you. Rakhi asks, "How much should an applicant focus on extracurricular and volunteer experiences versus professional work experience? Would a reference letter from the director at my volunteer organization be treated the same as a reference letter from my manager at work?

Stephanie Fujii: As we talked about previously, you really want that balance. We’ll evaluate your extracurricular and community involvement the same way that we evaluate your work experience. We’re looking for the quality and the richness of that. A laundry list of things that you’ve done, one off, isn’t as compelling as a sustained commitment to an organization.

I think that, if you haven’t had a lot of formal leadership in your professional roles, then if you’ve had leadership in your extracurricular involvement, that’s a great place to talk about that. We certainly value that and look for that in that area.

For letters of recommendation, I think that’s a tougher call. We are looking to evaluate your professional work experience, and we are looking at those letters of recommendation to validate what you’re telling us and to offer, again, that external perspective of how you performed in your various professional roles.

So, if you use only one of the letters for your professional work experience, I think the question that you have to ask is if that one letter and what you’ve presented in your application presents enough information on your success in your professional career. If it does, then I think the extracurricular letter could offer another dimension to you as a candidate. If it does talk about leadership or different skills that you used, I think that can be valuable, but you just want to make sure that you’re not missing an opportunity to really showcase your professional experience.

I will say that, for example, for candidates on the wait list, you do have the opportunity to provide additional letters of recommendation, and that could be an area where you bring in this letter from an outside organization. But having said that, we do have applicants who will provide one of their letters from this type of involvement because it is something that has been so significant in terms of their time and their passion. It just really clearly fits with their experiences to date and where they want to go.

So, at the end of the day, it’s your judgment as to how to best use those two letters. Just to give you a sense of what we’re looking for from those letters, it is to really get that external voice on your professional accomplishments.

Linda Abraham: Thank you. Tara asks, "I have heard that Haas "produces leaders and entrepreneurship in real estate." Can you elaborate a bit on what kinds of entrepreneurial experience Haas looks for in applicants? And what kinds of real estate leaders are produced: finance-heavy or salesy real estate professionals and developers." Elaborate on that a little bit.

Stephanie Fujii: Entrepreneurship and real estate are two of our areas of emphasis. So, there are a number of elective courses and extracurricular activities that allow our students to focus in those areas.

I would encourage you – and this goes for everyone, depending on your area of interest – to reach out to our Haas Student Ambassadors. You can find them on our web site. You can e-mail them or call them. They are second-year students who work with Admissions to connect everyone with our community.

If there is an area that you’re interested in, if you send them an e-mail they will do their best to connect you with a current student who is pursuing that same interest. I think there’s nothing better than that current, on-the-ground information as to the opportunities that are out there. I would definitely encourage everyone to take advantage of that.

For entrepreneurship, I would also look at our Lester Center for Entrepreneurship. They have a Web site, and they talk about all of the different opportunities for future entrepreneurs, whether you want to start your own business or you want to be on the funding side in venture capital.

Again, there are a number of classes. We’ve got two business plan competitions. We have a venture capital investment competition, which is a reverse business plan competition. They have Best Practices series. They’ve got office hours with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, just a ton of resources – as you can imagine, being where we’re located – for our students who are really interested in going that route.

For real estate, the focus is really on two areas. It is on finance and development, so the opportunities that are there really break out into those two areas. Again, there are a number of elective courses and competitions. The Real Estate Club is extremely strong to find out, depending on what particular area you want to go into. Again, I really encourage you to reach out to our current students.

You can also find on the website the leadership for all of our student clubs. We have almost 40 student clubs, and a lot of those are professionally-based. So, you can talk to the leaders of our Entrepreneurs Association and our Berkeley Real Estate Club, and they will have a ton of information, depending on what path you’re pursuing and the types of opportunities that would be available to you.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much. Before we move on to the last few applicant questions, I wanted to ask you: How are you seeing recruiting going for the Class of 2012? Are companies on campus? Is interviewing up or down from last year? What is the mood in terms of graduates and job opportunities and that kind of thing?

Stephanie Fujii: I would say that it is looking very strong for our students. It’s been a tough couple of years.

Linda Abraham: Yes, for everybody.

Stephanie Fujii: Exactly. This year, 91% of our graduates – the last I heard – had offers, so that was really strong. In terms of opportunities and what I’ve been hearing, I know last spring, in terms of internships, the number of opportunities posted and available had increased, and I think we’re seeing that same trend in the fall. A lot of interest by companies.

We have account managers in our Career Management Group, and they are corporate-facing all within career management. They are responsible for specific industries and building relationships with companies in those industries. They met with almost 150 different companies over the past few months to check in with them: How did recruiting go over this past year in terms of their experience? Also what were they seeing in our students? Were our students still meeting the needs of their organizations?

They also will listen to our students for those companies that aren’t recruiting on campus; going out and building relationships with them, telling them the value of hiring a Berkeley MBA student. That has been tremendously successful for us, especially over the past few years when it’s been a little more challenging. Recruiting, from what I hear so far, is looking very good for this year.

Linda Abraham: Great. We’re going to go to the rumor mill now. Here’s a good one from the applicants’ questions: "Do Indian I.T. males have a disadvantage compared to other professional people? Does Haas have I.T. people in its previous classes?"

Stephanie Fujii: Yes, we do. The rumor mill is correct. I hear this from whoever I’m talking to, whatever their background is, that they are disadvantaged. I will say it is a very competitive process. We’re looking for those people who are strong in all of the areas I discussed earlier.

We do have a good number of applicants from the I.T. industry, and I would say that that’s international. So, I think, in terms of that background, we are looking for people who are going to stand out in terms of their leadership, in terms of their exposure to business, and in terms of their understanding and fit with our culture and our program. Everybody is unique, and you need, as an applicant, to do a good job of really explaining what makes you unique and why you’re going to be such a strong fit for our program.

Linda Abraham: And that goes back to telling your story.

Stephanie Fujii: Yes.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Another question. This is from Jessica. I’m not sure if this is the rumor mill or something a little bit more authoritative. She says, "With 4.5 years of experience at one firm – the only firm since graduation – I was advised not to have both letters of recommendation written by managers at the firm. What are your thoughts on that?"

Stephanie Fujii: Letters of recommendation are very tough for us to answer. Only the applicant knows the universe of potential recommenders. I would go back to what we’re looking for in those recommendations as we’ve talked about previously.

I think if these managers are people who have worked closely with you, it can really talk to your accomplishments. If they share similar examples, that validates each other; but if they can talk about different examples, I think that adds a little more breadth. I think you have to think about who you would not be asking for a recommendation if it’s not both of them.

Linda Abraham: The opportunity cost.

Stephanie Fujii: Exactly. If you think that’s a valuable perspective that can add, then maybe you want to think about that. Yet, if only having one recommendation from your current employee isn’t going to showcase your accomplishments enough, then that’s a cost right there. So, I think it’s really up to the applicant to evaluate what they want to be highlighted in those recommendations, and then who best can speak to those experiences.

Linda Abraham: Maybe different bosses on different projects or your boss this year and your boss two years ago. I think it goes back to what you were saying about different perspectives and values adds to the application.

We have time for a couple more questions, so let’s see what we have here. Chris from Alaska asks, "Why go for a real estate focused MBA instead of, where available, a more specific real estate degree like masters real estate development or something like that?"

Stephanie Fujii: This is true for any area: I think it really depends on what you’re hoping to get out of this experience. What do you need, based on your career so far and where you want to go?

The value of an MBA is that it is very broad, and for our program, it is a general management program. We’re looking to develop leaders, not just for that job right after graduation, but for years down the line. I think the value of an MBA is that it is talking about leadership in the long term. Certainly we want to make sure that you have the skills to be successful in that post-MBA job, but we’re also looking for developing those capabilities that are going to allow you to grow and progress in your leadership over time.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you. You’ve got a thank-you from Chris, and there have been thank-yous throughout the Q&A. I just haven’t been repeating them.

I think is going to be our last question from Alay: "Why is the TOEFL IELTS an important part of the application, even considering the fact that I, an Indian, have done my undergraduate degree in English?"

Stephanie Fujii: The TOEFL IELTS is important because one of the areas that we’re evaluating for international candidates is English-speaking skills since our program is delivered in English. The TOEFL IELTS requirement is actually a UC Berkeley Graduate Division requirement. So, for all of our graduate programs, they require that one of these tests be accepted.

We certainly understand that, in some countries, the language of instruction is English, but it still is just one of those requirements. It’s not the only thing that we look at to evaluate English language skills, but it is one piece of the application.

Linda Abraham: I want to thank you all again for participating today. A special thanks to Stephanie for joining us. I think your answers have really been very enlightening. I’ve enjoyed talking to you.

If you have additional questions for UC Berkeley Admissions Team, please visit MBA.Haas.Berkeley.edu/admissions/learnmore.html.


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One more time, thank you very much, Stephanie, for joining us. I really enjoyed talking to you, and I think your answers were fantastic. It’s been an excellent session. And thanks to the participants for all your wonderful questions.

Stephanie Fujii: Thank you. I would just echo, thank you all and good luck. We hope to see your applications at Berkeley.

Linda Abraham: You’re very welcome. After this session, I think they should all want to apply. Best of luck to all of you with your applications.

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