UC-Berkeley Haas Launches Undergrad-To-MBA Pipeline

The UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business. Courtesy photo

In another move prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley will accept applications and admit seniors from the university for admission to the fall cohort of the Haas Evening & Weekend or Full-Time MBA programs. The Cal Advantage program allows UC-Berkeley seniors and alumni from both undergraduate and graduate programs to apply to join Haas in the fall, and even lets alumni apply without submitting Graduate Management Admission Test or Graduate Record Exam scores.

UC-Berkeley undergrads and alumni have until mid- or late June to apply, depending on the program. Seniors at Berkeley are still required to submit scores from the standard, at-home version of the GMAT or GRE.

“The idea for the program came about while the management team was brainstorming about new opportunities for those who previously might not have considered an MBA,” Pete Johnson, assistant dean of the full-time MBA program and admissions, confirms in an email to Poets&Quants.

NEW PROGRAM COULD MEAN HAAS GRADUATING 23-YEAR-OLD MBAs

Several other top schools have similar programs. Emory’s Goizueta School of Business added one in February. The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business did so in March. And the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School launched a pipeline program for seniors outside of UNC at the end of April. Harvard Business School and others have been doing it for years. But those programs all require around two years of work after graduation before enrolling. UC Berkeley also launched a similar deferred admissions program for college seniors in January, called the Accelerated Access program. UC Berkeley seniors accepted to that program have two to five years to gain professional experience before returning to Haas for the MBA program.

“It provides an opportunity for talented candidates to apply as they’re finishing their undergraduate degree,” Johnson says. “And then if admitted, deferred admission for anywhere to two to five years out before they would come back to the program.”

Like programs found at schools lower down the rankings, where they are increasingly common and integral to MBA admissions, Cal Advantage is a fast-track option that could funnel seniors directly to the Haas full-time MBA with no work experience. Last year’s full-time MBA entering class had an average of 5.3 years of work experience. The average age was 28. This could mean MBAs leaving Haas at the ripe old age of 23 or 24.

CAL ADVANTAGE IS STILL FOCUSED ON ALUMNI IN THE ‘TWO- TO EIGHT-YEAR RANGE OF WORK EXPERIENCE’

However, Johnson says, that’s not necessarily what the Cal Advantage program was designed for, even if it is an option.

“The intention was really to capture people in that two- to eight-year range of work experience and offer them an opportunity,” Johnson says. “Many of those students are facing a different professional environment than they expected. And it is an opportunity to both help those Berkeley alumni but also to certainly tap into a network of talented alums that might have been thinking about business school at some point in the future. And to give them the opportunity to still apply for this cycle in the fall.”

Johnson says if they do happen to capture some strong applicants that are seniors at UC Berkeley, they might be directed to the Accelerated Access program. “If the admissions committee saw a strong candidate that came through Cal Advantage and the main weakness is their professional experience, they’re very likely to encourage them to be considered for the existing program that is designed for deferred admissions,” he explains.

PROVIDING AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE UC BERKELEY COMMUNITY THAT HAD BEEN DEALT RECENT PROFESSIONAL CHANGES

But, Johnson also pointed out, about 30% of the undergraduate population at Haas are re-entry students, meaning they do have a bit of professional work experience acquired before starting at Haas, which is a two-year undergraduate program.

“For us, the big point is we’re providing the opportunity for people in our community who may have suddenly very different circumstances. And they’re graduates of one of the top public universities in the country. Why wouldn’t we be interested in them?” “I predict we are going to have some very strong candidates from the alumni. I would be surprised if we didn’t.”

Regardless, Cal Advantage is unusual because of the different admissions standards, too. Besides allowing alums to waive GMAT and GRE scores, undergraduate seniors and alums alike only need to submit one letter of recommendation and one essay with their application. Haas has even offered an option to submit a resume after admission. Application deadline for the Evening & Weekend program is June 12; for full-time, June 30.

A REASON BEHIND THE PROGRAM: UNCERTAINTY OVER INTERNATIONALS MAKING IT TO CAMPUS 

Cal Advantage is designed to do at least two things, Johnson says. First, give graduating seniors suddenly thrust into a cold job market the opportunity to return to the comfy confines of UC-Berkeley for a couple more years. And second, boost potential enrollment at a time when it’s uncertain how many students will actually enroll this fall if Berkeley’s campus is still closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Many in our Cal family are facing greater uncertainty at this time,” Johnson says. “We are offering Cal Advantage to give Berkeley seniors and alumni another option at a time when many may need options the most. Through this program we are able to streamline the application process and requirements exclusively for our alumni community because we uniquely understand the rigorous academic experience they have already completed here at Cal.”

He acknowledges the ongoing uncertainty around international applicants securing visas and getting to the U.S.

“We are fortunate to have a strong application pool, and we don’t have any lack of qualified applicants,” Johnson says. “At the same time, there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty for international candidates who may have visa concerns, and for other admitted students who have a variety of situations. Although we are on track to enroll a full class of full-time MBA students for fall, we are watching the worldwide situation closely, as circumstances may change.”

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