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The Haas School now requires two core courses to be taken during the summer session, says admissions director Erika Walker

There's good news and bad news for students applying to the undergraduate program at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. The good news is the school just completed a three-year expansion initiative. As a result, the student population has grown from 550 to 700. But the bad news is that everybody has to go to summer school.

The university approved the expansion partly because Haas was planning to utilize the facilities during the university-wide summer session, when incoming juniors would be required to take two of their core courses. Students are the real beneficiaries, because more of them will be accepted, and by getting two required courses out of the way, they can declare another major and still graduate in four years, says Erika Walker, director of admissions & operations of the undergraduate program at Haas.

Walker has been at Berkeley for about a year and a half. Before that, she held several managerial positions during the course of six and a half years at Inroads, a non-profit organization that helps place minority youth at internships in the business, health-care, and engineering fields.

Walker recently spoke with BusinessWeek intern Helena Oh. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

When do students apply to Haas?

The fall of their second year. Nov. 30 is the deadline.

Should prospective students indicate their interest in Hass when they apply to Berkeley as high school seniors?

There's a place for them to [indicate interest], but it's not something we track. It's more for the university.

What type of student is a good fit for the program?

Haas thrives on leadership and innovation. We like to see students who are well-rounded and involved in many things. We want to see how they can impact the community and what kind of diversity they can they bring to the campus. In general, we're looking for a leader who will have a lasting impact and someone who is not just career focused.

What does the application entail?

There are three different components: academics, essays and writing ability, and the résumé. We weigh 50% of our decision on grades and coursework, 35% on essays, and 15% on the résumé. The student with the highest GPA may not be the best student because we're looking for those who are doing well in all of these areas.

Then what's the average GPA of accepted students?

We don't have a minimum GPA, so any student can apply. However, the average tends to be between 3.7 and 3.9. It's higher for transfer students, of course, because many are coming from community colleges. For Berkeley students, the average is 3.6 or 3.7.

How many transfer students do you accept?

Haas is very competitive. We only admit 350 students a year, the majority of which are Berkeley students. Specifically, 260 are Berkeley students and 90 are transfers. It's much more competitive for transfer students to apply.

What are the essay questions like?

One is a personal essay, where students can write about what qualities they can bring to Haas and why they're interested in going into business. Another essay involves a business topic that changes every year and is generally a current-event question. The essays are each one page long.

Do you have any tips for answering the essays?

We really want to see applicants articulate their thoughts clearly, demonstrate some critical thinking, and write in an authentic voice. Students are compelled to figure out a formula for being admitted to Haas. Often they follow a template of what others who were admitted may have done, so we hear many of the same stories over and over again. Be authentic and answer from your own perspective.

What are other common mistakes students make when applying, and how can they be avoided?

The most common mistakes for transfer students are made on the self-reported academic-performance and academic-preparation sections. Often, students may not complete the form accurately, because they don't realize that they can't double count prerequisites for our breadth requirement. [Breadth requirements are general liberal arts courses. Students must take nine to graduate and seven must be taken before students enter Haas as juniors.] For example, microeconomics and macroeconomics are prerequisites that don't fulfill breadth requirements.

Do you offer interviews?

No.

How many Haas students have a second major?

About 30% [220 or so]. They're taking prerequisite courses during the first two years. During the freshman year, most students are still trying to decide what they want to do. We always encourage all students to have a backup major and fulfill requirements for another department in case they don't get accepted to Haas.

How can students with summer internships or jobs fit the six-week summer session requirement into their schedules?

The session begins in July for new admits. Many internships run from May to August, so students can work full time for the first six weeks. For the latter, they may work part time and have a different schedule.

What courses will they be taking in the summer?

A business ethics course and a course on business communication.


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