PART II: Applying [And Getting In] To Haas
In Part I, we learned about the Haas Program and how the admissions committee actually evaluates applications and selects successful candidates.
In Part II, we'll jump head first into the academics section of the Haas application process.
In previous admissions cycles, academics was worth a whopping 50% of the selection methodology. Because of COVID-19, however, we may assume that academics will likely be less impactful than years prior. Instead, essays and personal circumstance will be the keys to success when it comes to 2020 applications. That being said, academics are still crucial (especially for any pre-req courses taken prior or after Spring 2020 for a grade), and they will remain so in future admissions cycles.
An Introduction to Academics (a la Haas style)
First thing I bet you’re dying to know: the average GPA of a Haas admit is 3.67.
No, you don’t need a 4.0.
And no, having a below-average GPA (<3.67) is not a death sentence.
But yes, like all things numerical, you typically want to score above the mean. In this section, we will cover course selection strategy and tips + tricks to optimize your GPA.
That being said, at this point in time I would tell you to clearly identify your priorities.
Are you prioritizing a high GPA? Or are you prioritizing learning?
Sadly at Cal, those are two completely different things. And you need to make a choice on which one matters more to you. Because in this section, you will soon find out why that may be the case.
First come the pre-requisites. These are classes you must take to even apply to Haas. They are fundamental building blocks to succeeding in future UGBA courses, and proving your competency in them during the application phase is the single greatest determinant that you can “handle” the Haas coursework.
Check this link out to see what the pre-requisite courses are. You can also use it to organize your academic check-list, as it even provides a recommended schedule for organizing classes by semester and applying to Haas.
Ah, UGBA 10. I still remember taking this class as if was yesterday. When you stepped into class, you could literally physically feel the stress pore into the lecture hall.
The best - and by best, I mean worst - part of UGBA 10 is that everyone, unlike in your other pre-requisite classes, is here for one specific reason: to get into Haas.
Consequently, the course is inherently more competitive in terms of try-hards. There is no ‘curve’ per se, but the class does naturally follow a 3.204 (B+) average.
And while you may be able to game other classes in terms of selecting ‘easier’ professors with “easier” grade distributions, you can’t quite game UGBA 10 the same way: it is offered every semester, and is taught by the same revolving band of four lecturers who each manage their lil’ ol’ business fiefdom (re: Briginshaw in Finance, Omar in Operations, Hopelain in Marketing, and Mulhern in Leadership).
On top of 4 multiple choice exams that essentially test your memorizationskills, you are graded on class participation and a “Capsim” simulation. Capsim is a virtual simulation (which sounds really cool, until you realize it's just a really under-whelming computer program that 'simulates' four different companies making ~ w i d g e t s ~), and it "tests" your ability to work in randomly-generated teams on a “simulated business problem and task,” though I’ve heard from younger friends that this has actually changed in recent semesters.
My greatest piece of advice here is to chat with upper class-mates and mentors, and learn from them how to best succeed in UGBA 10. They will be able to provide you tailored advice on how to navigate the modern UGBA 10, something I, a grandpa, a lost relic of an era that’s long run its course, simply can not do. Sigh, I’m getting old.
Anyway, the inherent difficulty itself has not changed, and my general advice is to take the course Freshman Spring. UGBA 10 is not a hard class, but Freshman Fall should be a time for you to explore yourself. Don’t burden yourself with the pressure of taking UGBA 10 right off the bat — get used to college life at Cal, and the rigor it accordingly entails.
I also find UGBA 10 to be such a quintessentially freshman experience, though that may be because I spent most of it with screwing around with friends and laughing at how everybody was taking themselves so seriously. But I’d like to think my personal experience reinforces what should be an objective point: UGBA 10 shouldn’t be as stressful as most people make it out to be.
It’s a great class to take with friends. There are also some genuinely cool, new people you can meet and befriend in lecture and discussion. The lectures take place in Wheeler 20, where it’s relatively easy to nap and have your friends cover note-taking (and you them when it’s their turn to rest up).
And on a final note: the word on the street is that Haas admissions weights your grade in UGBA 10 more than your grades in other classes. But getting anything less than an A- is by no means a death sentence. One of my friends got a B+ in UGBA 10, yet she applied and STILL got into Haas. Heck, I have more friends who got B’s in UGBA 10 that have gotten into Haas than friends who got A’s but didn’t get in.
Obviously, you should aim for the A. But if you don’t get it, it’s honestly not that big of a deal. Simply compensate by getting higher grades in your other core courses and making sure your essays + resume stand out.
ECON 1 / ECON 2
To apply to Haas - and the Econ Major, for that matter (which you should, by the way, as it’s a great option if you’re interested in the space - you need to take either ECON 1 or ECON 2. You also have the option of skipping out of either course if you scored:
4 or 5 on both AP Macroeconomics and Microeconomics
5, 6, or 7 in IB Economics
A, B, or C in A Level Economics
That being said, I highly recommend you take ECON 1 / ECON 2 even if you fall in the above category, simply for the reason that Berkeley’s intro economic classes are HIGHLY COMPREHENSIVE and far more rigorous than anything you’ve likely ever done up until this point. So many of my friends who skipped ECON1/2 had to emergency drop their intermediate Econ courses, thereby wasting an entire academic semester and then spending the next one in Intro Economics (and thus in the process delay their academic progress by an entire year).
Don’t be that person. And in any case, if you think you’re polished in your Econ chops, then ECON 1 / 2 should be a walk in the park - a GPA booster, if you will.
On that note, there are pretty noticeable differences between ECON 1 and ECON 2. In the fall, ECON 1 is taught by Martha Olney, ECON 2 by Moretti. ECON 1 is only held in the fall, and in the spring ECON 2 is taught by the Romers (a professor couple, we stan). ECON 1 is structured as a 2 hour lecture / 2 hour discussion styled course, whereas ECON 2 is styled in a 3 hour lecture / 1 hour discussion format.
ECON 2 is generally more widely favored by students, as its professors - the Romers - are universally loved by those who take it. I personally took ECON 1 under Martha Olney, and while she is one tough cookie she’s a professor that seems to genuinely care for her students. But here’s the million dollar question: which one is easier?
A cursory look at Berkeleytime would show you that recent grade distributions favor ECON 2 over ECON 1; ECON 2’s average GPA is 3.038 as opposed to ECON 1’s 2.965. This is such a minuscule difference, however, that it should practically be immaterial in your decision-making process.
That being said, 5x more students in ECON 2 get A+’s than those in ECON 1, and students generally have more favorable reviews of the Romers’ teaching styles versus other professors.
The reason I personally chose ECON 1, however, was because I wanted to take UGBA 10 and ECON 1 in separate semesters. I did not take student/friend reviews into account. But maybe that’s something you really value.
It’s therefore up to you to determine if you want to take UGBA and ECON at the same time, or if you want to stagger them. You may choose to do UGBA 10 your freshman spring and ECON 1 your sophomore fall, or ECON 2 your freshman spring and UGBA 10 your sophomore fall, ad infinitum and vice versa.
In either case, I highly recommend that - no matter your scheduling - you should NOT take UGBA 10 and/or ECON 1/2 your Sophomore Spring.
In fact, I highly suggest you finish your core pre-Haas courses by Sophomore Fall, because they use these grades to evaluate your fit in the program. If there are empty blanks in your application, it raises a number of questions, like:
What would have been this person’s grades in these classes?
If they’re so ‘passionate’ about Haas, why haven’t they even completed the basic requirements? Are they trying to avoid ‘hard’ classes to boost their GPA?
Have there been students who completed these courses their sophomore spring and got in? Yes. And you hypothetically could copy this strategy, as Haas will accept your application so long as you complete all pre-req’s by the time you enter Haas. But the optics, quite frankly, of doing so are quite risky. I know many great applicants who got shut out by Haas, and many of them didn’t complete their pre-req’s by sophomore fall.
Instead, use sophomore spring to take ECON 100A or ECON 100B and accelerate your progression towards the UGBA/ECON major. Either way, our intermediate economics courses are mandatory for both majors, and by doing either 100A or 100B your sophomore spring you can simultaneously declare the ECON major. If you get into Haas, then perfect!
You don’t need to formally ‘undeclare’ a major, as a declaration is simply an intent, not a mandate, to finish the program.
Many Haas students also double major in Economics, so that’s always an option as well!
MATH REQUIREMENT (1A/1B, 16A/16B, 53, 54)
If you score a 3 or above on either AP Calc AB or BC, you will be able to waive your Math 1A / 16A requirement, but NOT your 1B/16B requirement. For more on IB and GCE Advanced Level courses, check out this site for clarification (this will re-direct you to all the advanced HS classes that waive certain pre-Haas requirements).
You can also alternatively take MATH 53 or 54 - Multivariable Calculus or Liner Algebra respectively - to satisfy the mathematics requirement for applying to Haas.
On that note, welcome to Math, a section of your academic journey that’s actually gameable in terms of GPA optimization.
1A/B is known for being one of the most brutal ‘weeder’ courses on-campus. While 16A/B is also a weeder, a) its distribution and average GPA is significantly better and b) it literally covers much less material than the 1A/B series (re: it’s terminal, meaning it does not prepare you for multivariable calculus, linear algebra, and other advanced concepts you need if you want to major in Computer Science, Data Science, etc.).
So, long story short: if you’re looking for an easier math class, take the 16 series.
However, if you are thinking of double majoring in something more technical, then take the 1 series or skip straight to MATH 53/54.
A big question a lot of students have is whether or not Haas admissions takes the relatively noticeable difference in difficulty between the 1 and 16 series (and 53/54, which ostensibly are more difficult at face value) into account.
That is, does Haas admissions weigh MATH 16A/B against a candidate while more positively weighing another applicant who completed MATH 1A/B or 53/54?
The answer is no. Haas admissions don’t care, and for all intents and purposes they don’t even know there is a difference. And even if they did, they still wouldn’t care.
In fact, I would wager that most Haas students took the 16 series versus the 1 series and 53/54 combined (based on personal observation). This is all to say that Haas admissions really won’t use MATH 16 against you. So, yes, you hypothetically could game the system and take the easier math class without consequence.
Again, the true choice is whether or not you want to explore more technical fields like computer science / data science or not. If you don’t, then you can take the easier route without regret. But if you want to hone your technical skills, then be prepared to take, well, more technical - and thus more difficult - courses in mathematics.
STAT 20 / STAT W20 / DATA 8 + UGBA 96
STAT 20 is the classic bread-and-butter intro stat’s class.
STAT W20 is it’s online-only half-sibling with a few noticeable differences.
But with that being said, due to COVID-19, most - if not all - classes are completely online now so honestly… the jury is still out on what the difference between STAT 20 and STAT W20 is now.
In general, when a ‘W’ is denoted in a course numbering it stands for Web, or online/remote. But since every class is ‘W’ for the time being, STAT W20 has ceased to exist. In case it’s ever brought back ever again, however, here are some key differences.
In STAT W20, the final exam is worth a whopping 70% of your overall grade. Problem sets constitute the remaining 30%. It also has an incredibly high failure rate, but don’t let this concern you too much — the biggest reason why is not because the class itself is inherently difficult, but because it being completely online leads many to underestimate its final exam (which then proceeds to unceremoniously demolish their grade).
I personally took STAT W20, and I completed it my pre-sophomore summer while interning with Wells Fargo (making it a great two-for-one deal if you want maximize your summer productivity after freshman year).
STAT 20, meanwhile, is more balanced in its grading composition, as you have two midterms, on top of problem sets and a final, to evenly space out the final grade.
What’s becoming more and more popular, however, is the STAT C8 / DATA 8 class - and its mandatory connector courses STAT 88 / UGBA 96 - which essentially is a MUST-TAKE class if you want to major or minor in Data Science.
It is also just a great class to have under your belt in order to have a fundamental working knowledge of data science principles; even if you’re not working in tech, being data-literate is an incredibly useful skill in the workforce of the future. Moreover, data science is the #1 fastest growing profession, and the demand for high-skilled, data-centric problem solvers and leaders - especially in consulting and investment banking - is on a meteoric tear.
Anecdotally speaking, most consulting and investment banking interns + hires from Cal are double degrees in both business and computer science / data science. This was not the case 4 years ago. But it is now. And increasingly so.
And honestly, the difficulty of these STAT C8 plus STAT 88 / UGBA 96 courses is not particularly prohibitive. The median grade (re: the 49th-68th percentile) in STAT C8 is an A-; this is honestly a pretty slick deal, if I’m going to be perfectly honest with you.
In fact, the course average is 3.33 (a solid B+), compared to STAT 20’s course average of 2.853 (B/B-, not so sick). The connector courses for STAT C8 (re: STAT 88, UGBA 96) also have ridiculously high average GPAs (~3.7), further sweetening the deal.
The Data Science department is also getting incredible investment and buy-in from the university, where it is beefing up on-campus programs, services, and opportunities for students, making this one of the best times to cash in on the hype.
ENGLISH READING AND COMPOSITION (R1A + R1B)
I suggest going to BerkeleyTime, clicking on Catalog, and searching for R1A and R1B courses ‘Requirements’ tab by ‘Average Grade’. From there, you will find the ‘easiest’ classes (re: where I define easiest as “highest average grade,” you personally may care about more meaningful factors like topic relevance, professor quality, peer reviews, friends’ recommendations, etc.).
Also, finishing R1A/R1B by freshman year is the move, as these classes are relatively easy and - by completing it ASAP - you save space for taking more relevant classes your sophomore year. If you’re thinking of double majoring - or just want to take more classes to widen your academic options - this strategy optimizes your ability to do so.
Also: if you scored a 5 on AP Lit, this is all moot. You’ve completed RC. And don’t be an idiot like me: I thought I was S L I C K taking CLASSICS R44 - because it fulfilled a breadth - not realizing that it does not qualify for fulfilling a Haas breadth course (it does if you’re in L&S, but apparently not if you’re in Haas) because it is an RC course. It was a fun class — if you like surviving bi-weekly 2 hour lectures and 1 hour discussions on the wonders of impossibly riveting texts like Plato’s The Republic and the Bible. So, long story short, do your research: research your breadths and RC requirements, and make sure your targeted courses actually fulfill the requirements!
Again, go on BerkeleyTime and sort breadth classes by type and average grade.
My biggest piece of advice here is to actually enjoy your breadth classes. Yes, it’s easy to think of them as a chore you have to do - akin to doing the dishes and folding the laundry, yadda yadda wHeN caN i TAke REaL clAsSeS lIke cORpoRAte fINAnCE and bRAnD StrATEgY - but take it from me: my favorite classes EVER are literally and exclusively breadth courses.
They’re my favorites because I actually learned fun things, new things, that I otherwise never would have learned if I just buried my head deep in the business, computer science, and public policy sauce. I am 100% a SIMP for the 7 Breadth Requirement system, and I will fight anyone to the death to preserve it.
Use this opportunity to boost your GPA, yes, but also to learn something new. Meet other people from other majors. Become friends with them. Broaden your horizons. And become a more worldly, well-rounded, empathetic, and knowledgeable problem solver for it.
Your future GPA will thank you. And so will future you.
ADVANCED UGBA / ECON COURSES
Invariably, a lot of Pre-Haas kids think to themselves, “If I can get past the waitlist and enroll in a UGBA course AND do well in it, I’ll look really good to Admissions!”
But also, like no. You don’t need to take an upper division UGBA / ECON course to prove you can handle the rigor — the pre-req’s do that for you.
Yes, it of course can make you look stronger on paper. But think of this strategy in terms of opportunity cost; instead of taking this upper div UGBA course that you would be taking ANYWAY if you literally got into the program, you could instead be completing coursework to declare a second major, finishing your breadth requirements and learning something new, or working part-time at a startup in San Francisco or on-campus in undergraduate research.
Also, if you get a below-average grade (re: median grade in Haas is 3.4), you’ve basically proved to Admissions you can’t handle the heat. In short, if you’re confident in your abilities and want to take an upper div UGBA course - whether it’s to get ahead of the curve and jump straight into advanced topics or look good for admissions - go for it.
But do it because you WANT to take the class, and because you’re, let’s say, genuinely interested in learning about finance and hopefully - once you get into Haas - hit the ground running exploring more complex topics like Corporate Finance and Financial Engineering. But don’t do it because you think it will make you look good.
The same applies for ECON. Some students want to blaze through the intermediate series ECON 100A/B, 101A/B, where A is Micro and B is Macro, 100 is theory-based and 101 is quant-based (and much more difficult). If you are passionate about the material and are willing to accept any possible risk to your GPA, go for it! But don’t do it because you think it will give you an edge in admissions. Because it won’t.
At the end of the day, Academics make up 50% of the admission criteria. Your grades are KEY to getting in. But they are not everything. If your GPA is above average, don’t worry! You don’t need a +3.93 GPA to get in. If you are only your GPA (re: no compelling essays, no strong resume and commitment to on-campus groups), you are only 50% of what makes a successful candidate. Meanwhile, if your GPA is on the weaker side, you can just compensate accordingly with your essays + resume.
With that said, I hope today's post has helped ease your mind and can make you feel better prepared when applying to Haas. Check out Part III for our post on how to build and curate your resume to stand out in Haas Admissions!