Haas Perceptions

Several weeks ago, right before I started Advice from a Haas Major, I asked members of the Class of 2018 UC Berkeley Facebook Group to give a description of what they thought about Haas through an anonymous survey. I asked each responder to write a one word description of the Haas School of Business in order to spur more people to answer. In 15 hours, I received 161 entries, deleted the obvious spam (my personal favorite: WouldYouTakeThisMomentToLearnAboutOurLordAndSaviorJesusChrist? Nah I don’t think so), clustered similar words, and put them together in Wordle. It’s shown below.


As you can see, most people from the results believe Haas to be “competitive”, “challenging”, and “cutthroat”. Many thought about Haas students as “Haasholes”. The majority of people associated the Haas School of Business as a negative experience rather than a positive one.

There are descriptions such as “opportunity”, “money”, “success”, “prestigious”, “intelligent”, “professional”, “studious”, and “impressive”. I would agree that Haas gives you ample “opportunity” for success, with its extensive alumni network, resources, and various perks like case competitions and access to more Haas professors and classes (of course the name “Haas” tends to help as well). Haas students also become more “professional” through many core classes such as UGBA 100 (Business Communication) and others that focus on presentation and teamwork such as UGBA 103 (Finance) and UGBA 106 (Marketing).

Interesting how “money” is in there, more than once. While this may be a compelling reason to graduate from Haas, I hope that those who responded with “money” are more dedicated to the subject itself; otherwise, things will not go well.

And here come the more negative comments, such as “competitive”, “pretentious”, “cutthroat”, and “selective”. There are also some sprinkles of “stress”, “strict”, “boring”, “exclusive”, and “overrated”.

I realize that I can’t change anyone’s perceptions no matter how hard I try. It’s true that Haas is “competitive” unfortunately. With a less than 50% acceptance rate amongst students already accepted to an elite institution, everyone is the best. Everyone is hard working, dedicated, and successful. However, why continue the perception that everyone is a “Haashole” and competitive? Let’s be the year that changes this perspective.

With the removal of UGBA 10 as a curved class, I believe that the perception of Haas being “cutthroat” is changing. It has become a class that no longer screws you over if you do well; and slowly Haas as a whole is becoming a more inclusive atmosphere rather than an “exclusive” one. And it’s bound to continue.

Some other descriptions students thought of Haas were “ambitious”, “challenging”, “intimidating”, “high expectations”, and “hardcore”. I neither consider these to be particularly positive nor particularly negative, because you can take them both ways. Do students perceive Haas to have enough “ambition” to fight for their dreams (positively) but at the same time be cutthroat during that path (negatively)? Is Haas “challenging” because it forces students to strive for success amidst struggle? Either way, Haas is a different kind of hard, because it’s more than just academics; it’s a people field too.

Those who find Haas “intimidating”, I hope that changes for you. If you are interested in business and don’t want to deal with the idea of possibly competing with hundreds of others, know that such competition is not obvious. It’s not like every pre-Haas student goes about and purposely tells everyone else their GPA, internships, leadership activities, or networking abilities and ambushes everyone’s attempt at getting in. Because that’s not what happens. It’s more like, everyone implicitly knows that there is competition, but don’t actually face it themselves. Take business classes and apply to Haas if you’re interested in the school! You won’t regret it.

While these results helped plenty, I understand the limitations of my little experiment, as I polled from a select sample size (almost 9,000), some of whom were not Berkeley students. In addition, the survey was anonymous, which meant that anyone could spam the responses with unrelated thoughts (as I have received). In order to be more precise, I filtered out spam by deleting repeated nonsense words and other words that did not apply, so in a sense these results do not completely represent the data. I also could have added an addition question about their major so that the survey associated students’ thoughts with their major. This strategy could have separated pre-Haas and the non-majors, thereby focusing on the conceptions of pre-Haas students (effectively filtering out spam; no one wants to copy and paste two different things in two different spots).

It is disappointing to see (but not surprising) that even incoming freshmen already have a mostly negative perception of the Haas School of Business. While I don’t expect whole generations of students to change their perspectives about Haas very much, I hope I am positively influencing the stereotype of “cutthroat”, “Haashole”, and “exclusive”.

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