Tuesday Tips – UC Berkeley Haas MBA Essay Tips

Approaching the new set of Haas Business School questions may be intimidating, as you are required to answer six questions that focus on a variety of attributes and accomplishments, while you are being judged upon “a strong cultural fit with our program and defining principles.” A clear understanding of your application strategy ”“ particularly your career goals and strengths/weaknesses will be key to put together a cohesive application.

Haas Business School short answers require focus, at only 250 words you will need to answer concisely and clearly to make sure your point is communicated. While challenging, this is also an opportunity to demonstrate several different aspects of your personality to the admissions committee.

As Haas Business School asks for your career goals last, the admissions committee will be getting to know you as a person before they understand what you are planning to do with your future. Make sure your career goals aren’t a huge surprise at the end, and that they logically flow from your attitude, personality and experiences.

For more information on the question and deadlines, visit the blog post on the new Haas questions.

1. What brings you the greatest joy? How does this make you distinctive? (250 word maximum)
Similar to what matters most, and why, this question seeks to get at your core values. What do you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about? (You may want to keep a pencil by your bed to get your creative thoughts flowing!) What common threads have been woven throughout your life, whether altruistic, artistic or personal?

Haas asked a similar question last year, and a new aspect is the second part where you are asked how your passion or joy makes your distinctive. Your passion is inherently distinctive because it reflects your unique core values, though it may appear standard on the surface. Delve deep into your own motivations for what gives you the greatest joy, and anything in your background that has shaped your feelings. For example, perhaps your greatest joy is something fairly typical like spending time with friends and family. Take the time to think about WHY this is your greatest joy ”“ perhaps you are part of a tight knit family with unique values that you can discuss, or maybe you moved a lot as a kid and so your friendships feel precious. Whatever unique aspects of your background inform your joy can be relevant to the question.

2. What is your most significant accomplishment. (250 word maximum)
Your accomplishment can be big or small, but it should be significant to you. While you have limited space, this is an opportunity to demonstrate what matters to you and to showcase one of your proudest moments.

While you are asked only about the accomplishment, the best essays will use this limited space to demonstrate clearly what the accomplishment was (be specific!) as well as commenting upon the significance of the accomplishment.

3. Describe a time when you questioned an established practice or thought within an organization. How did your actions create positive change? (250 word maximum)
The situational question would like to see your values in action as part of the question. When approaching a situational essay like this it’s important to provide both a concrete example and to explain what you thought, felt and did during the situation.

4. Describe a time when you were a student of your own failure. What specific insight from this experience has shaped your development? (250 word maximum)
This question asks you to think about a time you failed, and a time you learned from that failure. This essay is your opportunity to demonstrate your maturity, flexibility and leadership qualities. Leaders are not people who are always successful, rather they are people who are willing to admit to failure and learn from difficulty.

As you recount your failure it will be crucial to demonstrate what you have learned as concretely as possible. As a thought experiment, try thinking about a recent triumph. Trace your life events backwards until you find a failure, and think about how that failure directly led to your success. For example, perhaps you took a job immediately after college that was not a good fit for you. You may have felt like the job was a failure, but instead of despairing you took the time to think about what you really wanted, and subsequently found a job that led you success in your career. Perhaps your story isn’t career oriented but showcases learning from extracurricular or volunteer involvement.

5. Describe a time when you led by inspiring or motivating others toward a shared goal. (250 word maximum)
In this essay you will want to think about a specific leadership experience and what you did, said, felt and accomplished. At the same time, you need to focus specifically on how you motivated your team and inspired a group of people to accomplish a shared goal. You may not have *done* a great deal in the situation, but the key aspect is how you helped your team to be stronger and better through inspiration and motivation.

Leadership can be expressed in many ways in your life. Perhaps you lead a team of people at work, or in a volunteer capacity. If you do not have a formal leadership role you might have led a project or contributed as a strong leader from a team perspective. Whichever type of leadership experience you had, make sure to provide specifics of the situation. Strong results always stand out!

6. a. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How have your professional experiences prepared you to achieve these goals?
b. How will an MBA from Haas help you achieve these goals? (1000 word maximum for 6a. and 6b.)

This is a fairly typical career goals essay that asks for both short- and long-term goals and the background that led you to this juncture in your career. Think about what you hope to achieve with your MBA and the career opportunities it will reveal for you. You don’t need to recite your resume here ”“ rather highlight the key experiences that will be relevant in your future career.
Be specific about why the Haas School of Business is the right program to pursue your goals as well. As you consider your past experiences and your future goals you will be able to see what you want to gain from the Haas experience to fill any gaps. If you have an advertising background and want to become a brand manager you’ll likely need classes in operations and finance to understand the analytical side of brand management. Other goals will require other skills and your own unique background will inform how you take advantage of the Haas experience. Make sure you have determined exactly what courses make sense for your career goals and the programs and clubs that you will participate in to reach your personal and professional goals.

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