Oxford Said MBA Essay Samples

We asked the former Berkeley Haas MBA Admissions Officer on our Stacy Blackman Consulting team, “What does Haas Admissions look for?” They advised, “Haas tends to get annoyed with that applicant who knows nothing about Haas or why they are applying there. Applicants need an authentic application approach and speak for themselves and not be robotic or formulaic.”

SBC has several former Berkeley Haas MBA Admissions Officer on our team. We know the nuances of applying to Berkeley Haas successfully. If you’d like to speak with one of our Principals about your candidacy, please request a free analysis here.

In the meantime, please see sample Berkeley Haas application essays here from past successful Haas admits.

Tell us about your path to business school and your future plans. How will the Berkeley-Haas experience help you along this journey?

“America is living in spin.” After watching the movie “Thank You for Smoking,” I knew what I wanted to do with my life: not become a lobbyist, but be the brains behind influencing consumers. Following graduation I joined Prophet to gain first-hand experience in understanding consumers.

At Prophet I’ve held four positions and worked with the world’s biggest CPG firms. I’ve learned about the research that develops marketing strategies, the need for dynamic approaches to compete in ever-shifting landscapes, and the importance of relationships in forwarding initiatives. In my current role I’ve built out a new Prophet practice in new-product-launch performance, managed the production team and developed a go-to-market strategy. Through these experiences, I uniquely understand the importance of innovation; I know what trends are occurring globally and have identified best practices. While I’ve learned so much, I desire to be closer to the products. I want to expand beyond analysis and strategy recommendations and apply my knowledge as part of a team that dreams up the next new product to fulfill a consumer need.

Ultimately I want to be the CMO of a B2C company; to achieve my goal I initially want to work in brand management at an innovative company like Cliff Bar or Uber and grow with the company to achieve this leadership position. I believe an MBA would prepare me to make this transition and that Haas is the best program for me as it is uniquely positioned to provide a rigorous general management curriculum while being at the center of business innovation.

What’s most distinctive about the Haas academic experience is the opportunity to participate in Applied Innovation courses, honing leadership skills in real-life business settings. Two in particular, Influencing Consumers and Managing the New Product Development Process, will help develop my brand management abilities and better my understanding of solving for consumer needs and positioning products. Haas’ global focus is also something I value. My role leading Pepsico’s Global Beverage account has instilled the importance of a global perspective to grow a business. Courses such as International Marketing and opportunities like Winter Treks will enable me to compete in the ever-globalizing business environment. Beyond this, Haas will allow me to develop the skills necessary to transition into brand management – from managing a P&L through financial accounting classes to managing a team through courses such as Leading People.

Beyond academics, Haas has an appealing list of “extras.” Foremost is its highly personalized Career Management Group, where tools such as Virtual Interview Coaching or Job Search Teams will help me find the best company to launch my career. Additionally, I would like to take a lead role in Haas’ extra-curricular opportunities such as the Marketing Club and Women in Leadership forum, to explore both personal and professional interests in an encouraging learning environment that values both confidence and humility.

Haas has exactly what I need to reach my goals and is beyond a doubt the best MBA program for me.

Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you.

As a freshman I thought my life looked like everyone else’s – parties Thursday through Saturday (maybe the occasional Monday), skipping classes held at giant lecture halls, spending Sundays in bed until a slight sense of responsibility crept in and I’d begin to cram homework. When my mother arrived unannounced at my apartment in Spain during my summer abroad a new reality hit fast: my behavior was not normal, not healthy, and not going to continue any longer. I was immediately pulled from school and sent to rehab for alcoholism.

Rehab changes your perspective. Never did I expect to live with women coming off of hard drugs, but through this I learned empathy. Never did I expect to have my freedom limited – not allowed to leave the premises – but through this I learned patience and persistence. Never did I expect to spend four months disconnected from technology and my everyday life, but through this I learned the value of being introspective. These four months changed me forever, and I’m so thankful they did, as I am now four years sober and a better person for it. This time forced me to reprioritize and realize what I want in life. It enabled me to move forward more thoughtful, more grateful, and more determined. Without each lesson I would not have become the person I am today: driven to succeed in all my endeavors, and inspired to take part in my community and be present to support my family and friends.

If you could choose one song that expresses who you are,what is it and why?

At first glance you might pin me as someone easily summarized by a top-40 Britney or Beyoncé song, and I won’t deny that the female-empowerment side of me revels in the comparison. However, those that truly know me would pick another piece: Sonata in E Major Op.14 by Beethoven.

Growing up training as a concert pianist, I climbed my way to the final level at Belgium’s Royal Conservatory of Music, and Sonata in E Major Op.14 was key to passing. For months I practiced incessantly, drilling each note into muscle memory. Fortunately, my efforts paid off and the song serves as a reminder of my hard work.

Sonata in E Major Op.14 expresses many characteristics that I value and emulate. Written 200 years ago and performed worldwide, it encapsulates the concept of “boundaryless.” Similarly, raised in Belgium and having studied in the US, Spain, Mexico, and India, I deeply value diversity. This past year I have spent my spare time consulting to E.P. Clarke (low-income school) on how to increase diversity in its classrooms, an effort that will forever enrich student lives. Another reflective characteristic is Beethoven’s ability to riff while confined to the rules of classical music. I too add a creative spin to my work, once even using client products as prizes to engage an audience who later laughed realizing the prizes included mayonnaise!

While Beethoven’s Sonata may not be an obvious choice, its sense of imagination and limitlessness make it the song that best expresses who I am.

What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How will an MBA from Haas help you achieve these goals?

My earliest memories are punctuated with aromas of my Mexican mother cooking tamales, while my Iranian father taught us about Navroz – the Persian New Year – where life begins anew, and dreams are revitalized. This idealism excited me, and watching my parents struggle to provide for my sister and myself, I wanted to help them create a fresh start. I channeled this motivation into opportunities where I could deliver positive change. My career vision, to lead a Latin America-centric microfinance organization such as Accion, capitalizes on these experiences. In the interim, I will prepare myself by attaining an MBA, and joining the International Finance Corporation’s Global Transaction Team as an Investment Officer.

After graduating from UCSB, I wanted to maximize my contributions and exposure and found this opportunity at [XYZ Sports], a small, established apparel manufacturer. While my primary responsibilities were in finance, I made time to work with marketing, sales, and operations teams, understanding their challenges, and helping implement proposed solutions. I wanted to apply this newly acquired knowledge at a startup, passionate about influencing a fledgling entity. At [Memorabilia Retailer], my goal was to implement financial and accounting processes forming the company’s backbone. Working in an ambiguous, often chaotic startup environment, I holistically analyzed each issue and its ramifications. I also built relationships with functional experts, incorporating valuable insights from them. I confidently presented a tough but necessary set of strategic recommendations around financial operations reengineering to management, and won their approval. As an Investment Officer at IFC, and later, a leader in microfinance, I will leverage the poise I developed during these early-career experiences.

Next, I accepted a job at [ABC Healthcare], coming in to an under-resourced finance department. I suggested augmenting our human-capital base in Costa Rica, expanding our limited presence there, and lowering costs. Although this went far beyond my official job description, I spearheaded this project. Spending significant time in Costa Rica, I understood the work environment, hired resources, and trained them on our business processes. Under my direction our Costa Rican office now efficiently handles all our accounting processes, and has grown from a staff of two women, to 20. This success hinged on my ability to safeguard against the risks of developing an international location, a practice that is imperative to the sustainability of a microfinance organization. Further, witnessing the impact meaningful employment can have on families and communities paved the way for my professional ambitions.

Inspired by the transformation I saw in Costa Rica, I began actively volunteering at a local non-profit microfinance organization, Foundation for Women (FFW). As a Senior Advisor, I partner with low-income entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. Through this first-hand microfinance experience, I have reaffirmed that it is an area of business in which I thrive personally and professionally. I have also recognized the skills I need in order to attain my goals.

An MBA’s academic rigor will form the theoretical foundation on which I will build my future career. Courses such as Business Strategies for Emerging Markets, and Corporate Finance may sound similar to what other business schools offer, but Haas’s approach to the MBA via the BILD curriculum is distinctive, and especially appealing to me as its focus on forging change fits well with my personal leadership style. Through its emphasis on innovative leadership I will prepare myself for the volatility often inherent in international microfinance. I am looking forward to embracing knowledge outside the classroom as well. Applying academic theories to real world issues through Haas’s International Business Development Program will be a unique opportunity to learn from diverse teammates, professors, and clients, while gaining exposure to different geographies and their intricacies. I would also love to add an element of microfinance at the 2013 Latin American Business Conference, perhaps by inviting my contacts from FFW to attend or speak.

The Haas MBA will prepare me for a summer internship in banking and a full-time job at the IFC’s Global Transaction Team, where I will strengthen my understanding of the investor’s role in microfinance and build a toolkit for analyzing businesses with a discerning eye. Focusing on Latin America at the IFC and studying the design and productivity of the region’s microenterprise operations, I will become well versed in its cultural and socioeconomic challenges. Armed with this analytical acumen and regional perspective, I will be ideally positioned for a career at Accion, ultimately building on my experiences and network to establish a robust microfinance infrastructure in a country like Costa Rica and eventually across Latin America.

Describe a time when you were a student of your own failure. What specific insight from this experience has shaped your development?

Following the establishment of four of my U.S. based company’s departments in Costa Rica, my next challenge was to promote seamless direct communication between the teams as I stepped back. Of mixed ethnicity myself, I easily transitioned between the American “to-the-point” business culture, and the gentler Costa Rican environment. I took for granted that my team would too. In this assumption lay the root of my failure, and as I disengaged, things began to go awry. The Costa Ricans felt discouraged by remarks from their U.S. coworkers, and the Americans were frustrated by perceived Costa Rican inefficiencies.

Stepping back gave me the perspective I needed. Because of my heritage and passion for empowering women, I had become emotionally vested in this all-female Costa Rican team, often shielding them from the impacts of their errors. Secondly, I recognized that critical to organizational change was Change Management. Building cultural awareness, and aligning expectations were success factors I had overlooked in my zeal to accomplish the transition.

I held communication workshops with my U.S. teammates, helping them develop actionable, yet respectful feedback. Concurrently, I guided the Costa Rican ladies that criticism should be perceived as growth mechanisms, and challenged them to reduce their error-rates. Applying this lesson as a microfinance volunteer at Foundation for Women, I remember to analyze my clients’ business plans objectively, and present constructive feedback with sensitivity. I also make an effort to understand their backgrounds, as this impacts our working relationship and how I position them to potential investors.

SBC’s star-studded consultant team is unparalleled. Our clients benefit from current intelligence that we receive from the former MBA Admissions Officers from Wharton, Booth and every elite business program in the US and Europe.  These MBA Admissions Officers have chosen to work exclusively with SBC.

Just two of the many superstars on the SBC team:
Meet Anthony, who served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise.

Meet Kim, who was an Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Chicago Booth.

Tap into this inside knowledge for your MBA applications by requesting a consultation.


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