Tuesday Tips: Berkeley Haas Application Essays, Tips for 2020-2021

Berkeley Haas application essaysThe Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley is a highly selective school with a small class to fill. Therefore, it’s crucial to stand out from the crowd and show how you will benefit the Haas MBA class. Above all, these tips for the Berkeley Haas application essays will help you create that positive impression.

Berkeley Haas has changed the required essays a bit this season. As a result, the second question is still about leadership, but more about your vision of leadership. Also, note that the Haas MBA admissions committee has a series of videos and tips posted on the website that can help you prepare. Ready? Let’s dive in.

SBC’s Tips for the Berkeley Haas Application Essays

Required Essay #1
What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why? (300 words maximum)

Haas MBA admissions has asked creative and open-ended questions for many years. This essay is a new version of that style. As a first step, brainstorm your favorite activities that are the most engaging to you.

Think about what you lose time pursuing, or find completely absorbing. This likely includes your hobbies, sports, or artistic pursuits. Another idea is an activity at work that absorbs you. Above all, the activity should reveal something personal about you. Therefore, it should go deeper than your resume and recommendations.

After you have identified a meaningful activity, then you need to describe why. The “why” is more important than the “what” because it reveals something about who you are.

For example, maybe you enjoy research projects. You like to solve problems at work. Also, to have the freedom to pursue the question where it takes you. Consider, do you enjoy research because it allows you to be creative or solve problems? Delve into your motivations to see what is driving you—being specific about “why” will help you with all of your essays.

Required Essay #2
The definition of successful leadership has evolved over the last decade and will continue to change. What do you need to develop to become a successful leader? (300 words maximum)

This essay has evolved to be more future-looking than in prior years. First, research how Haas sees leadership. Haas has a set of leadership principles. Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself are the fundamental principles. For Haas, leadership is both inclusive and bold. Also, Haas prioritizes innovation, community, and collaboration.

Second, think about your definition of leadership. How has your definition evolved? If you had to define your leadership principles, what would they look like? For example, perhaps helping is a core part of you. And, for you, leadership means driving the development of your team.

Finally, consider how Haas will help you develop your leadership skills. It is challenging to research in person due to COVID-19. But, there are virtual options to learn more. A good starting point is to learn about specific classes, professors, clubs, and activities through blogs and class listings. Also, consider networking with former and current students virtually.

Berkeley Haas application essays

Optional Essays

We invite you to help us better understand the context of your opportunities and achievements:

1. What is the highest level of education completed by your parent(s) or guardian(s)?

Did not complete high school
High school diploma or equivalency (GED) Associate’s degree (junior college) or vocational degree/license
Bachelor’s degree (BA, BS)
Master’s degree (MA, MS)
Doctorate or professional degree (MD, JD, DDS)

2. What is the most recent occupation of your parent(s) or guardian(s)?

Skilled worker

3. If you were raised in one of the following household types, please indicate:

Raised by a single parent
Raised by an extended family member (grandparent, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, cousin)
Raised in a multi-generational home
Raised in foster care

4. What was the primary language spoken in your childhood home?

5. If you have you ever been responsible for providing significant and continuing financial or supervisory support for someone else, please indicate:

Extended family member (grandparent, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, cousin)

6. Please elaborate on any of your above responses. Alternatively, you may use this opportunity to expand on other hardships or unusual life circumstances that may help us understand the context of your opportunities, achievements, and impact. (300 words maximum)

Berkeley Haas seeks diversity across many dimensions

Berkeley Haas is committed to understanding applicants completely. This question provides a chance to go deeper into your family background and your life circumstances. By doing this, the admissions committee can understand your accomplishments in context. Questions 1-5 are straight forward, and you should answer them honestly.

In Question 6, you have a choice. You can either elaborate on the information described in Questions 1-5 or add new insights. However, it should be relevant information that can help the admissions committee understand your background.

For example, you might have a highly educated family, and your parents are professionals. But, you moved to another country for college or a job. An experience like that is essential to explain how you learned a new culture or language.

Or maybe your parents are fully employed now. However, there was a period of unemployment in your family that impacted you. That information shows how you handle challenges at home.

Think about times you changed course because of your circumstances. And, think about the areas of your life that asked the most of your resilience and ability to overcome. How have you used those experiences to continue to achieve?

Berkeley Haas application essays

Optional Information #2
This section should only be used to convey relevant information not addressed elsewhere in your application. This may include explanation of employment gaps, academic aberrations, supplemental coursework, etc. You are encouraged to use bullet points where appropriate.

By the way, there is a specific place to indicate that you won’t have a recommendation from your current supervisor in the supplemental information section. Therefore, you do not need to explain that here in the optional essay.

Haas recommends using this space to address any information you could not adequately cover elsewhere. Specifically, any employment gaps or academic issues.

Otherwise, you can use one or two examples to demonstrate that you have an analytical mind. Use examples to show you take a quantitative approach to problem-solving and evaluating data. Alternatively, explain any supplemental coursework to improve your quantitative profile.

Any unexplained gap of several months between two jobs needs addressing. Therefore, if your resume has significant employment gaps, you should describe what you did between jobs. For instance, you can point to additional education, training, volunteering, or traveling during this gap.

In addition, reapplicants can describe hard improvements to your candidacy. For example, these could be an improved GMAT score, new grades from quantitative classes, or a promotion. Also, other improvements might include refined career goals and additional leadership opportunities.


Stacy Blackman Consulting has successfully coached applicants to the Haas MBA each admissions year. Now that you’ve seen these tips for the Berkeley Haas application essays, contact us to learn more about how we can help you set a winning application strategy.

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