Tuesday Tips: Berkeley Haas Fall 2019 MBA Essay Tips

Haas essay tips

Haas School of Business at University of California Berkeley is both highly selective and a small class. With a much larger admissions pool than the school can admit, it’s important to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate fit with the culture and program. This year Berkeley has reduced the number of required essays but added a new optional question that delves into your background more deeply.

Stacy Blackman Consulting has successfully coached applicants to the Haas MBA each admissions year. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you set a winning application strategy.

Essay #1: Tell us a six-word story that reflects a memorable experience in your life-to-date. Elaborate on why it is meaningful to you. (300 words maximum)

The Haas admissions committee has their own six word stories in each profile, check them out for great examples.

Think of your six-word story as a compelling headline for the memorable experience you will describe. Just as journalists write the headline after the story, it will be easier to start with the elaboration and then encapsulate it in a pithy and captivating six-word story.

Haas has asked creative and open-ended questions for many years, and this is another version of that kind of essay. Brainstorm the most compelling story you can, preferably one that shows your diversity of experience. Ideally your experience also reveals something about you.

For example, we worked with a client who had a dramatic story about surviving a plane crash. The first time we read the draft it was a highly exciting story, but it lacked any description of his actions and what it meant to him. We worked on the meaning of the story and ended up with both a compelling and memorable narrative, and a story about leading through uncertainty, as he worked to help his fellow passengers through language barriers and lack of medical training.

Once you have written your own story, think about that six-word headline. You should reveal some of the plot while leaving enough to the imagination to grab your readers interest.

Briefly describe your immediate post-MBA career goal, and discuss how it will put you on a path to a meaningful and rewarding career. (300 words maximum)

This is a short career goals essay and asks you to describe your immediate goals succinctly and then how your immediate post-MBA career choice will impact your long term career goals. This essay requires you to think clearly about how you will move from Point A (immediate post-MBA job) to Point B. It will demonstrate that you can plan for an uncertain future, and set clear and achievable goals for yourself.

One of the best ways to determine how you will fulfill your desired path is to talk to professionals who have the career you want. If you want to be an entrepreneur, read profiles of successful people who have started their own businesses and ask anyone you know personally how they achieved their own business.

You will likely find that while paths to the long term goal may differ, most people have formative early career experiences that led to the their long term career.

This essay also frames your long term career as something that will be meaningful and rewarding to you. Haas values people who have a passion for their pursuits. What drives you to pursue your long term career? What is meaningful to you about the choice? Perhaps you will be able to impact the lives of others, lead change, or drive innovation. Whatever motivates you is important to explore and describe to the admissions committee.

Optional Information #1: 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)?

• Unemployed
• Homemaker
• Laborer
• Skilled worker
• Professional

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.

• Child
• Spouse
• Sibling
• Parent
• Extended family member (grandparent, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, cousin)
• Other

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 is committed to understanding applicants and putting together a diverse class. By seeking deeper background into your family and your life circumstances your accomplishments can be contextualized. Questions 1-5 are self-explanatory and should be answered honestly.

For Question 6 you have the choice to either elaborate on your life circumstances as described in Questions 1-5, or to discuss a new piece of information about hardships or life circumstances that may help the admissions committee understand your background more completely.

For example, perhaps you are from a highly educated family and your parents are professionals, but you moved to another country for college or a job and were expected to achieve while speaking a second language and trying to acclimate to a new culture. Or maybe your parents are fully employed now, but there was a period of unemployment in your family that led you to learn how to thrive in a different way than you had expected.

It’s possible you were not expected to care for a family member, but that a family illness impacted your life. 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 and impact those around you?

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.

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

Haas recommends using this space to address any information that was not adequately covered elsewhere, specifically suggesting that any employment gaps or academic issues should be covered here.

If you have a strong quantitative background like an engineering or hard sciences degree, or you work in a quantitative field like finance, it is likely unnecessary to further explain your quantitative skills.

Otherwise, you may want to take one or two examples to demonstrate that you have an analytical mind and can take a quantitative approach to problem solving and evaluating data. If you have taken any supplemental coursework to improve your quantitative profile, this is the place to describe and explain that coursework.

A short gap between school and a secured job is not necessary to explain, but an unexplained gap of several months between two jobs should be addressed. If your resume has significant employment gaps you should describe what you did between jobs in this space. Ideally you can point to additional education, training, volunteering or traveling that you engaged in while unemployed.

Reapplicants can describe hard improvements to your candidacy such as an improved GMAT score, new grades from quantitative classes, or a promotion. Other improvements might include refined career goals and additional leadership responsibilities at work or within a volunteer activity.

One final note: The Haas admissions committee has a series of videos and tips posted on the website that are worth reviewing for their key insights.

With deadlines around the corner, you may be interested in the world-famous SBC Flight Test. Once a full set of application materials for your initial school have been drafted, but not finalized, the application will be sent to a former admissions committee member for a one-time review, adcomm style. You’ll have the benefit of a true admissions committee review while still having the ability to tinker and change.  You will receive written feedback within two business days after submitting.

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