The Haas School of Business at University of California Berkeley is a highly selective school with a small class to fill. Above all, it’s important to stand out from the crowd. Namely, showing fit with the culture and program of the Haas MBA class is key. Today, we’re sharing our tips for the Berkeley Haas application essays to help you create a positive impression through your application materials.
Berkeley Haas has changed the required essays a bit this season. In particular, they’re more leadership focused, yet still give you the space to be creative. School research will be important. 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.
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 of essay. First, brainstorm your favorite activities that are the most engaging to you.
Think about what you lose time pursuing, or find completely absorbing. A hobby, sport or an artistic pursuit could work here. Another idea is an activity at work that absorbs you or you find fascinating. Ideally, your activity reveals something personal about you. It should go beyond 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.” The “why” reveals something about your natural talents and skills.
For example, maybe you enjoy research projects. You like to solve problems at work, and to have the freedom to pursue the question wherever it takes you. Do you enjoy research because it allows you to be creative to solve problems? Delve into your own motivations and see what is really driving your talents. Being specific about why you do what you do will help you with all of your essays.
Required Essay #2
At Berkeley Haas, we are redefining leadership. We value different opinions and perspectives, recognizing that we always have more to learn about others’ lived experiences and histories. We encourage speaking up and listening, and courageously use our power to address barriers and drive change for positive impact.
Tell us how a Berkeley Haas MBA would enhance your leadership profile, incorporating specific examples. (300 words max)
This essay specifically asks for examples. The admissions committee knows that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. They want to see when you have shown leadership in the past. Specific examples also extend to showing what you know about Haas and demonstrating the specifics that will enhance your leadership profile.
Specifically, note that Haas defines leadership in a way that is both inclusive and bold. Think about the times in your work and life that show these qualities. When have you stood up for something you believe in? For example, have you ever used your voice to express an opinion where it was not necessarily safe or welcome? That is a demonstration of bravery.
In particular, Haas wants to see that you have stood up for others. Consider describing a time when you have listened to other voices on your team and changed your point of view, or included a diverse viewpoint.
Leadership profile directly relates to your long-term goals. As a result, it will be useful to describe those goals here. Haas values people who have a passion for their pursuits. What drives you to pursue your long-term career goals? How are your goals meaningful to you? Perhaps you will be able to impact the lives of others, lead change, or drive innovation. Your motivations are important to explore and describe to the admissions committee.
Finally, consider how Haas will help you enhance your leadership skills and style. Research specific classes, professors, clubs and activities that you think will help hone your skills and improve your career opportunities.
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. 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.
In 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. This new information can help the admissions committee understand your background more completely.
For example, you might come from a highly educated family and your parents are professionals, but you moved to another country for college or a job. You might have felt challenged 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. During that period you learned how to thrive in a different way than you had expected.
It’s possible that, while not personally expected to care for an ailing family member, nonetheless a family illness impacted your life. You might have changed course because of circumstances. 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?
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, so 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 suggesting that any employment gaps or academic issues should be covered here.
Of course, candidates with a strong quantitative background like an engineering or hard sciences degree, or with work background in a quantitative field like finance, don’t need to further explain quantitative skills.
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, 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. However, 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.
Finally, 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.
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.