Tuesday Tips: Berkeley Haas Application Essays, Tips for 2022-2023

Berkeley Haas application essays

The 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. These tips for the Berkeley Haas application essays will help you create that positive impression.

To help you craft your essays, the Berkeley Haas admissions committee has a series of videos and tips posted on the website that can help you prepare. Are you 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)

The Haas MBA admissions team has asked creative and open-ended questions for many years. Essay one exemplifies that style. As a first step, think about activities you find completely fascinating—for example, hobbies, sports, or artistic pursuits. Or, maybe there’s an activity at work that absorbs you. Above all, it should reveal something personal and go deeper than your resume.

After you have identified a meaningful activity, then you need to describe why. The “why” is more important than the “what” because it reveals who you are. For example, maybe you enjoy research projects. You like to solve problems at work and have the freedom to pursue the question wherever it takes you.

In that case, consider whether 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 the “why” will help you with all of your essays.

Berkeley Sunset photo by Joe Parks

Required Essay #2: What kind of leader do you aspire to be and why? (300 words max)

This essay has evolved to be more future-looking than in prior years. Begin researching how Haas views leadership by reviewing its 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.

Next, think about your personal definition of leadership. If you had to define your leadership principles, what would they look like? For example, perhaps helping is a core part of your identity. And, for you, leadership means driving the development of your team. Therefore, you aspire to be a leader who develops others.

Finally, consider how Haas will help you develop your leadership skills. During these covid times, you may need to research virtually, or you might have the option to visit the campus. Check the Haas website for the latest on in-person events. In either case, you can learn about specific classes, professors, clubs, and activities through blogs and class listings. In addition, consider networking with former and current students to discuss personal takes.

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)

Haas MBA essays
Haas twilight photo by Wayne Hsieh

Berkeley Haas seeks diversity across many dimensions

Berkeley Haas is committed to understanding applicants completely. Therefore, this question provides a chance to go deeper into your family background and your life circumstances. In addition, the admissions committee can understand your accomplishments in context.

Question 6, provides 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. Therefore that information shows how you handle challenges at home.

Finally, 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. As a result, 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 an explanation of employment gaps, academic aberrations, supplemental coursework, etc. You are encouraged to use bullet points where appropriate.

Applicants should note 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, re-applicants 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 for the Haas MBA each admissions year. Now that you’ve seen these tips for the Berkeley Haas application essays, please contact us to learn more about how we can help you set a winning application strategy.

Haas at Twilight image by Flickr user Wayne Hsieh (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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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