Tuesday Tips: UC Berkeley Haas Application Essays, Tips for 2024-2025

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.

According to one of the former Haas admissions officers on the SBC team, “Haas is really focused on its experiential learning and its four Defining Leadership Principles. Candidates need to know the principles (almost with the ability to recite them by heart) and talk about why at least one of the principles resonates with the candidate.”

The new video essay specifically asks about the principles, and you should also consider them as you answer the other essays in this set. Likewise, keep these principles in mind when you interview with Haas and interact with students and faculty.

Curious about your chances of getting into a top B-school? Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant. 

Haas MBA essays

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, 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.

Required Essay #2: What are your short-term and long-term career goals, and how will an MBA from Haas help you achieve those goals? Short-term career goals should be achievable within 3-5 years post-MBA, whereas long-term goals may span a decade or more and encompass broader professional aspirations. (300 words maximum)

This is a traditional essay asking about your career goals and how an MBA from Haas will get you from here to there. While this question does not ask specifically “why Haas?” think about the attributes of the program that will enhance your career goals.

According to SBC’s Haas experts, “Haas can get a lot of entrepreneurs, engineers, and people with really untraditional paths because they think Haas is an untraditional program. Folks who want to transition to a start-up or do their own venture really need to have a clear idea why Haas and why now. Their path needs to be very specific and why their career trajectory is either right for a transition or continuing down the same path, but taking a breath for the MBA.”

This advice is great for any candidate. Be specific about your path and very clear about why an MBA is necessary. Some reasons might include the coursework, the network you will build, and the practical experiences you will have.

Make sure you have researched Haas thoroughly and know what is available through the program and how you will take advantage of it. In addition to online resources, you can reach out to your personal and professional network. Talking to current and former students is always useful!

Note that Haas asks for both short-term and long-term career goals, and specifies what is meant by both. When you consider your career trajectory make sure you identify the timing of your career moves.

For example, if your long-term goal is to be a CEO, your short-term goal will be a role in the industry you are targeting that may focus on strategy or operations to prepare you to run a company as a general manager in the long term. Always think about your long-term goal as a combination of past experience, your MBA, and your short-term goals.

Berkeley Sunset photo by Joe Parks

Required Essay #3: One of our goals at Berkeley Haas is to develop leaders who value diversity and to create an inclusive environment in which people from different ethnicities, genders, lived experiences, and national origins feel welcomed and supported.

Describe any experience or exposure you have in the area of diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging whether through community organizations, personal, or in the workplace?

Candidates seeking consideration for mission-aligned fellowships may use this space to reflect on their commitment to the mission of those fellowships. (300 words max)

Diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging are important aspects of business culture and MBA admissions. Aside from formal programs that many companies sponsor, being an inclusive leader is crucial for business results.

Whether you are personally experienced in being part of an underrepresented community or not, you can be a champion for belonging. This essay is best answered with a short example or two that you can pull from any aspect of your life. There is a wide scope of experiences you can draw upon for this essay, including personal stories.

Think about when you have participated or led formal efforts to drive diversity or when you have supported justice at school, work, or in your community. For more resources to answer this question, don’t miss this blog post on how to address diversity essays and sample essays.

Check out B-Schooled Podcast #116: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and the MBA

Video Essay: The Berkeley MBA program develops leaders who embody our four Defining Leadership Principles. Briefly introduce yourself to the admissions committee, explain which Defining Leadership Principle resonates most with you, and tell us how you have exemplified the principle in your personal or professional life.

Please review the Defining Leadership Principles in advance and take time to prepare your answer before recording. You will be able to test your audio-visual connection before recording. Video essays should last 1-2 minutes and may not exceed 2 minutes.

Begin preparation for this video by researching how Haas views leadership by reviewing its set of principles. The fundamental principles are: Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. 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.

Then, think about an example you can share in this video that illustrates the leadership principle. If you are focused on developing others, think about a story when you managed a team or project. Or even a mentoring experience either at work or through your network.

Once you have figured out what you will say in the video, rehearse a few times before recording. Make sure you are still coming across as conversational and expressing your personality. The reason to use a video instead of a written essay is to understand a bit more about your personality, style, and expression. finally, make sure to show enthusiasm for leadership and your future at Haas.

Did you know SBC offers video essay and video interview prep services? Leverage our video platform for unlimited practice, self-assessment, and a professional review with written feedback. This platform is identical to the one used by several schools for video essays.

Haas MBA essays

Optional Essays

The admissions team takes a holistic approach to application review and seeks to understand all aspects of a candidate’s character, qualifications, and experiences. We will consider achievements in the context of the opportunities available to a candidate. Some applicants may have faced hardships or unusual life circumstances, and we will consider the maturity, perseverance, and thoughtfulness with which they have responded to and/or overcome them.

Optional Information #1
We invite you to help us better understand the context of your opportunities and achievements.

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.

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, a period of unemployment in your family 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 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 they won’t have a recommendation from their 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 their 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.

Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.

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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