Tuesday Tips: Berkeley Haas Fall 2016 MBA Essay Tips

Haas schoolThe set of essays for admission to UC Berkeley Haas School of Business covers a variety of topics – from the creative to the personal to the professional. In approaching these questions and deciding between topics it will be important to remain focused on what you want to communicate to the admissions committee.

A clear understanding of your application strategy, particularly your career goals and strengths/weaknesses, is the key to putting together a cohesive application. While challenging, this is also an opportunity to demonstrate several different aspects of your personality to the admissions committee.

Stacy Blackman Consulting has successfully coached applicants to the Haas MBA program for over a decade, contact us to learn more about how we can help you set a winning application strategy.

Essay One: If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 word maximum)

This is a creative and open-ended question. Take the opportunity to infuse personality into your answer and think about your favorite music and what song most represents you. Perhaps it’s a song that you grew up listening to with your family, and it reminds you where you came from. Maybe it’s a song that helps you feel optimistic about your future. Music often evokes emotion, and the essay should capture that feeling and describe why it is meaningful to you.

Essay Two: Please respond to one of the following prompts: (250 word maximum)

Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you.

If you decide to answer this question think about the moments that have truly changed you. One way to approach this is to think through transitions. Perhaps the transition from high school to college was meaningful for you.

Traveling for the first time outside your home country may have been another transition. Transitioning from University to the work place could have exposed you to new people and a new lifestyle. If none of those transitions lead to a topic for this essay you can delve into the smaller incidents in your life. A friendship, family experience or trip could have opened your eyes to something new and changed your approach.

Once you have selected a topic for this essay you will need to explain how you were transformed. What was your attitude like before the experience and what are you like now? Was the transformation internal or did you change how you approached other people? It’s likely you learned something from this transformation and explaining your lessons learned is always a strong finish to an MBA essay.

Describe a significant accomplishment and why it makes you proud.

This essay can focus on either a personal or professional accomplishment. The most important part of any accomplishment essay is describing why this specific accomplishment has resonated with you. What did you do and how did you do it? Were you proud of the outcome or the process? Did you demonstrate leadership or integrity in a way that was important to yourself or others? Ask yourself what truly matters to you and the accomplishment that showcases your values.

Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging.

Difficult decisions are often a moment to reflect again upon your values. What were the stakes of your decision and why did you struggle to make a clear choice? Perhaps you were choosing between priorities in your life, family or work, where to study for university or what career path to pursue. No matter what the decision was it will be important to talk a bit about your process for making it. Why did you choose one option over another and what did you learn about yourself?

Essay Three: Tell us about your path to business school and your future plans. How will the Berkeley-Haas experience help you along this journey? (500 word maximum)

This is a short career goals essay and asks you to describe your path to business school along with your future goals. As you describe your path you don’t need to recite your resume here – rather highlight the key experiences that will be relevant in your future career. Think about the cover letter you would write to obtain your desired position at this company and tailor your approach accordingly.
Describe your future goals in a succinct manner, considering what aspects of your background to explain in the “path” section that will support your goals development.

Be specific about why the Haas School of Business is the right program to pursue your goals as well. As you consider past experiences and your future goals you will be able to see what you want to gain from the Haas experience to fill any gaps. If you have an advertising background and want to become a brand manager you’ll likely need classes in operations and finance to understand the analytical side of brand management.

Other goals will require specific skills gained from an MBA and your own unique background will inform how you take advantage of the Haas experience. Make sure you have determined exactly what courses make sense for your career goals and the programs and clubs that you will participate in to reach your personal and professional goals. Thorough school research will be invaluable in approaching this question.

Optional: Is there any other information you would like to share that is not presented elsewhere in the application? You may also use this essay to provide further explanation of employment gaps or your quantitative abilities. (500 word maximum)

Haas recommends using this space to address any information that was not adequately covered elsewhere, specifically suggesting that any employment gaps or lack of apparent quantitative skills be covered.

A short gap between school and a secured job is not necessary to explain, but something like 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.

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. As the question specifically asks you not to focus on the grades on your transcript, use this space to describe projects at work, additional post-graduate coursework, or your plans to strengthen your quant skills before you enroll at Haas.

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