University of California at Berkeley: Haas MBA 2019-2020 Essay Tips
Berkeley Haas has opened up its MBA application for the class of 2022 with some significant changes to the essay section. Both of the required essay questions have been replaced, reflecting a more personal and direct approach from the Haas admissions team. These revisions highlight, more than ever, the need to go into the application process well prepared with a solid understanding of Berkeley’s offering, culture and community.
Moreover, if you’re looking to apply to the Berkeley MBA, be sure to keep careful track of the deadlines.
What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why? (300 words maximum)
The first hurdle to get over in this essay is understanding what Berkeley means by using the word ‘alive.’ Activities that make us feel alive are usually ones that we are truly passionate about. What do you most look forward to participating in? What gives you a strong sense of being part of a community? What creates a positive sense of excitement in you? What drives you to push yourself?
It might be useful to create a list of activities based on the sort of strong emotions they elicit in you. For each entry, think about the emotions it excites in you, the impact it may have on others, and how you’ve developed alongside it or from it. You may be tempted to jump immediately into some aspect of your professional life, however you should consider such an option carefully. Haas is not looking for additional stories about your successes or work ethic. The admissions team wants to better understand your character and driving principles through this question. However, if you’re truly passionate about a particular aspect of your job—for instance, it affords you the opportunity to volunteer your time mentoring underprivileged youth—, then it may very well be the best point to elaborate on here.
Whatever you decide to write about, it’s important to make the topic come alive. With 300 words, that’s a tall order but one you’ll need to fill if you’re aiming to impress the Haas team. Approaching this question narratively could help you bring the reader into your activity and help her develop an understanding of the value and intensity of this activity. Once you’re done answering the question of what, it’s important to attack the question of why. There are various methods you could employ, but it might help to approach this section from the idea of impact. What sort of impact do you believe your activity has had on you and others involved in it? How does that impact connect to the experience of feeling alive?
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)
At Haas, progress through leadership is an incredibly important and deeply ingrained principle. There are many ways in which you may begin to answer this question, but an honest approach might be best. Acknowledging your profile’s strengths and weaknesses relative to leadership is a good start. When necessary, be frank about your limitations. Berkeley understands that at this point in the career, you haven’t reached the apex of management.
This essay can also benefit from mentions of your future goals. What leadership position do you see yourself taking in the mid to long-term? What would be required of you to make an impact in that role? If you decide to mention your future projects, keep in mind, that it’s best not to exaggerate, otherwise Berkeley may be led to believe that your plans are too pie in the sky.
Once you have clearly explained what your needs are, now and in the future, relative to leadership, you’ll need to connect them to concrete parts of the Berkeley Haas MBA program.A lack of specificity here is something that you should absolutely avoid. You’ll need to dig into the program offering, the courses, professors, events, associations, etc. Getting in touch with the Haas through events and visits, as well as its alumni, is often an invaluable resource for this essay.
Optional Information #1 - 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:
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)?
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 is a strong believer that diversity and/or adversity can create stronger profiles. While the first series of questions asked here only establishes a preliminary glimpse into your history, the final question asks you to either develop one of the previous answers, or to talk about something trying or unique in your life.
As you explore potential examples, you don’t need to worry about trying to overly justify their weight. Haas does not expect every candidate to have suffered through an objectively life changing event. What they want to understand is what you believe has subjectively shaped your life.
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.
You should only use this essay to explain away any problems in your profile. That means that you should certainly avoid trying to wrench in another standard essay into this section. However, if you do have some issues with your candidacy, do not miss this opportunity to tell Haas what went wrong.
When explaining away an issue, there are essentially two approaches: context and correction. If you had a particular problem—for instance, you had poor grades in the third year of your university studies—you may choose to focus on a content answer: perhaps you were taking care of a sick relative during that year. However, a better explanation might go beyond describing the context of an issue by exposing how you permanently corrected it. As a continuation of the previous example, you could mention that your grades substantially improved and continued to stay exceptionally high in all your future academic endeavors. Try to convince the Haas admissions committee, if possible, that the issue firmly rests in the past.
For those seeking to build a powerful Berkeley Haas MBA application, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to be connected with a Haas admissions expert today.