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University of California, Berkeley (Haas) Essay Analysis

Note: The following essay questions pertain to the previous academic year. This section will be updated when the new question are released in early to mid-July of 2008. 

Haas leaves its essays relatively untouched this year – maintaining its demanding four short essay/two long essay format. The only change is a new short essay question, which, like its predecessor, tests the writer’s creativity. Other than that, the application remains the same, challenging the writer to consistently offer new experiences in order to hold the attention of the Admissions Committee.

Short Answers: 

1. If you could have dinner with one individual in the past, present, or future, who would it be and why? (250 word maximum)

In this essay, it is vital that you remember that this is not about the individual that you select, but is fundamentally about you — the Admissions Committee will get a sense of who you are through your choice. Thus, you will need to carefully consider this individual, explore your connection with this person and clearly understand the impact that this hypothetical encounter would have on each or both of you.

Some questions that you might consider asking yourself:

What will you learn from this person?
How will your experience benefit you and others?
(In some cases) What might you persuade this individual to do and why?

A word of caution: this is not an opportunity to fawn over a successful business person or celebrity. This is an opportunity for you to show that you are a creative and intellectual individual, interested in your own growth and others’.

2. Tell us about your most significant accomplishment. (250 word maximum)

Your most significant accomplishment can be from any sphere –professional, community, academic, personal– but you should try to maintain a balance and represent as many dimensions of your candidacy as possible through these short answers – meaning that you will have to exercise judgment. Even in 250 words, you can tell a brief story or state your accomplishment and explain why you view it as such. The key to this essay is to choose an experience that is simple but powerful – one that speaks for itself and draws the reader in, allowing the reader to come to a clear conclusion about your capabilities.

3. At Haas, we value innovation and creativity. Describe an innovative solution you have created to address a specific challenge. (250 word maximum)

If you have not yet offered a professional experience at this point, now is the time – for the sake of balance. Your example of innovation or creativity need not be earth-shattering, but can simply be the story of you thinking differently or making a unique choice. In this essay, you will notice the word “demonstrated”; the committee wants to learn about you through your experiences. You need to be telling a story, not stating facts. When telling a story, even in 250 words, you still need to provide a discernible beginning, middle and end, which in this case probably will be your discovery of the idea, actions you took to implement and clear results brought forth by your actions.

4. What steps have you taken to learn about the Berkeley MBA program, and what factors have influenced your decision to apply? (250 word maximum)

Quite simply, Haas wants to know that you are applying for the right reasons – for the program’s brains (academics, environment, etc.), not its beauty (rankings). You need to explain your connection with the program and show that you have engaged in a process of discovery and self-evaluation in coming to the conclusion that Haas is for you. The more personal and detailed you are in your approach, the more compelling your answer will be.

A good test of your sincerity is deleting any reference to Haas and inserting the name of another school. If your essay still makes sense with another school’s name inserted, the odds are that your response is too generic. If it your statement becomes nonsensical because you have another school’s name relating to Haas-specific resources, you have done your job (and should reinsert Haas!).

Required Essays:

1. Give us an example of a situation in which you displayed leadership. (500 word maximum)

You might feel relieved to find a 500 word maximum at this point. However, by now, your depth of experience might be challenged; some find it difficult to offer a strong answer to this question, after discussing their most significant accomplishment in short answer two. Clearly, you should reserve a story that is more complicated for this essay and one in which your actions are methodical. Whereas the short essay demands an impressive “blast” of experience, in this essay the AdCom is more interested in understanding your leadership style and thus your process orientation. Your results are still quite important, but the characteristics that you display on the path to these results should be revealing.

2. What are your short-term and long-term career goals? How do your professional experiences relate to these goals? Why do you want an MBA from Berkeley at this point in your career? (1000 word maximum)

Haas inverts the traditional structure of this essay question, placing your goals before your career experience. You too can invert your answer or you can begin with your career context; it does not really matter, as long as you answer the question in full.

Because of significant overlap from one MBA application to the next, we have produced the “MBA Mission Personal Statement Guide.” We offer our guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store.  Please feel free to download your copy today.


July 20, 2007

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