UC-Berkeley (Haas) Essay Analysis, 2009–2010

Candidates often struggle with the demands of the Haas application. Our advice to you? Don’t just start writing. You should instead brainstorm extensively and map out your strategy, so that you avoid redundancies and give a complete picture of who you are as candidate.

Short Answer:
1. What are you most passionate about? Why? (250 word maximum)

This question really challenges candidates to think about and be philosophical about themselves. Once you have determined what you are indeed most passionate about, you should stop to consider the manifestation of that passion. You need to show how you are passionate and not just explain that you are passionate.

Example 1 (Bad): I love cooking and cook frequently for friends and family, often experimenting with new ingredients.
Example 2 (Good): After three hours of wandering through Chinatown, I finally found fresh Daikon and ran home to add this final ingredient to my soup.

While cooking may not be the most ideal/serious passion (unless it becomes a metaphor for a broader theme of spontaneity, creativity etc.) our point is that your passion needs to come through via your actions.

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 the reader a brief story. 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 a time when you created positive change in a group or an organization. (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 need not be earth-shattering, but can simply be the story of you thinking differently or making a unique choice. 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!).
We strongly suggest that you read our interview with Peter Johnson, Admissions Director at Haas before answering this question and long essay two, below.

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 post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How do your professional experiences relate to these goals? How will an MBA from Berkeley help you achieve these specific career goals? (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 Personal Statements are similar from one 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.

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