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UC-Berkeley (Haas) Essay Analysis, 2010–2011

Candidates often struggle with the demands of the Haas application. Our advice to you? Do not just start writing. Instead, brainstorm extensively and map out your strategy for each essay and for your entire application as a whole, 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 essay is your opportunity to grab your reader’s attention and interest, so think very carefully about how you want to introduce yourself. Most likely, you will want to reveal a side of you that is separate/different from your professional life and can serve as a metaphor for a broader theme. For example (albeit a clichéd one), mountain climbing can be a metaphor for facing challenges. Once you have determined what it is that you are indeed most passionate about, you should take some time to consider the manifestation of that passion. Simply stating that you are passionate about something will not be sufficient; you need to demonstrate evidence of this passion and truly illustrate how it plays a role in your life. Consider the following examples:

Example 1 (Bad): I love cooking and cook frequently for friends and family, often experimenting with new ingredients.

Example 2 (Good): After intensely searching throughout Chinatown for three hours, I finally found fresh Daikon and could not wait to get home to add it to my soup and be able to taste my newest recipe for the first time.

Although 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 actions need to truly convey and reveal your passion. The reader cannot finish this essay and simply conclude, “nice hobby,” but must get a sense that you are in a comparatively inordinate pursuit and are thus quite purposeful.

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 be sure to maintain a balance and represent as many dimensions of your candidacy as possible as you respond to these short-answer questions. In other words, whichever aspect of your profile you choose to highlight here, it should be one that is not represented elsewhere in your application. This means that you will have to exercise judgment. 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 him/her to draw a clear conclusion about your capabilities. Even with just 250 words, you can sufficiently recount a story that accomplishes this goal.

3. At Haas, our distinctive culture is defined by four key principles—question the status quo; confidence without attitude; students always; and beyond yourself. Give an example of when you have demonstrated one of these principles. (250 words maximum, Review Berkeley-Haas’ Defining Principles)

This question offers you incredible flexibility and is essentially an open opportunity for you to share a strong story from your past. However, take care to not get distracted. Remember that the experience you discuss must relate directly to one of the four key principles, though we strongly suggest avoiding an introductory sentence like, “The key principle that I displayed in X circumstance was ‘confidence without attitude.’” Instead, you should launch right into your story and let your actions reveal themselves—and their connection to one of the tenets of Haas’s culture. In 250 words, you can still write a clear narrative with a distinct beginning, middle and end that shows the admissions committee your strengths, rather than simply stating that you possess certain characteristics.

4. There are many ways to learn about our program; what steps have you taken to learn about the Berkeley MBA? (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.), rather than its “beauty” (rankings). You need to explain your connection with/interest in the program and show that you have engaged in a thorough process of discovery and self-evaluation that has lead you to the conclusion that Haas is the right school for you. The more personal and detailed you are, the more compelling your answer will be.

A good way to test whether your sincerity is evident in your essay is by deleting any reference to Haas and inserting the name of another school in its place. If your essay still makes sense with another school’s name inserted, it is too generic and does not include enough Haas-specific detail. If, on the other hand, your essay becomes nonsensical because you have another school’s name relating to Haas-specific resources, then you have successfully done your job (and should take care to reinsert Haas before submitting!).

Required Essays:

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

You might feel relieved to encounter a 500-word maximum at this point, though by now, your depth of experience might be challenged; some candidates have difficulty offering a strong answer to this question, because they have already discussed their most significant accomplishment in their essay for short-answer question two. You should therefore reserve a more complicated experience for this essay, one in which your actions were methodical and thus may require slightly more explanation. Whereas short-answer question two demands an impressive “blast” of experience, in this essay, the admissions committee is more interested in understanding your leadership style and process orientation. The results of your selected leadership experience are quite important, but the characteristics that you display on the path to these results are equally significant.

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? (1,000 word maximum)

Because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge, via our online store. Please feel free to download your copy today.

For a thorough exploration of Berkeley-Haas’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Haas School of Business.




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