The following essay topic analysis examines the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business MBA admissions essays for the 2018-2019 admissions season. You can also review essay topic analyses for all other the leading MBA programs as well as general Essay Tips to further aid you in developing your admissions essays.
Berkeley / Haas MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2018-2019
Tell us a six-word story that reflects a memorable experience in your life-to-date. Elaborate on why it is meaningful to you. (300 words maximum)
Appearing again on the MBA application, Haas asks applicants for essentially a “snapshot” of a memorable experience.
In the past, Haas has also offered the following tip: “A successful six-word story will pique the reader’s interest in the forthcoming explanation. Together, the story and explanation will share a specific and personal experience that helps the reader get to know you better, giving insight into your character, values, or how you would uniquely contribute to the Berkeley-Haas community. View sample six-word stories and video tips from the admissions committee.”
Given this info and the structure of the response—six words followed by a short explanation—we suggest taking the following approach.
- Choose the story. This ideally needs to be something interesting that will be memorable to the admissions team. In an ideal world, the story will fit with your overall positioning as an MBA applicant seeking to attend Haas, too. You may start by making a list of your top 10 most memorable experiences, then reflecting on what each reflects about your character or values. Consider what you want the adcom to know about you the most.
- Draft the 250 words to explain why this was an important experience. This will also need to provide context for the six words you come up with. This is the place to establish the who, what, when and where for the six-word statement. Then, you should dig into why the experience mattered to you.
- Craft the six-word story, which could be considered a “headline.” The words have to offer enough of a sketch to really pique the interest of the reader, but some ambiguity can be a good thing (after all, you want to push the adcom to read the 250 words). It would be worth reviewing the adcom’s personal samples, as some convey an overall lesson or attitude drawn from the memorable experience, while others draw on more concrete imagery. You may even wish to send just the six words to a friend or colleague and ask them for their reaction—do the six words capture the mood of your experience? Is the person intrigued or confused? This may help you gauge how to tweak the headline.
Briefly describe your immediate post-MBA career goal, and discuss how it will put you on a path to a meaningful and rewarding career. (300 words maximum)
This is a fairly standard career goals essay, requesting one’s post-MBA plans and how they will unfold to the long term. The nuances here stem from the sense of impact one intends, both externally and internally. When reflecting on the meaning and reward of your career, you may take the Berkeley Haas Defining Leadership Principles (Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself) into account.
But first, given the order of the prompt, applicants should open this essay by describing their plans upon graduating from Haas. Due to the short length, the response should be concise in covering the particular role and responsibilities you are interested in. Next, identify your long-term goal so that the adcom knows where you are heading from the start. Then, you can delve into material that bridges the two goals together. This content can touch on your past experience, establish why you need an MBA to progress and ultimately culminate in how you would combine your experiences (past and future) to have a meaningful impact. It would be wise to close your response by tying together the Haas principles with your plans, and end on a note of enthusiasm about the program.
Essay 3 (Optional)
We invite you to help us better understand the context of your opportunities and achievements.
- 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)
- What is the most recent occupation of your parent(s) or guardian(s)?
- Skilled worker
- 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
- What was the primary language spoken in your childhood home?
- 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)
- 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)
Overall, Haas wants to get a sense of your attitude and resilience through adversity. While the opening five questions establish potential jumping off points, you are free to delve into another personal experience that defines you. The key to this essay is to quickly establish context and then elaborate on how you handled the situation and grew because of it. An important thing to keep in mind is to avoid a “blame game” and simply establish the circumstances that influenced you. Most importantly, you’ll want to account for your actions (to show) and briefly comment on why the situation was difficult for you. After all, resilience entails a struggle with an outcome of success.
Given the highly personal nature of the opening five questions, candidates should reflect more on circumstances that have informed their character, as opposed to digging into a setback at work. You may be able to incorporate how the lessons you learned from hardships and unusual circumstances have informed your approach to your career, but professional setbacks should not be the main focus of this essay. Also keep in mind that this essay is optional—do not feel pressure to make a mountain out of a mole hill to deliver more content in your application. Take some time to reflect and tell the adcom how the circumstances from their queries or other situations influenced you.
Essay 4 (Optional)
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.
Applicants should exercise discretion when responding to this prompt, as providing an optional essay creates extra work for the admissions reader. This will be a good place to address extenuating circumstances that have influenced one’s academic or professional history, to address weaknesses in one’s application, or to explain an unusual choice of recommender. The wording of this question is open enough that applicants may also choose to discuss an element of their background that is not reflected in their other materials (including data forms and résumé), though they will need to demonstrate sound judgment in doing so – i.e. the nature of the content should be such that it makes a material difference to one’s application – and should summarize the information as concisely as possible.
Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Haas MBA essay topics. As you work on your Haas MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Haas School of Business offerings:
- Berkeley Haas School of Business Profile on the Clear Admit website: up-to-date advice and admissions information
- Clear Admit Haas School Snapshot: overview of key curricular details and application information
- Clear Admit Haas School Guide: in-depth program and campus information and side-by-side school comparisons; everything you need to know for a successful application!
- Clear Admit LiveWire: admissions updates submitted in real time by applicants to Haas
- Clear Admit DecisionWire: school selections in real-time by admits to Haas