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University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business MBA Essay Topic Analysis

University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business (Haas) MBA Essay Topic Analysis

The following essay topic analysis examines the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business MBA admissions essays for the 2019-2020 admissions season. You can also review essay topic analyses for other leading MBA programs as well as general Essay Tips to further aid you in developing your admissions essays.

Berkeley / Haas MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2019-2020

Short Answer

Briefly describe your immediate post-MBA career goal, and discuss how it will put you on a path to a meaningful and rewarding career. (150 words maximum)
Haas has moved this from the essay section to the work experience section within the application, as well as cut the word limit in half.  Still, it 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 Preamble

Within the application, Berkeley Haas has the following above the essays:

Essays help us learn about who you are as a person and how you will fit with our community. We seek candidates from a broad range of industries, backgrounds, and cultures. Our distinctive culture is defined by four key principles – Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. We encourage you to reflect on your experiences, values, and passions so that you may craft thoughtful and authentic responses that demonstrate your fit with our program – culturally, academically, and professionally.

Essay 1

What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why? (300 words maximum)
While an adrenaline-fueled answer like skydiving or race car driving may come to mind first, this response should be kept in the context of business school admissions.  Essentially, the Haas adcom is asking what you are most passionate about and, ideally, you would ultimately connect to one of their defining principles.  Though there are myriad potential topics to discuss here, applicants should consider the balance of subjects they cover across their \essays and choose a topic that provides new insight into their overall candidacy. For example, if the majority of content in the next essay is focused on your professional life and accomplishments, this would be an opportunity to showcase and highlight your extracurricular passions or interests.

As you approach this topic, be sure to think broadly about themes in your background and the forces behind your decisions and involvements.  This should allow you to arrive at a topic that is true to your passions and enables you to show the reader a side of yourself not covered in your other essays while tying your goals and/or previous experiences together to some extent.

Essay 2

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)
The heart of this essay is to show Haas that you have the ability to lead others, as well as insight into your own leadership abilities and the motivation to improve these skills.  This question calls for a careful balance between the individual and external, and can be seen as a “why MBA” question with the nuanced focus on diversity and inclusivity.

Defining your leadership skills and then accounting for how you have demonstrated them with specific examples could make for a strong opening here. Ideally, the examples would include overcoming barriers as well as accounting for positive impact, in line with the prompt. Then, you may touch on where you feel you have room for improvement before dedicating more space to how a Haas MBA would enable you to address these areas. Applicants will need to demonstrate knowledge of the Haas MBA program, as well as thoughtfulness about how their potential leadership roles and community contributions align with Berkeley’s values. Speaking with students and alumni, visiting the campus or attending information sessions, will all prove helpful on this front.

Essay 3 (Optional)

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)
  1. What is the most recent occupation of your parent(s) or guardian(s)?
  • Unemployed
  • Homemaker
  • Laborer
  • Skilled worker
  • Professional
  1. 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
  1. What was the primary language spoken in your childhood home?
  2. If you have you ever been responsible for providing significant and continuing financial or supervisory support for someone else, please indicate.
  • Child
  • Spouse
  • Sibling
  • Parent
  • Extended family member (grandparent, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, cousin)
  • Other
  1. 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 is trying to get a better understanding of the context from which a candidate has evolved, both professionally, and personally.  Moreover, these questions invite 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 molehill 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:

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