July 27, 2021

Berkeley Haas MBA Essay Guidance (2021-2022)

Read below for more essay guidance from our President, Paul Bodine.

 “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. 

Below are the required essays, supplemental essays, and optional essays for the Fall 2021-2022 application cycle.” 

Required Essay #1 

What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why? (300 words maximum) 

Admitify Guidance: As a starting point take this prompt literally – what really makes you feel most alive. Think in terms of passions/hobbies but don’t feel you can’t go beyond the hobbies/interest domain. This is clearly a direct invitation to disclose what really thrills you, even more so than a prompt like What Matters Most to You and Why. So be candid – up to a point. I can imagine some honest responses to this prompt that while truthful would be a bit too candid. This essay is inviting not only self-disclosing content but, if it’s natural for you, a creative presentation, e.g., at least in the beginning some vivid scene-setting to capture you ‘feeling most alive’. At least 20-25% of the essay and potentially as much as 50% of it should not just focus on the what but the why. Why does this activity make you feel most alive – that is, what does this activity say about you and what you value? Ideally you could connect this passion/activity to some organized group activity (e.g., a club where people share this passion) that you have joined and maybe even led. If space permits you could close the essay with a sentence or two connecting this passion to a relevant activity/club at Haas. 

Required Essay #2 

The definition of successful leadership has evolved over the last decade and will continue to change. What do you need to develop to become a successful leader? (300 words max) 

 Admitify Guidance: As you think about this essay keep in mind that the leadership theme is likely an allusion to or invitation to reflect on Haas’s four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Student Always, Beyond Yourself. On one level Haas is asking you to show that you can objectively assess your own leadership skills now and assess what you’ll need them to be to achieve your goals. So be candid about leadership skills you do currently have and leadership skills you lack but will need in order to achieve your post-MBA goals (which briefly stated are relevant to this essay). Show Haas you can drill down a bit on what leadership can mean (the 4 principles above but also: managing teams, mentoring, inspiring, taking ownership/accountability, demonstrating ethics/integrity, hands-off vs. micro- or top-down management, etc.). Give them at least once sentence showing that you can be thoughtful about their statement that ‘successful leadership has evolved over the last decade’ (is 

this a political comment? Is this a reference to the changing challenges facing us versus 10 years ago, e.g., environment, COVID, political partisanship/social division? – show them you can get macro/historical in your answer. Maybe share a brief (<100 word) accomplishment showing the leadership skills you do currently have; perhaps your example might show the kind of leadership we need now (as opposed to the leadership we needed 10 years ago) – perhaps an example of your own COVID-related leadership or leadership related to overcoming social divisiveness? Then state your post-MBA goals and the specific leadership skills that goal will require (e.g., ability to lead large teams, ability to inspire/lead investors/customers/the public/vendors). Save a few sentences to talk about how specific Haas resources will help you become this kind of leader. 

Optional Essays 

“The admissions team takes a holistic approach to application review and seeks to understand all aspects of a candidate’s character, qualifications, and experiences. We will consider achievements in the context of the opportunities available to a candidate. Some applicants may have faced hardships or unusual life circumstances, and we will consider the maturity, perseverance, and thoughtfulness with which they have responded to and/or overcome them.” 

Optional Information #1 

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) 

2. What is the most recent occupation of your parent(s) or guardian(s)? 

  • Unemployed 
  • Homemaker 
  • Laborer 
  • Skilled worker 
  • Professional 

3. 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 

4. What was the primary language spoken in your childhood home? 

5. 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 

6. 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) 

Optional Information #2 

“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.” 

Admitify Guidance: Note that Haas is not saying you should only share ‘extenuating circumstance’ type information. Just make sure it adds value, is not found elsewhere in your application, and is stated concisely and is very direct about why it’s being shared. 

Supplemental Information 

  • If you have not provided a letter of recommendation from your current supervisor, please explain. If not applicable, enter N/A. 
  • List, in order of importance, significant community and professional organizations and extracurricular activities in which you have been involved during or after university studies. Include the following information for each using the format below: o Name of organization or activity
    • Nature of organization or activity
    • Size of organization
    • Dates of involvement
    • Offices held
    • Average number of hours spent per month
  • List full-time and part-time jobs held during undergraduate or graduate studies indicating the employer, job title, employment dates, location, and the number of hours worked per week for each position held prior to the completion of your degree.
  • If you have ever been subject to academic discipline, placed on probation, suspended, or required to withdraw from any college or university, please explain. If not, please enter N/A. (An affirmative response to this question does not automatically disqualify you from admission.) 

Contact us today for more advice and guidance from an expert Admitify coach!