Haas Mba 2012 Essays


Good luck if you’re interviewing for Round 2!


Like other schools, Berkeley has been seeing an increase in apps – up 12% recently, which was almost 500 more apps. Average GMAT is 717. The competition is turning up! Our Haas essay guide for 2017 can be a big assist if you’re thinking of applying!


2017 Haas Full-Time MBA Essay Questions – Class of 2020

The essay questions for the Berkeley-Haas full-time MBA app are:

  1. Tell us a six-word story that reflects a memorable experience in your life-to-date. Elaborate on why it is meaningful to you. (250 words)
    This is going to be HARD. You should not try Haas as your very first application! Get your essays to a school like Columbia under your belt first; you will struggle with this first question if you don’t have some essay development experience under your belt. This post discusses the six-word story, and this one on branding from way back in 2011 also may be useful.
  2. Choose one: (250 words)
    • Describe a significant obstacle you have encountered and how it has impacted you.
    • Describe how you have cultivated a diverse and inclusive culture.
    • Describe a leadership experience and how you made a positive and lasting impact.

    These are very very short, but they’re nicely focused and clearly worded, and you should not have trouble sharing something important with your reader — once you cut through your own fluff! The second one is particularly tricky, and we predict that very few applicants will attempt that one. Want to stand out? Try for option 2 (if you can pull it off with a story of substance that truly answers the question!). The adcom will be impressed by BSers who do that well.

  3. Answer both:
    1. Briefly describe your immediate post-MBA career goals (50 words maximum) 50 words? Dang.
    2. How have prior experiences motivated and prepared you to pursue these goals? (250 words maximum) Not much space here either. 🙁


We’re not crazy AT ALL about these changes. Sorry, Haas, these are not Haasome; actually, you’re making it ha-ha-ha-HARD on your applicants. Sorry but 50 words is just not enough to present a robust career goal. It’s enough to state the very essence of it, which apparently is the point, but then all they get is 250 words to provide foundation for it? We get it, that part is super important, but there’s JUST NOT ENOUGH ROOM!!! When other schools have squeezed essays this small – Duke, Wharton did so in the past, and they expanded them again the year after. Haas, we encourage you to be more generous! You always were before!!!!

For question 1, start here.

The whole “authenticity” thing is paramount on question 2 also.

EssaySnark’s Career Goals App Accelerator will help you define the essence of what you need to cover. Career goals has always been one of the most important parts of the Haas application, though certainly not the only one. Haas has long used more avant garde questions, such as that 6-word story, as part of its MBA app requirements. All told, this is an opportunity for you to show who you are — though you only have 800 words total to do it! Aaaaargh!

Be sure to study the tips that the adcom has offered on their instructions page.

And while career goals are indeed important, it’s also wise to start your research process by diving in to their Defining Principles – understanding those is critical!

Each of those three Essay 2 options is asking you to share a difficult situation that you overcame – and each is also an opportunity to highlight a success. There’s definitely a chance to show how you’ve worked with others in a productive way. Stories can be personal or professional, though generally speaking, we suggest that Essay 2 lean in the professional direction, depending on what else you’re able to cover in the other essays. You need a balance.

You will certainly want to get our 2017 Haas application guide. Pro Tip: Be careful about buying used hardcopy versions on the Internet; they are ALL outdated. We have not published to hardcopy in many years. The only current versions of school-specific guides are available right here on essaysnark.com.

You can see the archive of essay questions down below for insights (and criticisms) that we offered in previous years, some of which are still relevant today. You can also see our Haas essay reviews for a discussion of BSers attempts to answer past years’ incarnations of these questions.

The class size is increasing at Berkeley, to the 300 level, which is a dramatic change from where they have traditionally held it (they’d been around 240 students for a long time). Given how much app volumes have been up, this is a good thing!


In light of these new questions, the Berkeley Haas Application Guide has been totally revised for 2017 — this is your absolute best resource available for figuring out what to say in your stories for these essays and where to give your “Why Haas?” pitch.


2017 Recommendations

Berkeley is again using sort of quasi standardized recommender questions with one very different question.

They ask the four questions that certain schools including Stanford are asking, plus one more – and that last one is really tricky since it’s so specific to Haas. You definitely should consider picking up our Recommender’s Instruction Sets if you’re applying here.


Berkeley-Haas 2017 Dates and Deadlines

Haas Full-Time MBA Application Deadlines

  • Round 1: This year, the Round 1 deadline has been moved up a week, so it’s now in the same vicinity as schools like MIT, Wharton and Stanford. It had been nice when the Haas deadline was staggered. Unfortunately this means that some people are going to be scrambling for Haas and based on the patterns of BSer behavior that we know too well, their apps will suffer. 🙁 That extra week had been beneficial to Haas in giving them stronger apps. Also, interview invites are scattered at this school, they can come at any time, all the way up into December (though that’s pretty rare)
  • Round 2: — extended to due to severe weather on the East Coast of the U.S. during the first week of the year Originally it was set as yet another after-the-holidays crunch date. Since they extended it for whether, we’re just not sure why they couldn’t have set it out a few days later in the first place.

NOTE: Haas used to have four rounds, then in 2013 they standardized to three. We are telling you about this in case you come across a really old post here on the blahg that talks about four rounds at this school or that says it’s OK to apply in round 3. Now, it’s not advisable to do so (really most definitely not, given how popular Berkeley has become recently). Just like with other American schools, you should aim to apply to Haas in either Fall or January and don’t bother with Round 3.


UC-Berkeley Haas General Info

Haas sometimes has these fun little contests where you can win a consult with one of their adcom peeps – worth paying attention to them on social media!

from the EssaySnark blahg:

EssaySnark Essay Reviews

We’ve offered quite a lot of Haas essay advice on the blahg:

And some really old reviews – but still very relevant, given the Haas Defining Principles and all that jazz:


For Reference: Berkeley’s Past-Season Questions

Included in case anyone wants to see what Haas asked before.
Click to view 2016 questions

2016 Essays – EssaySnark’s Analysis

Here’s what we said when last year’s questions came out… remember this analysis is from *last year*.

They’ve maintained nearly the same essay requirements this year, but they’ve helped all of you new Brave Supplicants (sort of) by adding clarifications to the questions on their instructions page. A lot of those clarifications were already covered in our Haas Essay Guide in past years so that’s more validation that the ‘Snark will steer you in the right direction!

The new essays for the Berkeley-Haas full-time MBA app are:

  1. If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 words)
    Your song can be in any language, from any culture, and does not need to contain lyrics. The strongest responses will focus on answering why this song expresses who you are.
  2. Choose one: (250 words)
    • Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you.
    • Describe a time when you were challenged by perspectives different from your own and how you responded.
    • Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging.
      In your response, clearly indicate to which prompt (1, 2, or 3) you are responding. We do not have a preference among the prompts and suggest that you select the one for which you can share a specific experience, professional or personal.
  3. Tell us about your career plans. How have your past experiences prepared you to achieve these goals? How will Berkeley-Haas help you? (500 words maximum)
    You are encouraged to reflect on what it is you want to do after business school, including the types of roles, responsibilities, and organizations that are of interest. Through this essay we hope to learn about your professional journey to date and how an MBA will facilitate your success – broadly defined – in the future.

Phew! They fixed the problems with essay 3! Last year’s version was not our favorite; it made it tough for BSers to focus on the elements that we know are important to Haas. It’s great that Berkeley has gone back to a more productively-phrased prompt for all of you. EssaySnark’s Career Goals App Accelerator can guide you towards a rock solid pitch that covers the elements they’re asking for.

And while career goals are indeed important, be sure you start out by diving in to their Defining Principles – they’re critical!

It’s also nice to see the clarifications on the song essay, but we actually suggest that you stick with an English song with lyrics. It’s much easier to talk about why the song is important if you can easily describe the song, which is what lyrics (in English) will do. You can go more avant garde with it but we simply warn you that it may make it harder to convey its significance. Don’t get too creative. Stay grounded in the realities of WHY this song is so important as a descriptor of who you are. (And a special tip from the ‘Snark: You may want to rethink that idea to use the U2 song “A Beautiful Day” for your answer. You’re not the first BSer to have thought of that one.)

Update August 2016: We wrote a post about the most common problem we see with answers to this question!

Each of those three Essay 2 options is asking you to share a difficult situation that you overcame – and each is also an opportunity to highlight a success. There’s definitely a chance to show how you’ve worked with others in a productive way. Stories can be personal or professional, though generally speaking, we suggest that Essay 2 lean in the professional direction.

Even though the questions appear largely the same, you will still want to get our Haas application guide for the current year – which, good news, is now available! (Please be careful about buying used hardcopy versions on the Internet; they are ALL outdated. We have not published to hardcopy in several years. The only current versions of school-specific guides are available right here on essaysnark.com.)

And, good news: We’ve heard that Berkeley is increasing the size of the Class of 2019. It’s been around 240 students for a long time and we believe they’re edging up to maybe 250 or 260 (unconfirmed numbers) in the coming admissions season. Given how much app volumes have been up across most of the schools, this is a good thing!

[end discussion of last year’s questions]

Click to view 2015 questions

2015 Essays – EssaySnark’s Analysis

Once again they have three essays, including Essay 2 where they’ve re-instituted a take-your-pick construction, where you can choose among several prompts to answer. Those used to be really common but many schools have abandoned them in recent years as they scrambled to reduce the number of questions in their apps. While it’s nice to have choices, to allow you to answer the question for which you have the strongest possible story, mostly we believe that this is designed to prevent adcom boredom. It means that more applications will be varied, which is always nice when you’re on the receiving end of them! You will note, though, that each of those three Essay 2 options are basically asking you to brag a little. What are you proud of? What’s been significant in your life? Tell a quick story, and then explain why. Keep the focus on YOU throughout.

All of these Haas questions are similar to what Haas has asked in past years – in some cases, as with Essay 1 on the song, re-instituting a question they had for a few seasons running but then had ditched. (It was in the 2013 app too – see below.)

Basically this set of questions are new in the combination that they’re asking for, but none are really new for Haas.

That being said, you will want to get our Haas application guide. There are some specific nuances to this year’s questions and you’ll want to take advantage of the most up-to-date advice we can offer.

Here are this year’s full-time MBA essays from Berkeley-Haas:

  1. If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 words)
  2. Choose one: (250 words)
    • Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world and how it transformed you.
    • Describe a significant accomplishment and why it makes you proud.
    • Describe a difficult decision you have made and why it was challenging.
  3. Tell us about your path to business school and your future plans. How will the Berkeley-Haas experience help you along this journey? (500 words)

Unfortunately they’ve radically reduced the word count for Essay 2 and that is not so great. As comparison, the first option for Essay 2, about an experience that “transformed” you, allowed up to 500 words last year. It’s going to be VERY difficult for most BSers to cover the transformation needed in so short a space. The same is true for either of the two alternates, as well.

Also unfortunately, last year they had an amazing part a-b-c structure to their career goals question, which really helped people because it guided them in what to say. This year’s question is much more loosely formed. Haas still wants you to tell them the same stuff, but there’s plenty more opportunity for you to go sideways with what you say this year, based on how broad-seeming the actual prompt is. You need to be very focused and structured in how you present yourself. Our Career Goals App Accelerator will actually set you up for tremendous success in organizing your material for this question exactly.

The essay on a song? It’s fine but it’s gimmicky. It may be fun for you to come up with your response (please see the archive of past questions below where they’ve asked this question before). Some people do great things with this essay. Lots of people are very predictable on it though. (Hint: Please do not use the U2 song “A Beautiful Day” for your answer. It’s been done before.) Check out our Haas essay reviews for a discussion of BSers attempts to answer past years’ incarnations of these questions.

While we were ga-ga over the Haas questions last year, this year, in 2015, we’re feeling much less excited. They took a great thing and made it harder on you people, with the shorter essays, and the more vaguely-worded career goals question. Essay 2 also does not excite us. Having choices of what to answer doesn’t make for a more applicant-friendly app. Having sufficient space to present yourself does.

Also: Please don’t overlook the importance of their Defining Principles.
[end discussion of 2015 questions]

Click to view 2014 questions

2014 Essays – EssaySnark’s Analysis

These are very applicant-friendly changes; you’re going to have an easier time of it than last year’s crew did. The cool and distinctive thing that Berkeley has done is that they’ve now suggested a essay length range – this is great. This shows you what a minimum essay that would sufficiently answer the question could look like, and they give you an upper max that is very reasonable. This is an AWESOME way to handle this.

Three essays:

  1. Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world. How did this transform you? (400-500 word maximum)
  2. What is your most significant professional accomplishment? (200-300 word maximum)
  3. What is your desired post-MBA role and at what company or organization? In your response, please specifically address sub-questions a., b., and c.a. How is your background compelling to this company?

    b. What is something you would do better for this company than any other employee?

    c. Why is an MBA necessary and how will Haas specifically help you succeed at this company?
    (500-600 word maximum for 3a, 3b, and 3c combined)

There’s also several Supplemental Questions for everyone to answer and a bunch of Optional Essays too (here’s the link to their site with it all laid out ).

The main change – besides the detailed subparts for the career goals question, which makes it an awesome opportunity for you to share your plans with the adcom – is that they ditched a “failure” question from last year, along with the “song” essay, and they inserted the word “professional” into the “most significant accomplishment” question.

Here’s the deal, Brave Supplicant: These questions are totally long enough, and the prompts are clear enough, that you’re going to be able to do a fabulous job of sharing who you are with the adcom. Berkeley is a school that cares about career goals and WHOA is that ever reflected in this year’s version of their career essay! The one issue we take with it is that they crammed in a third subquestion this year while simultaneously reducing your word count by 150 words. That’s not so fun. It’s still very doable – and our Haas essay guide will still help you out with this.

These are THE BEST BERKELEY QUESTIONS EVER – it’s like Goldilocks, not too many, not too cryptic, very reasonable lengths, and kind to candidates. Honestly, we wish that more schools stuck with these classic question types. Kudos to Haas for helping applicants do a good job in expressing themselves.

The main downside with Haas Round 1 in 2014, at least based on how it’s gone in past years? You may not get a final answer on your app until mid-January – well after Round 2 deadlines are past for other schools. They do often notify admits ahead of this date; it’s not quite rolling admissions, but sort of. Maybe “rolling decisions” is a better way to describe it.

The good part of this policy? Your deposit for a successful Round 1 app doesn’t need to be paid until March – and you’ll likely know outcomes at other schools by then, including even for some Round 2 apps. This ends up being to your advantage. Because of this, we recommend you apply in Round 1 if you can.

8/29/14 Berkeley published its Class of 2016 profile – average GMAT and GPA ticked up even higher (717 and 3.62), plus they went from 29% women to an impressive 43%. Apps increased slightly too.

[end discussion of 2014 questions]

Click to view 2013 questions

2013 F/T Haas Essays – EssaySnark’s Analysis

The F/T essays are nearly the same as 2012 (see below), except that as expected, there’s fewer of them, and the questions are simplified. It’s possible that their app volumes went down last year due to how much they made the BSers write (compared to other schools’ apps, it was a little excessive). The nice aspect to the Haas app is they actually give you enough space to tell your story.

Four essays:

  1. If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 word maximum)
  2. What is your most significant accomplishment? (250 word maximum)
  3. Describe a time in the last three years when you overcame a failure. What specific insight from this experience has shaped your development? (250 word maximum)
  4. a. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How have your professional experiences prepared you to achieve these goals?
    b. How will an MBA from Haas help you achieve these goals? (750 word maximum for 4a. and 4b.)

There’s also several Supplemental Questions and a bunch of Optional Essays too (here’s the link to their site with it all laid out ). And don’t overlook the importance of their Defining Principles. Buckle your seatbelt. You have to be committed to apply to Haas (which is probably the adcom’s intention…).

[end discussion of 2013 questions.]

Click to view 2012 questions

2012 questions – these are REALLY OLD
They used to have FIVE ESSAYS!!
  1. If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why?
  2. What is your most significant accomplishment?
  3. Describe a time when you questioned an established practice or thought within an organization. How did your actions create positive change?
  4. Describe a time when you were a student of your own failure. What specific insight from this experience has shaped your development?
  5. a. What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How have your professional experiences prepared you to achieve these goals?b. How will an MBA from Haas help you achieve these goals? (750 word maximum for 5a. and 5b.)

[end discussion of 2012 questions.]

The SnarkStrategies Guide for Berkeley Haas covers the 2016 questions – and Haas is a great school to tackle as your first MBA application. Time to get started?


[Index of essay questions by business school]

Hey there Haas candidates of 2017!

Admissionado back once again with fresh, off-the-shelves essay analyses for Haas's 2017 application! We wanted to jump in and give you a head-start on those essays questions jog that imagination, and give you a few tips and tricks to get started on your Berkeley Haas essays to get you started on the best foot this year. Soooooo, without further ado:

Berkeley Haas School of Business MBA Essay 1

Tell us a six-word story that reflects a memorable experience in your life-to-date. Elaborate on why it is meaningful to you. (250 words maximum)


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, value, or how you would uniquely contribute to the Berkeley-Haas community. View sample six-word stories and video tips from the admissions committee.

If you take a peek at the “six-word stories” prompt from the Haas admissions committee, you’ll notice that it’s pretty loose. The good news? With six words, it’s hard to do something “wrong.” The bad news? No such thing as bad news. We eat challenges like this for breakfast. Bring it on, Haas.

Before we get to the six words, let’s consider the angle carefully: “memorable experience.” This is helpful to keep in mind because they’re not looking for a catchy slogan and then some words to back it up. So, what are they looking for? Well, it doesn’t really matter. This is the part where the ol’ Admissionado approach will help get you out of your own damn way. The temptation is to stew on those six words before anything else, which is a bad idea.

We have a much better idea – go to your “greatest hits.” What story do you absolutely HAVE to tell Haas? Which story will reveal something about you (that won’t naturally be covered elsewhere) that completes a key missing dimension to your app? Peek ahead to the rest of their questions. Let’s say you’ve got a great leadership story teed up for one of them. If that’s the case, maybe you want to use THIS space to reveal how silly and LIKEABLE you are.

(Because your calculation would be that (a) Leadership + (b) Insane Likeability = (c) Dangerous Potential For Future Success.)

But flip it. Let’s say that when you’ve picked the BEST stories for the rest of the prompts, you find that you’re MISSING a great leadership story. Or that there’s a dimension to your leadership repertoire that MUST be told and is missing. Even if you have a colorful story that COULD be told here, you may want to favor that other leadership angle, if that’s the right move. The point is, pick the story, not the catchiest six-word story that comes to mind. No matter what the story, you can always develop a KILLER six-word redux.

So, Step 1 here is pure, unadulterated Gestaltian strategy. The question is: what puzzle piece goes here that completes the rest of your Haas application and gives you the greatest bang for your buck? Once you’ve sewn that up, you’re ready to craft the thing.

At this point, you can start to have fun with the six-word aspect of it, and ping-pong between starting with a six-word “story” (the six words themselves, that is) and then fleshing out an actual 250-word exploration/explanation around it. Or, write the story first and then mess around with how the six-word aspect might look. Whatever you do, don’t get stuck, because you have an out: “start with whatever thing isn’t stuck” (whether it’s the six-word thing, or the story part). No matter how you begin, you can always refine both, together.

What does 250 words look like? It’s probably two normal-sized paragraphs or three shorter ones. However you skin it, it’ll need to be efficient.

What are good angles to pursue here? Generally, self-deprecating, humorous stuff is more likely to work well over heavy, poignant stuff. Why? Limited space. To tell a very deeply meaningful story with concision… is almost to undermine or disrespect it. Imagine giving a moving eulogy about a loved one as EFFICIENTLY as you could, in a three-sentence wrap-up. Woops? It may be the one occasion where economy of words is NOT preferable to… verbosity. When you emote, efficiency can sometimes feel unfeeling. Don’t get us wrong, it’s doable. It just needs to work really, really well.

Safer plays?
The “Lesson-Learned” Story

Dear world, I’m going to tell you about a time when I learned a lesson the hard way. Or, a time when I was humbled in a huge way. Or, a time when I was so sure about my beliefs and was then proven wrong.

The key theme for something like this is the “turning point” moment when we are able to see a Before and After picture and your recognition of it. That kind of introspection can say a lot about a person’s future as a businessman/woman.
The “And-That’s-When-I-Discovered-this-Ridiculous-Quirk-About-Myself” Story

This one’s more style than substance. It’s all about revealing something about yourself – and possibly even the way you go about it – that makes the reader smirk when reading it and want to meet you. It could be admitting to a cool hobby that’s unusual, or a strange belief you have that’s wildly contrary to more popularly held ones, or something strange you do that people have pointed out makes you so “you.”

To just say it outright can be weird, but Haas has given you an opportunity to encase it in a “story” so it may go down smoother. The idea here is to make the other person smile when you admit this, not much more than that. If you’re trying to even slightly impress them, you’re going to belly flop. Keep this one light.
The “Light-Bulb-Moment” Story

“And that’s when I discovered the world of X, and my passion for it.” Or “Sitting there, desperately willing my bladder to cooperate on the ‘It’s a Small World After All’ ride at Disneyland, my game-changing idea for an app was hatched.”

If you have a really sincere passion for something (perhaps best if non-work-related since you’ll be delving into that stuff in upcoming essays), and its “origin story” is traceable to a single experience, this could be a cool place to dip into it.

The work-related version CAN work, however, if the story is unbelievably funny, or insane. The key here is to channel your emotions when the light bulb actually went off in your mind. What was going through your head? Watching people’s gears churning can be a great way to imagine them as future leaders. It’s hard to do, so, when done well, it can really have an impact. The key is not to get ahead of yourself and write about the light-bulb moment with all your future knowledge. Write it before-during-and-after you experienced it.

So, from the perspective of (A) “before you had those game-changing insights” to (B) the things that were happening in real-time that were causing the light-bulb to go off, finally to (C) the updated perspective, now that everything had changed in your mind. Those are three DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT headspaces. The best versions of light-bulb stories deliver all three.
The “I-Guarantee-You’ve-Never-Met-Anyone-Who-Could-Tell-You-THIS-Story” Story

“Ever marry someone, only to find out later on that they were once married and you had no idea? Not totally uncommon. It happens. Ever then find out that that previous spouse was a (benevolent) dictator of a small nation? Less common. Here’s how that story goes.”

If you have a story that you’re sure no one else on planet Earth could ever tell, do it here. The more ridiculous, insane, un-fortuitous, improbable, unbelievable, etc… the better. The ultimate litmus test must be that you’re sure no one has a similar story. Not even the same story, but even a similar one. It has to be THAT ridiculous. Why? Because that’s how it’ll stick. The kind of story you couldn’t even write in Hollywood because the audience would reject its absurdity! That’s the story to tell here.
The “And-That’s-When-Everything-Changed” Story

Sometimes there are inflection points in life that are so profound that the “life before that inflection point” can be almost unrecognizable. Chances are, there’s an incredible story to tell. The key (a pattern you’ll see over and over again in our essay analyses) is to devote time to the Before, such that the inflection point and whatever comes After actually means something. There needs to be a stark contrast between the two. There needs to a lot of change for an “everything changed” story, heh. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Tell it in real-time as though it were happening now, rather than writing it through a reflective “looking back on it now” lens. Writing in present tense is a neat trick to help accomplish that.

Berkeley Haas School of Business MBA Essay 2

Respond to one of the following prompts. (250 words maximum)

Describe a significant obstacle you have encountered and how it has impacted you.
Describe how you have cultivated a diverse and inclusive culture.
Describe a leadership experience and how you made a positive and lasting impact.

Tip: Responses can draw from professional or personal experiences. Through your response, the admissions committee hopes to gain insight into your achievements, involvement, and leadership footprint.
Describe a significant obstacle you have encountered and how it has impacted you.


Notice the word “encountered” as opposed to “overcome.” A deliberate choice, for sure. On the one hand, they want to know how you handle things that get in your way (“obstacles”). But then they ask about how the obstacles impacted you. Which is interesting. They’re after something more here than your garden variety overcoming-obstacle-MBA-essay…

Let’s start with figuring out what kind of obstacle is worthy of this essay. It can’t just be something that makes succeeding at your goal a touch harder. Say you’re in a car trying to get to a concert and it starts to rain really hard. Okay, maybe you need to use your windshield wipers. Maybe traffic slows a bit. Maybe instead of the trip taking 30 minutes, it turns to a 35 minute trip. This is a low-grade obstacle. Haas is talking about something entirely different here.

You’re in a car trying to get to a concert. There’s one main road that’ll get you there in 30 minutes, but then, a giant tree falls right in the middle of the road. You can’t just take another route and get there in time because this was the only real road that was going to get you there. Now THAT’S an obstacle that poses a legitimate threat to your ability to succeed entirely. That’s Part 1.

Part 2 is all about “impact.” For an obstacle to have had impact on you, the stakes need to be high. It doesn’t necessarily matter what they are, you just need to sell us on the fact that it all meant something to you. Don’t overlook this because it’s an essential ingredient to this essay. We need to understand why the obstacle (and the potential for failure here) would cost you so much. Once we have those two things we’re ready to rock.

Let’s get into a sample outline to help unpack it all:

Paragraph 1 – Get us up to speed by explaining the situation, highlighting what needed to be accomplished, and why it was so crucial to succeed: Goal and Stakes. Then – and this is a nuance that most will miss – convince us how and why the project was heading toward success. We need to understand the confidence level of things “before we get to the obstacle.” Then, introduce the obstacle that threatened the success of the thing. (Roughly 80-100 words)

Paragraph 2 – Explain the new gears you had to go to in order to deal with this obstacle. Explain the actions you took, and the decisions behind those actions. Reveal your thought process and emotional state – this is the key here. (Roughly 80-100 words)

Paragraph 3 – Finally, reflect on how that experience made a MARK on you that hasn’t washed away. Presumably, it’s somehow positive. But it can be just about anything. It might have been a lesson in “never trusting even the surest of bets,” or “always have a Plan B” or whatever it is. There has to be a sense of “without this experience, I would probably approach challenges differently, but thanks to this experience, my version today is so much better off.”

One way to be convincing here is to admit to a real change in perspective: I used to think X, but because of this experience I now think Y. Or, through future action: years later, I’d encounter a similar setback and because of this experience, whereas I would have gone about it X way, this time I went about it Y way.
Describe how you have cultivated a diverse and inclusive culture.

Once again, this one’s all about the Before and After. Whatever thing you’re talking about here (presumably a work-related experience), what were things like BEFORE you took action? You need to “establish that status quo” very clearly so we can understand you as a change agent when you tell THAT part of the story.

Part 1 – Establish the status quo. This is the Before. This is the situation as it was that inspired you to want to CHANGE IT. Explain that. Explain what it was about, the state of affairs in this Before moment that compelled you to want to alter it. Don’t assume it’s plainly obvious to us. What was it about that status quo that felt in need of altering? Why? Sell it to us. Give us the same itch that infected you. (80-100 words)

Part 2 – Now, tell us what you did to change things. Be specific. Show us that you were making conscious decisions with a specific goal in mind. Show us your tactics, walk us through the actions. (80-100 words)

Part 3 – Did it work? Prove it. (50-70 words)
Describe a leadership experience and how you made a positive and lasting impact.

MBA Impact essays are all about – you guessed it – the Before and After. Don’t just tell us that you left impact. We need to understand the DELTA of what it was like after you’d done YOUR part compared to how things were before all that.

Part 1 – Establish the “before.” Don’t skimp on this. Most MBA applicants want to get to the leadership part so quickly, they skip over this, and the essay ends up packing LESS punch because of it. Explain the stuff that REQUIRED action. The stuff that REQUIRED a strong leader to make something happen.

Part 2 – Now take us through what you did to LEAD this change. The best version of this is to reveal your calculations along the way, as if letting us hear the dialogue playing inside your own mind as you established mini-goals and then developed actions around achieving those goals. We want to see those gears in action. Be specific in describing your actions. That’s where we’ll see your leadership abilities, not in your explanations of how you were a leader – those won’t weigh anything. It’s all about seeing it in the actions themselves.

Part 3 – Don’t forget to assess impact. Impact isn’t just a one-time thing. Impact implies something indelible. Something forever changed. We need evidence of this. Prove to us that whatever thing you led persisted even after you were finished with that particular episode. Perhaps that was your goal all along, or perhaps it was a bonus. Either way, it needs to have resulted from some element of success in both your idea and your execution (as a leader).

Berkeley Haas School of Business MBA Essay 3

Briefly describe your immediate post-MBA career goals. (50 words maximum)
How have prior experiences motivated and prepared you to pursue these goals? (250 words maximum)

Tip: You are encouraged to reflect on both what you want to do professionally after business school and why this path interests you.


50 words tells you everything you need to know. This is about clarity, and efficiency with words. Clarity plus believability will deliver maximum impact over shininess of goal. You want the reader to mutter to himself: “Wow, this kid has a very clear and focused outlook.” This is the part where you want to come across as a doer, not a dreamer.

for the second part of thew question if you’ve followed Admissionado in any way, you’ve heard us say a million times “connect your past experiences to your future goals.” In an essay where they ask for that outright (wahoo!), try to avoid “selling” your reader on your past. Resist the urge to want to impress us by hinting at how impressive your achievements are – it’s not about that here. The idea is to forge a strong connection between those experiences and your ability to pull off your stated goal from one question earlier. This should read like a military battle plan. Efficient. Well-thought-through. Contingency plans for when things don’t go your way. Everything considered, no stones unturned.

One great way to get out of your own way is to clearly lay out a few skills/traits one (yep, “one” – general) will need to succeed in the stated goals. Then explain how experiences you’ve had in the past have helped promote you toward that. Be specific in mapping certain skills picked up, certain insights gained, that will prove vital to success. Do this a few times.

Give us a sense of chronology, also. A sense that you understand the building-block nature of how success in your goals will go. First this, then this, then that. And a systematic attack plan for all of it. The more sober and well-considered the plan, the more likely we are to believe you will be successful “at things in general” – because the truth of it is, no one will check to see if you pursued THIS PARTICULAR GOAL. No one cares. They only care if you seem like the kind of person who will succeed AT ALL. And you pull that off through a smart, detailed, sober plan, that maps prior skills gained to skills required in your future goals.

Berkeley Haas School of Business MBA Optional Essay

Use this essay to share information that is not presented elsewhere in the application, for example:

Explanation of employment gaps or academic aberrations
Quantitative abilities
For re-applicants, improvements to your candidacy

The optional essay and our stance on it has changed over the years (for more on that, read this). Years ago we’d say to do it always-no-matter-what. Then schools seemed to make a POINT of not wanting stuff they didn’t specifically ask for. And now, given the trend toward shorter and more targeted applications, it can go either way.

Generally, if a school gives you a berth, take it. Haas is giving you that berth here, so, if you have something to say that hasn’t been covered elsewhere, say it. (If you’re working with a solid admissions consultant, you may want to run it by him/her to get a seasoned opinion.)

For those whose quantitative abilities may be questionable, either through a not-mind-blowing GMAT score, or through a career arc where those abilities aren’t necessarily evident, this is an excellent space to make a great case for yourself.

But even beyond that, the best way to approach this is to consider all the dimensions which give your candidacy real MIGHT, and differentiation power against the competition. Then review what stuff you’ve covered in your other essays, and where there are HOLES, it MAY be something you can address here. It tends to be less helpful when you double-up on a trait, with presumably a not-as-good-story-as-the-one-you’ve-already-told-elsewhere. A “second” impact story, for example. It’s more powerful if you’ve come across as the Indian IT tech guy with mad quant skills, but you also have this insane depth of experience with volunteer/community work that looks completely different from the typical MBA applicant. This could be a place to explore that. Or if you’re Chinese with an interest in finance, is there some aspect to your international travels that makes you seem utterly different from your demographic? This could be a spot to explore that.

Whatever you do, don’t play defense here and say stuff just to say stuff. More like: imagine a blank canvas and a shot to say EVERYTHING AWESOME you need to say; imagine it’s FIVE things, and you’ve been able to cover THREE of them in the other essays. Great, pick one of the two things you haven’t covered (whichever promotes your multi-dimensionality the MOST), and dig in right here.

Whatever you do, this is NOT the place to meander and be verbose. The optional essay is all about extreme efficiency, and matter-of-fact-ness.

View the prompts on the Haas School of Business [url=mba.haas.berkeley.edu/admissions/essays.html]website[/url].

And that's that. Helpful, eh? If you have any questions on it or Haas or anything, just reply here or shoot us a PM. And if you want more Essay Analysis Goodness, check out more schools here. We're updating 'em daily as new prompts are released, so keep checking back.

Jon Frank
Founder, Admissionado

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