UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2016. Haas has not only dropped an essay this year (as many other top-ranked MBA programs have done), but it has also dropped a whole admissions round! Beyond that, the content of Haas’s application has actually changed very little this year, at least compared to the more radical changes we have seen in other business schools’ applications.
Here are Haas’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments:
Berkeley (Haas) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 16, 2013
Round 2: January 8, 2014
Round 3: March 12, 2014
The big news here is that Haas, which used to have four admissions rounds, has gone to a more common three-round admissions process. Haas’s old Round 2, which came in late November, sat nicely between most other school’s first two admissions rounds, which gave applicants a nice chunk of time in which they could focus mainly on Haas. Now, you’ll need to work on your Haas applications while you’re tackling your applications for other other top schools. Interestingly, the school’s first and final rounds fall on almost exactly the same days they did last year; Haas has just taken out a round in the middle, and spaced apart the rounds differently.
Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays
1. If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 words)
This question made some waves when Haas introduced it last year. The Haas MBA admissions team clearly liked what it saw since the essay returns untouched. Since the question is the same, our advice mostly remains unchanged: Many Haas applicants will over-think this essay, and trick themselves into coming up with a song that is neither close to their hearts nor does a good job of expressing who you are.
Business school admissions officers frequently say, “There is no right answer to our essay questions,” but this guidance is particularly true in this case. Haas is practically begging you to be interesting here, so don’t be afraid at all to have a little fun with this essay. Ideally your response will be deeper than saying “‘Thrift Shop’ expresses who I am,” but if a current radio hit expresses some aspect of you very well, then run with it! We doubt that many applicants’ chances will be ruined by this essay… Unless you’re offensive or come off as being just plain weird, this essay question mostly represents upside for you. One final thought: Don’t feel the need to get too gimmicky here. Yes, you want to stand out, but not at the expense of revealing something real and interesting about yourself.2. What is your most significant accomplishment? (250 words)
This question also carries over unchanged from last year. Ideally the story you choose will demonstrate at least one or two of the key themes in your application. All things being equal, a story from your professional life will serve you best, but don’t feel that your significant accomplishment MUST be from the workplace. If you have a story from your community involvement or a hobby that paints a strong picture of at least one of your four core dimensions (leadership, maturity, teamwork, or innovation), then that’s fair game here. Note that writing about something other than work also helps to avoid teh risk of simply rehashing what’s already on your resume.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 words)
This question is a rewording of a failure question that Haas asked last year. Notice how Haas uses the second part to specifically call out what the admissions committee looks for in your response. As we always advise with “failure” questions in business school applications, this is the real meat of the essay — illustrating what you learned and, ideally, describing a later time when you put that lesson to work. These essays are all very short, so that last part may not make the final cut, but be sure to give enough emphasis to what you learned. In an essay this short, it’s easy to finish describing the failure and then realize you’ve already hit the word limit; don’t let that happen here.
The one thing that has changed since last year is the first sentence. There are actually two things in this first part that stand out as new: The emphasis on finding an example from the past three years (the old version gave no guidance in terms of how recent your story should be), and the introduction of the idea of overcoming the failure. Previously, Haas simply asked you to describe a time “when you were a student of your own failure.” Now, the school wants to hear about a time when you overcame that setback. It’s a subtle difference, but a potentially important one. Don’t leave it at “Wow, that ended badly.” Instead, you need to show how you picked yourself up and made the situation better, and then go into what you learned from the process. And, again, you need to do this all in 250 words!
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 words total)
This question also carries over unchanged from last year. This question is pretty much the typical “Why an MBA? Why this school?” essay that many MBA programs ask, although the fact that Haas makes an effort to explicitly call out parts a and b suggests that past applicants haven’t sufficiently answered both parts — especially the “Why Haas?” part. Ask yourself these questions: Where do you see yourself in a few years (and beyond that), and why do you need an MBA to get there? Specifically, why do you need a Haas MBA to get there? Why not another top-ten MBA program? Really force yourself to answer that question, even if not all of your answer makes its way into your final essay response!
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