Haas MBA Essay Analysis, Your 2015 Application

By - Jun 30, 08:36 AM Comments [0]

Are you ready to dig into your essays? Application essays are specifically and cleverly designed to get into your head. We like to turn the tables on the admissions committees and get inside their heads. Why are they asking these questions? What are they looking for? Read on as our experts break down application essay questions to help YOU plan the attack.

Haas MBA Essay Analysis: Essay One

Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world. How did this transform you? (400-500 word maximum)

95% of applicants will potentially have great stories to tell here, but the mistake they usually make is focusing on the CHANGED or slightly ALTERED worldview. The most effective response here contrasts the ORIGINAL worldview with… the CHANGED world view. This is a BEFORE & AFTER essay. This is what I used to think about X. Then this THING happened that changed my outlook. And my outlook went from X to…….. Y. Here’s why it changed, and this is how I changed as a result. I went from A to B.

Unless we know the “before,” NONE of it is interesting. At the end of Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader emotionally embraces his son, Luke Skywalker. Big deal. A father being nice to his kid? What’s interesting about that?

Well, only that “fifteen minutes prior, the same-said father tried to turn his son into an agent of evil, or… eviscerate him.” That’s a bit of a twist wouldn’t you say? Kinda need to know about THAT before you can be impressed about what happens after the change. Also, we are now begging to find out how did the guy go from wanting to “kill his son” to “saving him”?

The starker the contrast between the BEFORE and AFTER, the stronger the essay. We need to know the following elements:

  • I used to think THIS about XXX.
  • Then this THING happened—an event, a person who influenced you, some agent of change, doesn’t matter what form it takes.
  • I then went from thinking XXX to thinking YYY, on account of that agent of change.
  • Personally, I changed from being AAA to being BBB, and this is why this is worth writing about.


Haas MBA Essay Analysis: Essay Two

What is your most significant professional accomplishment? (200-300 word maximum)

Your CHOICE of accomplishment here will say something. The admissions committee will have access to the full slate of your biggest achievements through your resume. The one that is “most significant” will reveal something the resume is not likely to convey. For example, perhaps you talk about a small achievement during your very first job that inspired you to embrace RISK. Or you can talk about a virtually consequence-less accomplishment of turning a company adversary into your greatest ally through some kind of tactical brilliance. The most significant accomplishment may not have anything to do with “the bottom line.” Consider the accomplishments that make us the most excited about your future ability to succeed.


Haas MBA Essay Analysis: Essay Three

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. (500-600 word maximum for 3a, 3b, and 3c combined)

The breakdown here implies a clear desire for sharper responses. Not surprising at all. We see thousands of first instincts here of addressing short-term goals that suffer from nebulous plans, supported by dubious assumptions. That’s the headline here: be super specific and super well researched. Let’s go line by line:

a. How is your background compelling to this company?

Great question. One we’ve been secretly dying for schools to ask, because it cuts straight to the question future employers will ask and base much of their hiring decisions on. You simply have to be able to articulate a crystal clear connection between your past experiences and the job you’re claiming to deserve. What is it about your background that virtually guarantees your ability to succeed in this new role you’re applying for? This requires some research into the company and role you’re hoping to win over. Tap your network, reach out to people who knows the industry and this particular company and role extremely well. Get your facts straight. THEN, draw show how key aspects of your background align with whatever is needed to succeed at the new job. At the end of these arguments, the reader must be able to say, “well, it’s clear that—on paper—you’re a perfect fit for us.” The only thing that remains is “what is this guy like in person”? But to get that interview, those connections can’t be speculative, or ambiguous.

The clearest version of this involves no industry switch. You’re applying for a role in an industry in which you’re already proven, competent, expert, etc. It gets a little tougher when your background doesn’t quite match. (Talk to folks about this if this describes you—this argument will require considerable thought and finesse.) But if this the argument you need to articulate, your aim is to eliminate RISK from the mind of the future employer. If they are left worrying about your ability to handle the job, it means that you have somehow not demonstrated a strong enough connection between what you know, what you’ve seen and done, and what skills are required to succeed in this future role.

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

The biggest danger here is to highlight something that most others will ALSO talk about—thereby eliminating its value. This forces you to dig deep and isolate something very UNIQUE to your skill set that is hard to find in “just anybody.” Alternatively, if there is something common that you do uncommonly well, and have a long track record to prove it, you can talk about it—but it had better be a truly exceptional version of what others are already doing well enough! Something that would be meaningful to the company.

In terms of the structure, a great way to approach this is first to articulate very clearly what the company needs, not at large per se, you should focus this however you need to support what comes next. Step 2 is to then prove why your attempt at addressing that objective will surpass someone else’s. This must be as evidence-based as possible, as opposed to just speculative. It can’t be “no seriously, I promise I’ll be better than the next guy.” It would be more like “the typical X employee has Y years of experience. I, on the other hand, have only Z years of additional experience, but additionally, I’ve seen this and done that, which will enhance my ability to blbalbalbal.”

c. Why is an MBA necessary and how will Haas specifically help you succeed at this company?

You don’t just want an MBA, you need one. Why? What happens if you don’t get one? How does that affect your plan? How will an MBA accelerate your plans? How will it improve your ability to achieve your goals? How… specifically?

The “why Haas” part is something we have talked about—nothing has really changed here… your argument must end up being true for Haas, and FALSE for just about every other program. If your response here can work just as well for another school, time to set that response on fire and rework! That’s a good test—after you’ve taken a crack at it, try to replace HAAS with another school. See if it works. (It you’ve done it correctly, it should collapse with EVERY other MBA program out there, because your argument is SO delightfully Haas-specific.)


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