Haas has always asked a large number of questions. I have taken the questions from the website:
- If you could change one thing you've done in your life, what would it be, and how would you do it differently? (250 word maximum)
- Tell us about your most significant accomplishment. (250 word maximum)
- At Haas, we value innovation and creativity. Describe an innovative solution you have created to address a specific challenge. (250 word maximum)
- What steps have you taken to learn about the Berkeley MBA program, and what factors have influenced your decision to apply? (250 word maximum)
- Give us an example of a situation in which you displayed leadership. (500 word maximum)
- What are your short-term and long-term career goals? How do your professional experiences relate to these goals? Why do you want an MBA from Berkeley at this point in your career? (1000 word maximum)
- (Optional) Please feel free to provide a statement concerning any information you would like to add to your application that you haven’t addressed elsewhere. (500 word maximum)
- (Optional) If you wish to be considered for the Haas Achievement Award (for individuals who have achieved success in spite of significant economic, educational, health-related and/or other obstacles), please use this space to address the obstacles you have overcome. (750 word maximum)
From my perspective, unless you really believe that you have nothing else important to say about yourself, the only really optional question is Optional 2. Needless to say, you should not treat the Short Answer questions with any less seriousness than the Required Questions. If you do choose to write Optional 2, only do so if you really fit the criteria. Everyone has faced obstacles in their life, but not necessarily these obstacles.
REALLY ANSWER THEIR QUESTIONS!
I almost never tell my clients to start with Berkeley because of the number of and nature of their questions. That said, I can that my clients who have been admitted there, all had one thing in common: They took time to craft answers specific to Berkeley's questions. There is a natural human tendency towards laziness that results in many applicants not taking the time to do that. If your objective is to get into Berkeley take the extra time required to craft truly excellent school-specific answers to their questions.
Short Answer 1. If you could change one thing you've done in your life, what would it be, and how would you do it differently? (250 word maximum)
Given my previous comment, I know some applicants will simply take their mistake essay for HBS or failure/setback essay for Wharton and simply try to make it fit here. Chances are pretty good it will not work unless the mistake/failure/setback is really one of the biggest things they regret. After all, if you want to change something in your life, it means that you regret it.
Regretting something does not necessarily mean it was a failure. For instance, if I were to answer this question, I would say the one thing I would have liked to change in my life is to have done study abroad when I was an undergraduate. Instead of doing that I decided to graduate a year early from university. While it seemed to be a good idea to graduate in three instead of the typical four years, looking back at it now, I recognize that I would have gained an international perspective at a much earlier age. This answer reveals something about my values. Clearly graduating a year early from university is not a failure, setback, or a mistake, but rather a choice that at the time I made it was good, but at this point in my life is something that I wish I had done differently.
I think the thing to keep in mind here is that the topic need not be professional and I suspect that many of the best answers to this question will not be. Given the structure of the Haas application, this is one very good place to write about something not work-related.
Whatever it is you write about it, my suggestion is that you briefly state what it is you wish you had done differently, state why, and then use at least half of the word count to explain what you would do now. Make certain that your explanation is not a mere description, but also provides a sufficient analysis of how you would act differently.
A core consideration here is to have a clear theme that reveals an important insight into your values.
Finally, by not writing on a typical failure topic, you will be showing Haas admissions that you really crafted this essay for their school.
Short Answer 2. Tell us about your most significant accomplishment. (250 word maximum)
Please see my analysis of the similiar HBS question. Given that you can only write on one topic, for most applicants, I suggest making it your most significant professional accomplishment. Of course, significance is really the issue and it is important that you explain why it is significant. If you truly believe you have a personal or educational accomplishment that is your most significant, just make sure that admissions will not only understand why you believe that to be the case, but be able to view your accomplishment as a basis for admitting you.
Short Answer 3. At Haas, we value innovation and creativity. Describe an innovative solution you have created to address a specific challenge. (250 word maximum)
I don't want to spend too much time discussing the role of innovation and creativity at Haas because they do it quite well. Just go look at the website! How many times can Haas mention "innovation" in a paragraph?
At Haas, innovation is defined broadly as people and organizations creating value by perpetually adapting and developing new processes, ideas, and products. And it's not just about technology. The Berkeley MBA curriculum teaches the strategic and organizational challenges of innovation, and leading edge innovations in subjects such as finance and marketing. The curriculum covers innovation as technological progress — a world-class specialty at Haas. When you graduate, you will be able to lead innovatively in organizations ranging from a major multinational company to a fast-growing startup, nonprofit, or a business of your own.
Given the Haas focus, you need to show why you fit. While I would never say that one answer to one question can make or break an application, you should assume that your answer here is critical. Keep in mind that they are looking for people with the experience or potential to be great innovators, so if you have no major track record of professional innovations, don't panic. Instead focus on telling a story that shows your potential to approach something in a very innovative way. There are many possibilities here. My suggestion is that you provide a detailed answer that best highlights your capacity to find a unique solution to a specific problem or opportunity. For more about how to answer this question, please see my analysis of Wharton's Question 4, Option a. as it applies here.
Short Answer 4. What steps have you taken to learn about the Berkeley MBA program, and what factors have influenced your decision to apply? (250 word maximum)
You need to try to separate what you say here from what you discuss in Required Essay 2. There may be some overlap, but there is a distinction. In Required Essay 2, you should specifically explain why you need an MBA now from Haas and how doing so relates to your goals. In Short Answer 4, you need to show you have become informed about the Berkeley MBA program and why there is a good fit between you and the program. Haas provides online resources to help you, but in addition, if possible I suggest you visit, meet alums, and/or communicate with current students to become informed about the program. While it is important to show what steps you have taken, it is equally important to make a clear case for why Haas is the right school for you. Those who read Japanese should most certainly visit the Haas Japanese website. You should also take a look at my interview with a 2nd year Haas student.
Required Essay 1. Give us an example of a situation in which you displayed leadership. (500 word maximum)
This is the most generic form of a leadership question there is. I suggest looking at my analysis of HBS 3:2, Stanford C, and Wharton 3 to craft your answer. My Haas-specific suggestion is that you try to make sure that there is no overlap between your answer to this question and your answer to Short Answers 2 and 3.
Required Essay 2. What are your short-term and long-term career goals? How do your professional experiences relate to these goals? Why do you want an MBA from Berkeley at this point in your career? (1000 word maximum)
I should point out that there is a difference between this version of the question and questions like Kellogg's or Wharton's that ask for a career summary. Berkeley does not ask for such a summary and its inclusion especially at the begining of your essay will be a sign that you did not customize your answer for Berkeley. Berkeley instead asks for you to explain how your professional experiences relate to your goals. Therefore discussion of your past experience should be made as part of an explanation of your goals. For those who have already written Wharton or Kellogg (or essays like them), if your essay begins with a career development section, I suggest begining with goals instead. Take your career development section and use parts of it to support your reasons for your goals and why you need an MBA now. For many applicants this will not be so much about writing new content as editing it to better answer Berkeley's version of the question.
Regarding the third part of the question, keep your Berkeley specific content focused on explaining why you need an MBA now and how it will help you with your goals.
Optional Essay 1. (Optional) Please feel free to provide a statement concerning any information you would like to add to your application that you haven’t addressed elsewhere. (500 word maximum)
This is a completely open question. While you might very well need to tell Haas something negative, such as an explanation for a low GPA, I would suggest using at least part of it to tell them something positive about you. Feel free to write on any topic that will add another dimension to admissions' perception of who you are. I would not treat it as optional unless you truly feel that the rest of your essays have fully expressed everything you want Haas to know about you. I don't suggest writing about something that would be obvious from reviewing your application, instead tell Haas that one story that will give them another reason to admit you. And whatever you do, please make sure that you write on a topic that is not obviously for another school.
Optional Essay 2. (Optional) If you wish to be considered for the Haas Achievement Award (for individuals who have achieved success in spite of significant economic, educational, health-related and/or other obstacles), please use this space to address the obstacles you have overcome. (750 word maximum)
Some applicants just want to answer everything, but please don't do that here unless you really fit in the categories indicated. "Other obstacles" may sound open-ended, but please use good judgment when determining that. If you are wondering whether you should answer this question, unless you are my client, please don't ask me. Instead, I suggest contacting Haas admissions directly or via their message board because they can certainly advise you on this. If you write on this topic, I suggest you explain the nature of the obstacle or obstacles that you overcame, how you overcame them, what you achieved, and what you learned as a result.
Finally, if you interview with Haas, please see my earlier post.
Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please see my
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