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Haas School of Business MBA Application Essay Questions and Tips

Similar to other top business schools in the US, UC Berkley’s Haas School of Business has also made significant changes to it’s MBA application process.

The school now only asks two required essays along with two optional essays.

The MBA essays for Haas, when understood correctly, give the admissions committee great insight into an applicant’s, leadership skills, passions, background, and significant life events.

While a lot of business school optional MBA essays should be left unanswered if they don’t fit your situation, I would highly suggest answering the Haas optional essays as they help you share more of your fit with Haas and improve your chances at getting accepted.

Haas MBA Application Essays

Required Essay #1

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

Think back to all the times you have truly felt present in the moment. It might sound odd to some but studies suggest that humans tend to be on autopilot for most things in the present. The simple reason is your thoughts. Your mind successfully keeps you distracted for most of your waking life.

But what is one activity that keeps you in the present? While doing it, you never regret the past or worry about the future.

Don’t try to fit your academics or your professional accomplishments in the answer to this essay. Haas gives you opportunities to elaborate on your professional accomplishments. It also knows your academic background through your essays and allows you to elaborate on it, if required, through the optional essay.

What they want to know more about is your passion. What drives you? What ignites your soul? These are things that reveal a lot about your foundations as a person.

While Haas is interested in knowing how you would add to their MBA class, they are also interested in knowing how the social fabric of the Haas community will get impacted by your presence.

but don’t spend the complete 200 word-limit explaining what makes you feel alive. The reason “why” this particular activity or thing makes you feel alive is as important as the “what”. Give the Haas admissions committee anecdotes to show how this particular activity makes you feel. It allows them to understand what incentivizes you to invest the most in things.

It shows them what you value most in life.

For example, people who feel alive at the top of a mountain can be motivated by completely different feelings. While one might choose a fun hike that brought them peace, the other might be fueled by the adrenalin of rock climbing.

The idea is to be vulnerable and genuine in your response.

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 maximum)

What does leadership mean to you? and don’t come up with a textbook answer for the word. Take time and think about what actions you associate with leadership.

Do you look at a leader as someone invested in the development of his team or someone who takes initiative? Your definition of leadership could be completely different from these examples. But what matters is for you to know exactly what a successful leader looks like to you.

For some reference, here is Haas’s view on leadership today.

Don’t try to match your view on leadership to Haas’s. It’s just a blueprint to ease you into identifying exactly what a successful leader looks like to you. Only once you know the answer to “who is a successful leader according to you?”, can you answer this Haas essay question.

Once you have the answer to “who is a successful leader?” now look at Haas and its community and how they can help you become a successful leader. Look into the various programs offered at Haas. Dig deeper into the kinds of Clubs Haas has or the events students host. Use your Networking connections at the school to answer this question in the most effective way possible.

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)?
Skilled worker

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:
Extended family member (grandparent, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, cousin)

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)
If you’re tempted to lay down a list of your achievement, reconsider it. I won’t stop you from sharing your accomplishments with the Haas admissions committee. After all, we are trying to create an impact on the admissions committee member who will be reading your answers to the MBA essays.

But always evaluate the “why?” behind the information you’re sharing through your essays.


When you answer this optional question, ask yourself if this achievement or hardship reveals something about your candidature that adds value to your MBA profile. Also question why it’s important for the admissions committee to know this information about you.

Don’t leave the admissions committee guessing about the impact of the situation you shared in this essay.

Optional Information #2

This section should only be used to convey relevant information not addressed elsewhere in your application. This may include an explanation of employment gaps, academic aberrations, supplemental coursework, etc. You are encouraged to use bullet points where appropriate.

As the essay prompt suggests. You don’t need to make this essay formal and structure it like you did all the other application essays.

This space is provided to applicants so that they can explain to the admissions committee why they have certain shortcomings in their profile. For example, if you have a low GPA, you can share your circumstances during the time you got that low score.

It takes out the chances of misunderstanding and guesswork for the admissions committee members.

Just imagine, your low GPA was the only thing that bothered the admissions committee while they really liked the rest of your profile. By addressing the reason behind your low GPA in this space, let’s say you had financial constraints and were working a job along with school, they can be rid of their concerns and evaluate your profile accordingly.

The most important thing while writing an MBA application essay answers is to maintain an authentic expression. No matter how much time you spend on your MBA essays, figuring out the right words, the most impressive quotes, and the prettiest sentence structures, if your expression isn’t genuine, the admissions committee will catch up to it instantly and it might hamper your chances at getting accepted to UC Berkley’s Haas School of Business.

For over 15+ years as an Entrepreneur, and India’s Top Educationist, Jatin has led a range of initiatives in the Education Industry. In this role, he has created many successful educational services and products geared towards generating success for professionals aspiring to join IVY League and global Top Tier Universities for MBA Programs, Masters Programs, and undergraduate courses. He is the Founder and CEO of PythaGURUS Education, and has been recognized as a thought leader in the Higher education sector. Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Times of India, India Today, Business Today, Tribune, and many other national newspapers have recognized his work, and have given him numerous opportunities to be a regular columnist. He has also served as a panelist for NDTV, and other national news channels.

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