UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2015-2016

UC Berkeley (Haas) Admissions EssaysThe Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley recently published its MBA admissions deadlines and essays for the coming application season. After chopping away at its essay count in the recent past, Haas has held steady this year, keeping the required essay count at three. But, interestingly, the school has made some changes that make this year’s application look more like the application that Haas used two years ago. We’ll dig in and tell you everything you need to know below.

Now let’s dig in! Here are Haas’s deadlines and essays for the Class of 2018, followed by our comments in italics:

Berkeley (Haas) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2015
Round2: January 7, 2016
Round 3: March 31, 2016

Haas’s Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines are exactly the same as they were last year. The one bit of news here is that while the school used to wait until mid-January to notify Round 1 applicants, now applying in Round 1 means that you will get your decision by December 17, giving you at least a couple of weeks before most schools’ Round 2 deadlines, should you need to scramble and apply to some backup schools. Looking at Round 3, Haas pushed back this deadline by nearly three weeks vs. last year, matching similar moves at some other top schools to hopefully catch a few more great candidates who may have missed the earlier rounds.

Berkeley (Haas) Application Essays

  • If you could choose one song that expresses who you are, what is it and why? (250 words)

    This question is new this year, although Haas actually used it before dropping it last year. Now it’s back, and it’s clear that the Haas admissions team wants to get past the normal jargon and stuffy language and get a real sense of your personality here. That means you shouldn’t be afraid to have a little fun or reveal the real you here. If an admissions officer reads this essay and then still has no sense of what it would be like to meet you in person, then you haven’t made good use of this essay. That doesn’t mean your choice of a song needs to be wacky or so deep that it will make the reader cry, but avoid the temptation to choose a song that merely echoes one of the more straightforward themes you will cover below. And, we’re willing to take bets on the number of applicants who say their favorite song is John Lennon’s “Imagine”… Save the high-minded “I want to save the world” stuff for another essay! This one is more for just helping admissions officers feel like they know you at least a little bit.

  • Please respond to one of the following prompts: (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.

    All three of these essay prompts try to get at the same thing — identifying an experience in your life that led to growth and transformation. The first one is essentially carried over from last year’s application, and the second one is quite similar to a prompt from last year, although it’s a little broader this time around (it can be any accomplishment, not just a professional one). The third question is new this year. And, most notably, you’re picking just one, while the first two questions were actually two separate required prompts on last year’s application. We like that Haas gives applicants three different ways to go about this one; your best story may come from an accomplishment, or from overcoming a setback, or from making a tough choice in life. Why not let you choose which story to tell here?

    No matter which essay prompt you choose, think about the “SAR” (Situation-Action-Result) essay framework here — describe what happened, what you did, and then what happened as a results. Sounds obvious, right? You would be surprised by how often applicants get lost in the details and end up using most of their words merely to describe to the situation… the result gets tacked on in two sentences at the very end! That’s too bad because the result — not just what happened in that situation, but also how you changed as a result — is what Haas really wants to know here! Even seemingly smaller accomplishments or life events, such as the first time you spoke in front of a large group, can make for a really impactful essay here.

  • 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)

    This is the more conventional “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that MBA programs often ask. 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!

    By the way, the Haas admissions team gave you a big hint here: On the Haas website, check out the paragraph that introduces the essays. It describes the four key principles that define the Haas culture: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Your goal here is NOT to see how many of these you can cram into your essay (this is not merely an exercise to see if you bothered to read the website), but if none of that appeals to you, and you can’t even articulate why Haas is the right way for you to invest in yourself, then you need to take a step back before drafting this essay. You obviously are an unfinished product, which is why you’re considering business school… Help the admissions committee believe that Haas is the right place for you to grow for the next two years, invoking those four key principles where you can.

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By Scott Shrum