Haas Essay Hacks

New Haas essays this year! And the continued opportunity to share how your path has shaped you.

While Haas has changed its essays, you still have the same amount of words to tell your story. Haas has continued to identify questions that help to know the authentic you – and it is important to make sure that shines through in your essays. As always, it will be important to demonstrate how you embrace the four defining principles of Haas: Question the Status Quo, Confidence without Attitude, Student Always and Beyond Yourself. Through these principles, Haas is making culture a differentiator. The culture of Haas is extremely important and valued – in your essays, make sure you show how you will contribute to and enrich Haas culture.

Haas kept its optional essay, which continues to demonstrate Haas’s commitment to understand your path and articulate how the events of your life have impacted you. While some schools ask about your background as a part of the application, Haas takes this it to higher level, giving you  300 words to be able to explain your story.

As one of the smaller business schools, with ~260 students per class, Haas wants to know how you fit within this very close-knit, collaborative and student-driven culture. Be authentic and write about who you are and not who you think Haas wants you to be. Find a comfortable spot with the beverage of your choice and think about why you want an MBA? Why now? And Why Haas? Use the essays to help paint your unique answer to these questions.

Essay #1

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


Tell us what you are passionate about and why?

A great way to start this essay is with a quick story describing a memorable experience that answers what makes you feel alive. Finish the story by specifically stating what makes you feel alive – you don’t want the admissions team to guess.

The bulk of your essay should why you feel alive when you doing ‘your thing’ and touch on why ‘your thing’ is important to talk about in your application. While your ‘thing’ doesn’t need to directly tie to your goals, you do want it to enhance your application. If it doesn’t tie to your career goals, make sure it is clear how it has impacted you or helps you gain perspective. After you’ve written your essay, have someone who knows you well read it – and make sure they are seeing the same themes that you want to show.

Essay #2

At Berkeley Haas, we are redefining leadership. We value different opinions and perspectives, recognizing that we always have more to learn about others’ lived experiences and histories. We encourage speaking up and listening, and courageously use our power to address barriers and drive change for positive impact.

Tell us how a Berkeley Haas MBA would enhance your leadership profile, incorporating specific examples. (300 words max)


What type of leaders are you now? What type do you want to be? What do you need to get there and how can a Berkeley Haas MBA help you there?

In this question, Haas is looking at your self-awareness and ability to self-identify what you need to grow as a leader. They want to know that you see a path and tools at Haas that can get you there.

While this does not specifically ask your career goals, if the type of leader you want to be is key to a specific industry, talk about your leadership in an industry. This prompt also allows you to stay agnostic to industry and talk about how you want to lead, irrespective of industry. Start by briefly showing your self-assessment of your leadership profile with a story that highlights where you have used your leadership position to speak up and drive change. Highlight where you need to grow as a leader.

Next, talk about what you will take advantage of at Haas to gain these leadership skills. Will you lead a social venture team to compete in the Global Social Venture Competition? Will you take a leadership role in one of the many industry groups – and play a role in representing Haas to this industry? Haas has so much to offer. Find the right opportunities for you – and explain how they will help you gain the leadership skills you need. Finally, how will your experiences at Haas help you to become a strong leader post-MBA – and what are you going to do with it?

Optional Information #1

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)?
  2. What is the most recent occupation of your parent(s) or guardian(s)?
  3. If you were raised in one of the following household types, please indicate.
  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.
  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)


What skills have you innately developed through these experiences that have helped you succeed to where you are today?

This new optional essay is showing Haas’s commitment to diversity across all levels. They want to know about what experiences have shaped your path – and truly value the skills these experiences have taught you. Some call it grit.  As with other parts of the application, be honest and genuine. In your elaboration, focus on how any of these experiences have shaped your life, goals and future plans. While this is a great opportunity to highlight how experiences in your life have shaped you, you only want to answer this question if it is applicable to you – use your best judgment.


Author: Melisa Prevost
Melisa earned her BS in General Engineering with a Business Concentration. For three years after the U of I, Melisa worked for Kurt Salmon Associates, a consumer product-focused management consulting firm, as a supply chain and operations consultant. She also spent two years at OurHouse.com, a start-up that was the original online presence for Ace Hardware, as an operations manager. During her time at Haas, Melisa was the VP of Alumni Affairs, a student representative to the Alumni Board, a mentor with Young Entrepreneurs, a player for the MBA softball Team, a T.A., and a Student Commencement co-speaker. Her MBA internship was at Juma Ventures, a REDF supported social venture. After completing her MBA, Melisa joined Home Depot. Within two years in operations at Home Depot, she moved to Home Depot’s subsidiary brand, EXPO Design Center, where she was the specialty sales manager and director of strategy until the brand closed in 2009. Until her recent move to New York, Melisa lived in both London and Gibraltar where she had been consulting within education.