How To Approach The Berkeley Haas Essays

Berkeley Haas School of Business. File photo

How To Approach The Berkeley Haas Essays

UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business ranked amongst the top 10 business schools in our annual ranking of MBA programs.

Haas is notoriously difficult to gain admission into, with an acceptance rate of 12%.

This year, admissions officers offered a few new questions for the Haas essays. Sharon Joyce of Fortuna Admissions broke down what each question is asking for and offered some tips on how applicants write compelling essays.


The first required essay at Haas asks applicants – What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why?

Self-awareness and having an inclusive, collaborative approach are some common characteristics that admissions officers seek in applicants according to the Haas class profile. And this question is measuring just that.

“This question also underscores that Haas is looking for people who will actively contribute to the community and beyond, not just in the classroom,” Joyce writes. “Your intellectual acumen and accomplishments being a given, what are you passionate about and why does it ignite that aliveness in you? This essay prompt allows the admissions team to understand ‘what makes you tick’ up and beyond what they’ll glean from your academic record and work history.”

Joyce recommends applicants to approach this question with a “show not tell” strategy, as the essay has a 300-word limit.

“You want to bring the reader on the experience with you so they can smell, taste, feel and connect to whatever it is you’re describing – what it felt like to summit that mountaintop and peer into the volcano’s smoky belly, or the felt experience in a devotional act of creation that erased any sense of time,” Joyce writes. “Dig deep and dare to have a little fun here; your voice can convey your personality.”


Question 2 asks applicants – 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?

The context of this question, according to Joyce, is critical. It specifically calls out that the definition has “evolved” over the last decade. Joyce says that context alludes to some important qualities that admissions officers are looking for.

“Haas signals that traits such as flexibility, growth mindset, and inclusivity are at a premium,” Joyce writes. “Those who are being successful right now are comfortable navigating in a sea of uncertainty and prepared to adapt to the changing times.”

The best way to go about this question, Joyce says, is with humility.

“If you think of the MBA experience as a huge learning laboratory, what might you want to perfect over the last few years that will set you up for success? In doing so, how can you convey a nuanced understanding of what it means to be a successful leader?” Joyce writes.

Sources: Fortuna Admissions, Berkeley Haas, Poets & Quants

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