The Best MBA Essay Advice For Stanford, Columbia & Berkeley

UC-Berkeley Haas, Chou Hall. UC-Berkeley Haas photo

Berkeley Haas MBA Essay Advice

At Berkeley Haas, community is everything.

The B-school, which ranks 8th in P&Q’s Top Business Schools ranking, seeks out leaders who can add value to its diverse and open-minded community. Sharon Joyce, an admissions coach at Fortuna Admissions and former Associate Director of Admissions at Berkeley Haas, recently discussed this year’s Haas essay prompts and what exactly admissions officers are seeking in applicants.


The first essay asks Haas applicants the following:

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

At its core, Joyce says, this essay is about how you’ll add to the vibrant Haas community – beyond the classroom.

“Your intellectual acumen and accomplishments being a given, what are you passionate about and why does it ignite that aliveness in you?” Joyce writes. “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 that applicants include specific and personal experiences that convey your character and values.

“Given that you only have 300 words, the maxim to ‘show not tell’ is critical here,” she writes. “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.”


The second essay asks applicants the following:

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 max)

Leadership isn’t singular. With this prompt, Joyce says, Haas admissions officers are evaluating your values around leadership in the modern day.

“The set up to this question, and its reference to the last 10 years, is subtle but important – in citing that ‘the definition of successful leadership has evolved over the last decade and will continue to change,’ 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.”

Sources: Fortuna Admissions, P&Q, Berkeley Haas

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