Posted on November 30, 2019

Berkeley Haas MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines: 2019- 2020


UC Berkeley Haas is a great Silicon Valley B-school with a reputation for social responsibility and technology. It is a perfect school for entrepreneurial students interested in cleantech, healthcare, social ventures, and non-profits.

Application Deadlines:

Application Deadline Decisions Released
 Round 1 September 26, 2019 December 12, 2019
 Round 2 January 9, 2020 March 26, 2020
 Round 3 April 2, 2020 May 7, 2020


Haas has changed both the required essays for the 2019-2020 application season. Haas no longer asks applicants about their post-MBA goals in the essay section. (They will  answer a question about your career goals in the application form section.) The focus is now on leadership and on being yourself. Haas continues to lay stress on its core values and 4 principles.

From the Haas website, “Our distinctive culture is defined by four key principles- Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. We encourage you to reflect on your experiences, values, and passions so that you may craft thoughtful and authentic responses that demonstrate your fit with our program - culturally, academically, and professionally.” You need to prepare your Haas application with these four principles at the core. Before writing the essays, it would be a great idea to watch videos prepared by Haas staff to get a fair idea of Haas's experience, values, and culture.

Here is MER’s analysis of Haas’s 2019-2020 essays:

Essay 1: What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why? (300 words maximum)

The admission committee of Haas maintains its style of asking creative questions, (“a song that expresses who you are”, “a six -words story”), and asks about something thatmakes you feel alive when doing it.” This essay asks about an activity that motivates you to be your best. Think of some activities that you like to engage in and then pick the most memorable activity that fuels your best performance and inspires you. Pick something which gives valuable insights into your style of functioning and personality. For instance, if you are deeply involved in volunteer work, you may explain how you are successfully encouraging your community to reuse and reduce plastic to conserve the environment. Highlight how your passion has helped your community and the cause of environmental sustenance.

It may be your hobby that invigorates you, e.g singing, dancing, gardening, cooking, or any other adventure activities, such as hiking, scuba diving, parachuting, or any other activity. You may first describe that hobby and the way you pursue it, and then explain how you feel while engaging in that favorite hobby/ interest of yours and how it makes you ‘feel alive’. This activity should reveal who you are as a person. The ‘'how part of the essay is the key here as it will showcase your natural talents and emotions.

Considering the stringent word limit of 300 words, you need to make every word count. Broadly, you can use approximately 100 words to describe the activity and 200 words to describe how you feel while you are engaged in it. Lastly, it would be great if you can draw a parallel with one of the 4 defining principles Haas believes in.

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)

The first essay showcases your interests or passions, and the second essay focuses on professional accomplishments. Many of your professional experiences may be worthy of narration, but considering the word limit, it would be better to stick to any one of your experiences. Again, make a list of your achievements, preferably professional (though Haas does not explicitly ask for professional experience), and then select examples that align well with Haas’ principles (e.g. challenging the status quo, confidence without attitude).

Begin your essay with defining your leadership style, your ability to lead, and explain how you have demonstrated leadership (approximately 150-200 words) The introduction should propel the Ad Com to read the entire story and build the tempo.  After sharing 1-2 leadership stories, discuss the areas where you felt you could have done better as a leader, and then explain how MBA at Haas can help you deal with it. Here, it would be a great idea to acquaint yourself well not only with the curriculum at Haas but also their approach to management education. Applicants will need to demonstrate how their leadership style is in sync with Berkeley's values. Review of literature available on the website of Haas, meeting alumni and students, attending interface sessions will go a long way to compose a compelling response of the second part of the essay.

Optional Essays:

The admissions team takes a holistic approach to application review and seeks to understand all aspects of a candidate’s character, qualifications, and experiences. We will consider achievements in the context of the opportunities available to a candidate. Some applicants may have faced hardships or unusual life circumstances, and we will consider the maturity, perseverance, and thoughtfulness with which they have responded to and/or overcome them.

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)?
  • 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)
  1. What is the most recent occupation of your parent(s) or guardian(s)?
  • Unemployed
  • Homemaker
  • Laborer
  • Skilled worker
  • Professional
  1. 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
  1. What was the primary language spoken in your childhood home?
  1. If you have you ever been responsible for providing significant and continuing financial or supervisory support for someone else, please indicate:
  • Child
  • Spouse
  • Sibling
  • Parent
  • Extended family member (grandparent, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, cousin)
  • Other
  1. 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)

This short answer question requires an honest and straightforward approach. You can elaborate on any of your above responses (1-5) in question 6 if you think some aspects of your personal or professional journey could be of relevance for admission. You could also use this space to discuss any hardship or unusual life circumstances to help the admission committee better understand your opportunities and achievements.

These questions gauge your resolve to overcome adversity. Contemplate the circumstances that define your achievements. Overcoming hardships makes a person confident and strong, a person who is not ruffled by tough times, a trait of an efficient manager. Haas is interested in your attitude, whether hardships are a problem or an opportunity to excel for you. Everyone faces difficulties in life at some point or the other. For example, you have seen a time when your parents lost the job. You may have faced a serious health issue which tested your will power, patience, and determination. The key is how you faced adversity and emerged a stronger person in the process. Your positive mindset and objective outlook in the face of hardships will set you apart from others.

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 instructed in the essay prompt, submit the optional essay only if you have to explain any information or extenuating circumstances. (e.g. “unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance”) not addressed in your application. If you have a low GPA or less than ideal GMAT, or if you are not able to get a recommendation from your current supervisor, or if you have an employment gap, you may address these concerns in your optional essay. Your weakness may also bring out a positive aspect of your personality. This essay should convey that you are aware that these are areas of concern in your application, but whenever possible, you have made a sincere effort to improve upon these areas. For example, if you are discussing your employment gap, you may explain that you did something productive during that period, such as traveling, volunteering, or handling a family medical emergency.

If you do not have a strong quantitative background, you can use one or two examples from work to demonstrate your analytical ability. Also, if you have taken any supplemental coursework to improve your quantitative skills, you can explain that coursework here.

Your response should be positive, straightforward, and fact-focused and should not sound like you are making excuses for a weakness in your profile. Please note that the admission committee asks you to submit this essay only if you need to. Your response should be brief without making any excuses.

If you do not have any weakness in your profile but think that you didn’t get a chance to throw a spotlight on a significant professional accomplishment, or extra-curricular accomplishments, you may sure use this essay to share that key aspect of your candidacy. It will be helpful to check out at the video where Senior Associate Director of Full-time Admissions, Cindy Jennings Millette, shares how they “look at, and evaluate, extracurricular and community involvement.”

Free Resources:

10 Key Essay Tips with Examples

Essay Analysis of Other Tops Programs- 2019-20

25 Video/Chat Interviews of Successful MER Students

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs, including Sloan Business School. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

For further guidance and writing that resonates well with Berkeley Haas, you may email Poonam at with questions about your Haas application.