UC Berkeley Haas 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

UC Berkeley Haas

UC Berkeley Haas

Haas’ application this year has relatively minor changes.  It replaced last year’s #1, which was a somewhat artsy question about a song that expresses who you are, with a straightforward question about a transformational experience. 

The other significant change is that Haas provides word length guidelines that provide range, for instance 400-500 word maximum, instead of one number, for example 500 words max.

Supplemental Information:

1. If you have not provided a letter of recommendation from your current supervisor, please explain. If not applicable, enter N/A.

Keep it short and sweet. This is primarily for those of you who don’t want to tell your boss yet that you plan to leave.

2. List in order of importance all community and professional organizations and extracurricular activities in which you have been involved during or after university studies. Include the following information for each organization or activity using the format below:

•  Name of organization or activity
•  Nature of organization or activity
•  Size of organization
•  Dates of involvement
•  Offices held
•  Average number of hours spent per month

Whenever possible, quantify your impact or contribution. Please note that Haas is not interested in high school grades or activities. Note also that they want the list not in chronological order, but in order of importance — however you define “importance.”

3. List full-time and part-time jobs held during undergraduate or graduate studies, indicating the employer, job title, employment dates, location, and the number of hours worked per week for each position held prior to the completion of your degree.

Again, quantify as much as possible your responsibilities and impact. Focus on achievements. Avoid  job descriptions that are obvious from your job title.

4. Please explain all gaps in your employment since earning your university degree.

Provide the circumstances, but as always, be succinct. If your position was eliminated during a restructuring and it took you three months to find a job, say so. No harm, no foul. If the layoff was much longer, also indicate how you used your time, other than job-searching. Learning new skills or serving your community, if true, would be great to mention here.

5. If you have ever been subject to academic discipline, placed on probation, suspended, or required to withdraw from any college or university, please explain. If not, please enter N/A. (An affirmative response to this question does not automatically disqualify you from admission.)

Please, please, please don’t “forget” to answer this question if it applies to you. It’s far worse to omit it than to answer it.


At Berkeley-Haas, our distinctive culture is defined by four key principles —Question the Status QuoConfidence Without AttitudeStudents Always; and Beyond yourself. We seek candidates from a broad range of cultures, backgrounds, and industries who demonstrate a strong cultural fit with our program and defining principles. Please use the following essays as an opportunity to reflect on and share with us the values, experiences, and accomplishments that have helped shape who you are. (Learn more about Berkeley-Haas’ Defining Principles).

As you are answering the following four questions really think about Haas’ defining principles and when possible tie your answer and experiences to those principles. As I frequently do, I want to warn you against simply repeating the principles or stuffing them into your essays. That’s a waste of time and space. Use your essays to reveal that you share those values and have those qualities.

1. Describe an experience that has fundamentally changed the way you see the world. How did this transform you? (400 – 500 word maximum)

This is a new and very different questions form the one that occupied this slot last year.

The question is fairly straightforward and clear. Plus it leaves you room to start with the experience. Paint a picture for the reader of the scene that had such tremendous impact, or tell the story of that experience. How has your life changes as a result? How did your perspective change? What do you do differently? While discussing  perspective or outlook is fine, don’t leave your essay with theory alone. Transformation isn’t merely theoretical; it has to influence practice. 

2. What is your most significant professional accomplishment? (200 – 300 word maximum)

What are you most proud of? When did you make a real contribution and go “beyond yourself”? Tell the story of your accomplishment, but also reflect on it. Why do you consider it the “most significant”? Was it the impact you had on others, or the impact the experience had on you, or what the experience says about you?

For a brief article on accomplishments, please see “What is an Accomplishment?

3. What is your desired post-MBA role and at what company or organization? In your response, please specifically address sub-questions a., b., and c. (500 – 600 word maximum for 3a, 3b, and 3c combined)

a. How is your background compelling to this company?
b. What is something you would do better for this company than any other employee?
c. Why is an MBA necessary and how will Haas specifically help you succeed at this company? (250 word maximum)

This is a probing question. Generalities won’t do here.

It’s unusual that Haas is asking you to be so specific as to name a company you would like to work for. They’re not asking for a type of company or industry. Regardless, do the homework necessary so that you can specify a company as well as the roll you would like to play in that organization.

First, what role would you like to have after you earn your MBA and what would be your first choice in terms of employer. Now do your homework about the company. Read its employment site. If you can, speak to current employees. If you can’t interact with real live people, go on Vault or LinkedIn and network with current employees who are alumni of your college or somehow connected to you in some other way. What is a typical career path at this company? What does the organization seek in people it hires for your desired role? Why would this company want to hire you given your background and education?  Why would you be (after you get your Haas MBA) a compelling candidate?

And finally, how will Haas help you snag your dream position at your dream company. What gaps will your MBA fill? What skills will it hone? 

Think about a common thread between what you’ve done, your Haas MBA, and that dream position. That core idea can really unify your essay.

Optional Essays:

1. (Optional) Please feel free to provide a statement concerning any information you would like to add to your application that you haven’t addressed elsewhere. (500 word maximum)

A bonus! If there is an element in your background, be it personal, academic or professional, that you have not revealed elsewhere and would like the adcom to know about, this is the spot. Give them another reason to admit you, but don’t submit the grand summary, appeal, or closing statement. Keep it succinct and focused. Obviously, you could use this essay to explain a weakness, but that would leave your application ending on a weakness, which is less than optimal. Try to fit the explanation in somewhere else in the app or if necessary tuck the weakness into this essay, but have the main focus of this essay be something positive. For example: Your pride in working your way through undergrad, the challenges, and the ultimate satisfaction of learning to manage your time. An essay with this core idea explains a less than stellar GPA; it won’t justify a 2.0.

2. (Optional) If not clearly evident, please discuss ways in which you have demonstrated strong quantitative abilities, or plan to strengthen quantitative abilities. You do not need to list courses that appear on your transcript. (250 word maximum)

If you are a liberal arts graduate or the proverbial poet applying to business school or if you simply don’t have a lot of math on your transcript or on your resume, you need to respond to this question. You could show that your work may be more quantitative than initially assumed or you could discuss quantitative courses you are taking now that do not yet appear on your transcript.

If you would like professional guidance with your UC Berkeley Haas MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the Haas MBA application. 

UC Berkeley Haas 2015 MBA Application Deadlines:

Application Deadline  Decisions Released
Round 1  October 1, 2014 January 15, 2015
Round 2 January 7, 2015 March 26, 2015
Round 3 March 11, 2015 May 14, 2015

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs
Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

  • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

    If any readers would like a profile evaluation for Haas, please provide the following info:

    1) Brief description of your full-time work experience.
    2) Your GMAT or GRE. Percentiles preferred.
    3) College info: The name of the college, your GPA or grade average, your major, year of graduation. For any graduate degrees, please provide the same info. If you grades are low, please indicate if there were extenuating circumstances.
    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service, especially leadership experience.
    5) Important certifications like CFA, CPA, FSA, or CA.
    6) Your post-MBA goal.

    Or if you just have a question about MBA admissions, I’ll do my best to answer it.

    • Kiran

      I would need my profile to be evaluated. Can you please let me know if I need to email you the relevant info listed here or just mention here in the discussion?

      • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

        Just answer the questions above, and I’ll do my best.


  • Pavani Turaga

    Hi Linda,

    Would be great if you can evaluate my profile for HAAS

    GMAT – 710 (Q-48, V- 41)

    Indian Female (7.5 years of Experience)
    3 years in Assurance & Auditing with a Big 4
    1.5 years in Equity Research for Bulge Bracket Investment Banking firm (as offshore associate)
    3 years in Office of CFO of a $5bn Indian Tech (IT) Company – Role involves supporting transformation initaitives

    Extracurriculars – Minor
    International Experience – Nil

    Education – CA (Equivalent to American CPA) and Undergrad from University of Delhi in Business

    Short term goal – Consulting with MBB in Performance Improvement or Transformation Practice

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Haas is a stretch; it’s not impossible, but you can’t be confident of acceptance. Consider also Darden, Ross, Duke, CMU Tepper, and Yale.

      Linda Abraham

  • Uk

    Hi Linda,
    Would be great if you can evaluate my profile for HAAS
    1) Worked with Bank of America as an anlayst in Mumbai for 3 years supporting their NY desk. The founding member of an ecommerce startup in India, for last 2 years, raised more than $10mm in funding. Currently heading a team of 70 people.
    2) GMAT 740 (97%)
    3) Indian Institute of Technology.. (Bachelors and Masters in Science). First Class.Graduated in 2009.
    4) Cofounded a self help group working in village while at college. Provided employment to 20 villagers. Organized college fest. Nothing much post college.
    5) None
    6) Product manager and then entrepreneur few years down the line.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


      You have a competitive profile for Haas an dare applying appropriately. You may also want to consider Stanford, UCLA, Kellogg, MIT Sloan, and Wharton.


      • Uk

        Thanks Linda,

        This is very reassuring. I am applying to Stanford and Sloan in second round. I am not sure about Wharton. I thought Wharton was totally a fin oriented B school. Do you think Wharton is a good choice for my profile ?

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


  • Russ Forthuber

    Hi Linda, I’m in the midst of applying to Haas and Stanford but wanted to see if you could evaluate my candidacy for these and other schools:

    1) Sailed as a shipboard engineer onboard LNG tankers doing worldwide trade with some managing of junior colleagues for 2.5 years, now working as a project engineer at a mechanical engineering firm doing project and design management, also started a part-time maritime energy efficiency consulting firm focusing on saving fuel costs for shipping companies by optimizing systems – involved in strategy, selling services, running client meetings. This startup failed but was an excellent learning experience for an engineer. Also working as a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserve.
    2) GRE – 166 Math and 161 Verbal (710 GMAT equivalent)
    3) US Merchant Marine Academy, 3.55, Engineering Systems Design, 2009.
    4) Founder & President of collegiate cycling team in 2009, we raced in the Northeastern Collegiate Circuit & I ran a bicycle drive collecting ~50 bicycles for a homeless shelter. Regimental Alumni Liaison assisting with planning and running Homecoming in 2009. Currently a coach of the #1 ranked high school mountain bike race team in California, responsible for the training program and overseeing training rides. I’ve been in this position since 2012.
    5) Expecting Professional Engineers License in April 2015, Eagle Scout.
    6)Post MBA – Maritime industry is antiquated, prone to human error, and fuel prices are going up. I want to change how goods are transported between countries by utilizing renewables, tech, and re-evaluating the size of the vessels, doing business development at a renewable marine tech company or at a large shipping company.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


      You have a competitive profile for both schools. Also consider MIT Sloan (maybe LGO program), Kellogg (MMM), Wharton, Ross, and CMU Tepper.


  • p

    Hi Linda,

    Wondering if you can help evaluate my chance for Haas:

    1) Worked in biomedical research as lab technician for 1.5 years and then as a Business analyst for a clean tech company for 2.5 years, doing sales operations and compensation work

    2) GMAT 710

    3) Went to Cal as undergrad. majored in Biology. GPA in the 3.2 range

    4) Minimal extracurricular activities

    5) Goal: Consulting with MBB

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      I think it’s a stretch. Look into CMU Tepper, UT, Duke, Yale, Ross, and Darden.


  • Nilesh

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for the help in advance. Please find my profile

    1) I took over our family business and have set up 3 new divisions, increasing revenue by 50% and profitability 25%. We are in healthcare services
    2) GMAT – 700 (89%) – V 37 Q – 48
    3) Singapore Management University GPA – 2.53 ( Super low) – Extenuating circumstances are not major but I do have a lot of networking and extra curricular activities from university
    4) Extra curricular – Tons
    i) Handle big projects for our family run NGO – Been involved over the years and we have got tremendous media coverage and many awards
    ii) Music – I am a musician and have been involved with various bands over the years
    iii) Sports
    5) Bsc in Economics
    6) American Citizen – Nationality Indian – 5 years work ex – Great international exposure – Lived abroad, traveled extensively for work, huge network of international friends and colleagues
    7) Post MBA goal – Continue the current business and launch new and bigger healthcare ventures. Have the venture ideas pretty mapped out just want to get some MBA exposure before I start on them. Maybe even work a year in consulting in healthcare before I start them so that Im more equipped

    Want to know realistically which schools I should apply to. My overall profile is very strong but my GPA is my profile killer and its not that I have a 750 on my GMAT to offset it.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


      Your analysis is solid. I think Haas is a big stretch for you. Consider Johns Hopkins Carey, USC, UNC, Duke, Georgetown, and Rutgers.


  • Ragha

    Hi Linda,

    Thank you for offering to do a profile evaluation, it would be great if you can provide your thoughts on my profile:

    1. Have 4 years of experience working for Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a business analyst and project manager. Have been regularly promoted and was transferred from Singapore to the US after the Singapore unit was divested.

    2. GMAT: 710 (91%)

    3. Undergrad: B.Eng from the National University of Singapore with a GPA of 3.71/5.

    4. Extra-Curricular and Community Service: Many leadership and volunteering positions held through College and Work both inside and outside of Bank of America.

    5. Pursued a Graduate Diploma in Management via Distance Learning program of London School of Economics

    6. Post-MBA: Want to join a Consulting firm and long term want to operate in Asia in a Product Management/Strategy role for a Technology firm.

    Other info: Indian National, College and 4 years of Work Experience in Singapore and 1 year Work Experience in the US (at Sep 2015).

    Thank you very much in advance.


    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


      Haas is a stretch for you. Consider Yale, Ross, Darden, Cornell Johnson, UNC, and Vanderbilt.


  • RK

    HI Linda,

    Thanks for the help,

    1) 30 year old Indian female, working in education. Worked as a teach for India fellow and now working in s social entrepreneurship education venture . Work ex – 7 years. 2 years in family business, 2 years as a teach for India fellow and 3 years in the social enterprise space.

    2) GMAT – 710

    3) College info – University of Pune , and masters from University of Warwick , UK. GPA – 3.5

    4) Significant college and post-college extra-curricular activities or community service : Most of the works at teach for India fellow falls under this category.

    5) Important certifications – None

    6) Your post-MBA goal – Work as a social entrepreneur down the line.

    Thanks for your help

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Haas is a stretch, but go for it. Also consider Darden, Ross, Yale, UCLA, and Georgetown

  • Imwas

    Hi Linda,

    Appreciate if you can help to evaluate my profile for Haas. Also, planning to apply to Cornell/ Yale/ LBS/ Cambridge. Appreciate if you can evaluate my chance with listed schools too.

    1) 27 Male Malaysian. 3.5 years in management consulting in supply chain for a global consulting firm and promoted in 2.5 years. Projects are mostly cost reduction and business improvement transformation programs. General roles and responsibilities such as conduct issue analysis, propose solution, client engagement and guide subordinates.
    2) GMAT: 680. (Potentially re-taking it to boost up my chance)
    3) Monash University, Australia/ First Class Honours/ B.Eng Civil Engineering/ Dec 2010.
    4) Setup soccer team with peers from university to compete in local tournaments during 4 years in university. Team’s performance was up and down over the 4 years but built strong network with all players / CSR with current employer as part of the design team for an internal crowd sourcing platform which raise funds for social homes in Malaysia. Led site visit to social homes to assess and capture their requirements
    5) -None-
    6) Post MBA 0-3 years: Get into MBB to work in strategy consulting in the consumer goods / Post MBA 3+ years: Setup own consumer goods manufacturing company

    Thanks Linda.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


      Haas is a stretch, probably a big stretch. A higher GMAT would definitely help, but the other information you provide is competitive.

      You have a competitive profile for the other programs you list, but again a higher GMAT certainly wouldn’t hurt if you feel you can raise it.


  • Chris

    Hi Linda,

    I would be ecstatic if you could evaluate my profile. Any feedback/advice would really help:

    – 760 GMAT (99%)
    – GPA – 3.16 at Northwestern University (Had an extremely rough 2.6 Freshman year. Engineering GPA is 3.45)
    – Double Major in Mechanical Engineering and Economics
    – Age 25 at matriculation – American-born Asian Male

    Work experience:
    1.5 Years (2.5 upon matriculation) – Family Business. I have manufactured a dietary supplement line consisting of 14 products, created a business plan that resulted in reaching over 50 retail stores (but extremely niche), worked with several Asian distributors, and have attained product registration in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand. Our dietary supplement division anticipates reaching break-even point in late 2015.

    6 months – Worked for a Healthcare IT company (Epic Systems) out of college

    – Started an ecommerce business during undergraduate years during which I sold trading cards online. Sales exceeded 100k within 12 months.
    – Fluent in Mandarin
    – Formed a music group with friends and played the violin for the elderly in over 50 local convalescent homes the summer before I entered my undergraduate
    – Captain of high school tennis team (went to state championship finals)

    Long term goal: To continue my entrepreneurship, whether in dietary supplements or in a new project conceived during my MBA (the latter is more likely).
    Short term goal: To either start my long term project or work at a large consulting firm first (to gain experience that I will need later)

    Do you think I have much of a chance at other top 10 programs? I’m also applying to MIT, Stanford, Wharton, and Harvard, Kellogg, and UCLA but I feel like some of these may be a stretch.

    Thank you very much!

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      MIT historically has been very tough for applicants with low GPAs. Other than that, top 10 is a stretch. The GPA makes the top 10 unlikely; the GMAT makes it possible

      It’s not clear to me if you already applied to any of these schools, which would be great or are planning to apply R2 to all of them. Could you clarify?


      • Chris

        Hi Linda,

        Thank you for the feedback and realistic assessment. Do you think it is worth pointing out in the optional section of my application why my GPA was low? It seems like “poor freshman year” is a common, although true explanation.

        Unfortunately, I am indeed planning on applying in R2 for all of them. I decided in July that I needed an MBA to further my career and used R1’s time to study for the GMAT. I am confident that I will have some compelling essays, although I understand that R2 is slightly more competitive than R1.

        Once again, thank you so much for doing this!


        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


          Yes I think it is valuable to provide context for the poor freshman year. It happens.

          If you are applying to all your schools R2, then I suggest you apply to 3-4 from your list and 3-4 not on your list and where you will be more competitive. Obviously that’s a lot to do for that round, but if you start now and work diligently, it is possible.

          For schools that you didn’t list and where you would be more competitive, consider Cornell Johnson, Duke, Darden, Yale, USC, and Emory.


          • Chris

            Hi Linda,

            Once again, thank you for taking the time to provide me with insight. Your advice for R2 definitely helps, and I’ll probably end up seeing which of these is the best fit for me and add a few into the mix. Time management is definitely imperative here, and I appreciate the vote of confidence.


          • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

            You’re most welcome. And you are right about time management.

            If you’d like help with your MBA applications, please let me know.

  • slg1

    Hi Linda,

    I was wondering if you could help with my admission criteria for the PART TIME mba at haas. Pretty sure I’m a really long shot for full time. Additionally are there full time programs that I could be eligible for?

    Work experience in order:
    1) 3 years at early stage tech startup doing a range of duties from business development then eventually focusing on product management.
    2) 3 years as product manager at leading ad tech company.
    3) 1 year as product manager at leading online gaming company.

    GMAT: 700

    College: Hamilton college. GPA: 2.8 (This is the big eye sore on the resume)

    Volunteer: Involved with preparing and serving meals at various homeless shelters in SF for past 3 years.

    Post mba: Product management leadership at leading tech company, potentially start company down the road.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


      Were there extenuating circumstances that contributed to the low GPA?

      Have you looked into Cornell Tech in NYC for full-time MBA?


      • slg1

        Hi Linda,

        There were some difficult things that were going on in my family during college, which put me through difficult times. Is there part of the application where you have an opportunity to explain these things?

        Also, I did not mention that I took a bunch of business classes through uc berkeley extension after college (finance, economics, marketing, business essential, accounting, business writing) in which I performed very well. Could that help make up for my college gpa at least a little bit?

        I have not looked into the Cornell Tech in NYC MBA. I would like to stay in the bay area, but worth checking out I suppose.

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


          You can usually provide context for a low GPA in an “additional information” section that almost all apps have. For Haas, you could use Optional Essay 1.

          The additional class (and A’s) do help, and for the part time program, you have a competitive profile.

          For full-time options, consider Cornell Tech, CMU Tepper, UT Austin, and Rotman. Sorry. I realize they’re not in the Bay Area.


  • gale

    Hi Linda, thanks for taking the time to evaluate my profile.

    1) Work Experience: 4 years at a small business doing underwriting and
    administrative work (think real estate, insurance, mortgage). I work at a smaller business with about 50 employees so I am afraid this won’t be as impressive as applicants who worked at a fortune 500. I can demonstrate an increase in responsibilities and might get a promotion to manage a department of about 4 people soon.

    2) GMAT: 710 (92%), Q49 (79%), V 39 (89%), IR 7 (81%), AWA: 6 (92%)

    3) GPA: 3.65 (but majored in political science and minored in chinese studies). I managed to get cum laude and high honors in my major (required an honors thesis). Undergrad was nothing special but my school did like to brag it was a top 10 public school.

    4) Extracurriculars: Don’t really have anything after college but in college I won a fellowship to do a summer research program, worked part time, and got high honors on my honors thesis. I also had a scholarship in college that put me in a scholar’s program where I was paired with a mentor and worked on leadership abilities like public speaking.

    5) None

    6) Career Goals: Right now I work in the underwriting side of things and have tiny exposure to the financial side (bond trading and hedging that our company does via another investment firm). Right now the investment firm does all the hedging for us but I do work with them by supplying daily reports so that they know what to hedge. I want to either move to that side of the business or something more finance related. I believe I can craft a convincing essay and justify my desire and ability to career switch.

    I’m thinking about waiting until next year’s R1 for a better chance and to round out my profile (i.e. work hard to get that promotion, visit schools, take a quant class). Also, in addition to Haas, what do you think my chances are at Kellogg, Wharton (both dream schools), UCLA, and Duke? Thank you.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


      if you want to aim for your target programs, I think you would be smart to wait, get that promotion, get involved, preferably in a leadership role, in a non-professional activity that you will enjoy or that reflects your values, maybe take a quant or finance class (or consider the CFA exam), and yes visit the schools. Right now all your target programs are real stretches. They become more realistic, especially UCLA and Duke, if you take the steps you outlined.