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Forster-Thomas takes a peek inside this year's Haas business school application and gives you insight on the questions.

By Ben Feuer


Although we have already covered the basic dates and deadlines and the primary essay questions here, now that students are beginning their 2014-2015 Haas applications (at least for round one) we thought it was high time to take a closer look at the application.  Turns out, there are a lot of intriguing short answers and hidden prompts to address, so without further ado, let's dive in!

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

Berkeley has always had an enjoyably contrarian streak -- question authority, go your own way, be independent!  This prompt continues that theme, albeit in a more subdued vein than "tell us your favorite song".  You could look at this question as a 'lite' version of Stanford's What Matters Most to you and Why essay -- indeed, variations on this essay are cropping up across the b-school landscape this year.  The approach is simple but not easy.  Find a defining moment in your life, a time when you were stressed out, pushed to your limits, tested or threatened -- or a time when you encountered a dilemma, exceeded expectations, et cetera.  The point is that there must be a strong emotional heart to the incident, and it has to focus on a very limited time frame -- a month, two months.  Not six years.  Be introspective in discussing your transformation -- talk about your feelings, and focus on  the why as much (or more) than the what.

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

An accomplishment can be any task that you did exceptionally well.  It differs from a leadership essay in that it does not HAVE to involve other people, although given that you only get to write one such essay in the entire application, you are much better off if your accomplishment shows adcom your ability to lead.  It is a professional accomplishment, so do not use a personal or scholastic story.

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. How is your background compelling to this company? What is something you would do better for this company than any other employee? Why is an MBA necessary and how will Haas specifically help you succeed at this company? (500-600 word maximum for 3a, 3b, and 3c combined)

See any of our previous posts on goals, or our book, for a sense on how to approach this. 

SECTION III: Optional Essays

1.  Please feel free to provide a statement concerning any information you would like to add to your application that you have not provided elsewhere.  (500 words maximum)

Given the extensive section II supplemental questions (not covered in detail here) which ask about your professional and extracurricular background, letters of recommendation and all the other things that would usually be covered in an optional essay, this should be interpreted in the same manner as HBS and Wharton's optional essays -- IE, it is a good idea to fill this out.

The prompt is completely open-ended, which means you can discuss anything you have not discussed elsewhere.  Since you already have a defining moment essay, you could consider using this for additional leadership material, or discussing diversity experiences, or talking about your values -- or maybe telling them your favorite song!  :)

2.  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 words maximum)

It's not entirely clear why this is an essay, and why it is optional rather than supplemental, but for those of you who do not come from conventional quantitative backgrounds, this is a must-answer.  Avoiding your transcript, highlight experiences and abilities the admissions committee may not otherwise know that you have.


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