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UC Berkeley Haas's goals essay this year is tricky.  It is going to trip up a lot of applicants.  Don't be one of them.

By Evan Forster

Earlier today I received a call from Brenda about the Haas MBA goals essay—

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.
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?
(500-600 word maximum for 3a, 3b, and 3c combined)

Brenda’s amazing—a transportation industry titan-to-be. So why was her essay so flat?

We have been writing about the archetypal MBA goals essay (and other professional why Law, Med, Architecture, etc.) for years now.  After a while, it all starts to sound the same.

“Start with a story about you, followed by the difference you want to make in your short and long-term goal—and be specific. Zero in on why that School or program is right for you and how you’re a fit. Close by bringing at all around to your short and long-term goals, blah, blah, blah….” Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Anyway, Brenda sends me this response to Haas’ prompt #1. I can easily spot the fact that she’s being vague and cautious. There’s not a lot of power in telling an adcom, “I can help manage the way that X company deals with changing guidelines and law…” I suggest making it more “active”, but I’m not seeing a way to squeeze my square peg methodology into this round hole—Still, I’m trying. God forbid I should contradict myself, after all.  I’m supposed to be the expert!

After our call, I think more about the question.  Desired post-MBA role and company.  Simple enough.  McKinsey? Bain? Accenture? It’s just another goals essay.  And yet

And then, BAM!  I fall in love with the question. It’s not about locking yourself into the right company (although it should be reasonable given your industry background), but revealing your ability to spot needto figure out what stands between a company and unbridled success.  Get it?  They are looking for people to take on making a difference … WITHOUT PRIOR APPROVAL!

Sneaky, huh?                                                                    

For Brenda (and you) to ace this Haas goals essay, you have to be the guy who, without ‘permission,’ finds a way to make a team work better.  Brenda did this naturally as a college volleyball playerand somewhere, at some time, you did too.  So dig down deep.  Find the version of you that is fearless.  Decide to expand the transportation division of McKinsey, improving how it handles its infrastructure and government clients.

 Don’t worry about being wrong or seeming arrogant.  There are no Haas goals police. Declare your intention.  State the change you will make. That’s what leaders do, and that’s what great programs like Haas are really looking for.

Like Haas itself, this essay is about a way of being. You see what’s missing in a company. You (because of your particular background) and leadership-ability can usher in that change. And you recognize that you need help, what you need help in, what skills you need to bolster and—in each one of thesehow Haas specifically can help you.

So in the end, this IS just another goals essaywith added specificity, asked in terms that only a few people will get. Be one of them.

Auntie Evan’s 5 steps to Haas Goals Dominance

A)     Look at your current history/industry and remind yourself of what you’re best at.

B)      Decide where you can be of service to that industry.

C)      Know which companies are missing out on a possible growth area (you should know this because it’s your professional background)

D)     Figure out where you are in need of growth

E)      Invite Haas and its community (via specific classes, clubs, etc.) to join you in your endeavor. 

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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.


Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.

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It's a red letter day at the FT offices -- new essays and deadlines have been released!

By Ben Feuer

Our essay guide was just updated with four new schools -- Duke Fuqua, Yale SOM, Berkeley Haas, and UPenn Wharton.  Check out the prompts and deadlines at the following links!