Berkeley Haas has opened up its MBA application for the class of 2024. Both of the required essay questions reflect a personal and direct approach from the Haas admissions team, emphasizing the need to approach the application well prepared and with a solid argument for what Berkeley’s courses, culture and community can offer you. If you’re looking to apply to the Berkeley MBA, be sure to also keep careful track of the deadlines.


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

The first point to address when approaching this essay is to understand what the word ‘alive’ means to Berkeley. Usually, we are truly passionate about activities that make us feel alive, so think about which ones you most look forward to participating in, or which ones give you a strong sense of being part of a community. Does something in particular create a positive sense of excitement in you?

As a first step, brainstorm when activities elicit strong emotions from you. For each one, consider what emotions you feel from the activity, the impact it might have on others, and how you’ve learnt from your interest and commitment to it over time. While you may be tempted to reflect on part of your professional experiences, carefully consider this option first. Here, the admissions team is interested in your character and principles, and is not asking about your career successes or work ethic. Still, if a part of your job can sincerely illustrate something you’re highly passionate about—perhaps your job provides opportunities to volunteer, for example— then it could be also be a strong option to answer with here.

Whichever topic you chose, it is equally important to make your narration of it lively in the 300 words allowed. A well narrativised description can bring your reader into the activity you chose to discuss, and will help you to best show the reasons you value it. Once you have a good narrative in mind, make sure that your writing also puts forth a solid argument for your passion. Why does it matter to you? What impact has it had on others or yourself? In what ways does it make you feel more alive than other activities?

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)

Haas strongly values progress through leadership. But Berkeley also understands that, at this stage in their career, most applicants are still working their way up in the management ranks. While there are many ways to approach this question, an honest approach might therefore be the most powerful.

Recognize your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, while bring frank about the limitations you see and wish to surpass. In this vein, this essay offers a great place to mention future goals. What are your mid to long-term leadership objectives? What impact would you like to make in said role(s)? When you mention future projects, try to not exaggerate as Berkeley may feel that your plans are not realistic enough.

After explaining your present and future needs relative to leadership, try to connect them with concrete parts of Berkeley’s MBA program. Be specific. Digging into their MBA courses, connecting with alumni, or attending events can offer invaluable insights and details to include when responding to this essay.


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)

2. What is the most recent occupation of your parent(s) or guardian(s)?

  • Unemployed
  • Homemaker
  • Laborer
  • Skilled worker
  • Professional

3. 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

4. What was the primary language spoken in your childhood home?

5. 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

6. 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)

Berkeley understand that diversity and adversity shape candidates and can be sources of unique strengths. The first set of questions asked may only offer glimpses into your background, but the final question offers space to develop one of them or share something else that you feel is unique in your life and important to share with the admissions team.

Do not worry about justifying the weight of the experiences you chose to share. What Haas wants to learn here is what you believe has shaped your life, so it is okay to present events from your subjective point of view.

Optional Information #2 

This section should only be used to convey relevant information not addressed elsewhere in your application. This may include explanation of employment gaps, academic aberrations, supplemental coursework, etc. You are encouraged to use bullet points where appropriate.

If you have any issues with your application, Haas is offering an opportunity for you to clarify it for the admissions team. So, only use this essay if you need to explain issues flagged in your profile. Do not wrench a standard essay from another application into this section.

Two ways to explain away issues are to focus on context and correction. If for instance, you had weak grades at one point in your studies, you might want to provide a content answer to explain what else was happening during that time. Were you devoting time and energy to taking care of someone ill at that time, for example? An even better explanation, though, goes beyond just sharing the context of an issue and instead focuses on how you have corrected it. Taking the previous example, your grades might have significantly improved and remained high throughout the rest of your academic endeavors. As best you can, show the Haas admissions committee that the issue at hand has been surpassed.

For help on how to build a powerful Berkeley Haas MBA application, be sure to connect with one of our Haas admissions experts today. You will also find general admissions information on Berkeley’s official site.

Published On: October 11th, 2021 / Categories: Berkeley Haas, Essay, MBA / Tags: , , /