Berkeley Haas has just opened up its MBA application for the 2022-2023 admissions season. Both of the required essay questions take on a personal and direct approach, which means that, before attacking the application, you should definitely take the time to develop a solid understanding of what Berkeley’s curriculum, culture and community can offer you.

And, if you’re applying to Haas, 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 thing you have to address when approaching this essay is what the word ‘alive’ means to Berkeley. We tend to be truly passionate about activities that elicit strong emotions in us, 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 positively excite you?

To begin, make a list of any and all activities you can think of that you’ve participated in, ideally, somewhat recently. For each one, consider what emotions you felt during the activity, the impact it might have had on others, and what 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, you should first carefully consider whether this option is really your best route. When it comes to this prompt, the admissions committee is interested in learning about your character and principles, and is not asking about your career successes or work ethic. Having said that, if a part of your job can sincerely illustrate something you’re highly passionate about—for instance, perhaps your work provides volunteer opportunities—then it could potentially work.

While choosing a topic is important, it’s also vital that you make your narration as lively as 300 words will allow. A well-styled narrative will help the admissions team better visualize and appreciate the activity you’re discussing. Once you have a good structure 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 you and/or others? In what ways does it make you feel more alive than other activities?

What kind of leader do you aspire to be and why? (300 words max)

Haas strongly values progress through leadership. But it also understands that, at this stage in their career, most applicants are still working their way up the ranks of management. While there are many ways to approach this question, an honest approach is in your best interest.

Recognize your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, while being straightforward about the limitations you see and wish to surpass. In fact, this essay offers an excellent forum to mention future goals. What are your mid to long-term leadership objectives? What impact would you like to make in said role(s)? Though, when you discuss future projects, try not to exaggerate as Berkeley may feel that your plans are not realistic enough. Being down to earth doesn’t hurt here from time to time.

You can also structure this essay around a type of leader that you admire. Try your best to avoid conventional choices—you don’t need to select someone that the admissions committee is familiar with, but you should select someone that has left a strong and positive impact in their wake, especially on others.


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

Don’t 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’s perfectly fine 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 within your profile, Haas is offering an opportunity for you to clarify it for the admissions committee. However, only use this essay if you need to explain issues that are standing out in your application. You don’t want to wrench a standard essay or a piece of one from another application into this section.

When explaining away issues you can either focus on context, resolution or both. If, for instance, you had weak grades at one point during your studies, you could contextualize them by discussing the health issues you experienced at the time. An even better response, though, would go beyond just sharing the context of an issue and instead would focus on how you resolved it. Building on the previous example, your grades might have significantly improved and remained high throughout the rest of your academic endeavors (not to mention, a higher than average GMAT/GRE score wouldn’t hurt your argument either). As best you can, show Berkeley that the issue has been put to rest.

For help with developing a powerful Haas MBA application, connect with one of our Berkeley Admissions Experts. You can also find general admissions info on Berkeley’s official site.

Published On: July 21st, 2022 / Categories: Berkeley Haas, Essay, MBA / Tags: , , /