August 9, 2019

Berkeley Haas School of Business MBA Optional Essay #1

UC Berkeley (Haas)

Optional Essay #1

We invite you to help us better understand the context of your opportunities and achievements. 

This is an interesting one, and we’ll have more to say about it once we get to part #6 (the essay question part of the prompt). For reference, here are the first five parts:

  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)

Okay, so first of all, for those first five, treat em like “filling out your basic information when you visit the dentist.” Nothing fancy, just simply answer the question.

For number 6, this is where it gets somewhat interesting. Here’s the thing, you should either write about stuff, or not, depending on whether your story TRULY ADDS VALUE TO YOUR APP. We can’t make a blanket statement about what kinds of stories warrant inclusion compared to others… without knowing the full story. So, it’s a case-by-case thang. Here’s what we CAN say, in case it’s helpful:

  1. Regardless of what your “status” is in life, whether socio-economic, or measured in some other way, if you have been on a certain trajectory, and then some personal, life circumstance KNOCKED YOU OFF OF THAT TRAJECTORY, and you succeeded IN SPITE OF IT, that may be a good indication of a publish-worthy story here. This shouldn’t be seen as a contest of whose life is most fraught with challenge. It has more to do with the EXTENT TO WHICH YOUR PROGRESS IN LIFE AND ALONG YOUR CAREER TRAJECTORY HAS BEEN FRUSTRATED by obstacles thrown at you, and only you. (In other words, obstacles that affect other folks, your competition, equally, don’t count here.)
  2. Some stories that can and should be elaborated on here aren’t necessarily “overcame hardship” stories, but rather, super cool explorations of … something so cool and unique that that experience has given you SOMETHING valuable (1) for yourself and with respect to your own path, and also (2) that can be shared with your classmates, to their benefit. Again, what’s “cool” versus “not cool” in this context? “We’ll know it when we see it.” We wish we had a magic answer, but this is one of those rare instances where you just need a good eye to know what’s awesome and what FEEEEELS awesome, but is actually common, or worse, “not as compelling as you think it is.”
  3. One guiding principle you can use is that IF you choose to write about something, it should build on your application strengths, and not just be an “oh, by the way, thought you should know this–––in case that’s of interest” kinda thing. The take-home MUST make the reader feel MORE confident about your “stock’s value” than the version that didn’t include it.
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