Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. I do not claim that following my advice will guarantee you a spot in Haas. I can promise that reading this will help you look at your essays more closely and help you to develop a good approach to writing Haas application essays.
It’s Haas apps season, and I’m sure a lot of you have been stressing over the essays. “What should I write about?” “How do I write an essay that stands out?” “How do I approach this question?” These are just some of the questions that go through every applicant’s mind at one point or another.
In this post, I will try my best to provide some big-picture insights to help you with your approach and topic of choice. I’ve read around 30 Haas essays in the past couple of years, so I definitely notice a lot of trends, both good and bad, and I’d like to share them with you here.
1. Answer the question!
I’ve seen many cases where the person bypasses the original question completely in the essay. If the question asks you to describe something you can improve on, write about something you can improve on, not on how you accomplished this or that. Of course, there are smart ways to approach answering the question at hand, but if the reader cannot see how you answered the original question, then that’s definitely something of concern.
2. Keep the big picture in mind.
I always tell people to remember the big-picture questions: Why Haas? How will Haas help me to achieve my career/post-grad goals? What can I bring to Haas as a student? Your anecdotes and insights should always tie back to Haas – you are applying to the school, after all. And don’t make it all about you – show how you can provide value, how you can contribute to the Haas community and make it a better place.
3. A Haas essay is NOT a resume or cover letter.
I can’t stress this one enough. If the readers wanted a resume or cover letter in essay format, they’d have specified. Your essay is your only shot at making a personal connection with the reader, so make it count. Don’t use the essay to list all your accomplishments, because even though they are solid accomplishments, they really don’t show who you are. Personally, I prefer crafting a narrative – using short (and interesting) anecdotes to answer the essay prompt while tying everything back to the big “Why Haas?” question.
4. Make it genuine (i.e. tone down the kissing-up).
I suspect one of the main reasons the Haas school changed the essay prompts this year was because of the sheer number of essays with a) a list of wonderful accomplishments b) how awesome that student is c) how that student is going to revolutionize Haas and the world. While there’s nothing wrong with grandiose visions, I’d advise against just writing things to “please” the admissions officers. They read through hundreds of these essays, and I think this gets old quick. Really put some thought into your content. Do some research on the programs you’re writing about.
5. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes.
Admissions officers read through hundreds of these essays, all written by very qualified students with amazing accomplishments. After a while, I find that regardless of specific content, a lot of the essays I read begin to look and sound the same. Break the mold! Really focus on how you can set yourself apart from the other applicants – for me, the story and application are the two most important things. Your essays should be unique to you, and they don’t always have to be about internships, family, or school (because you can bet that’s what everyone else is writing about). If you were the reader, what things would make you want to read the essay and keep your interest? Use this mentality when you think up topics.
That’s all the advice I have for now! I’m sure there are tons more, so for the upperclassmen who’ve applied in the past, feel free to share your advice in the comments. If you have specific questions, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them, potentially in another post.
Good luck with applications!
Time for apps at randomtidbitsofthought.wordpress.com.