• Bryan Wang

PART VI: Applying (And Getting In) To Haas

In our sixth and final post on applying to Haas, we will cover the supplemental essay (for those applying in 2020, this will be particularly helpful!) as well as the Haas Interview and other final remarks on application auditing, final tips and tricks, and concluding thoughts for our freshmen and sophomore friends.


The Supplemental Essay


For those applying in the 2020 admissions cycle, you will be given a very unique essay prompt that's completely optional. This supplemental essay will ask you to write about how COVID-19 has impacted your academic, extracurricular, professional plans, and/or personal circumstances, and it's completely opt-in.


Except here's the thing -- it really isn't.


It may be opt-in on paper, but you absolutely should be writing an essay for this section.


You need to give the admissions committee as much context and color on your unique circumstances as humanly possible. If your academics, extracurriculars, or professional plans were disrupted as a result of COVID-19 but you don't fully express that anywhere in your app... you can't expect admissions to fill in the blank spaces and do the heavy lifting for you. You have to spell it out for them. Assume that they know nothing.


On that note, what should you write about?


There are three dimensions to think about (and they've been repeated already): academics, extracurriculars, professional plans, and personal circumstances. You can write about all four, or you can more substantively drill into one particular area.


Below, I'll write down some of my thoughts and best practices for tackling each of these dimensions. Your stories - and your approach - are your's to choose, but these tips and tricks should help you structure your general strategy.


ACADEMICS: It's honestly no understatement to say COVID-19 seriously impacted everybody's academics. Many students relied on college campuses for a stable living environment, a reliable source of electricity and internet, and a community of like-minded college students. Thrust into a generational crisis, many students were unable to adjust in-time. I personally think you shouldn't write about academics, as it's something that's impacted everybody, relatively uniformly speaking. Unless you didn't pass a class and a NP shows up on your transcript, you don't need to write a fully-embellished essay on why you didn't take a core class for a grade. If you did NP a class (especially if it's a core pre-requisite), then it is absolutely worth explaining your circumstances. Of course, you should not have to divulge any personal details you are not comfortable disclosing. But if you don't, you can NOT assume Haas admissions will know. If you were forced into an uncomfortable living situation where you could not access all the resources you need - physical, mental, and emotional - to succeed in your classes, then I personally implore you to provide this context to admissions. This will give them a greater understanding of your situation, and they don't immediately dock you off just for not passing UGBA 10 or another core course.


EXTRACURRICULARS: Unlike academics (which everybody has to do), club work and extracurricular activities are more unique and personalized among Haas applicants. Moreover, each club itself has found novel and innovative ways of dealing with COVID-19 such that there are so many amazing, diverse stories that could be told in this section alone. I've personally heard many amazing stories of how clubs have adapted to COVID-19 and kept on performing amazing work in spite of remote schooling and virtual semester(s). Write about how certain projects you were working on in Spring 2019 were disrupted as a result of COVID-19, and how you and your organization adapted. Write about how you spent the Summer of 2020, if applicable, on COVID-proofing club activities and developing virtual recruiting and onboarding processes, virtual socials, work-from-home procedures, etc. instead of your original plans. You can also write about engaging in virtual community service, and finding innovative ways of serving communities especially hard-hit by COVID-19. If you volunteered, absolutely write about your experience and what you learned. If you advised small businesses hard-hit by the lockdown on marketing and operations, this could be an amazing story as well. Your essay should start off by outlining your initial plans, and how you adapted and pivoted to the next best thing (and arguably the single best thing, by serving those disproportionately impacted by the virus and broader economic shutdown).


PROFESSIONAL PLANS: Maybe your internship was cancelled, or finding one became next to impossible (it's already hard enough for freshman, yeesh). Perhaps your research program got cancelled, or you were intended to study abroad (and for obvious reasons the program was cancelled). Similar to the extracurricular section, start your essay by outlining your initial plans (or what you thought your initial plan was going to be). Follow up by writing about what you actually did -- some students worked on (even founded) their own pro bono small business consulting projects, others engaged in virtual community service, and others built side projects and competed in virtual hackathons. No matter what happened, hopefully you made the most of this summer by engaging in activities that were personally and professionally meaningful for you and your community.


PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES: If you are a student who has to take care of his or her family on top of managing a burdensome course load, you should absolutely share these details with Haas Admissions. And if you are a student who was suddenly thrust into a situation like so, then again you should absolutely tell Haas. In fact, if you were thrust into any non-ideal, non-optimal family living situation where you couldn't give academics and professional development your 100%, you should absolutely share this with Haas. You should not be penalized for something that isn't your fault. If anything, you should be recognized for rising to the occasion and juggling more than anyone should be expected to handle. But if you don't share... Haas wont' know. And they can't give you the benefit of the doubt. Again, I recognize there are some details many students aren't comfortable disclosing. You absolutely have the right to disclose whatever you want to disclose. I sincerely want to ensure you have the best possible shot at getting into Haas, and my only advice here is to provide Haas the context they need to fairly review your application.


As you can see, there are a lot of different avenues you can go with this essay. I've talked with countless students, and I've heard many amazing stories worth sharing. One student virtually tutored low-income K-12 students in West Oakland, helping them navigate remote schooling and stay on top of their education (re: the achievement gap between wealthy and working class children is already stark, and COVID-19 is only accelerating the divide). Another student dedicated her summer to building a mentorship Discord channel for her club, connecting current students to alumni and forming unique groups based on majors, courses, and even jobs/industries


The craziest thing is that these students didn't even know they should be writing about these things. NEVER underestimate the worth and potential of your experiences. Because you absolutely have stories worth telling. COVID-19 has absolutely impacted and disrupted your plans, and that's why you absolutely have stories worth sharing to Haas Admissions.


Think about your fall, summer and spring of 2020, and use the framework above to structure your thoughts and your supplemental essay.


The Interview



You've done it. You've submitted your application, and now the wait begins. Fall semester ends, winter break begins, and you look forward to the next couple of weeks of (relative, because we know Cal students are always way too stressed out) relaxation and calm.


And then you get hit with an email by Haas informing you that you've been invited to interview with alumni as the next and final step of the application process.


Try not to freak out.


Earlier (and by earlier I mean Part I, throwback!), I mentioned how border-line candidates will be given a chance to interview with alumni, with said interview determining whether or not they will be granted a spot in Haas.


When I put it that way… yeah, it does kind of sound hard to not freak out.


While interviews are really stressful, this section will cover some best practices for the Haas interview, as well as the types of questions to expect, how to prepare, and more.


The interview will be conducted by an alumni, is typically 30 minutes long, and is held over a Zoom call. I was not interviewed, but having collected data from over 20 interviewees I have a pretty decent understanding of what kinds of questions are asked.


Prepare for basic behavioral questions, which you can do by following my Interviewing Guide here. Know your resume inside out, because you’ll also be asked questions on your experiences in and out of campus. Especially have a strong command and understanding of the stories you told in your essays, and be prepared to drill deeper.


You will also be asked “Why Haas” and what your postgraduate goals are (re: literally the essay you wrote for Prompt A). You will need to be able to articulate your postgraduate ambitions - what you want to do, and why you want to do it - as well as how you intend to get there (e.g. why Haas). You’re talking to alumni who are taking their valuable time - time they could spend with friends and loved ones - interviewing you instead. Needless to say, they’re pretty proud of their Haas identity, and have been charged with the hefty responsibility of determining if you possess that same love, spirit, and energy.


You need to come into the interview matching their passion for Haas and what it stands for, and you need to come prepared. Respect their time and energy, even though it's tough and super stressful (I know, trust me). Your interviewers will understand how stressful the situation is, but that's why the more energetic and engaging you are, the more you will impress them. On that note...


The format will typically follow this format: you greet your interviewer over Zoom, and they’ll introduce themselves and provide a quick background (when they graduated, what they’re doing right now, etc.). They’ll then turn the tables on you, asking the dreaded question “Tell me about yourself.” From there, the conversation will naturally move towards describing your goals, how Haas fits into that picture, and your experiences and accomplishments as outlined in your resume and essays up until this point. This will continue on for roughly 20-25 minutes, at which point the interviewer will open the floor to you to ask any final questions.


Take this time to ask insightful questions and demonstrate interest in both them and Haas.


What do they love most about Haas? What were their favorite classes, who were their favorite professors? How did Haas specifically help them pursue their postgraduate goals?


They’re interviewing students like you out of their own free time for a reason; they care about Haas and they care about you, its next generation of students. Convey an unflagging enthusiasm for learning and discovery, and you will impress them.


At this point the interview will end, and you will have to wait - alongside every other student - for the results to update come mid February.


The Dreaded Audit


So yeah, I'm just going to casually drop it to you that 10-15% of applicants are randomly “audited,” meaning Haas background checks your application and makes sure you’re not lying out of your ears when trying to hype yourself up).


Obviously, don't lie. Don't lie because it's the right thing to do, and also just don't put yourself in a position where you can be punished for it.


But I understand the your stress and nervousness as a result of learning about the audit. What constitutes as lying? What specifically gets you punished, so you know how to avoid it? And how can you audit-proof your application while also presenting yourself in the best possible light for the admissions committee?


To assuage your concerns, I have written my thoughts below:


The audit just happens, there’s no science or art to it. While I was not audited, a good number of my friends were; basically, you are emailed by Admissions who then informs you that you are being audited. You will need to provide materials to the Admissions Committee for further review; for instance, if you say you interned at Morgan Stanley in wealth management, then you’ll need your manager to sign some documents proving you did, in fact, intern with Morgan Stanley in wealth management at the times specified in your Haas application. You will need to do this for every internship, part-time job, research program, etc. that was provided in your application. If you are caught lying, then you are automatically dropped from the candidate pool. I guess the tl;dr here is to not lie (duh), but also that the auditing process is not as intense as it may sound. Detailed instructions are given, and your supervisors aren’t expected to write essays praising and exalting your work.


Concluding Thoughts


In case you’re still stuck thinking through your essays, if you find yourself scratching your heads thinking “How the heck am I supposed to write a good story, none of my experiences match with what Bryan is saying,” here are my two final takeaways.


For my freshmen readers: go above and beyond exploring new clubs, communities, and projects. When possible, ask for more responsibility. And prove yourself. Only then will you find yourself in these transformative experiences that will challenge you, define you, and transform you. These are the stories that showcase your fit in Haas the best, and they are also the stories that will teach you life-long lessons in leadership, problem solving, teamwork, adaptability, and grit. Especially as you enter classes remotely this fall, you are the first generation to enter such a crude and unfair environment. But this makes you undeniably unique, even more unique than past generations of golden bears before you; you are writing a story not even Haas admissions (or the world, for that matter) know the ending of, so use this ‘new normal’ to re-define your opportunities to impress those in positions of power.


For my sophomore readers: trust me, you’ll be surprised how many of your stories - stories you think are irrelevant, worthless, and aren’t worth mentioning to Haas Admissions - would make for perfect essays. So many people I know, people you would think are shoe-in’s for Haas - +3.9 GPAs, consulting clubs/business frats pedigrees, summer internships at banks and boutique PE shops - didn’t make it. And that’s because they all wrote essays that didn’t capture the fullness of their personality, spirit, and potential. They tried to focus on things they thought would impress Haas Admissions. But these essays didn’t speak from their hearts. But if you truly are stuck in a rut, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or Gmail. Attend Haas essay workshops, and ask your friends and mentors for guidance. Community is really, really important, as they are your first and ultimate line of defense.


And for everybody else: I’m not sure why you’re reading this (unless you’re in high school and playing 5D Mancala reading this newsletter and preparing to get into Haas — if you are, what can I say except… damn), but thanks for following along this ride! You are not your rejections, nor are you your admissions. We are the sum of our failures and victories, and regardless of whether or not you get into Haas or not you are going to KICK ASS.


The fact you're on this blog already means you've taken an incredible interest in your personal and professional development, and you are making the most of your time and energy towards discovering valuable resources and opportunities. Continue to grind, continue networking, continue acquiring new experiences and picking up new skills, and you will ultimately land a job/internship that deserves YOU, not just the other way around.


Stay healthy + happy in these covidious times, and stay tuned for more of our posts :)

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