Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA 2019-2020 Essay Tips

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With the release of its MBA deadlines, Stanford GSB has also published the essays for the coming admissions season. While the two main questions have not changed, Stanford has added a new optional essay to its application that you should pay careful attention to.

As for the two main essays, while they may seem straightforward, they are in fact some of the hardest application questions among top tier MBA programs. Stanford isn’t looking for general answers, but rather for carefully crafted and personal responses that highlight a great deal of maturity and self-reflection. Take the time to deep dive into Stanford’s culture and program before you attempt to answer these essays. Understanding what Stanford GSB can offer you and how you can fit within their environment is key.


ESSAYS


Essay A: What matters most to you, and why?

•      For this essay, we would like you to:

•      Do some deep self-examination, so you can genuinely illustrate who you are and how you came to be the person you are.

•      Share the insights, experiences, and lessons that shaped your perspectives, rather than focusing merely on what you’ve done or accomplished.

•      Write from the heart, and illustrate how a person, situation, or event has influenced you.

•      Focus on the “why” rather than the “what.”

It’s easy to rush into this essay and develop an answer that focuses on your career, but try to avoid this temptation at all costs. Stanford wants to understand your most central passion. Whether it’s related to your occupation, your personal activities or something that you’re aiming for in the long-term is of secondary importance.

Commonly, applicants are not even completely aware of what ‘it’ might be. If that’s your case, how can you discover it? Start keeping and updating a list of ideas that drive strong positive or negative emotional responses in you. Reflect on the major changes in your life and what deep-rooted concepts drove them. You might even get some inspiration by auditing your library of literature; what topics have you been most consistently attracted to?

Once you’ve zeroed in on what matters most, you need to concentrate on the why. Stanford loves storytellers, especially those who develop an intelligent and vulnerable narrative. When writing your essay, don’t hesitate to use colorful examples and dialogue to connect with the reader. If you’re not sure which stories to choose, replay them in your mind to see whether they elicit a strong reaction in you.

Essay B: Why Stanford?

•      Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions.

•      Explain your decision to pursue graduate education in management.

•      Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.

•      If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.

When answering the question of why Stanford, you first need to explain the reason behind your pursuit of an MBA. To do so, you should concentrate on a career trajectory that is impactful while remaining realizable. Stanford wants dreamers who understand how to weigh their dreams in reality and know how to accomplish them.

After you’ve figured out what goal you’re shooting for post-MBA, you have to research how Stanford will help you achieve it. This section needs to be full of concrete examples. When you mention courses, professors, the culture or any other aspect of Stanford’s program, you need to connect that unique Stanford attribute to a unique need that you have. On the other hand, if you’re too general in your statements, Stanford will only be able to conclude one of two things: either you don’t know what you’ll truly need to accomplish your goal or you don’t care to learn what makes Stanford’s offer unique.

Lastly, if you happen to apply to both Stanford’s MBA and MSx programs, use the extra space you’re afforded in the essay to explain how both programs could strongly match your requirements. While one might be preferable, it’s important to stress the fit of both options.

Optional Short-Answer Question: Think about times you’ve created a positive impact, whether in professional, extracurricular, academic, or other settings. What was your impact? What made it significant to you or to others? You are welcome to share up to three examples. (Up to 1500 characters, approximately 250 words, for each example)

The two required essays shed light on who you are and how you imagine Stanford will help you achieve your aspirations. We are also interested in learning about the things you have done that are most meaningful to you. In this section, we provide an optional opportunity to go beyond your resume to discuss some of your contributions more fully.

Whenever it comes to optional portions of an application, one of the first questions we get is whether they are really optional. When it comes to Stanford’s optional question, in the majority of cases, it would be in the candidate’s best interest to answer it.

Part of the reason why lies in the fact that this essay drives at one of the points that Stanford greatly prides itself on: making a difference. The applicants that GSB wants to recruit should ideally have that same desire. And what better way to illustrate the drive to make an impact than by showing examples in your history where you have done so positively?

When beginning, it’s best not to jump straight into answering this question, but rather to reflect on all the various instances in your life when you’re actions or presence has led to a significant change. Keep in mind that, in this case, significant could be something very personal to you or others. Because of that fact, most times, you don’t want to focus solely on professional activities, as you’ll risk seeming overly work-oriented or, even worse, you may seem to be simply rewriting your CV. Taking into consideration the human aspect is vital in this essay.

Once you have a list of possibilities, choose those that complement your application and reflect Stanford’s culture best. With 250 words per experience, you still have the space to bring pathos and color into your stories, but you’ll need to use it sparingly.

Stanford’s essay length instructions:

Your answers for both essay questions combined may not exceed 1,150 words (1,200 words if you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs).

Essay A         750

Essay B         400

Essay B (if applying to both the MBA and MSx programs)      450



If you’re looking to develop a GSB strategy and application that maximizes your chances of entry, be sure to reach out to our Stanford admissions experts.