How to answer Stanford GSB MBA Admissions Essay A: What matters most to you, and why? and Essay B: Why Stanford?

Application Deadline: 10 a.m. PT on September 19, 2017
Notification Date: December 14, 2017


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STANFORD GSB ESSAYS



Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.


 


13 May 2016 update from Stanford's website


 

Stanford GSB MBA Essays for 2017-19


Essays

Essays help us learn about who you are rather than solely what you have done. Other parts of the application give insight to your academic and professional accomplishments; the essays reveal the person behind those achievements.

When writing your essays, resist the urge to “package” yourself into what you think Stanford wants to see. Doing so will only prevent us from understanding who you really are and what you hope to accomplish. The most impressive essays are the most authentic.

Essay Questions

We request that you write two personal essays. The personal essays give us glimpses of your character and hopes. In each essay, we want to hear your genuine voice. Think carefully about your values, passions, aims, and dreams prior to writing them.

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.”

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.

Length

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). Each of you has your own story to tell, so please allocate these words between the essays in the way that is most effective for you. Below is a suggested word count, based on what we typically see.

EssaySuggested Word Count
Essay A750
Essay B400
Essay B (if applying to both the MBA and MSx programs)450

Formatting

Double-spaced
Indicate the question you are answering at the beginning of each essay (does not count toward the word limit)
Number all pages
Upload one document that includes both essays

Be sure to save a copy of your essays, and preview the uploaded document to ensure that the formatting is preserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

FOR REFERENCE

Essays help us learn about who you are rather than solely what you have done. Other parts of the application give insight to your academic and professional accomplishments; the essays reveal the person behind those achievements.

When writing your essays, resist the urge to “package” yourself into what you think Stanford wants to see. Doing so will only prevent us from understanding who you really are and what you hope to accomplish. The most impressive essays are the most authentic.

Essay Questions for the Class of 2018

We request that you write two personal essays. The personal essays give us glimpses of your character and hopes. In each essay, we want to hear your genuine voice. Think carefully about your values, passions, aims, and dreams prior to writing them.

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

For this essay, we would like you to:

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

  • 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.


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.


Length

Your answers for both essay questions combined may not exceed 1,150 words. Below are suggested word counts per essay, but you should allocate the maximum word count in the way that is most effective for you.

Suggested Word Count

  • Essay A 750 words

  • Essay B 400 words 


Formatting

  • 12-pt. font size

  • Double-spaced

  • Recommended font types: Arial, Courier, or Times New Roman

  • Indicate the question you are answering at the beginning of each essay (does not count toward the word limit)

  • Number all pages

  • Upload one document that includes both essays


Be sure to save a copy of your essays, and preview the uploaded document to ensure that the formatting is preserved.

Editing Your Essays

Begin work on the essays early to give yourself time to reflect, write, and edit.

Feel free to ask friends or family members for constructive feedback — specifically if the tone and voice sound like you. Your family and friends know you better than anyone. If they think the essays do not capture who you are, how you live, what you believe, and what you aspire to do, then surely we will be unable to recognize what is most distinctive about you.

Feedback Vs. Coaching

There is a big difference, however, between “feedback” and “coaching.” You cross that line when any part of the application (excluding the letters of reference) ceases to be exclusively yours in either thought or word.

Appropriate feedback occurs when others review your completed application — perhaps once or twice — and apprise you of omissions, errors, or inaccuracies that you later correct or address. After editing is complete, your thoughts, voice, and style remain intact. Inappropriate coaching occurs when you allow others to craft your application for you and, as a result, your application or self-presentation is not authentic.

It is improper and a violation of the terms of this application process to have someone else write your essays. Such behavior will result in denial of your application or withdrawal of your offer of admission.

Additional Information

If there is any information that is critical for us to know and is not captured elsewhere, include it in the “Additional Information” section of the application. Pertinent examples include:

Extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance
Explanation of why you do not have a letter of reference from your current direct supervisor
Work experience that did not fit into the space provided
Academic experience (e.g., independent research) not noted elsewhere

Last Updated 6 May 2015

 
 

 

for reference

2014 - 2015 ESSAY QUESTIONS

Essays help us learn about who you are rather than solely what you have done. Other parts of the application give insight to your academic and professional accomplishments; the essays reveal the person behind those achievements. When writing your essays, resist the urge to “package” yourself into what you think Stanford wants to see. Doing so will only prevent us from understanding who you really are and what you hope to accomplish. The most impressive essays are the most authentic.

 

Essay Questions for the Class of 2017

We request that you write two personal essays. The personal essays give us glimpses of your character and hopes. In each essay, we want to hear your genuine voice. Think carefully about your values, passions, aims, and dreams prior to writing them.

 

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

A strong response to this question will:

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

  • Reflect the self-examination process you used to write your response.

  • 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.

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

 

Essay B: Why Stanford?

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

A strong response to this essay question will:

  • Explain your decision to pursue graduate education in management.

  • Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.

 

Length

Your answers for both essay questions combined may not exceed 1,100 words. Below are suggested word counts per essay, but you should allocate the maximum word count in the way that is most effective for you.

Essay

Suggested Word Count

Essay A650-850

Essay B250-450

(found at http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/programs/mba/admission/application-materials/essays; accessed 2014/05)

 


 

Round 2   08 January 2014, 5:00 PM 

Round 3   02 April 2014, 5:00 PM

 

What matters most to the Stanford GSB AdCom, and why

 
 

 

Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?

 

  • Authenticity matters most to Stanford.
  • Be yourself. Lots of AdCom directors say it. Stanford means it.
  • Submit essays that you will be able to share with your children or grandchildren.
 
 

TIP 1: TELL YOUR STORY

 
First, I suggest you read the following advice from Derrick Bolton, Assistant Dean and Director of MBA Admissions at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
 
  • In the first essay, tell a story—and tell a story that only you can tell.
  • Tell this essay in a straightforward and sincere way. This probably sounds strange, since these are essays for business school, but we really don’t expect to hear about your business experience in this essay (though, of course, you are free to write about whatever you would like).
  • Remember that we have your entire application—work history, letters of reference, short-answer responses, etc.—to learn what you have accomplished and the type of impact you have made. Your task in this first essay is to connect the people, situations, and events in your life with the values you adhere to and the choices you have made. This essay gives you a terrific opportunity to learn about yourself!
  • Many good essays describe the "what," but great essays move to the next order and describe how and why these "whats" have influenced your life. The most common mistake applicants make is spending too much time describing the "what" and not enough time describing how and why these guiding forces have shaped your behavior, attitudes, and objectives in your personal and professional lives.

(found at http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/mba/admission/dir_essays-p.html; accessed 2011/07)
 
 
 

TIP 2: GET OUTSIDE YOURSELF

 
There are two ways to answer Stanford Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?
 
  1. Inside out
  2. Outside in
 
Some clients look inside for the answer. They dig through their lives, write extensive memoirs, and emerge with their answer. Think of the Zen monk meditating on the sound of one hand clapping, or the lone physicist searching for an elusive subatomic particle.
 
Others start with a bunch of stories they want to share, then try to find the best theme to hold them all together. Think of selecting a Christmas tree. First, you imagine all of your favorite ornaments. Then, you try to find the sturdy frame that will display them properly. This is the outside in method.
 
I cannot say which method is better, but I know which one is faster: outside in.
 
As the round three deadline approaches, I encourage Stanford GSB challengers to start with five to seven stories you want to share. Then, eliminate those that have the least in common with the others. Through this process of elimination, you can find a pattern. As the pattern emerges, give it a name. This is the "what."
 
Finally, don’t forget the most important part of the question: why?

Often, my clients discover that their “why” has something to do with family influences. But the successful ones do not stop there. Our parents influence us, but we also make decisions that define our adult lives.

Whatever matters most to you should be that quality, value, or activity over which you simply have no choice. It defines you. If you did not do it, or pursue it, you would die, either literally or figuratively.
 
What keeps you alive?
 
What would you want written on your tombstone?
 
  • "Here lies Bob. He always tried his best."
  • "Cindy R.I.P. She cared about her family."
 
That's it? Really?
 
 


 

TIP 3: SHOW. DON'T TELL.

 

The best writers show. They don't tell.

What does that mean?

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." — Anton Chekov

 

  • To "show" means to demonstrate.
  • To "tell" means to assert.
     


Most writers emphasize the results of what happened.

Can you show your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions to express an event or story?

For example, we may say, "He is sloppy." This is telling.

In order to truly convince your readers, make sure to show with details exactly what you mean. Save your assertions for the topic and controlling sentences.

You can't tell us someone is a wonderful person, a talented musician or a spoiled child. We won't believe you. You must show us. Look for any opportunity to show us in real time, to act out, to let us feel. The difference will amaze you.

For example, we may say, "His shoelaces are untied, his socks are mismatched, his shirt untucked, and his face unwashed." This is showing.


 


 


How do I SHOW, not tell?



Read my favorite writing coach, William Zinsser:

The content below is modified from Zinsser's On Writing Well, 25th Anniversary: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Other versions of Zinsser's memoir writing tips can be found here and here.

 


Writing About Yourself

The Memoir

 

  • Of all the subjects available to you as a writer, the one you know best is yourself: your past and your present, your thoughts and your emotions. Yet it’s probably the subject you try hardest to avoid.

  • Give yourself permission to write about yourself, and have a good time doing it.

  • Don't be eager to please. If you consciously write for (admissions officers), you'll end up not writing for anybody. If you write for yourself, you'll reach the people you want to write for.

 

 

The crucial ingredient in memoir is, of course, people. Sounds and smells and songs and sleeping porches will take you just so far. Finally you must summon back the men and women and children who notably crossed your life. What was it that made them memorable—what turn of mind, what crazy habits?

Write about yourself, by all means, with confidence and with pleasure. But see that all the details—people, places, events, anecdotes, ideas, emotions—are moving your story steadily along. Make sure every component in your memoir is doing useful work.

Which brings me to memoir as a form. I'll read almost anybody's memoir. For me, no other nonfiction form goes so deeply to the roots of personal experience—to all the drama and pain and humor and unexpectedness of life. The books I remember most vividly from my first reading of them tend to be memoirs: books such as

 

  • Russell Bakers’ Growing Up

  • Vivian Gornick’s Fierce Attachments

  • Mary Karr's The Liars' Club

  • Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes

  • Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, Memory

  • Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings

 

What gives them their power is the narrowness of their focus. Unlike autobiography, which spans an entire life, memoir assumes the life and ignores most of it. The memoir writer takes us back to some corner of his or her past that was unusually intense—childhood, for instance—or that was framed by war or some other social upheaval.

  • Nabokov's Speak, Memory, the most elegant memoir I know, invokes a golden boyhood in czarist St. Petersburg, a world of private tutors and summer houses that the Russian Revolution would end forever. It's an act of writing frozen in a unique time and place.
     

Think narrow, then, when you try the form. Memoir isn't the summary of a life; it's a window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition. It may look like a casual and even random calling up of bygone events. It's not; it's a deliberate construction. Thoreau wrote seven different drafts of Walden in eight years; no American memoir was more painstakingly pieced together. To write a good memoir you must become the editor of your own life, imposing on an untidy sprawl of half-remembered events a narrative shape and an organizing idea. Memoir is the art of inventing the truth. One secret of the art is detail. Any kind of detail will work—a sound or a smell or a song title—as long as it played a shaping role in the portion of your life you have chosen to distil.

 


MEMOIR EXCERPT 1
 


Consider sound. Here's how Eudora Welty begins One Writer's Beginnings, a deceptively slender book packed with rich remembrance



"In our house on North Congress Street, in Jackson, Mississippi, where I was born, the oldest of three children, in 1909, we grew up to the striking of clocks. There was a mission-style oak grandfather clock standing in the hall, which sent its gong-like strokes through the living room, dining room, kitchen, and pantry, and up the sounding board of the stairwell. Through the night, it could find its way into our ears; sometimes, even on the sleeping porch, midnight could wake us up. My parents' bedroom had a smaller striking clock that answered it. Though the kitchen clock did nothing but show the time, the dining room clock was a cuckoo clock with weights on long chains, on one of which my baby brother, after climbing on a chair to the top of the china closet, once succeeded in suspending the cat for a moment. I don't know whether or not my father's Ohio family, in having been Swiss back in the 1700s before the first three Welty brothers came to America, had anything to do with this; but we all of us have been time-minded all our lives. This was good at least for a future fiction writer, being able to learn so penetratingly, and almost first of all, about chronology. It was one of a good many things I learned almost without knowing it; it would be there when I needed it.

My father loved all instruments that would instruct and fascinate. His place to keep things was the drawer in the "library table" where lying on top of his folded maps was a telescope with brass extensions, to find the moon and the Big Dipper after supper in our front yard, and to keep appointments with eclipses. There was a folding Kodak that was brought out for Christmas, birthdays, and trips. In the back of the drawer you could find a magnifying glass, a kaleidoscope, and a gyroscope kept in a black buckram box, which he would set dancing for us on a string pulled tight. He had also supplied himself with an assortment of puzzles composed of metal rings and intersecting links and keys chained together, impossible for the rest of us, however patiently shown, to take apart; he had an almost childlike love of the ingenious.

In time, a barometer was added to our dining room wall; but we really didn't need it. My father had the country boy’s accurate knowledge of the weather and its skies. He went out and stood on our front steps first thing in the morning and took a look at it and a sniff. He was a pretty good weather prophet. "Well, I'm not," my mother would say with enormous self-satisfaction.

So I developed a strong meteorological sensibility. In years ahead when I wrote stories, atmosphere took its influential role from the start. Commotion in the weather and the inner feelings aroused by such a hovering disturbance emerged connected in dramatic form."



Notice how much we learn instantly about Eudora Welty’s beginnings—the kind of home she was born into, the kind of man her father was. She has rung us into her Mississippi girlhood with the chiming of clocks up and down the stairs and even out onto the sleeping porch.

 


 


MEMOIR EXCERPT 2



For Alfred Kazin, smell is a thread that he follows back to his boyhood in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. From my first encounter with Kazan's A Walker in the City, long ago, I remember it as a sensory memoir. The following passage is not only a good example of how to write with your nose; it shows how memoir is nourished by a writers ability to create a sense of place—what it was that made his neighborhood and his heritage distinctive:


 

"It was the darkness and emptiness of the streets I liked most about Friday evening, as if in preparation for that day of rest and worship which the Jews greet "as a bride"—that day when the very touch of money is prohibited, all work, all travel, all household duties, even to the turning on and off of a light—Jewry had found its way past its tormented heart to some ancient still center of itself. I waited for the streets to go dark on Friday evening as other children waited for the Christmas lights.

When I returned home after three, the warm odor of a coffee cake baking in the oven, and the sight of my mother on her hands and knees scrubbing the linoleum on the dining room floor, filled me with such tenderness that I could feel my senses reaching out to embrace every single object in our household.

My great moment came at six, when my father returned from work, his overalls smelling faintly of turpentine and shellac, white drops of silver paint still gleaming on his chin. Hanging his overcoat in the long dark hall that led into our kitchen, he would leave in one pocket a loosely folded copy of the New York World; and then everything that beckoned to me from that other hemisphere of my brain beyond the East River would start up from the smell of fresh newsprint and the sight of the globe on the front page. It was a paper that carried special associations for me with Brooklyn Bridge.

They published the World under the green dome on Park Row overlooking the bridge; the fresh salt air of New York harbor lingered for me in the smell of paint and damp newsprint in the hall. I felt that my father brought the outside straight into our house with each day's copy of the World."
 

 

Kazin would eventually cross the Brooklyn Bridge and become the dean of American literary critics. But the literary genre that has been at the center of his life is not the usual stuff of literature: the novel, or the short story, or the poem. It's memoir, or what he calls "personal history"—specifically, such "personal American classics," discovered when he was a boy, as Walt Whitman's Civil War diary Specimen Days and his Leaves of Grass, Thoreau's Walden and especially his Journals, and The Education of Henry Adams.

What excited Kazin was that Whitman, Thoreau and Adams wrote themselves into the landscape of American literature by daring to use the most intimate forms—journals, diaries, letters and memoirs—and that he could also make the same "cherished connection" to America by writing personal history and thereby place himself, the son of Russian Jews, in the same landscape. You can use your own personal history to cross your own Brooklyn Bridge.


 


MEMOIR EXCERPT 3



For Maxine Hong Kingston, a daughter of Chinese immigrants in Stockton, California, shyness and embarrassment were central to the experience of being a child starting school in a strange land. In this passage, aptly called "Finding a Voice," from her book The Woman Warrior, notice how vividly Kingston recalls both facts and feelings from those traumatic early years in America:



"When I went to kindergarten and had to speak English for the first time, I became silent. A dumbness—a shame—still cracks my voice in two, even when I want to say "hello" casually, or ask an easy question in front of the check-out counter, or ask directions of a bus driver. I stand frozen.

During the first silent year I spoke to no one at school, did not ask before going to the lavatory, and flunked kindergarten. My sister also said nothing for three years, silent in the playground and silent at lunch. There were other quiet Chinese girls not of our family, but most of them got over it sooner than we did.

I enjoyed the silence. At first it did not occur to me I was supposed to talk or to pass kindergarten. I talked at home and to one or two of the Chinese kids in class. I made motions and even made some jokes. I drank out of a toy saucer when the water spilled out of the cup, and everybody laughed, pointed at me, so I did it some more. I didn't know that Americans don't drink out of saucers…

It was when I found out I had to talk that school became a misery, that the silence became a misery. I did not speak and felt bad each time that I did not speak. I read aloud in first grade, though, and heard the barest whisper with little squeaks come out of my throat. "Louder," said the teacher, who scared the voice away again. The other Chinese girls did not talk either, so I knew the silence had to do with being a Chinese girl.”



That childhood whisper is now an adult writer's voice that speaks to us with wisdom and humor, and I'm grateful to have that voice in our midst. Nobody but a Chinese-American woman could have made me feel what it's like to be a Chinese girl plunked down in an American kindergarten and expected to be an American girl.

 
 
 

BOTTOM LINE

 

Start early, dig deep, and enjoy the process.

 
More Stanford hints are here
 
 


 

 


 

Essays

 

We read your essays to get to know you as a person and to learn about the ideas and interests that motivate you. Tell us in your own words who you are.

 

In other parts of the application, we learn about your academic and professional accomplishments (i.e., what you have done). Through your personal essays (Essays 1 and 2), we learn more about the person behind the achievements (i.e., who you are).

 

Because we want to discover who you are, resist the urge to "package" yourself in order to come across in a way you think Stanford wants. Such attempts simply blur our understanding of who you are and what you can accomplish.

 

We want to hear your genuine voice throughout the essays that you write and this is the time to think carefully about your values, your passions, your hopes and dreams.

 

Truly, the most impressive essays are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us.

 

Essay Format

 

Please use 12-point font, double-spaced.

 

Recommended fonts are Arial, Courier, and Times New Roman.

 

Indicate the essay question you are answering at the beginning of each essay. The question does not count against your 1,600 word limit.

 

Upload all three essays as one document.

 

Number all pages.

 

For additional information about writing your essays, please visit our website.

 


 

TIPS FROM THE BOSS

Writing Effective Essays advice from Derrick Bolton

advice from Stanford MBA Admissions Dean Derrick Bolton

Regardless of the outcome of the admission process, I believe strongly that you will benefit from the opportunity for structured reflection that the business school application provides. I hope that you will approach the application process as a way to learn about yourself—that's the goal—with the byproduct being the application that you submit to us.

Rarely during our lives are we asked to think deeply about what is most important to us. Stanford professor Bill Damon’s book, The Moral Advantage: How to Succeed in Business by Doing the Right Thing, contained the following passages that might help you maintain the larger context as you delve into the essay writing process.

 

"We are not always aware of the forces that ultimately move us. While focusing on the "how" questions—how to survive, how to get ahead, how to make a name for ourselves—often we forget the "why" questions that are more essential for finding and staying on the best course: Why pursue this objective? Why behave in this manner? Why aspire to this kind of life? Why become this type of person?

 

These "why" questions help us realize our highest aspirations and our truest interests. To answer these questions well, we must decide what matters most to us, what we will be able to contribute to in our careers, what are the right (as opposed to the wrong) ways of behaving as we aim toward this end, and, ultimately, what kind of persons we want to become. Because everyone, everywhere, wants to live an admirable life, a life of consequence, the "why" questions cannot be ignored for long without great peril to one’s personal stability and enduring success. It is like ignoring the rudder on a ship—no matter how much you look after all the boat’s other moving parts, you may end up lost at sea."

 

Essay Philosophy

The Stanford MBA Program essays provide you an opportunity to reflect on your own "truest interests" and "highest aspirations."

While the letters of reference are stories about you told by others, these essays enable you to tell your own story, what matters most to you and why, as well as how you have decided you can best contribute to society.

Please think of the Stanford essays as conversations on paper—when we read files, we feel that we meet people, also known as our "flat friends"—and tell us your story in a natural, genuine way.

Our goal is to understand what motivates you and how you have become the person you are today. In addition, we’re interested in what kind of person you need the Stanford MBA Program to help you become.

Reflective, insightful essays help us envision the individual behind all of the experiences and accomplishments that we read about elsewhere in your application.

The most important piece of advice on these essays is extremely simple: answer the questions—each component of each question.

An additional suggestion for writing essays is equally straightforward: think a lot before you write. We want a holistic view of you as a person: your values, passions, ideas, experiences, and aspirations.

Essay 1

In the first essay, tell a story—and tell a story that only you can tell.

Tell this essay in a straightforward and sincere way. This probably sounds strange, since these are essays for business school, but we really don’t expect to hear about your business experience in this essay (though, of course, you are free to write about whatever you would like).

Remember that we have your entire application—work history, letters of reference, short-answer responses, etc.—to learn what you have accomplished and the type of impact you have made. Your task in this first essay is to connect the people, situations, and events in your life with the values you adhere to and the choices you have made. This essay gives you a terrific opportunity to learn about yourself!

Many good essays describe the "what," but great essays move to the next order and describe how and why these "whats" have influenced your life. The most common mistake applicants make is spending too much time describing the "what" and not enough time describing how and why these guiding forces have shaped your behavior, attitudes, and objectives in your personal and professional lives. Please be assured that we do appreciate and reward thoughtful self-assessment and appropriate levels of self-disclosure.


 

Essay 2

In the second essay, please note that there are two separate but related questions. Answer both! First, we ask you what you want to do - REALLY. Tell us what you aspire to do. You don’t need to come up with a "safe" answer because you’re worried that your true aim is not what we want to see. REALLY. What are your ideas for your best self after Stanford? What, and how, do you hope to contribute in your professional life after earning your MBA?

Tell us what, in your heart, you would like to achieve. What is the dream that brings meaning to your life? How do you plan to make an impact? We give you broad license to envision your future. Take advantage of it. You may, however, find it difficult to explain why you need an MBA to reach your aims if those aims are completely undefined. Be honest, with yourself and with us, in addressing those questions. You certainly do not need to make up a path, but a level of focused interests will enable you to make the most of the Stanford experience.

Second, we ask why Stanford. How will the MBA Program at Stanford help you turn your dreams into reality? The key here is that you should have objectives for your Stanford education. How do you plan to take advantage of the incredible opportunities at Stanford? How do you envision yourself contributing, growing, and learning here at the Graduate School of Business? And how will the Stanford experience help you become the person you described in the first part of Essay 2?

From both parts of Essay 2, we learn about your dreams, what has shaped them, and how Stanford can help you bring them into fruition.

 

Essay 3: Short Answers

Tell us about a time when you…

Unlike the two previous essays, in which you are asked to write about your life from a more holistic perspective, these questions ask you to reflect on a specific recent experience (within the last three years) that has made a difference to you and/or the people around you.

The best answers will transport us to that moment in time by painting a vivid picture not only of what you did, but also of how you did it. Include supporting details. What led to the situation? What did you say? How did they respond? What were you thinking at the time? What were you feeling at the time? Include details about what you thought and felt during that time and your perceptions about how others responded. From these short-answer responses, we visualize you "in action."

Good People Can Give Bad Advice

Moving beyond the specific essay and short-answer questions, I'd like to address a couple of myths.

Myth #1: Tell the Committee on Admissions what makes you unique in your essays. This often leads applicants to believe that you need to have accomplishments or feats that are unusual or different from your peers (e.g., traveling to an exotic place or talking about a tragic situation in your life).

But how are you to know which of your experiences are unique when you know neither the backgrounds of the other applicants nor the topics they have chosen? What makes you unique is not that you have had these experiences, but rather how and why your perspective has changed or been reinforced as a result of those and other everyday experiences.

That is a story that only you can tell. If you concentrate your efforts on telling us who you are, differentiation will occur naturally; if your goal is to appear unique, you actually may achieve the opposite effect.

Truly, the most impressive essays that we read each year are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us.

Myth #2: There is a widespread perception that if you don't have amazing essays, you won't be admitted even if you are a compelling applicant.

Please remember that no single element of your application is dispositive. And since we recognize that our application has limits, we constantly remind ourselves to focus on the applicant rather than the application.

This means that we will admit someone despite the application essays if we feel we’ve gotten a good sense of the person overall. Yes, the essays are important. But they are neither our only avenue of understanding you, nor are they disproportionately influential in the admission process.

Accounting Versus Marketing

Alumnus Leo Linbeck, MBA '94 told me something on an alumni panel in Houston a few years ago that I have since appropriated.

Leo said that, in management terms, the Stanford essays are not a marketing exercise but an accounting exercise.

This is not an undertaking in which you look at an audience/customer (i.e., the Committee on Admissions) and then write what you believe we want to hear. It is quite the opposite. This is a process in which you look inside yourself and try to express most clearly what is there. We are trying to get a good sense of your perspectives, your thoughts on management and leadership, and how Stanford can help you realize your goals.

As Professor Damon would say, we are helping you ensure that your rudder steers you to the right port.

Derrick Bolton, MBA 1998

Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions

updated 6 July 2011

(found at http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/mba/admission/dir_essays-p.html; accessed 2011/07)

 

 


 

INTERMISSION

 

 


 

In a recent post to “Ask the School Experts,” the official website of the GMAT, the head of admissions for the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) shared his take on what admissions committees are really looking for from prospective applicants.

Stanford GSB Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions Derrick Bolton explains that the MBA admissions process at most schools includes two separate processes: evaluation and selection.

Evaluation involves reviewing each application and assessing candidates in many areas. “We look for the most promising students in terms of intellectual distinction and professional merit,” Bolton writes, adding that this judgment is based on all of the information available – not just a single factor like college grades, essays, GMAT scores or any other element.

Though every school has its own admissions criteria, most are looking for candidates who exhibit intellect and leadership – a desire to learn and curiosity about the world combined with demonstrated ability to make a difference, Bolton says.

As for evaluating intellect, schools look toward scores and transcripts as a foundation. “But your approach toward your education is as important as your ability,” Bolton stresses. In evaluating leadership, admissions committees assess an applicant’s impact on the people and organizations around you and how those experiences impact you, according to Bolton. “Your leadership potential emerges through aspects including but not limited to athletics, community service, extracurricular activities, internships, research projects and part-time and full-time employment,” he writes.

The second process admissions committees must go through in creating an MBA class is selection. “Having evaluated each application, Admissions Offices then are faced with the difficult decisions of crafting a class: determining which candidates to admit among those evaluated as highly qualified,” he writes, adding that there are many more qualified candidates than there are places in an MBA program.

It’s not as easy as just eliminating candidates with weaknesses, Bolton says. “In an effort to create an engaging student community, we select those applicants who, collectively, represent a breadth of background, talent and experience,” he writes. “The reasons some applicants stand out more than others are not easily categorized, since excellence itself does not come in uniform dimensions.” This means that the selection process, by its very nature, is subjective.

“Complete your application authentically,” Bolton advises prospective applicants. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to shape your application to fit what you think an Admissions Committee is looking for because too often applicants think that view is narrower than it is, he cautions.

“Have confidence in what you have achieved. Be faithful to your passions. Trust in what you aspire to accomplish,” he urges. Look at the application process as an opportunity to truly explore your values and envision your potential, Bolton says.

(found at http://asktheexpert.mba.com/2012/07/30/what-are-admissions-committees-really-looking-for/; accessed 2012/08)




 

 


 

First, update your resume

 

My best resume video is here ▸ http://youtu.be/f9gyOmHJY5o

 

 

 


 

My best resume blog post is here ▸ http://www.vinceprep.com/blog/resumes

 

 

My best resume links are here ▸ https://delicious.com/admissions/resumebonsai 


 

REAPPLICANTS

 

Admission to the Stanford MBA Program is very competitive. We cannot offer a place to as many applicants as we would like in any year.

 

If you are not offered admission you are welcome to reapply in a future application year. Each year we offer admission to reapplicants who present compelling applications.

 

What You Should Know

  • Having applied in a previous year is not considered a negative factor in your application.
  • Reapplicants are evaluated on the merits of the new application and are required to complete and submit an entirely new application, including Letters of Reference, Transcript(s), and Application Form. Do not assume that the person reviewing your application has seen your previous one.
  • The Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions does have access to previous applications, however, and may choose whether to review them prior to a final decision.
  • Give yourself a fresh start when you approach your application.
  • Address areas of relative weakness, if possible.
  • Determine if other recommenders may provide a more insightful and thorough perspective.
  • Add new information that may be helpful in the admission process.

 

Use Current Application Materials

  • Application requirements, including essay questions, change from year to year. It is important that you meet current application requirements.
  • The application fee is not waived for reapplicants.
  • As long as your test scores (GMAT-GRE and TOEFL-IELTS-PTE) remain valid, you do not need to have them resent from the test centers. However, you do need to self-report them in the application. If your test scores are no longer valid you need to retake them.
  • Are your GMAT-GRE and TOEFL-IETLS-PTE scores still valid for the application round in which you wish to apply?

 

Feedback

  • We cannot provide feedback on denied applications.



 

 


 

 

Second, outline Essay 2 (goals, why Stanford?)


 

Essay 2: What do you want to do—REALLY—and why Stanford?

(suggested length 450 words / 1600 total)

 

Use this essay to explain your view of your future, not to repeat accomplishments from your past.

 

You should address two distinct topics:

 

your career aspirations

 

and your rationale for earning your MBA at Stanford, in particular.

 

The best examples of Essay 2 express your passions or focused interests, explain why you have decided to pursue graduate education in management,  and demonstrate your desire to take advantage of the opportunities that are distinctive to the Stanford MBA Program.






 

 


 

Third, share your ideas for Essay 1 (what matters most to you and why)

 

Tell us in your own words who you are.


Vince’s best Stanford GSB MBA Class of 2016 Essay 1 what matters most to you … (#WMMTYAW) tips are here

http://www.vinceprep.com/essays/stanford



 

 


 

Fourth, update your resume and begin filling in the online application data form short answers plus additional info


 

Online application data form short answer questions

 

Just for Fun

 

Your favorite place:

 

Your favorite thing to read:

 

Please describe yourself in up to 20 words OR choose up to 20 words to describe you. (Do not exceed 20 words, use bullets, or use hard returns.)


 

Additional Information

 

If there is any other information that is critical for us to know and is not captured elsewhere, please include it. Examples of pertinent additional information include:

 

Extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance

 

Explanation of why you do not have a Letter of Reference from your current direct supervisor or peer

 

Explanation of criminal conviction, criminal charges sustained against you in a juvenile proceeding, and/or court-supervised probation

 

Explanation of academic suspension or expulsion

 

Any other information that you did not have sufficient space to complete in another section of the application (please begin the information in the appropriate section)

 

Additional work experience that cannot fit into the space provided

 

Additional information about your academic experience (e.g., independent research) not noted elsewhere

 

Only complete this section if there is any other information that is critical for us to know but is not captured elsewhere (e.g., extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance). Do not include essays.

 

This section is limited to 250 kbs.

 

For further guidance on reporting additional information, please visit our website.






 

 


 

Fifth, confirm your recommenders

 

Letters of Reference

 

You are required to solicit three online Letters of Reference for your MBA application.

 

Two letters must be from professional/workplace recommenders.

One letter must be from a peer.

 

Three Letters of Reference Are Required

 

Two Professional/Workplace References

 

You must obtain at least one recommendation from your current direct supervisor.

 

If you are unable to provide a letter from your current direct supervisor, include a brief note of explanation in the Additional Information section of the online application. It is up to you to choose an appropriate replacement.

 

College seniors may use a direct supervisor from a summer, part-time, or internship experience. Alternatively, you may ask someone who oversaw you in an extracurricular, volunteer, or community activity.

 

Your second Professional/Workplace Letter of Reference must come from someone else in a position to evaluate your work—another supervisor, a previous supervisor, a client, etc.

 

Qualitative accounts of your intellectual and professional abilities are essential to us. As we read your letters of reference, we hope to discover specific descriptions and examples illustrating your potential to make a difference in the world.

 

Choose individuals who know you well, and who will take the time to write thorough, detailed letters with specific anecdotes and examples. The strongest references will demonstrate your leadership potential and personal qualities. We are impressed by what the letter says and how it reads, not by the title of the person who writes it or the native language of the recommender.

 

All letters of reference must be submitted by the deadline of the round in which you apply.

 

Guidelines for Letters of Reference

  • Drafting or writing your own Letter of Reference, even if asked to do so by your recommender, is improper and a violation of the terms of the application process.
  • Choose individuals who have had significant direct involvement with you within the last few years.
  • Encourage recommenders to write letters specifically for this application since outdated and/or general recommendations typically do not strengthen an application.
  • Strictly academic Letters of Reference generally are less helpful in our evaluation.
  • Your recommenders must submit their Letters of Reference via the online application.
  • We strongly suggest that your recommenders submit Letters of Reference at least one day prior to the application deadline.
  • You are responsible for ensuring that all three recommendations are submitted online before the application deadline.
  • Letters must be submitted in English.
  • Letters of Reference should not exceed 3 pages, double-spaced, using a 12-point font. Recommended fonts are Arial, Courier, and Times New Roman.


 

  • Notify your recommender which type of Letter of Reference he/she will be completing for you (Professional/Workplace or Peer/Team).
  • Your recommenders are highly encouraged to submit the letter(s) of reference at least one day prior to your application deadline date, as high server traffic may cause submission problems.
  • Late recommendations may not be reviewed with your application.
  • Recommendations are late if they are received after 5:00 PM Pacific Time on the deadline date of the round in which you applied.

 

For more information on Letters of Reference, please review the appropriate instructions on our website.








 

 


 

Sixth, share ideas with each recommender

 

How to use Stanford GSB's Leadership Behavior Grid to secure authentic letters of recommendation for top MBA programs

 

How to use Stanford GSB's Leadership Behavior Grid to secure authentic letters of recommendation for top MBA programs

 

Have you seen Stanford's well-defined (narrow?) Leadership Behavior Grid?

 

No other school has taken the time to define the difference between a 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 rating

 

Why is this the case?

 

One word: admissions consultants

 

From my understanding, Stanford hired a leading strategic consulting firm to assess and overhaul their entire admissions process around 2007

 

If my understanding is correct, the Leadership Behavior Grid probably represents a significant investment

 

No wonder they have copyrighted it. So kudos to Derrick and his team for giving recommenders and applicants something concrete to dig their teeth into

 

Even if you are not applying to Stanford, I encourage you to use Stanford’s Leadership Behavior Grid to organize your recommendation letter process


 

Step 1 - Assess yourself

 

Give yourself a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 based on the qualified details included in Stanford’s Leadership Behavior Grid

 

What were your highest ratings?

What were your lowest ratings?

 

Step 2 - Justify your highest and lowest ratings with real examples that your recommender may remember


 

Step 3 - share your Stanford Leadership Behavior Grid self-assessment, and the supporting examples, with your recommender and ask him or her to follow the same process before writing his or her references for all schools on your list (better to secure an unused reference now than to bother your supervisor on holiday).



 

 


 

» for reference

Stanford Leadership Behavior Grid 

(fall 2014 version)


 

MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION LETTER OF REFERENCE


 

Professional/Workplace

Peer/Team



 

Skill/Quality

Results Orientation

1 Fulfills assigned tasks

2 Overcomes obstacles to achieve goals

3 Exceeds goals and raises effectiveness of organization

4 Introduces incremental improvements to enhance business performance using robust analysis

5 Invents and delivers best-in-class standards and performance



 

Skill/Quality

Strategic Orientation

1 Understands immediate issues of work or analysis

2 Identifies opportunities for improvement within area of responsibility

3 Develops insights or recommendations that have improved business performance

4 Develops insights or recommendations that have shaped team or department strategy

5 Implements a successful strategy that challenges other parts of the company or other players in the industry



 

Skill/Quality

Team Leadership

1 Avoids leadership responsibilities; does not provide direction to team

2 Assigns tasks to team members

3 Solicits ideas and perspectives from the team; holds members accountable

4 Actively engages the team to develop plans and resolve issues through collaboration; shows how work fits in with what others are doing

5 Recruits others into duties or roles based on insight into individual abilities; rewards those who exceed expectations



 

Skill/Quality

Influence and Collaboration

1 Accepts input from others

2 Engages others in problem solving

3 Generates support from others for ideas and initiatives

4 Brings others together across boundaries to achieve results and share best practices

5 Builds enduring partnerships within and outside of organization to improve effectiveness, even at short-term personal cost



 

Skill/Quality

Communicating

1 Sometimes rambles or is occasionally unfocused

2 Is generally to the point and organized

3 Presents views clearly and in a well-structured manner

4 Presents views clearly and demonstrates understanding of the response of others

5 Presents views clearly; solicits opinions and concerns; discusses them openly



 

Skill/Quality

Information Seeking

1 Asks direct questions about problem at hand to those individuals immediately available

2 Personally investigates problems by going directly to sources of information

3 Asks a series of probing questions to get at the root of a situation or a problem

4 Does research by making a systematic effort over a limited period of time to obtain needed data or feedback

5 Involves others who would not normally be involved including experts or outside organizations; may get them to seek out information




 

Skill/Quality

Developing Others

1 Focuses primarily on own abilities

2 Points out mistakes to support the development of others

3 Gives specific positive and negative behavioral feedback to support the development of others

4 Gives specific positive and negative behavioral feedback and provides unfailing support

5 Inspires and motivates others to develop by providing feedback and identifying a new growth opportunities as well as supporting their efforts to change




 

Skill/Quality

Change Leadership

1 Accepts status quo; does not see the need for change

2 Challenges status quo and identifies what needs to change

3 Defines positive direction for change and persuades others to support it

4 Promotes change and mobilizes individuals to change behavior

5 Builds coalition of supporters and coordinates change across multiple individuals: may create champions who will mobilize others to change




 

Skill/Quality

Respect for Others

1 Is sometimes self-absorbed or overly self-interested

2 Generally treats others with respect: usually shares praise and credit

3 Is humble and respectful to all

4 Is respectful to all and generous with praise: ensures other opinions are heard

5 Uses understanding of others and self to resolve conflicts and foster mutual respect




 

Skill/Quality

Trustworthiness

1 Shows occasional lapses in trustworthy behavior

2 Generally acts consistently with stated intentions

3 Acts consistently with stated intentions even in difficult circumstances

4 Is reliable and authentic even at some personal cost: acts as a role model for the values of the organization

5 Is reliable and authentic even at some personal costs: works to ensure all members of the organization operate with integrity





 

Based on your professional experience, how do you rate this candidate compared to her/his peer group?

Below average

Average

Very good (well above average)

Excellent (top 10%)

Outstanding (top 5%)

The best encountered in my career

 

 


 


 

Just for fun, compare Stanford’s super intense Leadership Behavior Grid with the HBS laissez faire LoR criteria, which only ask your recommenders to simply check a number without needing to parse and apply extensive, qualifying text

Reference HBS recommender criteria  

  • Awareness of Others
  • Humility
  • Humor   
  • Imagination, Creativity, and Curiosity
  • Initiative
  • Integrity
  • Interpersonal Skills (with subordinates/colleagues)
  • Interpersonal Skills (with superiors)
  • Maturity
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-confidence
  • Teamwork
  • Skills: Analytical thinking
  • Skills: Listening
  • Skills: Quantitative Aptitude
  • Skills: Verbal Communication
  • Skills: Writing

Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.


– Updated by Vince on Wed 26 Apr 2017

  • Since 2002, I have been a full-time international graduate admissions consultant

  • Based most the year in Tokyo, Japan, I help clients around the world 

  • In 2007, I created VincePrep because I wanted to help the best candidates aiming for the top schools

  • To share my insights with a talented team, I rejoined Agos as Consulting Director in 2014 

  • I also serve as volunteer Board President of The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC)

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