Category Archives: Stanford Advice
December 5, 2012
It looks like the admissions department at Stanford Graduate School of Business is on a mission to bring the truth to the people as Allison Davis once again takes to the MBA admissions blog and dispels three persistent assumptions regarding Stanford’s admit process.
MYTH 1: If I worked full-time during college, I can count those months as “full-time work experience.”
THE TRUTH: In the Full-Time Employment section, please include only the months of full-time work experience SINCE you graduated from your undergraduate university. We ask you to calculate how many months you will have from your college graduation until September 1, 2013.
You can list work you did during college, even if it was full-time, in the Part-Time Employment section of the application. That section includes a field for hours per week so you will be able to indicate that you worked full-time. We read everything and will connect the dots that you were working throughout college.
MYTH 2: After I submit my application, I will receive regular updates on my status throughout the application process.
THE TRUTH: Unfortunately, we do not have the staff to update each applicant’s status for every step in the process. When you submit your application (…) you will receive an immediate message thanking you for your submission. Your application status in Hobson’s ApplyYourself shows as “Submitted.”
Approximately two weeks after the application deadline, all applications are updated to “Your application is currently under review.” This line will appear under the “Submission Status: Submitted” line. (Note that all applications are reviewed even if they are missing documents like recommendations. We will evaluate your application and make a decision based on the application documents that you submitted.)
You will be contacted via email by our office if you are invited to interview; your application status will remain “Under Review.” On the decision notification date, you will receive an email that the decision on your application has been posted. You will be directed to log into your Hobson’s ApplyYourself account, where you will see your decision letter.
MYTH 3: It’s critical to visit campus before I apply. If I can’t schedule a visit before the application deadline, I’d better wait to apply in the next application round.
THE TRUTH: Visiting campus does not affect your chances of admission whatsoever. It may be of value to you as part of your research on which schools to apply to; that’s up to you. Keep in mind that many of our applicants come from outside the U.S. so we couldn’t expect everyone to visit. If you have only one chance to visit, come after you’ve been admitted for Admit Weekend, where you’ll meet students, alumni, faculty, and your future classmates.
So there you have it, folks, straight from the admissions team at the Stanford GSB. If you’re applying in Round Two, coming up on January 9, 2013, and would like guidance on your MBA application, Stacy Blackman Consulting can help with hourly and comprehensive consulting services. Contact us to learn more.
November 28, 2012
The Stanford Graduate School of Business offers a new post this week attempting to clarify any misconceptions or confusions related to the letters of recommendation required as part of the MBA admissions process. Here, Allison …
The Stanford Graduate School of Business offers a new post this week attempting to clarify any misconceptions or confusions related to the letters of recommendation required as part of the MBA admissions process.
Here, Allison Davis sets the record straight so you have plenty of time to get this aspect of your application sorted out in advance of the Round 2 deadline on January 9, 2013.
MYTH 1: I will be at a disadvantage if I cannot get a recommendation from a current direct supervisor.
THE TRUTH: Rest assured that you are not the only applicant in this situation. You may not be disclosing to your employer that you are applying to business school. You may have started a new job recently, and your supervisor does not really know you that well.
Perhaps you are self-employed, run your own company, or work in a family business where your direct supervisor is a relative (…) If you’re in one of these situations, you just need to be a little more creative in terms of where you get your recommendation. You could ask anyone who is in a position to evaluate your work: a previous supervisor, a client, or a member of your board of directors.
MYTH 2: It is okay to submit more than 3 recommendations. In fact, more is better!
THE TRUTH: We discourage you from sending additional letters. More is not better. In fact, it can have the opposite of the intended effect as it adds an additional burden to our staff who read literally thousands and thousands of pages over the application season. When we receive additional letters of reference, we do add them to your application file, but there’s no guarantee that they will be read.
MYTH 3: It is better to get my recommendations from three different sources to highlight different aspects of my professional and personal background.
THE TRUTH: It’s your decision how to present yourself in your application, what to highlight and what to focus on. And, this goes for your choice of recommenders as well. Some applicants get all their references from work; others include references from outside of work. Some get all their references from their current employers; others include previous employers.
There is no one right way. The mix of recommendations does not affect your chances of admission. When choosing a recommender, our best advice is to (1) choose someone who knows you really well and can provide the detail, examples, and specifics that support their assertions; and (2) choose someone who is truly enthused to write a recommendation for you and will spend sufficient time writing a thoughtful letter.
MYTH 4: Recommendations must be written in English.
THE TRUTH: Recommendations must be submitted in English, but we do not expect the English to be perfect in recommendations written by non-native speakers. We focus on the content of the letter, not the writing style, so we will ignore minor syntax or grammar errors or awkward phrasing.
However, if you and your recommenders think that their English is not sufficient to convey complex ideas, it may be to your advantage to have them write in their native language and then get it translated into English either by a friend or colleague of the recommender, or from a paid service.
The translation does not need to be from a paid service unless that is the only option available to the recommender. The translation is the responsibility of the recommender; the translator cannot be the applicant or a friend or family member of the applicant.
Your recommender would then upload both the original language and the English translation into the recommendation form, and must also supply us with the name and contact information of the translator in case we have additional follow-up questions.
For more on the subject of recommenders, I invite you to read my U.S. News blog post from September on how to strategize and manage the MBA recommendation process. In it, I recommend that applicants create a recommender package, which has four main components and provides instruction on both process and content. Your recommenders will appreciate your assistance and thoroughness, and will undoubtedly produce a better recommendation on your behalf.
November 20, 2012
Allison Davis from the admissions office at Stanford Graduate School of Business updated the MBA admission blog yesterday with this information, designed to sooth the frayed nerves of those suffering from pre-interview angst. Here, she …
Allison Davis from the admissions office at Stanford Graduate School of Business updated the MBA admission blog yesterday with this information, designed to sooth the frayed nerves of those suffering from pre-interview angst.
Here, she dispels three persistent myths surrounding this part of the admissions process at the GSB.
MYTH 1: The interview has a lot of weight so if I blow the interview, I have blown my chances of being admitted.
THE TRUTH: There is no specific weight assigned to the interview; the interview is one part of a comprehensive process. A positive interview does not guarantee admission, while a less than favorable interview does not, by itself, preclude admission. The written application, including the essays and letters of reference, is a critical part of the evaluation process. The interview is a key source of supplemental information.
MYTH 2: I received my interview invitation early in the round so it must mean I have a better chance of getting admitted.
THE TRUTH: The timing of your interview invitation reflects only the order in which your application was reviewed (and the order in which your application was reviewed doesn’t mean anything, honest!). Interview invitations are extended from about a week or so after the round’s deadline until about a week before the round’s notification date, because it takes the Admissions Committee that entire period to review all applications thoroughly.
MYTH 3: I will be interviewed only if there is an alumni interviewer in my local area.
THE TRUTH: Please rest assured that we will work with you to match you with an interviewer. If there is none in your area, we may ask if you’d like to fly to another location or consider a “virtual” interview.
Remember, if you’re invited to interview at the Stanford GSB, or other b-school of your dreams, prep and practice will help ease any interview performance concerns you may have. Start by reviewing your applications, review typical questions, and write out some bullet points to outline what you would say in response to those questions.
Finally, practice, practice, practice! Enlist the help of family and friends, and ask them to provide constructive feedback. Perhaps most importantly, try to have fun and not to get too stressed out by the process.
June 12, 2012
Stanford GSB has published the essay questions for this application cycle, and has maintained the theme of candid self-evaluation and authenticity. The Stanford GSB MBA admissions website provides clear guidance and advice for what to …
Stanford GSB has published the essay questions for this application cycle, and has maintained the theme of candid self-evaluation and authenticity. The Stanford GSB MBA admissions website provides clear guidance and advice for what to do, and what not to do that all applicants should read and follow. As you approach topics for this set of essays think about the events of your life that have shaped your values and your future plans. Your accomplishments and achievements are part of why you have developed into the person you are today, however it’s far more important to explain your influences, lessons learned and motivations. Introspection and honesty should persist through the entire set of essays.
Total word count for all three essays combined must not exceed 1,600 words, so applicants must be judicious in deciding how much or little to write for each prompt. As a general guideline, Stanford GSB suggests 750 words for essay one; 450 words for essay two; and 400 words for essay three. Check your deadlines before you get started to make sure you are maximizing the time on your essays.
Stanford GSB Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?
This classic Stanford GSB MBA essay is your opportunity to demonstrate who you are, what motivates you, and why. Topics can range from personal history to grand visions of the future. While this topic should not be explicitly career related (and the strongest essays are likely not career oriented at all) it may raise themes that you will continue in your career essay.
To generate ideas, try brainstorming over a period of a few days. Ask friends and family what values they see you demonstrating in your life and choices. Keep a notebook by your bed so you can record your first thoughts upon waking up, and mine your personal history for ideas.
Though the essay question may seem open-ended, answering the question with vivid and specific examples will provide solid evidence that you have demonstrated or experienced “what matters most” throughout your life. Keep in mind as you select examples that Stanford GSB specifically advises focusing on people and experiences that have influenced you, rather than accomplishments or achievements.
Stanford GSB Essay 2: What do you want to do””REALLY””and why Stanford?
We’ve observed that in these economic times plenty of candidates are content to be conservative about their dreams. For Stanford that approach may backfire. Stanford likes to see applicants who dream big, and have the credibility to achieve their goals.
So think hard about what you REALLY want to do. Not what your parents or partner want you to do. Not what your boss wants you to do. Not what you think an MBA program wants to hear. What do you, with your own unique background and values, want for your life?
If the question seems too vast, take a few minutes to close your eyes and reflect. Envision your life in twenty years. Where do you live? How do you spend your days? What is your favorite activity? How does this vision fit into your career aspirations? Dream big about what two years at Stanford can bring into your life. Once you have identified your dream career, you also need to make sure an MBA is an important part of achieving your plans. Stanford wants candidates whose MBA will make an impact on the career they REALLY want, not candidates who are looking for a prestigious piece of paper. Remember that MBA programs want to help promising candidates reach their goals, not admit perfect people who will not learn from the two years in school.
One thing that is crucial “not to do” is be less than specific about why Stanford. You should know everything about the program that overlaps with your interests and aspirations. Have you met current students and alumni? Who are the professors you are excited about? What are the unique programs? Stanford GSB wants to know what you specifically need that will be uniquely satisfied by the program at Stanford GSB, and research will help you determine the specifics of the academic program, community and students will be essential to demonstrating your knowledge and fit with the program.
Essay 3: Answer one of the three questions below. Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it.
What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years.
Choose strategically here. What aspects of your background or career progress have not be highlighted in the previous two essays? Is there a community service involvement you would like to demonstrate? All examples must be from the past three years, and it is important to clearly describe your process and results. HOW is the key word for these two essays. By asking specifically about your behavior, the admissions committee hopes to understand your motivations by clearly “seeing” your actions.
Option A: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.
If you have formally led a team at work, this is an ideal essay to highlight your management experience. Most candidates for Stanford have little formal management or leadership experience. In that case, think about the times you have served informally as a leader. Perhaps you led a team as part of a project at work. If work did not provide an opportunity for you to lead a team, consider an example in your volunteer or extracurricular activities.
Whatever the situation, describe what happened and your role in the performance of the team. In addition to clear description, explain what the expectations were for the team and how your team exceeded them. Be as specific as you can about the how: what were you thinking and doing as you built or developing the team?
Option B: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you identified and pursued an opportunity to improve an organization.
While formal management experience may be less common if you’ve only worked for a few years, improving an organization is something that is possible with any job description. Think about the times that you have seen a problem and proactively solved it. Did you create a new initiative that involves many others? Have you impacted the culture or operations of your organization through an idea or by developing your team? Think about actions you have taken that may have lead to a fundamental shift in the way things are done or perceived within your company or organization.
Option C: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you went beyond what was defined or established.
The topic of this essay can be from almost any area of your life. It will be helpful to give the context around what was defined or established to clearly demonstrate how you went beyond. Why and how did you achieve results beyond expectations? This topic could be similar to Option A in scope, yet is focused on your individual achievement rather than directing a team’s actions.
As you put together your Stanford GSB application it will be helpful to read all of the essays together (and have others read them) to see the overall impression. It should be clear what your underlying motivations are, what you hope do you with your career, and how you operate as an individual and in a team within an organization. As Stanford GSB clearly requests, the best essays will illuminate your individual voice clear and strong.
January 5, 2012
The Stanford Graduate School of Business has just announced that registration is now open for two events that can help you learn more about the Stanford MBA program. The Many Voices: Perspectives on Diversity event is …
The Stanford Graduate School of Business has just announced that registration is now open for two events that can help you learn more about the Stanford MBA program.
The Many Voices: Perspectives on Diversity event is hosted by the Stanford MBA Admissions Office with participation from the Black Business Students Association (BBSA), Hispanic Business Students Association (HBSA), GSB Pride (the student club for LGBT students and allies), and the Asian Society (AS).
XX Factor: Women Changing the World is an event geared towards women who are considering applying to business school.
Both of these events include an overview of the program, a class immersion experience, and opportunities to hear from Stanford GSB students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Space is limited, so you must complete a brief application if you’d like to attend.
Derrick Bolton, Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions at Stanford GSB, shares a few thoughts on how Stanford regards diversity, and why and how it matters in the admission process.
“At Stanford we believe the way you think is much more important than the way you look,” he writes, in an effort to dispel the notion that there is a “Stanford type”””in experience, essays, etc.””when in fact there is no such model.
“Stanford has no ideal background, aspiration, format, etc.””regardless of what you may hear from individuals claiming to have “inside knowledge” of admission processes,” Bolton notes.
“The best applications we see each year are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us,” he writes. Staying true to your experiences and accomplishments, sharing your insights and aspirations—this is the key to crafting a successful application to the Stanford GSB.
For more Stanford advice, including essay tips from the Stacy Blackman team, please follow this link.
July 13, 2011
The essays are one of the most time-consuming portions of any MBA application, precisely because they force you to focus inward, analyze your strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments, and then present them to a group of …
The essays are one of the most time-consuming portions of any MBA application, precisely because they force you to focus inward, analyze your strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments, and then present them to a group of strangers within a prescribed word count.
Derrick Bolton, Assistant Dean for MBA admissions at Stanford Graduate School of Business, offers insight to applicants struggling with how to best answer this year’s essay prompts. I’ve included excerpts from his recent posting on crafting effective essays below.
Stanford GSB Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?
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.
Stanford GSB Essay 2: What do you want to do””REALLY””and why Stanford?
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.
For the short answers of essay three, Bolton says “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’.”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the essays, and wondering how you can possibly wow the admissions committee sufficiently to gain a seat at this highly coveted MBA program, take these words from the dean to heart.
“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,” Bolton concedes. “But they are neither our only avenue of understanding you, nor are they disproportionately influential in the admission process.”
For more guidance on the Stanford GSB essays, read my essay tips here.