Category Archives: Application Tips

Tuesday Tips – Michigan MBA Essay Tips

The Michigan MBA program has left their essays largely unchanged since last year. Two key differences are that Essay 1 no longer includes a reference to Ross’ “Action-Based Learning” approach and that Essay 2 asks for …

The Michigan MBA program has left their essays largely unchanged since last year. Two key differences are that Essay 1 no longer includes a reference to Ross’ “Action-Based Learning” approach and that Essay 2 asks for one major accomplishment rather than several, which will allow you to be more precise and focused for that question. For Essay 1, it will still be important to understand the Michigan MBA approach to learning and the Action-Based philosophy.

When approaching any set of MBA essays it will be important to refer back to your overall strategy and story. Think about the key strengths you have identified that you want to communicate to the admissions committee, and how you will utilize each question to reach that goal. The Michigan MBA has two questions (Short Essays 3 & 4) that will allow you to express your personal attributes, and several opportunities to discuss your professional and leadership skills.

Long Essays (500 word max)

1. Briefly describe your short-term and long-term career goals. Why is an MBA the best choice at this point in your career? What and/or who influenced your decision to apply to Ross?

This is Michigan MBA’s version of the fairly standard career goals essay and similar to the question posed by both the Kellogg and Wharton applications. Make sure to answer all of the questions posed by this essay by describing what your career goals are both in the short- and long-term, why an MBA is a logical next step and why Ross is the right place for you.

In discussing your goals, focus on the future. Craft a concrete plan that will bridge your MBA, your short-term idea for immediately after graduation and your long-term career dream. The story should fit together logically and naturally, and also arise clearly from the career progress to date you will articulate in the next part of the question.

You will need to describe a bit of your career progress thus far to get into why now is the right time for you to attend an MBA program. When discussing past career experiences, think about the important pivot points in your story such as promotions, job changes or high profile projects that also fit in solidly with your career goals and MBA plans. Laser focus on a few vivid examples will help your application stand out from the crowd. There are many valid reasons to apply for MBA programs at this point in your career. Perhaps you have reached a plateau, are ready for a career change, or realize that you need the specialized skills of an MBA to reach the next level on your current path.

In addressing part three of this question, why the Michigan MBA, make sure to highlight the people and experiences you have had. Specific information gathered from school visits, the website and course curriculum will help you answer the “what” part of the question, while networking (at a Ross Reception for instance) with current students and alumni will help you understand the culture at Ross and give you personal examples to highlight your fit with the Michigan MBA.


2. Describe your most significant professional accomplishment. Elaborate on the leadership skills you displayed, the actions you took and the impact you had on your organization.

This essay is the perfect opportunity to both address a significant accomplishment and to provide a solid example of your leadership qualities. The example must be from work, and in a departure from last year, the Michigan MBA is asking for only one significant accomplishment.

A key part of this question is bringing the example alive through describing the actions you took and the result of your accomplishment for both you and the organization. When approaching any question that asks you to describe a situation, think about the most important aspect of that situation and focus your attention on describing it succinctly, with a focus on your own actions, thoughts and influence.  Most of the words should be used for your actions and reactions, results and processes rather than describing the facts.

Short Essays (300 word max)

3. If you were not pursuing the career goals you described in Question 1, what profession would you pursue instead? (For example, teacher, musician athlete, architect, etc.) How will this alternate interest contribute to your effectiveness in solving multidisciplinary problems?

This question suggests an interest by the Michigan MBA program in admitting students with passion. This essay is an opportunity for you to discuss some of your extracurricular activities and hobbies, while illuminating the influence they have had on your life. Think about the activities you most enjoy outside of work, preferably an activity you have been involved in over time, and reflect on the ways this activity has affected your approach and thinking over your life.

While explaining your alternate career path, think about the professional applications of your passion. You may have once dreamed of being a rock star, and can you take that influence and creativity and apply it to your work in marketing?


4. Describe your experience during a challenging time in your life. Explain how you grew personally, either despite this challenge or because of it.

Challenges contribute greatly to developing maturity, and this essay asks you to describe a key point in your life that may have created wisdom and a mature approach to life and work. This is a great opportunity to highlight your resilience and ability to learn from even the most difficult circumstances.

The question allows the flexibility to pick a self-created challenge (a mistake or misstep) or to address an external challenge like an illness, being laid off, or family issues. In describing the situation, focus primarily on your response to it and how it has changed your approach and attitude since the event.

Our tips on the HBS mistake essay may help with your approach to this one as well.


Optional Question: Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you to evaluate your candidacy?

Use the optional essay if you have an issue that needs to be addressed through a short essay, such as low GPA, gap in work history or unconventional recommenders. Explain the situation clearly and succinctly, and provide explanations rather than excuses.

As you tackle this set of questions, virtual support from the many MBA applicant bloggers may help you tap your creativity!

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Tuesday Tips – Chicago Booth Essay Tips

Chicago Booth’s essays are a bit of a departure from Harvard Business School, Wharton Business School, the Kellogg MBA, and the Stanford MBA essays we have covered in the last several weeks. Similar to the NYU Stern …

Chicago Booth’s essays are a bit of a departure from Harvard Business School, Wharton Business School, the Kellogg MBA, and the Stanford MBA essays we have covered in the last several weeks. Similar to the NYU Stern creative essay, Chicago Booth asks applicants to create a slide show to demonstrate who you are. The presentation will be printed out, and should consist of a combination of words and images (color is allowed) that will show the admissions committee the personal side of you.

When approaching any set of MBA essays, it is important to think about the aspects of your professional, extracurricular and personal life you want to communicate and select topics appropriately.

1. Why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career?  (750 word maximum).

This Chicago Booth essay could be approached as a fairly typical career goals essay, though it is notable that Chicago Booth is not asking direct questions about your background and short- and long-term goals. The structure of this essay is therefore a bit open ended, and you can choose to focus on your background, your future or why an MBA is the right choice at this moment.

Chicago Booth does specifically ask why you are interested in an MBA “at this point in your career,” which indicates an interest in knowing why now is the time for you to embark on your MBA journey. Similar to the Wharton “why now” it will be important to have a solid and convincing reason that now is the ideal time to enter Chicago Booth for your MBA.

While the question of “why Chicago Booth” is somewhat answered in the next essay, you will still want to explain briefly why you think Chicago Booth is the best place for you to achieve the goals you have set for yourself.

2. Please select one of the following two questions to answer. (1000 word maximum)

1a) Please provide an example of a time when you had to make a choice between two equally important obligations. How did you decide which obligation deserved your attention? b) Did you try and predict other people’s reactions to your decision? If so, how accurate were you? Why do you think you were or were not accurate in your prediction? c) Reflecting on this experience, how do you think an MBA from Chicago Booth might have aided in your decision making process?

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2a) Have you ever made a decision that caused you to go against popular opinion? Please describe that situation and your rationale for you decision. b) Did you feel at any point that people misperceived your motives? Explain? c) In retrospect, how do you think an MBA from Chicago Booth would have affected your decision?

Both of these Chicago Booth questions (you will need to choose one to answer) delve fairly deeply into your ability to reflect introspectively on past decisions and explain what you learned and what you could have improved. In these particular questions, you are also being asked to speculate on the usefulness of an MBA from Chicago Booth in the situation you describe.

A work example is preferable, though a particularly strong leadership position in a community service activity may be acceptable. In either case it will be important to be able to describe how an MBA would have assisted you, and ideally the situation will be one you envision encountering in your future career.

In both questions, part b requires the emotional intelligence to speculate about others’ feelings or reactions to your actions. This demonstrates an interest in seeing how you relate to others on an interpersonal level, and is also an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and teamwork skills. Thoughtfulness and maturity will be especially important when answering either question.

Researching Chicago Booth’s unique program is also crucial when answering either question, and reading blogs from current students is a great way to understand the culture and program from the inside.

Slide Presentation

We have asked for a great deal of information throughout this application and now invite you tell us about yourself. Using four slides or less, please provide readers with content that captures who you are.

This question invites a creative approach. Therefore, a bit of soul searching to discover themes or pivotal events in your life may help generate ideas. Because the project is incredibly personal, it will be completely up to you what the topic will be. Some suggestions about structure may be four distinct aspects of your life and personal qualities, a narrative with four stages, or four themes that have emerged as you have progressed as a person and MBA applicant. While the presentation should be personal, it is still important to think about what you would like the Chicago Booth admissions committee to know about you and to choose a subject appropriately.

Optional Essay

If there is any important information that is relevant for your candidacy that you were unable to address elsewhere in the application, please share that information here.

This Chicago Booth essay is optional and should be used for any issues in your application ”“ low GPA, gaps in work experience, or a lack of recommendation from your current employer. Remember to be concise and focus on explanations rather than excuses. For a topic such as a low GPA or academic probation, make sure to also focus on how you have changed since the event and the evidence in your current life that you will be a strong Chicago Booth student.

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Tuesday Tips – Wharton Business School Essay Tips

Wharton Business School adcom values self awareness, leadership, teamwork and solid career goals. When choosing topics for this set of essays, be sure to consider examples that highlight your ability to learn and grow. Fit with …

Wharton Business School adcom values self awareness, leadership, teamwork and solid career goals. When choosing topics for this set of essays, be sure to consider examples that highlight your ability to learn and grow. Fit with the Wharton Business School community is important, and researching the program thoroughly to answer “Why Wharton Business School” will be crucial.

The Wharton Business School admissions committee and current students are extremely open about the process and the program, so even if you are halfway around the world you can experience a bit of the “Wharton Business School way” on the blogs or Student 2 Student chat room.

First-Time Applicant Questions

1. Describe your career progress to date and your future short-term and long-term career goals. How do you expect an MBA from Wharton Business School to help you achieve these goals, and why is now the best time for you to join our program? (1,000 words)

Wharton Business School’s career goals essay is the focal point of the application and the essay that provides you the most words to work with. The essay question is fairly typical of an MBA career goals essay, yet Wharton Business School uniquely focuses on “why now.” Why now is a crucial part of the essay and needs to be addressed when you answer the question about Why MBA and Why Wharton Business School.

Budget your words carefully on this essay and be sure to answer each sub question thoroughly. When discussing your career progress, focus on building a path from your past to your future short- and long-term goals. The adcom will be looking for evidence that you can achieve your career goals and your goals are a logical extension of your background and interests. Do your homework on Wharton Business School and provide very specific reasons why you want to pursue your MBA at the Wharton Business School.

2. Describe a setback or a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself? (500 words)

This essay illuminates adcom’s interest in understanding how self aware you are. You will want to choose a setback or failure that has an ultimately positive result, and use most of the words to describe your actions and learning. Be candid and demonstrate that you are mature enough to see failure as an opportunity for growth. A specific and easy to describe failure will be best, allowing you to concentrate on the real communication of the essay.

3. Where in your background would we find evidence of your leadership capacity and/or potential? (500 words)

This Wharton Business School essay question allows flexibility to choose either a professional or extracurricular example. The open ended nature of the question may tempt you to provide a laundry list of accomplishments. Focus instead on one or two examples and thoroughly describe your actions and thoughts, demonstrating what kind of leader you are. You can generalize on your leadership capacity and potential once you have provided the solid evidence through a specific example.

4. Please respond to one (1) of the following questions:

a. Describe an experience you have had innovating or initiating, your lessons learned, the results and impact of your efforts. (500 words)

Innovation is a popular catchphrase at Wharton Business School and is integral to Wharton Business School’s brand. This essay allows you to demonstrate your fit with the Wharton community by describing your own experiences innovating or initiating. Again, there is a strong focus on self reflection and understanding the lessons learned. Describe the situation very succinctly and focus most of the essay on the learning, results and impact.

b. Is there anything about your background or experience that you feel you have not had the opportunity to share with the Admissions Committee in your application?  If yes, please explain. (500 words)

This is an extremely open ended question that allows you to fill in any gaps in your application strategy. Avoid the temptation to recycle essays from another school (the attempt is transparent!) and focus on a topic that adds value to your communication, while remembering the Wharton Business School approach and culture.

OPTIONAL: If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, TOEFL waiver request, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application). (250 words, maximum)

This Wharton Business School essay needs to address one of the items on the list. If you do not have any extenuating circumstances, you should not answer this question. If you are using this essay to explain a weakness in your application profile, focus on the positive and avoid the tendency to provide excuses. For example, rather than providing a story to excuse your low GPA, take responsibility for the mistakes you made and focus on the evidence in your life since college that demonstrates your academic potential.

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Tuesday Tips: Kellogg MBA Essay Tips

Kellogg MBA’s set of three required questions and the choice of two short answers are slightly different from last year, and are clearly focused on understanding how you work with and lead others. The tight …

Kellogg MBA’s set of three required questions and the choice of two short answers are slightly different from last year, and are clearly focused on understanding how you work with and lead others.

The tight knit Kellogg MBA community has resulted in a culture that values leadership and teamwork.  In evaluating candidates for the MBA program, fit is crucial.  You will want to research the program thoroughly and network with students and applicants to understand how you uniquely fit with the Kellogg MBA model.

In choosing topics for this set of Kellogg MBA essays, choose a range of experiences in your professional and community life.  If you work in a career that is more individualistic, choose examples that demonstrate your behavior in a group environment.  When approaching any MBA application essay, be as specific as possible in every example to authentically communicate your unique leadership and teamwork style.

For questions 1-3, please limit responses to 2 pages.

Essay One (required): Briefly assess your career progress to date.  Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at the Kellogg MBA program.

This is a standard career goal essay for the Kellogg MBA program. Note that the question implies a fairly brief discussion of your past, and to focus most of your response on your goals and why the Kellogg MBA program is the right place to pursue your MBA. Clarifying your goals and why an MBA is necessary for them will be crucial to beginning your communication with adcom about your candidacy. Another important aspect to notice about this question is the word “assess” which suggests a desire to see your self awareness about your own career progress to date.

Approach this essay in the same way you would approach other career goals essays (Columbia Business School and Wharton Business School’s essays are very similar, for instance). Clearly articulate where you have been and explain any confusing twists and turns in your background. Discuss your goals and why your goals are meaningful to you. Demonstrate self awareness about where you have been, where you are going, and what you have learned along the way.

Essay Two (required):  Describe how your background, values, academics, activities and/or leadership skills will enhance the experience of other Kellogg MBA students.

This question is a gift for all of those applicants who need to differentiate themselves from the rest of the application pool. To accomplish your goal of standing out, highlight your unique qualities with a few well chosen and specific examples. At the same time, the Kellogg MBA values community and teamwork, and you will need to answer the second part of the question about enhancing the experience of other Kellogg MBA students. Think about what your unique skills, background and values can contribute to the Kellogg MBA community, and communicate these benefits through specific knowledge of the Kellogg program and culture.

In researching this question and the career goals essay, student and applicant blogs are a great informal resource.

Essay Three (required): Describe your key leadership experiences and evaluate what leadership areas you hope to develop through your MBA experience.

This classic “leadership essay” asks you to look back on a few key experiences in your leadership development, and to further discuss what areas you plan to work on while at the Kellogg MBA program. Though the question is open ended, it will be most effective to limit your key leadership experiences to two or three, and show a range of personal qualities and settings for the experiences. Two professional and one community service example would be a great way to highlight your leadership outside of work. Leadership can demonstrate itself in many ways, and this is also an opportunity for you to reflect on your own individual leadership style and communicate it to the adcom.

Question Four: Applicants must answer 2 of the below essays.  (Re-applicants must answer question 4D and 1 other essay).  Please keep responses to two paragraphs.

The focus of these questions indicates that the Kellogg MBA program is interested in knowing more about your interpersonal skills. Both 4A and 4C focus on how you interact with others, and 4B is completely open ended, leaving you the opportunity to cover any aspects of your background, experiences and personal qualities you still need to demonstrate.

4A – Describe a time when you had to motivate a reluctant individual or group.

This is a great essay to communicate your maturity and self awareness, as well as how you interact with others and solve problems. If you do not directly manage an individual or team, you have likely encountered a team based example that would be great for this question. The essay length is very short, which will require a concise example that leaves plenty of space to be extremely specific about what you did to motivate the individual or group, and the outcome of your efforts.

4B – I wish the Admissions Committee had asked me”¦..

You can have fun with this question, use it to address any areas of concern in your application (low undergraduate GPA, etc.) or simply express another aspect of your candidacy. Be careful if you are applying to multiple MBA programs and are tempted to “recycle” an essay from another school’s application ”“ such attempts are usually incredibly transparent!

4C – What do others admire about you?

The trick with this essay is to talk about what others admire in you without demonstrating arrogance. One way to be convincing is to be as specific as possible with examples to back up your assertions.

4D – For re-applicants only:
Since your previous application, what are the steps you’ve taken to strengthen your candidacy?

If you are a re-applicant to the Kellogg MBA program this year, you will be required to answer this question. Focus on very concrete steps you have taken to address any weaknesses in your application profile (GPA, GMAT or work experience) as well as any self improvement activities that can demonstrate your teamwork and leadership skills. Think about any aspects of your improved candidacy that will make you a contributing member of the Kellogg MBA community.

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Tuesday Tips – UC Berkeley Haas School Of Business Essays

Haas School of Business short answer essays are both an opportunity and a challenge. At 250 words, they make it challenging to communicate the range of your personal qualities and skills, yet the questions provide the opportunity …

Haas School of Business short answer essays are both an opportunity and a challenge. At 250 words, they make it challenging to communicate the range of your personal qualities and skills, yet the questions provide the opportunity for variety in what you communicate. Because of the brevity, you will want to be extremely specific and concise with your examples.

The last two essays, on leadership and career goals, offer more space to express yourself while demonstrating the emphasis the program places on well articulated career goals and leadership qualities.

The numerous essays required for the Haas Business School application allow you to be strategic in the topics you choose. Because your career goals essay is last, you will introduce your values and personal qualities first. Choose your examples carefully to show your breadth of experience and interests, both professionally and outside of work.

Short Answer:

1. If you could change one thing you’ve done in your life, what would it be, and how would you do it differently? (250 word maximum)

This question has elements of the standard “mistake” essay, which requires the applicant to describe and reflect on a misstep. As in a mistake essay, you will want to describe the event you would like to change, and reflect on why and how you would change it. This question also invites further introspection, and allows you to discuss a turning point in your life. There is an opportunity here to show a moment when you matured, changed your perspective, or decided to take a specific path in life.

2. Tell us about your most significant accomplishment. (250 word maximum)

This is a great opportunity to showcase an impressive accomplishment in your life, preferably one with a team or leadership component. You have very little space to describe the accomplishment, and will still want to describe your thought process and results, which will require discipline. The question does not limit you to professional accomplishments, and you have the opportunity to choose a significant accomplishment from an outside activity that is meaningful to you.

3. At the Haas School of Business, we value innovation and creativity. Describe an innovative solution you have created to address a specific challenge. (250 word maximum)

This question both addresses your “fit” with Haas (do you value innovation and creativity?) and allows the adcom to see how you work and think. Describe the challenge you needed to address very briefly, and then discuss the innovative solution. Your thought process throughout should be illustrated, and you may need to explain why your solution was considered innovative by yourself and/or others. If an innovative or creative idea doesn’t come immediately to mind, think about a time when you have approached a challenge differently from others, even if the situation itself does not immediately seem innovative.

4. What steps have you taken to learn about the Haas School of Business program, and what factors have influenced your decision to apply? (250 word maximum)

This is a straightforward inquiry into your interest in and fit with the Haas School of Business program. Because some applicants use Haas as a backup to Stanford or other programs, you will want to be thorough and specific in demonstrating your knowledge of the program. Going beyond basic research by visiting campus, speaking with students and alumni or even reading informal blogs can show your level of interest in the program. It is also important to describe the impact of your encounters with the Haas community on your decision to apply.

Required Essays:

1. Give us an example of a situation in which you displayed leadership. (500 word maximum)

Leadership is an important quality to all MBA programs, and the length of this essay compared to the short answers highlights its importance to Haas. When choosing an example, a professional situation is ideal, although you will want to consider whether you have made a greater leadership impact in a volunteer situation. Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways, and you did not have to be the official leaders in the situation. Think of a time when you influenced a group of people, when others followed your lead, and when you made a solid impact. Describe the details of the situation, along with your thoughts and actions. Focus on the lessons learned as well, to show that leadership is an ongoing part of your life.

2. What are your short-term and long-term career goals? How do your professional experiences relate to these goals? Why do you want an MBA from Berkeley at this point in your career? (1000 word maximum)

This is a standard career goals essay that most MBA programs require. In this essay, it will be important to describe your short-term and long-term goals, and also provide professional context for the goals in your past experience. Your MBA from Berkeley should fit in as a natural bridge between your past and future in this essay. Your short-term goals should be specific and realistic as a new MBA graduate. Your long-term goals will lead from the short-term goals and MBA, and will reveal what you value in life and your career. The long-term goals can be a bit more visionary, but should still be specific and considered.

As you research the Haas Business School community, some of the insights gained from alumni and applicants could help get the creative juices flowing!

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Tuesday Tips – Stanford GSB Essays

Overall, as the Stanford GSB states on their website, adcom reads “the essays to get to know you as a person and to learn about the ideas and interests that motivate you.” As in all …

Overall, as the Stanford GSB states on their website, adcom reads “the essays to get to know you as a person and to learn about the ideas and interests that motivate you.” As in all applications, the essays are the place to illustrate who you are behind your achievements, and what your dreams for your career, life and an MBA program are. Packaging yourself too perfectly for the Stanford GSB is not the right strategy, instead be focused and sincere. The Stanford GSB is interested in reading about you, in your own unique style and voice.

Stanford GSB Essay Questions for 2008/2009 (1800 words limit for all essays combined)

Essay A: What matters most to you, and why? (750 words suggested)

This has been a standard Stanford GSB essay for many years, though the suggested length of the essay has shrunk over the past two years. The open ended nature of the question can be daunting for many applicants and does require some soul searching. Think about your history and experiences to find unifying themes in your life. It may also be useful to ask your friends and family for feedback on the subjects and experiences you seem most passionate about. While this essay is very personal, it is still a reflection of you as an MBA applicant. If you focus on an area that is extremely personal for you (your family, personal hobbies, etc.) make sure you can link “what matters most to you, and why?” to the rest of your application essays to paint a cohesive picture of who you are. To make the essay structure slightly more concrete, solid examples from your life can support your statement of what matters most to you and why.

Essay B: What are your career aspirations? How will your education at the Stanford GSB help you achieve them? (450 words suggested)

In some ways this is a more detailed and focused continuation of Essay A. Like Harvard Business School, the Stanford GSB uses the word “aspirations” rather than goals, and you will want to have a strong motivating force behind your career goals in this essay. Be ambitious! Your career aspirations need to matter deeply to you, and you need to fully explain the role of your Stanford MBA in achieving them. Be specific about classes, professors and student organizations you will be involved with as you pursue your dreams at Stanford.

Essay C: Short Essays””Options 1-4 (300 words each suggested)
Answer two of the 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.

Option 1: Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team.

Option 2: Tell us about a time when you felt most effective as a leader.

Option 3: Tell us about a time when you tried to reach a goal or complete a task that was challenging, difficult, or frustrating.

Option 4: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected.

All four of theStanford GSB optional essays ask you to explain not only the events of a situation, but also how you behaved. These essays are an opportunity for you to offer behavioral examples of your leadership, teamwork and introspection. You are constrained to examples from the last three years, and ideally the short essays also fit into the general themes laid out in the first two essays. The word limits will require a concise description of what happened in the situation, and then you should answer how you did it, what the outcome was, and how people responded to you. When considering potential examples, make sure you are presenting varied aspects of your personal background, work experience, and community involvement through the essays. If you focused on personal background in Essay A, the short answers are a great place to use a work example and a community service example to demonstrate your involvement across many arenas.

As you begin your Stanford essays, fellow applicant Leonidas blogs about reapplying, and the Stanford GSB Reliance Scholarship.

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