Tag Archives: Stanford

Tuesday Tips: 2014 Stanford GSB Essay Tips

Stanford Graduate School of Business has followed the lead of the majority of top MBA programs and has reduced the essay count for this year’s application. Stanford is still focused on candid self-evaluation and authenticity, …

Stanford Graduate School of Business has followed the lead of the majority of top MBA programs and has reduced the essay count for this year’s application. Stanford is still focused on candid self-evaluation and authenticity, and has just cut out the optional shorter essays. 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.

What keeps you awake at night? When you look back at your life what will you admire and regret about your choices? These are the kind of questions to ask yourself as you approach topics for this set of essays. 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 should not exceed 1,100 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 and 350 words for essay two. 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.

Essay B: Why Stanford? Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions.

This year Stanford leads with the most important part: Why Stanford? Be specific in your response. You should know everything about the program and show that it is your dream school. Have you met current students and alumni? Who are the professors you are excited about? What are the unique programs?

This essay question is a somewhat standard career goals theme, but note that Stanford refers to it as a “personal essay.” 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 what aspects of the academic program, community and students are crucial to your aspirations.
When you discuss how Stanford will help you achieve your goals consider that Stanford likes to see applicants who dream big, and have the credibility to achieve their goals. So think big about your plans. Don’t focus on what your parents or partner want you to do. Don’t think about the next job on the corporate ladder. 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? Don’t be shy about your ambitions. 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 for whom an MBA will make an impact on their ambitious trajectory, 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 with no need for development.

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Tuesday Tips: Stanford GSB Essay Tips

Stanford Graduate School of Business has just published the essay questions without changes for this new application cycle, maintaining the theme of candid self-evaluation and authenticity. The Stanford GSB MBA admissions website provides clear guidance …

Stanford Graduate School of Business has just published the essay questions without changes for this new application cycle, maintaining 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.

Posted in Application Tips, Stanford Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday Tips: Stanford GSB Essay Tips

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.

Posted in Application Tips, Stanford Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

SBC Scoop: Finding the Elusive Third Recommender

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client. Our client Jillian thought she had the recommendation portion of her applications locked up. A …

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

Our client Jillian thought she had the recommendation portion of her applications locked up. A few years into her career, she had in hand a strong recommendation from her current supervisor attesting to her leadership skills, and a former boss happy to emphasize her communication skills in a second recommendation.

Jillian was aiming for some top schools, and as she combed through the requirements for Harvard and Stanford GBS with her consultant, they found the catch. Each school asked for not one, not two, but three recommendations. Harvard simply asked for a current or recent supervisor to write one recommendation, and Stanford was a little more specific, asking for the third recommendation to come specifically from a peer and not a supervisor.

“But I work eighty hours a week!” was Jillian’s first reaction. “I’ve made sure to focus on my job the last few years and give it everything I’ve got- I barely have time for anything else so I’m not sure who to ask.” Jillian’s consultant first advised her to look at the problem the other way around: she already had two home-run recommendations ready, so this might be an opportunity to show off a side that hasn’t been showcased elsewhere in her application. They went through all the possibilities, from colleagues at her current and former companies, to her church volunteer work, to her Friday night bowling league.

What they found was Jillian had missed an answer that was right in front of her. At a previous position, she had worked extensively with a peer on several projects in a row, and in the process had become good friends outside of work, continuing their friendship even though both had moved on to other companies. Jillian hadn’t even thought of Grace as a peer anymore since they spent more time at the movies than working on spreadsheets nowadays, but of course Grace was delighted to write her recommendation, and was able to provide personal insight that even Jillian’s supervisors could not.

After digging deep for that third rec, Jillian felt great about sending off her applications to Harvard and Stanford, and as a result of her participation, Grace is now thinking seriously of going for her MBA as well.

Are you having trouble deciding who should recommend you for business school applications? Sign up for a free consultation to talk to one of our experts.

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SBC Scoop: Explaining a Layoff

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client. Today is the third year anniversary of the Lehman collapse, which sent a ripple of …

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

Today is the third year anniversary of the Lehman collapse, which sent a ripple of unemployment through the financial sector. In the past, unemployment was a red flag that required conscious mitigation. Now, business schools realize that even the best employees may have gone through a period without work over the last three years.

Christian wasn’t hit personally by the financial crisis, but he was an analyst at a large social media website that ultimately couldn’t compete with facebook. Due to the credit crunch, the parent corporation no longer had the patience to withstand huge losses from this website in 2009, and decided to lay off 50% of the workforce.

Other than his unemployment, Christian was a strong candidate with a 3.7 GPA from Emory and a 740 GMAT score. His work experience showed progression in the form of a promotion from Analyst to Sr. Analyst at his company in only 18 months. He had spent another two years at the social networking site before the round of layoffs.

When we started working with Christian he was still unemployed and had decided to use his time to start his own business. He was working on a niche retail website in his spare time, and volunteering with an organization called Taproot to keep his strategy skills fresh. Christian wanted to pursue his MBA to give him a basis in Marketing and Accounting that would help him operate his own company. He wanted to stay in the bay area and was only applying to Haas and Stanford.

The key aspect that helped us shape Christian’s profile was that he had remained busy and optimistic. Christian saw the layoff as an opportunity to pursue a dream of entrepreneurship. This was a story that could be told easily in his applications, and we focused one essay on how he wrote a business plan for his retail site, and the networking he did to understand the overall industry and the market size for his target audience. This story showed that he was determined, hard working, and able to use his people skills to expand his network.

The volunteer work that Christian was heavily involved in gave him an opportunity to cite recent teamwork. He also showed that he was interested in giving back, even while he went through tough times himself. We used the optional essay and his recommendations to show that he was a top performer who simply ended up at an unprofitable company. In his essays about work he was able to show that he had learned a lot about business from being part of a failed company. Overall, Christian showed that he had the grit to persevere through a difficult experience ”“ a quality that is in high demand within MBA programs.

Despite his unemployment Christian was admitted to Haas where he made the most of the opportunity to become an expert on Marketing and Accounting for his start-up.

To read more SBC Case Studies, click HERE.

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SBC Scoop: When Numbers Aren’t Enough

Rahul signed up with Stacy Blackman Consulting for a two-hour feedback session on his unsuccessful application from the prior year. With a 760 GMAT and a near perfect GPA from an Ivy League school, Rahul …

Rahul signed up with Stacy Blackman Consulting for a two-hour feedback session on his unsuccessful application from the prior year. With a 760 GMAT and a near perfect GPA from an Ivy League school, Rahul was surprised that he failed to receive even a single interview invitation from his applications to HBS, Stanford, Columbia, and Chicago. With better-than-average numbers, I had a feeling that Rahul needed to focus on the qualitative factors to make his case for admission.

When I read through Rahul’s application to Stanford it was clear that there was room to improve his essays and his recommendations. Rahul’s career goals were a logical extension of his current job in consulting ”“ he planned to return to the firm and advance to partner, ultimately specializing in the technology side of the firm and focusing on developing that side of the business. However, he never explained WHY technology was a passion for him, or WHY he was so devoted to his firm that he wanted to make his career there. Though in conversation Rahul was passionate about his path, it came across as a default answer in his essay.

“What Matters Most” is a tough essay topic for every candidate. In Rahul’s case he focused on his family and particularly his relationship with his grandparents who had immigrated to the United States from India and embraced a new culture and way of life. Again, Rahul’s admiration for his family and forebears was captivating in speech, but did not translate in writing.

As for Rahul’s recommenders, they praised his work, but did not advance his cause. None of them addressed Rahul’s career goals in any depth, and they did not highlight his exceptional work as compared with his peers. Overall it seemed as if Rahul was a strong contributor to his firm, but he didn’t come across as the next generation of leader and superstar there. When we discussed this issue, Rahul explained he had not shared his career goals or any of his other essay topics with his recommenders. As a result, I guessed his recommenders were not as invested in his success and may have lacked direction in writing the letters.

Rahul was receptive to my feedback and continued to work with us to reapply to HBS and Stanford, while adding Wharton, Michigan and Kellogg as new schools on his list. Rahul devoted himself to essay writing, and the results reflected his infectious enthusiasm for his work and his personal life. He also set up lunch meetings with his recommenders to go over his strategy and plans for re-application. With his recommenders in the loop on his overall goals they supported him with enthusiastic letters, and even helped him take on new projects related to technology at the firm in the year before he went to school.

Rahul was ultimately admitted to Wharton and the Kellogg MMM program.

We have so many client stories and each one is different. Even applicants who appear to have similar bios are unique when we peel back the layers. View more client case studies here.

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

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