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 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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