Stanford GSB Essay Tips

As we posted on June 12, the Stanford GSB has released their MBA application essay questions for 2007-2008. The Stanford GSB appreciates a good story and wants to hear about your life through colorful anecdotes and examples. Your overall goal with these essays should be to present a comprehensive picture of you – personal background, work experience, significant service or extra-curriculars, and honest dreams for the future. Try to think about who you are, how you became this person, and what you hope to do with your life.

* Stanford GSB Essay A: What matters most to you, and why? (Recommended length is 3-4 pages, double-spaced)
This topic seems overwhelming at first. Before trying to think of some clever approach, take a step back and think about the honest answer. What is actually important to you? To get started, try brainstorming significant moments in your life from childhood to the present – these can come from family experiences, travel, school, work, community service, etc. Hopefully you will begin to see a theme that runs through some of these. To put the essay together you need to explain the theme and offer up a few micro-examples, significant moments from your life, ideally spanning a few different times and places.

* Stanford GSB Essay B: What are your career aspirations? How will your education at the Stanford GSB help you achieve them? (Recommended length is 2-3 pages, double-spaced)

This is a standard career essay, but hopefully it is influenced by the theme you presented in essay A. Remember your career goals should in some way reflect what is important to you (this does not mean they are one and the same, but that there is some correlation). So, in many ways essay B is a continuation of thoughts from essay A, but now focused on a concrete plan to create a career that reflects your values. It is important to be very specific about how the Stanford GSB will help you achieve those goals – offer up classes, clubs, etc that will help you. They want to see that you are ready to hit the ground running, that you will take advantage of the Stanford GSB and make a difference in their community.

* Stanford GSB Essay C: Short Essays””Options 1-4
Please answer two of the questions below. In answering each question, please tell us not only what you did, but also how you did it. Describe what you felt, said, and thought during these experiences. Tell us the outcome, and describe how people responded. Your responses should describe experiences that have occurred within the last three years. (Recommended length is 1-2 pages, double-spaced for each)


Option 1: Tell us about a time when you did something that was not established, expected, or popular.
Option 2: Tell us about a time when you felt effective or successful.
Option 3: Tell us about a time when you had a significant effect on a group or individual.
Option 4: Tell us about a time when you tried to reach a goal or complete a task that was challenging, difficult, or frustrating.

For all of these essays, the Stanford GSB gives you the key to your response in the directions: Describe what you felt, said, and thought during these experiences. Applicants tend to get into trouble by just describing the event without their reaction. Instead set up the example clearly and concisely but focus the response on your reactions, reflection, and lessons learned.

Finally, you want to consider your essays as a package. Be sure to use examples from your personal background, work, community service, and extra-curriculars. So take into account where your examples come from in essay A and draw from other areas in the short answer questions. Again, you want to be sure the Stanford GSB has a comprehensive picture of you from different facets of your life.

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