The majority of candidates who apply to the leading business schools are bright, personable overachievers. Honestly, they would be an asset to any program. That’s why when it comes to the MBA personal statement, you need to think beyond your obvious achievements.
Unleash your inner storyteller
Tell a compelling story if you hope to stand out amid the thousands of essays read by the admissions team each year. Make sure your personality comes through. The admissions team should get a real sense of who you are. They should also understand why you want to attend X program.
So, think beyond your obvious achievements. You can differentiate yourself by highlighting the most compelling, memorable stories and experiences. Fair warning: The admissions team is adept at sussing out applicants who have merely switched out the school name from another MBA personal statement. Don’t be that applicant!
Perhaps the worst thing you can do in a personal statement is a chronological recap of the resume. That, and submit an essay that lacks emotion, personality, or self-disclosure. You have to get personal (hence the name “personal statement”). Make sure the reader feels genuineness and authenticity.
MBA Personal Statement at HBS and Stanford
“The personal narrative really is a make or break for MBA admit success,” says a former Harvard Business School admissions officer on the SBC consulting team. “It is the essay execution that sets the overall application apart and earns it the interview.”
Again, the goal of the MBA personal statement is for the reader to understand who you are. “Be genuine,” advises the HBS admissions blog and continues: “Yes, we want you to put your best foot forward, but be careful not to be so ‘polished’ that we can’t get to know the real you.” Setbacks and lessons learned can be just as informative as success stories if the stories reveal more about what motivates and inspires you.
“The reader should feel so moved they want to meet you immediately – can’t wait to get to know you better, hear more of the story, ask you specific questions to learn more, be inspired, etc.,” shares one of the former HBS admissions officers on the SBC team.
The same logic goes for the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Understanding Stanford’s culture and academics will help you tailor your MBA personal statement. Before starting, talk to Stanford students and alumni. Get to know the school via virtual events to see the Stanford community first-hand.
As far as what constitutes a winning MBA personal statement for Stanford, one of SBC’s former GSB admissions officers says, “GSB is looking for people who will make a big difference AND have a better shot than most in being able to execute. Stanford GSB students also seem to have this ‘X’ factor associated with them. Almost like an ‘unexpected’ trait, talent, or experience.”
The MBA personal statement for Stanford is about diving deep into what motivates you and why. Topics can range from personal history to big-picture visions of the future. Steer clear of explicitly career-related topics and note that the strongest essays are likely not career oriented at all.
No one’s story is quite like yours.
When evaluating your candidacy, admissions teams will look for evidence in your MBA personal statement that shows you have a unique perspective that will add something new to the classroom.
Remember, you are not just your resume. You are the white spaces in between. You are the transitions that got you from A to B, which will get you from B to B-school. So celebrate who you are if you want an admissions director to do the same.