||07 Oct 2009*
||16 Dec 2009
||06 Jan 2010*
||31 Mar 2010
||07 Apr 2010*
||19 May 2010
|* Applications are due by 5:00 PM, Pacific Time
My comments are in red:
Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?
This deceptively simple question has been Stanford’s first for the last several years, and it is actually one of the hardest, if not the hardest, to answer. It demands introspection. Before you put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, take time to reflect on what you value, how you have demonstrated those values, and why you hold them dear.
When I think back on our many successful Stanford clients, they were the ones who showed, especially in Essay A, that they did not turn away or close their eyes when they saw need. They could demonstrate that they seized the initiative when they recognized an opportunity to contribute. They were comfortable expressing emotion, their values, and their ability to act on both. More than anything else, to me initiative and self-awareness characterize the successful Stanford application. Implication: You have to reflect upon your values and those times you have acted upon them. Yes I wrote that a few seconds ago, but it bears repeating. Climbing Mt. Everest or suffering from terrible social ills is not a requirement of admission, but you do have to know the person occupying your skin.
Essay 2: What are your career aspirations? How will your education at Stanford help you achieve them?
This question, identical to last year’s, is a variation of a standard MBA goals question and different flavors have occupied this slot on the Stanford application for years. You need to define your career goals and then explain how Stanford’s program will help you achieve your goals. Understand the flexibility inherent in Stanford’s new curriculum, its integrated approach to management, and how both will help you achieve your career goals. Realize that the curriculum allows for personalization based on your goal and your distance from that goal. Obviously, a clear goal and knowledge of the Stanford GSB curriculum are imperative to answer this question.
Essay 3: Answer two of the four 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.
The first issue you must address when looking at Essay C is “Which two do you choose?”. Answer: the two that, when combined with your required essays, allow you to present the most impressive, textured, and comprehensive picture of you. Take advantage of Stanford’s flexibility within the limits they specify below. Tell your story to maximum effect by using the limits to your best advantage, just as Stanford suggests. Finally, note that these questions are experiential , not theoretical, and Stanford wants recent experiences. It wants to know how you achieved, what was the response of those around you, and what was your impact. For further insight, please see “Confessions from the Director of Evaluation” and “Writing Effective Essays.”
Option A: Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.
This is a twist on last year’s question. It requires specifics and works well with anecdotal responses. Stanford does not want to know about all the times that you may have built or developed a team. It wants to know about “a time,” a specific incident, when your performance exceeded expectations. When did you build a team that faced challenges and succeeded. What impact did it have and how did it exceed expectations. Make sure you relate your role in its success.
Option B: Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization.
New question. Use a different experience than you use in Option 1 to answer Option 2. Exploit the opportunity to show Stanford a different facet of your experience and personality. In discussing your impact, refrain from writing about leadership in general terms. Focus on the specific aspects of your contribution and its impact. Discuss what you used to garner trust, organize your group, empower them, and achieve your goal.
Option C: Tell us about a time when you motivated others to support your vision or initiative.
Use this question to present a challenge you successfully handled. A PAR approach would work well here, as well as with the other C questions.
Option D: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected.
This is a very broad question. It reveals Stanford’s values and allows you to discuss any event when you went beyond the norm. The suggestions for the other C questions hold here too. Choose to respond to this question if it allows you to demonstrate the individuality and initiative that Stanford values in a setting other than those you have used earlier.
Your answers for all of the essay questions cannot exceed 1,800 words. Each of you has your own story to tell, so please allocate the 1,800 words among all of the essays in the way that is most effective for you. We provide some guidelines below as a starting point, but you should feel comfortable to write as much or as little as you like on any essay question, as long as you do not exceed 1,800 words total.
- Essay 1: 750 words
- Essay 2: 450 words
- Essay 3: 300 words each
For one-on-one guidance through the Stanford MBA application, process please check out Accepted.com’s Stanford Application Package or our other MBA essay editing and admissions consulting assistance.