If you are going to apply to the most selective MBA program in the world, you should recognize the impact that Professor-turned-Dean Garth Saloner has had at GSB. Even though he took over the reins as Dean in September 2009, Saloner is no stranger to the program, having joined GSB in 1990. In fact, he can be considered one of the major influences on the “Stanford Dynamic” and the school’s ethos, “Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world.”
In Saloner’s own words:
"The Stanford GSB has the opportunity to prepare future generations of principled critical analytical thinkers whose actions can change the world. Through our research, we will continue to develop the intellectual underpinnings of management and we will embody that knowledge in our teaching. From our sustainable new management center on the Stanford campus we will promote the free-flow of students, faculty and ideas across disciplines and schools as we develop management knowledge and business leaders for the 21st century."
Stanford’s gatekeeper is long-time Dean of Admissions and GSB graduate Derek Bolton. In our opinion, his intimate knowledge of the Stanford Dynamic, along with his high-level of emotional intelligence has granted Bolton a better bullshit detector than any other admissions director in the business. Bolton and his admissions committee have crafted an application process that solicits the type of reflection applicants rarely seek out – what are my innate motivations, guiding values and enduring beliefs - REALLY? As the vast majority of applicants cobble together an answer to Stanford’s “What Matters Most to You and Why?” essay, Bolton and company prepare for dirty diaper duty. Benefitting from years of vetting lackluster responses to a tried and true weeder essay (“What matters most?”), Bolton has kept this essay in the number one slot and at 750 words. If you can’t pass this smell test, don’t worry about how great your goals are in essay 2 becauseyou’re done at essay 1.
Based on our experiences as admissions consultants, we wanted to emphasize a few points that Bolton emphases. We find that quite a few applicants gloss over this information, which can be found on GSB’s website. Simply put, we call it Bolton’s essay philosophy and he states:
"Regardless of the outcome of the admission process, I believe strongly that you will benefit from the opportunity for structured reflection that the business school application provides. I hope that you will approach the application process as a way to learn about yourself—that's the goal—with the byproduct being the application that you submit to us.
Rarely during our lives are we asked to think deeply about what is most important to us. Stanford professor Bill Damon’s book, The Moral Advantage: How to Succeed in Business by Doing the Right Thing, contained the following passages that might help you maintain the larger context as you delve into the essay writing process.”
"We are not always aware of the forces that ultimately move us. While focusing on the "how" questions—how to survive, how to get ahead, how to make a name for ourselves—often we forget the "why" questions that are more essential for finding and staying on the best course: Why pursue this objective? Why behave in this manner? Why aspire to this kind of life? Why become this type of person?
These "why" questions help us realize our highest aspirations and our truest interests. To answer these questions well, we must decide what matters most to us, what we will be able to contribute to in our careers, what are the right (as opposed to the wrong) ways of behaving as we aim toward this end, and, ultimately, what kind of persons we want to become. Because everyone, everywhere, wants to live an admirable life, a life of consequence, the "why" questions cannot be ignored for long without great peril to one’s personal stability and enduring success. It is like ignoring the rudder on a ship—no matter how much you look after all the boat’s other moving parts, you may end up lost at sea."
See the following for a bit more on “Moral Advantage”. We strongly recommend reading the preface for The Moral Advantage -- available on Google Books: http://goo.gl/g8qlz