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Stanford GSB Essay Tips and Deadlines: 2023-24

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Stanford's Graduate School of Business, the top Silicon Valley B-school, is one of the most selective business schools in the world. The school prides itself on innovation in the classroom and emphasis on new ideas and cutting-edge developments.

From the Stanford website"Our global reputation is hard-earned. We offer unparalleled opportunities that will help you launch a meaningful career and make a positive impact on the world."

Application Deadlines

Round Application Deadline Admissions Decision
Round 1 12 Sep 2023 07 Dec 2023
Round 2 04 Jan 2024 28 Mar 2024
Round 3 09 Apr 2024 23 May 2024


Your completed application, including your letters of reference and application fee payment, is due at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time on the deadline date for the round in which you apply.

For additional information on applying, please visit the Stanford GSB admissions website.


As in previous years, the Stanford Graduate School of Business asks MBA applicants to respond to two required essay questions. The total word limit for both essays is 1,050 words, with a suggested limit of 650 words for Essay A and 400 words for Essay B. It is worth noting that shorter essays can also be effective

Like last year, Stanford asks one optional short answer question of 200 words to allow applicants to share experiences they could not present in the required essays.

To aid applicants in crafting their essays, Stanford GSB offers guidelines and advice on its website: "Essays help us learn about who you are rather than solely what you have done. Other parts of the application give insight into your academic and professional accomplishments; the essays reveal the person behind those achievements.

In each essay, we want to hear your genuine voice. Think carefully about your values, passions, aims, and dreams. There is no "right answer" to these questions— the best answer is the one that is truest for you."

Here is MER's analysis of Stanford GSB's essays:

Essay A: What matters most to you, and why? (650 words)

For this essay, we would like you to reflect deeply and write from the heart. Once you've identified what matters most to you, help us understand why. You might consider, for example, what makes this so important to you? What people, insights, or experiences have shaped your perspectives?

The essay prompt "What matters most to you, and why?" is undeniably one of the most challenging ones posed by business schools, and Stanford has been using it for a considerable period. This essay demands deep introspection and reflection on your experiences and lessons learned along the journey. It aims to uncover the profound aspects of your character that cannot be gleaned from the rest of the application. This essay presents you with an opportunity to showcase your true self, revealing your motivations and the driving force behind your actions.

To excel in this essay, we encourage you to delve into deep self-reflection to provide an authentic picture of who you are and how you have evolved into the person you are today. Instead of focusing solely on your accomplishments, focus on sharing insights, experiences, and lessons that have shaped your perspective. Write from your heart, illustrating how specific situations or events have influenced you. Remember to focus  on the 'why' rather than the 'what.'

Our life experiences and the events we go through define who we are. To brainstorm ideas for this essay, take a trip down memory lane and reflect on your past experiences- growing up years, schooling, college, professional life, volunteer activities, general interests, etc., and look for some common thread that weaves through some or all of them. Since there is no direct answer to this essay, take your time in writing your response. Engage in prewriting exercises to identify a unifying theme that resonates with your values and priorities, which have been honed over the years. Don't shy away from sharing challenging experiences; they often make us stronger and instill a zeal to fight. Whatever stories you choose, focus on their impact on your life and values.

As you recount your experiences, provide insights into your thought process, emotions, and reactions during those moments and elaborate on the valuable lessons learned along the way. I suggest providing a chronological account of events that have influenced your thoughts, values, and beliefs, shaping the person you are today with your firm belief system and priorities. Please remember this essay is not about showcasing your accomplishments but about the values and perspectives you have developed over the years. Therefore, focus on the events, people, and anecdotes that molded you into the unique person you are today. Also, elucidate how you have translated your values into actions, naturally leading to your achievements.

Essay B: Why Stanford? (400 words)

Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford GSB experience will help you realize them. If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.

The second essay concentrates on the candidates' career goals and rationale for pursuing a management degree at Stanford. Having already expressed what matters most to you in life in the first essay, it is essential to elaborate on why your next step involves pursuing a Stanford MBA. Explain why you are interested in pursuing an MBA and want to attend Stanford GSB. It would be best to clarify your goals and the additional training you require, which a Stanford MBA can provide.

Researching the school's resources and curriculum is crucial to demonstrate your genuine interest. By articulating how the Stanford MBA program aligns with your aspirations, you can effectively convey your dedication and understanding of what the school offers. Instead of mapping out a specific career path in this essay, focus on defining the broad impact you aim to make on a service, a sector, or society. While Essay A is your opportunity to explain what matters most to you, Essay B allows you to illustrate how attending Stanford would further your career and align with your core values. In a way, Essay B picks up from where Essay A ends.

To strengthen your response, be specific and provide evidence that you have conducted your research.   Showcase your familiarity with the aspects of the program that genuinely interest you. Discuss particular classes, programs, opportunities for collaboration with other parts of the school, clubs, conferences, or unique offerings that distinguish Stanford from other top business schools. Share insights into the courses that appeal to you the most and how they align with your career goals. Mention if you have interacted with current students and alumni, attended admission events, or engaged with professors whose classes excite you.

Stanford seeks applicants with big dreams and the potential to turn their dreams into reality. So be bold with your aspirations, but at the same time, be realistic in showing that you have the ability to fulfill your dreams. Highlight how the Stanford MBA will play a vital role in bridging the gap between your current skill set and the competencies required to achieve your vision.

Optional Short Answer Question

"In this section, we provide an optional opportunity for you to discuss some of your contributions and background more fully. What do we mean by “optional”? We truly mean you have the opportunity to choose. If you feel that you’ve already described your contributions well in other areas of the application, congratulations, you’re done! If not, feel free to use this opportunity to tell us more.”

Question: Think about times you've created a positive impact, whether in professional, extracurricular, academic, or other settings. What was your impact? What made it significant to you or to others? (up to 1,200 characters, or approximately 200 words)

This essay presents an opportunity to share a defining experience in which you made a difference. Stanford seeks people who can influence others. Reflect on your experiences and choose your story when you achieved positive results and significantly impacted a person, group, organization, or community. Then wrap up your narrative by spelling out how your actions are meaningful to you and others. It's important to note that this experience doesn't necessarily have to be from your professional life Stanford allows you to choose from any area of your life- professional, personal, academic, or extracurricular. To organize your ideas coherently, we recommend following the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result/Significance).

In the introduction, set the stage by providing the Situation - the context and background of the experience you are about to share. Then, delve into the Action phase, describing the steps you took to address the situation and accomplish the task. Next, focus on the Result and the Significance of your actions. Share the positive outcomes from your efforts and emphasize their impact on the person, group, organization, or community involved. Conclude your essay by reflecting on the overall significance of this experience to you and the broader community. Explain how this particular experience has shaped your values, influenced your character, and motivated you to continue making a positive difference in the lives of others.

Even though it is an optional question, we recommend you answer this question to discuss 3 ways you made an impact. You can discuss each example in approximately 200 words.

From the Stanford website:  We are also interested in learning about the things you have done that are most meaningful to you. Perhaps you would like to expand upon a bullet item from your resume and tell us more about the “how” or “why” behind the “what.” Or maybe you have had an impact in a way that doesn’t fit neatly in another part of the application. You are welcome to share up to three examples (up to 1,200 characters, or approximately 200 words, for each example).”

To meet the stringent word limits, make every word count. You may go through the following blog to learn helpful tips to write concisely.

11 strategies to meet strict word limits of MBA Essays

Additional Information:

If there is any information that is critical for us to know and is not captured elsewhere, include it in the "Additional Information" section of the application. Pertinent examples include:

  • Extenuating circumstances affecting your candidacy, including academic, work, or test-taking experiences
  • Academic experience (e.g., independent research) not noted elsewhere

This section should not be used as an additional essay.

As directed in the essay prompt, you may use this essay question to address a weakness in your profile. For example, suppose you have a lower-than-average GMAT score, any grades below a 'C' on your transcript, academic probation, or a significant employment/ education gap. In that case, you can explain that in this essay. Also, if you cannot get your recommendation letter from your current supervisor, you should explain that in the optional essay. Your response should be positive, straightforward, brief, and fact-focused and should not sound like you are making excuses for a weakness in your profile.

To provide a context for a flaw in your profile, make sure your reason is genuine to convince the Ad Com that your low grades or employment gap occurred due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. First, explain the facts, then show how you have addressed the issue, and finally, conclude by explaining why this will not impact your ability to handle the program's academic rigor.

Your weakness may also bring out a positive aspect of your personality. For example, if you discuss your employment gap, you may explain that you did something productive during that period, such as traveling, volunteering, or handling a family medical emergency.

This question is entirely optional. If you don't have any areas of concern, you may not write this essay.

The following blog post will help you determine if you need to write an optional essay or not.

12 Reasons why you should write an optional essay:

Common Myths about AdmissionsFinally, please go through the video by Kristen Moss, wherein she talks about common myths that some students have about admission to Stanford and what is most important in the application process.

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About MER (myEssayReview)

Poonam Tandon, the founder of MER (myEssayReview), is a Ph.D. in English with 12 years of MBA consulting experience and three decades of teaching experience in India and the US. A master storyteller, Poonam has successfully guided hundreds of students from around the world to gain admission into the esteemed MBA, EMBA, and specialized Masters's programs in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia. Throughout her four-decade-long professional career, she has reviewed 10,000+ essays written by applicants worldwide. Poonam is recognized as one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club (142 reviews).

Do you have questions about your application for the 2023-24 application cycle? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.

This blog was first published in myessayreview.