May 13, 2016

Stanford GSB 2016-17 Essay Questions: Guidance

Stanford GSB 2016-17 Essay Questions: Guidance

Stanford Graduate School of Business followed its nemesis Harvard Business School by just a few days in releasing its essays topics for the already accelerating MBA admissions season. Applicants will be relieved (or perhaps distressed) to learn that the prompts and total permitted word count remain the same as last year, to wit:

Essay A : What matters most to you, and why?
Essay B : Why Stanford?

Length : “Your answers for both essay questions combined may not exceed 1,150 words (1,200 words if you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs).”

The essay instructions have been tweaked only slightly with no change in substance: “We request that you write two personal essays. The personal essays give us glimpses of your character and hopes. In each essay, we want to hear your genuine voice. Think carefully about your values, passions, aims, and dreams prior to writing them. For this essay [essay] A, we would like you to:

– Do some deep self-examination, so you can genuinely illustrate who you are and how you came to be the person you are.

– Share the insights, experiences, and lessons that shaped your perspectives, rather than focusing merely on what you’ve done or accomplished.

– Write from the heart, and illustrate how a person, situation, or event has influenced you.

– Focus on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what.’”

Essay B : “Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions.

– Explain your decision to pursue graduate education in management.

– Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.

– If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.”

Take Stanford’s guidance to heart. Don’t strategize too much, stick to your instinctive response when you hear the question, go personal, remember that your recommenders can do the heavy lifting in describing the brilliance of your professional career, forget stale advice about ‘victimhood,’ think about your passions, and—as with Harvard’s essay—focus on experiences that forced you to change, that reflect your growing self-awareness. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do *all* these things in this essay, but whenever the thought ‘What does Stanford want to hear?’ pops in your head, return to this guidance. Keep it real.