July 21, 2022

Stanford GSB Essay Tips: Essay B & Optional Short Answer Questions

Stanford GSB has released their application deadlines and essay questions for the 2022-23 application cycle. Earlier this week we shared Admitify’s guidance on Essay A. Today we’d like to share our guidance on Essay B and the Optional Short Answer Questions.


Essay B: Why Stanford?

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.


Admitify Guidance

  1. State your goals in para. 1 as factually and meatily as possible (short-term and long-term, titles/roles and possible organizations, maybe a Plan B for the short-term goals. Note that GSB has said in the past that too many of its MBA students are Bay Area and Silicon Valley focused, both geographically and in terms of technology, so feel free to show you have ‘non-local’ plans.
  2. Describe in as much specific detail as you can how Stanford’s academic resources (classes, faculty, etc.) are robust and relevant enough to help you meet your goals (private equity classes, innovation and technology, etc.). Note that GSB has its entire curriculum including electives online so you can really drill down.
  3. Then describe how GSB’s culture perfectly fits the kind of person you are and want to be. This is where you show you ‘get’ GSB’s self-awareness and no-sharp-elbows culture: Touchy Feely, TALK sessions, massive number of leadership development and coaching classes in its curriculum, ‘The No Assholes Rule,’ etc. This would be a good place to talk about campus visits and GSB people you’ve spoken with.
  4. Stanford recommends up to 400 words for Stanford B and up to 650 words for Stanford A. However, we see Stanford A as the essay where you are most likely to differentiate and help yourself – since your personal story is unique, whereas your reasons for needing a Stanford MBA are less likely to be unique. So we suggest 350 words (but no less than that) for Stanford B and 700 words for Stanford A.


Optional Short Answer Questions

In this section, we provide an optional opportunity for you to discuss some of your contributions more fully.


What do we mean by “optional”? We truly mean you have the opportunity to choose. In evaluating your application, we want to know about who you are and how you think Stanford will help you achieve your aspirations. We are also interested in learning about the things you have done that are most meaningful to you. If you feel that you’ve already addressed these questions well in other areas of the application, congratulations, you’re done! If you would like to go beyond your resume to discuss some of your contributions more fully, you are welcome to share up to three examples (up to 1200 characters, or approximately 200 words, for each example).


Optional 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?


Admitify Guidance

Although this is optional I do recommend that you respond with up to (hopefully all) 3 examples. (Anyone applying to Stanford should have at least 3 examples of impact.) Stanford told me in early August 2019 that they added this essay because too many applicants were using the What Matters Most essay to try to impress the committee with accomplishments so they added these short essays to enable you to share your accomplishments so you’ll use the What Matters Most essay more for what motivates you. Kirsten Moss also stated in June 2020 that Stanford has admitted applicants who didn’t write any optional essays at all, but I don’t recommend trying that strategy.


Optional impact essays are a good way to elaborate on community work or extracurricular work; doesn’t have to be impact at scale but can show how you grew a mentee, it’s all about ensuring they have enough evidence; structure is like a vignette; don’t try to ‘fit the space’ only use them if you feel you can add more to your application, and don’t feel like you have to use all three.


Ideally, these examples would show how well rounded you are by describing impact in very different parts of your life, perhaps one professional, one community/extracurricular, the third personal/family or academic.


Use the following ‘screens’ to decide which stories belong here:


  1. What concrete accomplishment (with outcomes, etc.) are you truly proudest of?
  2. What accomplishments/impacts would your superiors cite as your biggest wins?
  3. In which of your accomplishments did you lead/drive the largest number of people toward a concrete outcome?
  4. Which three accomplishments demonstrate your impact in 3 very different contexts and perhaps highlight 3 different types/kinds of impact?
  5. Recent accomplishments often trump older accomplishments (if old they need to be amazing).
  6. Which of your accomplishments are really fairly unique relative to others and reflect your passions and differentiators?


Essay Tone:


  • Stanford wants to hear an Authentic voice, wants it to be genuinely heartfelt and vulnerable, but your heart doesn’t have to bleed and you don’t have to retrigger past trauma (that’s going too far), if you’re funny or have another quirk, that should come through; mission and values are a good starting point/framework because good leaders lead from mission/values
  • When making a decision, what makes you go one way or another? How do you move through the world? An example is if curiosity/wanting to explore/learn matters most, that influences every decision you make


Check back each week for more essay guidance at the top MBA programs, and contact us to start on your application today!