We’ve invited mbaMission to share their Business School Essays Analyses as they’re released for the 2013-2014 application season. Here is their analysis for Stanford Graduate School of Business.
The Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) is apparently content with its essay questions, because it has made no changes to them or to the allowed word count this season. Having made slight tweaks to its prompts in recent years, the GSB’s MBA admissions committee seems to have found an approach that elicits the information it wants.
With respect to word count, Stanford is unique in that it asks you to limit yourself to 1,600 words total but allows you to determine how you would like to distribute them among the various questions. Stanford does offer some guidance”recommending 750 words for Essay 1, 450 words for Essay 2 and 400 words for Essay 3”but you can take the school at its word (small pun intended!) and use a different distribution if you feel that you can better reveal yourself through, for example, a 650-word Essay 1 and 500-word Essay 3.
Stanford’s admissions committee offers some great advice on how to write its application essays here:http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/mba/admission/dir_essays-p.html. We feel that the committee’s most important guidance is the following:
Because we want to discover who you are, resist the urge to package yourself in order to come across in a way you think Stanford wants. Such attempts simply blur our understanding of who you are and what you can accomplish. We want to hear your genuine voice throughout the essays that you write and this is the time to think carefully about your values, your passions, your hopes and dreams.
In truth, this is good advice not just for Stanford’s essays, but for all business schools’ essays. Rather than trying to portray yourself as something in particular (which you may or may not in fact be), focus on showcasing who you actually are and give the admissions committee the information and picture of you it needs to make its decision. Stanford is not interested in classifying its applicants as certain types but in discovering individuals and what they have to offer. And now, on to the essays
Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?
When candidates ask us, What should I write for what matters most to me?, we offer a pretty simple tip”start brainstorming for this essay by asking yourself that very question: What matters most to me? This might seem like obvious advice, of course, but many applicants get flustered by the question, often believing that an actual right answer exists that they must identify, and never pause to actually consider their sincere responses, which are typically the most compelling.
So, we advise that you brainstorm in depth and push yourself to explore the psychological and philosophical motivations behind your goals and achievements”behind who you are today. We cannot emphasize this enough: do not make a snap decision about the content of this essay. Once you have identified what you believe is an appropriate theme, discuss your idea(s) with those with whom you are closest and whose input you respect. Doing so can help validate deeply personal and authentic themes, leading to an essay that truly stands out.
Once you have fully examined your options and identified your main themes, do not simply provide a handful of supporting anecdotes”or worse, recycle the stories you used in a similar essay for another school. A strong essay response to this question will involve a true exploration of the themes you have chosen and reveal a thorough analysis of decisions, motives and successes/failures, with a constant emphasis on how you conduct yourself. If you are merely telling stories and trying to tie in your preconceived conclusions, you are most likely forcing a theme on your reader rather than analyzing your experiences, and this will be transparent to any experienced admissions reader. In short, be sure to fully consider and develop your most sincere answer(s), outline your essay accordingly and then infuse your writing with your personality, thoughts, feelings and experiences.