Stanford GSB has released its MBA admissions essays and deadlines for the Class of 2017. Last year Stanford resisted the urge to cut an essay (while many other top MBA programs did reduce their number of required essays), but this year is another story: Stanford now only requires two essays, including its famous “What matters most to you, and why?” question. Plus, the Stanford GSB admissions team made a curious change to what we thought was one of last year’s most interesting application essays.
Here are the Stanford GSB application essays and deadlines for the 2014-2015 admissions season, followed by our comments in italics:
Stanford MBA Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2014
Round 2: January 7, 2015
Round 3: April 1, 2015
Not many changes here. Stanford’s application deadlines are virtually the same as they were last year. Note that, if you apply in Round 1, you will receive your decision by December 10. That’s critical if you plan on applying to some other programs in Round 2 if you don’t receive good news from Stanford in Round 1. It gives you close to a month to get your applications ready in time for most top schools’ Round 2 deadlines.
Stanford GSB Admissions Essays
- What matters most to you, and why? (650 – 850 words suggested, out of 1,100 total)
Despite all of the changes that have taken place in the MBA admissions essay landscape over the past few years, this question manages to hang on. Before you start to work on this essay, consider the advice that the Stanford MBA admissions team provides: “Reflect the self-examination process you used to write your response.”
This question requires a great deal of introspection, after which you should create an essay that truly answers the question asked, whether or not you feel that it’s directly applicable to the job of getting into Stanford GSB. Naturally, telling a random story that has nothing to do with anything of relevance can hurt your chances, but mainly because you will have wasted this valuable space to reveal something about yourself. Where many Stanford applicants go wrong is by writing about their grand plans for the future, rather than providing a real glimpse into who they are as people. The latter is much more powerful and, ultimately, much more effective in helping you get in. With the other essays in this application, you have ample opportunity to cover the exact reasons why you want an MBA from Stanford.
- Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions. (250 – 450 words suggested)
This essay prompt is new this year, and it’s sort of too bad that Stanford got rid of last year’s version, which asked, “What do you want to do — REALLY — and why Stanford?” We kind of liked that extra emphasis that they added last year, but for whatever reason, the Stanford admissions team has decided to tone it down a bit, and make it a bit more like the standard “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that many business schools ask.
Just like HBS, Stanford has the luxury of not having to spend too much time sleuthing how interested you are in the program. Most people who are admitted to Stanford end up going there. However, the guidance that the admissions team provides with this question (“Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.”) shows that they really are paying attention to see if you’ve done your homework, and if you have given any real thought to making the most of your time at Stanford (beyond “Plan to be insanely rich one day.”)
However, you should resist the urge to do a few web searches and then simply drop the names of some programs or professors into this essay. An effective response will provide specific details that tie back to you (think about your past and your future) as much as they tie to Stanford. Many applicants will read that “distinctive opportunities” advice and think “The scavenger hunt is on! Let me find something no one else will write about!” but that misses the point. Stanford wants to know that you’re applying for reasons other than the fact that it’s such a platinum name in education, so spell out how You + Stanford = A More Effective Business Leader.
Note Stanford’s Take on “Feedback” Vs. “Coaching”
Stanford includes some noteworthy language re: what is an acceptable form of guidance to seek as you craft your application essays. As the admissions team writes:
Appropriate feedback occurs when others review your completed application – perhaps once or twice – and apprise you of omissions, errors, or inaccuracies that you later correct or address. After editing is complete, your thoughts, voice, and style remain intact. Inappropriate coaching occurs when you allow others to craft your application for you and, as a result, your application or self-presentation is not authentic.
It is improper and a violation of the terms of this application process to have someone else write your essays. Such behavior will result in denial of your application or withdrawal of your offer of admission.
We couldn’t agree more. If you can’t even write your own essays, then you already know that you’re not Stanford GSB material. For more than 10 years we have been helping people apply to the world’s most competitive MBA programs, and we have done it (pretty well, we might add) without writing essays or putting words in our clients’ mouths.
To see how we do it, download our Essential Guide to Stanford GSB, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools… for free! If you’re ready to start building your own application for Stanford and other top business schools, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!
By Scott Shrum