Stanford GSB Admissions Essays and Deadlines for 2009-2010

Last week the Stanford Graduate School of Business released its admissions essay topics and deadlines for the 2009-2010 application season. Notably, as is the case with HBS, Stanford’s Round 1 deadline is now in the first week of October, and the school will now notify Round 1 applicants before the holidays at the end of the year.

Here are Stanford’s essays and deadlines, followed by our comments in italics:

Stanford GSB Application Deadlines

Round 1: October 7, 2009
Round 2: January 6, 2010
Round 3: April 7, 2010

(Interesting… Harvard matched Stanford by moving its Round 3 deadline back to April. Now, like HBS, Stanford has moved its Round 1 deadline forward, to early October. For these schools, there’s now six months between the Round 1 and Round 3 deadlines! Perhaps one reason for this move is to make admissions officers’ lives easier during the peak season, by spreading it out a bit. It will be interesting to see if other schools follow.)

Stanford GSB Application Essays

  1. What matters most to you, and why? (750 words recommended, out of 1,800 total)

    (Ahh, Stanford’s tried-and-true essay question. Old timers will remember when this question had no word limit. Now, the essay’s 750-word limit forces applicants to be a little more economical with their words, which is a good thing. With this question, more than any other, applicants should heed Stanford’s words here: “Truly, the most impressive essays are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us.” 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 your candidacy. Obviously, the more relevant to the topic at hand, the better, but where applicants often go wrong is by offering grand ideas and big words, rather than a real glimpse into who they are as a person.)

  2. What are your career aspirations? How will your education at Stanford help you achieve them? (450 words recommended)

    (This is the more common “Why do you want an MBA, and why this school?” question. Here you can feel more comfortable writing about the topics that business schools more often look for in their applications. Remember to keep it realistic and to demonstrate that you understand what the Stanford MBA experience will — and won’t — do for you as a growing professional.)

  3. Answer two of the four questions below. Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it. What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years. (300 words recommended for each)

    Option A: Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.

    Option B: Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization.

    Option C: Tell us about a time when you motivated others to support your vision or initiative.

    Option D: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected.

    (Some small but important differences here vs. last year. For Option A, they have added the “whose performance exceeded expectations” clause, indicating that last year’s applicants may not have put enough focus on results in their answers. Option B has changed from “Tell us about a time when you felt most effective as a leader.” The change to “the lasting impact” question also suggests that the school is looking for more results in its essay answers. Option C has evolved from a question about overcoming an obstacle or failure to a question that gets at one version of leadership — motivating others to support your ideas. Stanford considers this type of persuasiveness a key ingredient in the future leaders that it wants to produce. Option D remains from last year; this is another results-oriented question that also gets at a core component of leadership)

For more guidance on your Stanford business school application, visit our Stanford GSB information page. For even more advice on applying to Stanford GSB, download our FREE Veritas Prep Annual Reports! To get a feel for how strong your chances of getting into Stanford are, try Veritas Prep’s Business School Selector.