Our Thoughts on Stanford GSB’s Application Essays for 2015-2016

stanford-gsb-buildingApplication season at Stanford GSB is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts.

Essay 1:

What matters most to you, and why? (750 words)

The dreaded Stanford open-ended essay prompt has been one of the most feared parts of the school’s application process for years. For many students the more open the prompt the higher the anxiety – couple this with the inherent pressure that results from applying to Stanford, and many students derail their chances of success before they even put pen to paper. Many students struggle with how to tackle this type of essay question and with Stanford, it’s best to follow the direction provided by the Admissions Committee.

The “what” of your essay is less important than the “why.” Stanford GSB, as much as any other program, truly wants to know who you are. So give them the chance by offering up some direct insight into who you are as a person. Introspection is key in this essay, and walking the AdComm through the “what” of the question, as well as why you are uniquely motivates by this “what”, will serve to humanize your candidacy and make your response more personal. Stanford strives to admit people, not just GMAT scores or GPAs, so make sure you let them into your world. Breakthrough candidates will utilize structured storytelling effects to craft a compelling narrative that brings the Stanford AdComm deep into the candidate’s world.

This essay honestly at its core is about getting to know you, so don’t miss the opportunity by trying to craft the perfect answer for what you feel the AdComm wants to read.

Essay 2:

Why Stanford? (400 words)

This is a typical “Why School X Question,” however, you will want to avoid the typical boilerplate response with Stanford and dive a bit deeper here. Think of this prompt in two parts: “Why MBA?” and “Why Specifically a Stanford MBA?” Be specific and connect your personal and professional development goals to the unique programs at Stanford that are relevant to your success. Breakthrough candidates will not only select clear, well-aligned goals, but will connect these goals with a personal passion that makes their candidacy feel bigger than just business. Now do not reach here, the more authentic this personal passion is the better it will connect with the AdComm, but for years Stanford has maintained a track record of looking for something a bit different in their candidates.

Just a few thoughts on the new essays from Stanford, hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Stanfords’s deadlines and essays, check out another post here.

If you are considering applying to Stanford GSB, download our Essential Guide to Stanford, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. Ready to start building your applications for Stern and other top MBA programs? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here