Stanford GSB 2016 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Want to learn more about Stanford? Check out our Stanford GSB B-School Zone!There is very little change between last year’s and this year’s Stanford GSB MBA essay questions.  One minor change to note: You get an entire 50 extra words for your two essays. Last year the total word count was 1100 words. This year the maximum length is 1150. This is noteworthy only because it represents one of the few  times in recent years that schools are allowing you to provide a little more information about yourselves than they allowed previously.  Stanford is bucking the trend here.

Stanford gives a lot of advice and guidance on its website as to what it’s looking for in the essays. You should access that advice. 

Stanford moved its Round 1 deadline up about a week (from Oct 1 to this year’s Sept. 22.). It moved its Round 2 deadline to January 12 from last year’s Jan 7. Round 3’s deadline for 2016 is April 5; last year’s final deadline was April 1.  As I said in a recent podcast, the MBA application cycle — like some sports’ seasons and certain individuals’ waistlines, is expanding.

My tips are in blue below. 

Stanford GSB 2016 MBA Application Questions:

Essays help us learn about who you are rather than solely what you have done. Other parts of the application give insight to your academic and professional accomplishments; the essays reveal the person behind those achievements.

When writing your essays, resist the urge to “package” yourself into what you think Stanford wants to see. Doing so will only prevent us from understanding who you really are and what you hope to accomplish. The most impressive essays are the most authentic.


We request that you write two personal essays. The personal essays give us glimpses of your character and hopes. In each essay, we want to hear your genuine voice. Think carefully about your values, passions, aims, and dreams prior to writing them.

Essay A. What matters most to you, and why?

For this essay, we would like you to:

• Focus on the “why” rather than the “what.”
• Do some deep self-examination, so you can genuinely illustrate who you are and how you came to be the person you are.
• Share the insights, experiences, and lessons that shaped your perspectives, rather than focusing merely on what you’ve done or accomplished.
• Write from the heart, and illustrate how a person, situation, or event has influenced you.

This superficially straightforward question has been Stanford’s first for the last several years, and it is actually one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult MBA essay questions to answer. It demands introspection. Before you put finger to keyboard or pen to paper, really reflect on what you value, how you have acted upon those principles, and why you value them. Stanford’s advice urges reflection. The question requires it.

When I reflect on our many successful Stanford clients, initiative in the face of need is the common thread among them. They are always the ones who revealed, especially in Essay A, that they do not turn away when they see a problem or need for action. They grab the initiative when faced with an opportunity to contribute. They are comfortable expressing emotion and their values, and their actions reflect both, but particularly the latter. Think purpose-driven, principle-driven lives.

More than anything else, initiative and self-awareness characterize the successful Stanford applicant. Implication: You have to know your values and those times you have acted upon them. Yes I wrote that a few seconds ago, but it bears repeating. Climbing Mt. Everest or suffering from terrible social ills is not a requirement of admission, but you do have to know the person occupying your skin.

Essay B. Why Stanford?

Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions.

A strong response to this essay question will:

• Explain your decision to pursue graduate education in management.
• Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.

Now that question is succinct, and really says what they want to know.

Similar to  questions that have occupied this Stanford application slot for years, this question is a variation of a standard MBA goals question, as revealed in the two bullet points after it. For this forward-looking question, you say why you want an MBA. The best way to do so is in terms of your desired post-MBA professional direction. Then explain how Stanford’s program specifically will help you travel down that path.

Understand the flexibility inherent in Stanford’s curriculum, its integrated approach to management, its entrepreneurial culture, and how both will help you learn what you need to know to achieve your career goals. Realize that the curriculum allows for personalization based on your goal and your past experience, specifically your previous business education. Two pieces of information are required to answer this question: A clear MBA goal and an in-depth understanding of Stanford GSB’s curriculum. (Folks: It’s not just the ranking, brand, or location.)

Essay Length:

Your answers for both essay questions combined may not exceed 1,150 words. Below are suggested word counts per essay, but you should allocate the maximum word count in the way that is most effective for you.

      •   Essay A: 750 words
      •   Essay B: 400 words


• 12-pt. font size
• Double-spaced
• Recommended font types: Arial, Courier, or Times New Roman
• Indicate the question you are answering at the beginning of each essay (does not count toward the word limit)
• Number all pages
• Upload one document that includes both essays

Be sure to save a copy of your essays, and preview the uploaded document to ensure that the formatting is preserved.

Additional Information:

If there is any information that is critical for us to know and is not captured elsewhere, include it in the “Additional Information” section of the application. Pertinent examples include:

• Extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance
• Explanation of why you do not have a letter of reference from your current direct supervisor
• Work experience that did not fit into the space provided
• Academic experience (e.g., independent research) not noted elsewhere

This is optional. Respond if you have something to explain or need the additional space because you can’t fit in your work experience or all academic info. Responses should be succinct and to-the-point and should provide the context necessary for Stanford to understand the circumstances surrounding whatever difficulty you are writing about. 

If you would like professional guidance with your Stanford GSB application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our  MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the Stanford GSB application.

Stanford GSB 2016 MBA Application Deadlines:

Check out our other school-specific MBA Essay Tips

* Applications and Letters of Reference are due by 5:00 PM, Pacific Time

Register for our free webinar: Get Accepted to Stanford GSB!


Linda Abraham By , president and founder of and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Related Resources:

• What Stanford is Looking for: Personal Qualities and Contributions
• What Stanford is Looking for: Demonstrated Leadership Potential
Valentine’s Day, Economics, and Stanford GSB

  • kate

    Hi Linda,
    Thanks in advance for your help and advice!

    I’m female – 25 years old, Chinese American
    1. Total of 3 years exp: 1 year in marketing in a tech startup. 2 years in a retail corporation – started off as a marketing analyst, then skipped a senior analyst promotion to become youngest manager. Currently manage 3 direct reports.
    2. 770 (50Q, 47V)
    3. UC Berkeley, 2.95 GPA in a science major (worked 2 jobs = 25 hrs/week, combined with how I realized this wasn’t the right field for me); currently taking a CC class in economics (should be getting an A)
    4. Treasurer of sorority; post college, I’ve mentored girls from underprivileged areas, and hosted career roundtables and field trips; hobbies-wise, I’ve used my combat-training to compete in boxing matches, and hosted classes for women at work. Not a ton of ECs..
    5. None
    6. Start my own company with a focus on streamlining the e-commerce world and helping newer sites gain traction, while promoting women in business.

    I’m applying to Stanford, Columbia, NYU, and Wharton; UCLA in R2 depending on how R1 goes.

    Thanks again!

    • Linda Abraham


      What “combat training”?

      Your approach makes sense. The question is will these school overlook the GPA. You can provide context, you have a great GMAT, and impressive work experience.

      I think applying more aggressively round 1 and more conservatively round 2 makes sense. I’m not optimstic about Stanford. Your R1 schools are stretches, but I think you’ll be viewed as competitive at UCLA.


      • kate

        Thanks Linda!
        I’m referring to boxing and krav maga (wanted to learn self-defense since I’m tiny and from a not-so-safe area).

        Is the GPA the only thing holding me back? Anything else I can do to alleviate it or be a bit more competitive at Columbia/NYU?

        • Linda Abraham

          CBS and NYU may be a little more forgiving on the GPA given your GMAT, but it is a negative and you just need to try and see where you will get in.

  • JGR

    Hi Linda,
    I’ve been working at a private equity fund for the past 3 years, since graduating. I did my undergraduate and masters degree at the best institution in my home country, Portugal, graduating with 16/20 and 17/20, respectively (top 5% – 10%). I recently got 700 on my GMAT (percentil 68 on the quantitative part, 89 on the verbal). After the MBA, I consider working in the US in a position where I can have a strategic impact, and really be involved and make things happening, perhaps in a start-up. Could you please let me know what you think about my chances of getting in GSB? Thank you!

    • Linda Abraham


      If you can show impact on and off the job even though your quant is low, I think you will have a chance at Stanford and would encourage you to apply. They don’t get a lot of applicants from Portugal and private equity experience is valued. So give Stanford a shot, but don’t count on it. Also apply to programs where you will be more competitive and that support your goals. Consider UCLA, Haas, UT Austin, Cornell Johnson, Ross, Darden, and Duke.


      • Joana Ruivo

        Hi Linda. Thanks for the feedback! I’m considering retaking the GMAT, to improve my quant score. Do you think it is worth it? Also, from top 10 programs, I was considering applying to the MIT and Columbia. Do you think it makes sense, given that I would like to find a job after the MBA in a start-up, in a strategic management postion? Or is it better to focus on Haas, for instance?

      • Joana Ruivo

        Hi Linda. Thanks for the feedback! I’m considering retaking the GMAT, to improve my quant score. Do you think it is worth it? Also, from top 10 programs, I was considering applying to the MIT and Columbia. Do you think it makes sense, given that I would like to find a job after the MBA in a start-up, in a strategic management postion? Or is it better to focus on Haas, for instance? Thank you!

        • Linda Abraham


          I higher GMAT score (especially in the quant) never hurt anyone. However, do you have good grades in quant classes? That would help and be “counted” too.

          Given your work experience (and if you have good quant grades) and your being female and Portuguese I’m not sure that upping that quant score is so important for you. Again, It wouldn’t hurt, but…

          Same with the other programs, especially if you have good grades in quant classes, which you should have given the info in your first post.

          I don’t see why you can’t apply to Stanford, Haas, MIT, and CBS. If you want apply to 1 or 2 second round.

  • Andy


    • Linda Abraham

      You’re most welcome. Thanks for the feedback.

      You have a competitive profile for Stanford GSB and other top MBA programs.

      If you would like help with your apps, please let me know.

  • Snigdha

    Hi Linda,

    I’m an Indian female 24 years old

    1) 3.5 years management consultant focused on International development issues, worked for Japanese government, Bill and Mellinda gates foundation, IFC, USAID, on digital financial inclusion, access to energy and health. Work experience in Myanmar (4 months) Indonesia (1.5 months) US ( 7 months) and India (~2 years)

    2) GRE quant 80%, Verbal 87%

    3) Undergraduate degree in economics, department rank holder in all years. Awarded distinction in final year

    4) Work as a part time team member at an NGO that I help set up as part of havard social enterprise competition for the last 3 years.

    5)Post MBA want to work with private sector with a focus on development issue (emerging market VCs, telecom companies, Facebook, etc)

    • Linda Abraham

      You have a competitive profile for Stanford. Also consider Haas, Yale, Booth, CBS, NYU Stern.and Wharton.

  • Viviana

    Hi Linda,
    Thanks a lot for all the articles and the website overall, it’s been very helpful. Thanks in advance for the assessment as well:

    I’m a Mexican female- 26 years old.

    1) Worked 1.5 yrs at Bain & Company as an Associate Consultant. Left for an offer to work at an e-commerce startup for Latin America (now in 8 countries) in the Payments/Ops area as a Business Product Manager, where I developed the business plan to build an in-house Payment Gateway, and e-wallet, among other projects. I also supervise any new payment method IT integrations for all countries. Been here for 8 months now.

    2) Still studying for it, but aiming at 800 (always aim high) and thinking about getting around the 700 (the average my colleagues from Bain got).

    3) Tecnologico de Monterrey (best university in Mexico), GPA 96.4/100, Bachelor in Communication Sciences, December 2012. Also did a year abroad at ESSEC Business School in Paris studying under the Bachelor of Business Administration programme.

    4) During college I played volleyball (captain when in ESSEC) and certified as Peer Educator under the “The Bacchus Network”. Co-founded the social reponsibility group at my current workplace, where we have done several activities including a clothing drive, a 5K race and collaborated with one of the biggest Children’s Cancer associations to set up a fair with games and food for the kids.

    5) No other professional certifications.

    6) I would like to work in Strategy or Brand/Product management in the Media & Entertainment industry (going back to my major) and its intersection with technology, leveraging what I’m learning now in E-commerce and the business fundamentals I’ve gained at consulting and will further gain during my MBA.

    Target schools: HBS, Stanford, LBS, UCLA, Columbia

    Thanks a lot!

  • Paulo Manso

    Hi, Linda! Congratulations for the excellent website and incredible energy on answering all these questions! Below is the info you asked for:

    1) I spent 2 years as a consultant at Booz, left to start my own company and worked as an entrepreneur for other 2 years. Now I am working at MasterCard Advisors (consulting branch of a tech company) and acting as engagement manager for about 1,5 year.

    2) 710 GMAT (92% Total or 38 / 85% V and 49 / 79% Q).

    3) University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), B.S. in Chemical Engineering, score 7.2/10, graduated in 2009.

    4) Internship experience in Europe; entrepreneurship experience (founding and managing an e-commerce consulting firm); publishing a poetry book; creating an educational website (I write all content, do the programming and marketing – facebook page has over 17k likes).

    5) N/A (I have several certificates of online courses by Stanford, Wharton, Duke etc. via Coursera).

    6) Continue my carreer at MasterCard Advisors on a strategic role involving innovation.

    I am Brazilian and 28 years old (29 by the end of the year). Also, to what other schools do you think I should apply? The ones in my mind are Haas, UCLA, Columbia and MIT, but I am also considering Booth, Yale, NYU and Ross. Would love to get your perspective on what makes more sense given my profile.

    Thank you very much for your help!

    • Linda Abraham

      The ones you have selected make sense. Also consider Duke, Yale, and Wharton.


  • Diego

    Thank you for your advices!
    I did not achieve a GSB average GPA in college from which I graduated 5 years ago in Brazil, having no extenuating excuse. Since then I believe I’ve significantly improved my CV through professional experience as an entrepreneur that has succeeded in creating improvements to “my world”, with positive environmental changes with my business. I understand GPA is one of many factors, even knowing that the level of competitiveness at Stanford leads to any details counting in the selection process. As such, assuming my more recent “attractiveness” as a prospect student is real and that I’m able to achieve a GMAT of 720+, do you believe GSB is a real possibility?
    Thank you for your time,

    • Diego

      Can you recommend other realistic schools with this information?
      (I know I haven’t been specific).

      • Linda Abraham


        A 2.3 is pretty bad. Why don’t you post again when you get your GMAT and also have a better idea how your GPA translates. At that time also provide your class rank and the size of your class.

        • Diego

          I’m sorry for the previous lack of details, I was still understanding the process.
          I’ve got an updated, more accurate, application:

          1) Co-founded an e-commerce in my undergrad senior year (closed the company about a year later)
          1 year experience in a cost-management consulting start-up (“project leader” in 2 of 4 projects I participated)
          2.5 years so far (3.5 @ the start of classes) in my family’s chemical industry company in which I began as a consultant, was hired as a trainee and promoted to a management position

          2) Gmat 710 (73 Q / 89 V) – I’ve scheduled a second try (Reasons to believe I’ll achieve at least a 720, improving my Q stats)

          3) Insper Instituto de Pesquisa e Ensino (Sao Paulo, Brazil) – graduated 2011
          GPA 7,38/10 (Rank 19/73 students)
          – 1 semester abroad at Bocconi University in Milan

          4) Co- founded/operate a dog rehabilitation center in my home (3 years)
          “Doing Business in China and Singapore” course in Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore – Insper University (2015)
          “Emotional Skills and Competencies” & “Evaluating truthfulness and Credibility”, Paul Ekman International PLC (2014)


          6) Return to my current company, further increasing my responsibilities/influence with the acquired skills, knowledge and certification, eventually assuming my role as successor (president).

          Can you please evaluate my profile? WHat schools would you recommend?
          I’m thinking HBS Stanford HAAS UCLA LBS MIT

          • Diego

            * Business undergrad major

          • Linda Abraham

            You have a competitive profile for UCLA and LBS. HBS, Stanford, Haas, and MIT are probably more of a stretch mainly because of the intense competition at those programs.

    • Linda Abraham


      Without having any idea of how low your GPA was and given the info you provided, it’s really hard to say. If it was mediocre, it won’t knock you out. If it was terrible, it might.

      • Diego

        My college doesn`t translate its average to GPA, but my calculations estimate it at around 2.3.
        Is this terrible?
        What schools can I aim to enter, if I’m able to compensate this with GMAT/good essays?

  • Gabriel

    Hi, Linda! First of all, congratulations for keeping this forum alive and for answering such a bunch of questions! Below is the info you asked for:

    1) I spent 2.5 years at Linde Gas, a major German chemical company: first as a trainee and then as Operations Supervisor (I had a small team and was responsible for the operation of a small hydrogen plant). Then I left to work in the U.S. at a small engineering/construction company; because of some visa problems, I was forced to leave the company and since then I’ve been working as a consultant (1,5 years now) for Sintec, a Mexican Consulting firm leader in Latin America.

    2) 760 GMAT (99% Total or 46 / 99% V and 49 / 79% Q).

    3) University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), B.S. in Chemical Engineering, score 7.7/10, graduated in 2010.

    Politecnico di Milano (PoliMi – Italy), Specialization Course en Management Engineering, Not scored. Graduated in 2010.

    4) I don’t have those many relevant community services activities, but I’ve been a rock and roll music fan and have some interesting experiences with my band (live presentations and participation on a few festivals). Does it count?

    5) N/A.

    6) Shift from consulting to a financial market position focused on fostering the development of energy and infrastructure projects or to join a company strongly supported by private equity funds and focused on such fields.

    Finally, a bit of context: I am Brazilian and 28 years old. Also, to what other schools do you think I should apply? The ones in my mind are Haas, Columbia, MIT, Wharton and LBS (London). I would love to get your perspective on what makes more sense, given my profile.

    Thank you very much for your help!

    • Linda Abraham


      Thanks for the feedback. You’re welcome!

      Yes, your band counts.

      You have a competitive profile for your target schools. You may also want to consider Duke which has a concentration in Energy Finance (please see and Booth.


      • Gabriel

        Thank you for your prompt reply Linda!

        Despite not being included on my preliminary list, Booth is among the schools I’ll visit this coming September, when I fly to the USA. I’m sure knowing in detail the school will help me decide whether I should apply for Booth on Round 2.

        Anyway, thank you once again for your help!

        Sincerely yours,


        • Linda Abraham


          Booth is another good option.

  • whowrites

    Hi Linda,
    First of all, thanks for taking the time out to help applicants like us. I am applying to Stanford and Haas. This is how my profile reads:

    1. I am an Indian male of 34 years. Have worked in India for two years. Did my Master’s in the US, and then have been in the industry for about eight years at different levels of software engineering. Currently residing in the United States. Have grown career wise in different companies.

    2. GMAT Score: 700 (79 percentile Quants, 80 percentile Verbal)

    3. Bachelors in Engineering (from India) and an MS in Electrical Engineering with a GPA of 3.8

    4. Am in the middle of writing a novel. Hopefully, I’ll be able to publish it some day.

    5. My goal is to provide a path for students who can’t afford quality education to secure funding in the form of loans or assistantship.

    I am not sure where I stand when I am making a case in front of world class MBA schools. What are my chances with the profile that I have? Do I even stand a chance?

    Thanks a ton,

  • agamemnonas

    Hello, Linda. I just came across your website and it’s really something! Thanks for all the tips.

    Below is my profile for evaluation. I’ll be a Brazilian 29 yo white latino at the time of the application. Besides Portuguese, I speak English and Spanish fluently, French in an advanced level and I’m currently studying Russian by myself, as an intelectual challenge, in which I currently have an intermediate level.

    1) Internship at Unilever in brand management (5 months); Internship in a small private equity firm as a financial analyst, making valuations and presentations for investors and management (4 months); Full-time consultant at Mckinsey, in a fellowship joint-program with a large retail chain aimed at forming people for strategic positions at the company (4 months); Full-time financial analyst at top 3 bank in Brazil (6 months); Full-time project management analyst, working as the main responsible for financial planning and control in a US$200+ infrastructure project in Brazil’s largest company (3 years already, ongoing).

    2) GMAT: 760

    3) Business Administration, Universidade de São Paulo (USP), graduated in june 2010, grade 62%. There’s no GPA conversion, but it’s below the 50th percentile of the class, probably my biggest weakness without much to say in order to explain it. I just wasn’t as serious a student as I am now. Could my GMAT and CFA performances and my language skills compensate for it? I don’t come from a privileged background, so besides 2 years of paid english classes when I was young, I learned all the rest by myself.

    4) Started pursuing a second degree in Law at a top 3 Brazilian university on the field, being approved in a selection with more than 50 candidates per vacancy. Working in the foundation of a new political party, with activities on several work groups, such as the development of the organizational structure and funding. No significant leadership experience though.

    5) Passed all 3 CFA exams, shall be awarded the certification upon completion of the required years of relevant work experience.

    6) To leverage my MBA and new skills to grow in the organization I currently work on, the largest in the country, partly state-owned, so important for the economy that a crisis it got into recently has by itself shed a few decimal points from the whole country’s GPD growth numbers, and, later on, use my experience and connections to lauch a political career.

    In the long run, what I really want to do is to work in government. If you could evaluate my profile for Harvard Kennedy School’s public policy master program, I would be very glad.

    Thank you!

  • Gurucharan B

    Hi Linda, I was hoping to get a profile evaluation for Stanford GSB, HBS, Haas,Kellogg , Yale and Ross.

    1) I have been working for Teach for India ( similar to the Teach for America) program. Kids gave grown at a very fast pace in their reading levels since I started teaching in the inner city. I have also mentored a select bunch of kids for a nationwide “Design for Change” challenge where kids led projects as change makers and were selected as winners amongst 3000 schools. To address the need for instruction targeted at the level of the child, I have initiated efforts to jointly setup a first of its kind Khan Academy online computer lab in the public school I teach in.

    Prior to TFI, I worked for 3 years as a process engineer and cost management engineer for Micron Technology Inc. where I achieved significant cost savings as well as improvement in quality of the product

    2) GMAT : 720 (94th percentile ) Q48 (79%) V40 (91%) AWA 5.5 IR 6 (67%)

    3) Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering (Hons), National University of Singapore, graduated in 2011. GPA: 3.75/5 or a 3/4 on a US scale. Lower GPA mostly because of my extensive focus on extra-curricular activities, especially with the Indian Orchestra on campus

    4)Elected to lead the production,marketing, fund-raising, selection, public relations, finance and logistics efforts of a 100-member student orchestra on campus.Secured a grant of $25,000 from NUS arts council and collaborated with a professor from the University of
    Cincinnati, USA to produce an orchestral concert that was attended by 600 patrons

    5) post MBA goal: Work in social enterprise with a special focus on introducing technology based solutions in the education sector to improve learning outcomes significantly and reduce the inequity in education.

  • doug weber

    you wrote- ..”Do you want to after your MBA go into a product or brand management role? ” What does this mean?

  • Linda Abraham

    After you earn your MBA, do you want to go into product management or brand management?