In terms of its application, Stanford is once again re-using its essay questions. And there’s good reason for the recycling: These are excellent questions that succinctly get to the heart of what Stanford wants to know about you. They are not easy questions, but they are thoughtful, probing ones.
Stanford GSB has also added a new, optional short answer question to its application.
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 in addition to reviewing my suggestions below.
My Stanford GSB Essay tips are in blue below.
Stanford GSB 2019-20 MBA application essay 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.
We request that you write two personal essays.
In each essay, we want to hear your genuine voice. Think carefully about your values, passions, aims, and dreams. There is no “right answer” to these questions—the best answer is the one that is truest for you.
Stanford MBA essay A: What matters most to you, and why?
For this essay, we would like you to reflect deeply and write from the heart. Once you’ve identified what matters most to you, help us understand why. You might consider, for example, what makes this so important to you? What people, insights, or experiences have shaped your perspectives?
This superficially straightforward question has been Stanford’s first for at least the last seventeen years, but it is actually one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult MBA essay questions to answer. Superficial responses will fail. The prompt 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 live by 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 showed, 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, principled lives and leadership.
More than anything else, initiative and self-awareness characterize the successful Stanford MBA 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.
Stanford MBA essay B: Why Stanford?
Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford GSB experience will help you realize them. If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.
Now that question is succinct, and really says what they want to know.
Two pieces of information are required to answer this question well: A clear MBA goal and an in-depth understanding of Stanford GSB’s curriculum. (Folks: It’s not just the ranking, brand, or location.)
This question is a variation of a standard MBA goals question. For this forward-looking question, discuss 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.
Do your homework. You need to know what are the distinctive characteristics of the Stanford MBA program or you simply can’t answer the question. Understand the flexibility inherent in Stanford’s curriculum, its integrated approach to management education, its entrepreneurial culture, and how all these elements (and others) will help you learn what you need to know to realize your aspirations. Recognize that the curriculum allows for personalization based on your goal and your past experience, specifically your previous business education.
Please do NOT write that you want to attend Stanford because of “the flexibility inherent in Stanford’s curriculum, its integrated approach to management, its entrepreneurial culture….” That phrasing is too general for your specific reasons (and besides the Stanford adcom can google the phrase if they see it too often and see that you found it here). Go deeper and be more distinctive in your writing so that you really tie your goals to different facets of Stanford’s MBA program.
Both essays combined may not exceed 1,150 words. We recommend up to 750 words for Essay A and up to 400 words for Essay B. We often find effective essays written in far fewer words.
- 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.
Stanford MBA optional short-answer question
The two required essays shed light on who you are and how you imagine Stanford will help you achieve your aspirations. We are also interested in learning about the things you have done that are most meaningful to you. In this section, we provide an optional opportunity to go beyond your resume to discuss some of your contributions more fully.
Please do not include your short-answer response in your essays upload; use the text boxes provided in the application.
Optional short-answer question
Think about times you’ve created a positive impact, whether in professional, extracurricular, academic, or other settings. What was your impact? What made it significant to you or to others? You are welcome to share up to three examples. (Up to 1500 characters, approximately 250 words, for each example)
I think this question gets to the heart of the initiative, impact, and leadership we’ve seen in successful Stanford applicants. It gives you more opportunity to show those times when you’ve made a difference.
While the question is officially optional, Stanford wants people of impact. Show the Stanford GSB that you are that kind of person. All the essays should lead Stanford to that conclusion.
Using a CAR approach with each example would be very effective for these short responses:
Challenge: What was the situation or issue you were addressing?
Action: What did you do?
Result: What was the impact of your actions on you and others and why does it matter?
Given the character limit, you will need to be concise.
For expert guidance with your Stanford GSB MBA application, check out Accepted’s MBA Application Packages, which include comprehensive guidance from an experienced admissions consultant. We’ve helped hundreds of applicants get accepted to Stanford’s MBA program and look forward to helping you too!
Stanford GSB 2019-20 MBA Application Deadlines
Round Application Deadline Decisions Released
1 September 12, 2019 December 12, 2019
2 January 9, 2020 April 2, 2020
3 April 8, 2020 May 21, 2020
Submit your application by 2:00 pm Pacific Time, including your letters of reference and application fee payment. We cannot guarantee that we will review information sent to the MBA Admissions Office after the deadline of the round in which you apply.
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!