The relatively complex MSx online application and your resume (and ideally your recommendations as well) will establish you as a leader in your organization (and possibly even your domain), and that leadership role is essential if you want to be a qualified MSx applicant. But it’s just a qualification. Being qualified is just step one, because Stanford MSx always receives applications from more qualified applicants than it admits. Your application needs to do more – and that’s where the essays come in. They must make the case for why the adcom should admit YOU from among other well-qualified applicants in your industry, function, geographic region, etc.
In thinking about our successful Stanford MSx clients, one quality is immediately clear: they’re vibrant. They stand out. They have impact, not just because of solid career strategies and impressive results, though that’s part of it. They are propelled forward by character traits: passion, courage, energy, curiosity, commitment, rigor, vision, big thinking, heart. These essays are your opportunity to reveal your own special character and clarify how it will add to the Stanford MSx mix. You’re already a substantial leader organizationally with a track record to show it. To shape the future, you must have something to say, a point of view, a distinctive voice – so don’t hesitate to take a stand in these essays.
Stanford MSx application essays
The essays are a key aspect of your application and are designed to inspire thoughtful reflection.
Your essays help us understand what character traits have propelled you in your career and tell us how the MSx Program is integral to maximizing your impact in the world.
(Your answers to the two essays questions combined may not exceed 1,050 words. We recommend up to 650 words for Essay A and up to 400 words for Essay B.)
Required Stanford MSx essay #1
What matters most to you, and why? For this essay, we would like you to reflect deeply and write from the heart. Once you have 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?
To really hit a home run with this essay, you need to bare your soul, at least a bit; take a risk, be open and probing about some essential aspect of yourself. That doesn’t mean the topic must be about your personal life, though for many applicants it is. You could, for example, discuss a political belief, religious faith, or social issue that truly engages you and shapes your perspective. I do suggest using a topic that has some profound meaning to you and that will allow you to ground this essay in your experience. Ultimately, it’s your experience and how you process or synthesize it that will be a key part of this essay. However, don’t allow this essay to be “just talk” (no matter how sincere or well-meaning). To be credible, and to impress the adcom, include actions you’ve taken and impacts you’ve had related to what matters most. (You know the cliché: actions speak louder than words…)
Sometimes my clients worry when facing this question that their most intuitive topic isn’t “unique” – to which I say, it will be, by the time you’re done with the essay, if you delve deep into your experience and deliver your message via detailed anecdotes and frank reflection.
Don’t make this essay overly or overtly strategic; that ends up feeling superficial and manipulative given the topic. One straightforward approach is to structure the essay as a story, with reflection and insight at various pivotal points.
Last, don’t forgot to explicitly address “why” your chosen topic is what matters most to you. The explanation need not be long, and the “why” may be obvious from the thrust of the essay. But do still address it.
Stanford MSx essay #2
Why Stanford MSx, and why now? Please describe your aspirations and how your Stanford MSx experience will help you realize them. Why is this the right time for you to pursue your master’s degree at Stanford GSB?
I suggest starting with your professional objectives – include specific details about position, company, anticipated responsibilities, etc. – and, equally if not most important, why you want to pursue this position/role. What motivates this projected career path, what impact do you aim to have? This information will invigorate the essay and turn a competent essay into a compelling one. It ideally will get the adcom excited about supporting your career journey.
Note that the essay says “aspirations,” not “career aspirations,” so feel free to add a specific point or two about your personal objectives for attending this program if relevant to your case. Personal objectives need not be divorced from professional ones – often, development of a given trait or capability will benefit various aspects of one’s life.
Be explicit about “why now” – it’s an especially relevant point for mid-career professionals pursuing a full-time program. It’s also the key factor that differentiates this question from the required short-answer career question below. “Why now” is often a convergence of factors: frequently your career trajectory combined with market and/or economic conditions, and/or organizational situation, and/or industry trends, etc. Address each of those threads and weave them together into a coherent statement.
In discussing how the program will benefit you, be specific: describe what skills and knowledge you need and how the program meets those needs. Also refer to the structure, culture, and special features of the program, detailing how they will support you and your aspirations.
Career aspirations short-answer question (Required)
Please tell us about what you aspire to do in your career. How will the Stanford MSx Program, combined with your experience, education or background, help you achieve your career goals? Be specific. (Up to 1200 characters, approximately 200 word limit)
Yes, this question does mirror about 85-90% the required essay question 2. This question also asks about how the program balances your education and/or background to prepare you, so focus on that different aspect. To avoid being redundant of essay 2 on goals, focus on different aspects of your goals—for example, in essay 2 you could focus on your career vision, things you want to achieve, and here focus on how your role will evolve accordingly (or vice versa). Certainly, there is plenty about MSx to discuss across these 2 essays – break it up based on your goals discussion.
Optional short-answer questions
… In this section, we provide an optional opportunity to go beyond your resume to discuss some of your contributions more fully. What do we mean by “optional?” We truly mean you have the opportunity to choose. In evaluating your application, we want to know who you are, what you have done, and how your background may have influenced your experiences. If you feel that you’ve already addressed these questions well in other areas of the application, congratulations, you are done! If not, feel free to use this opportunity to tell us more by answering one or both questions.
I have never yet met a qualified, competitive MSx applicant whose career and life didn’t contain such an abundance of fascinating and relevant experiences that it made best sense to skip these questions. In every case, I’ve seen these essays as little gems that help the applicant shine all the brighter through their different facets.
Optional short-answer question #1
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 1200 characters, approximately 200 words, for each example)
Ideally, present examples from the different areas. With 200 words each, just tell the story and make crystal clear the impact. Do try to have at least 1-2 fairly recent. Be strategic: use this section to round out your candidacy and/or spotlight significant achievements that may be just a bullet point on the resume.
Optional short-answer question #2
Tell us about a time within the last three years when your background influenced your participation at work or community. (up to 1100 characters, approximately 180 words)
This too calls for a story, albeit with a twist: “when your background influenced…” You can interpret “background” as you wish: ethnic, religious, geographic, economic, social, educational… Clarify this “frame” at the start, and then just tell that story! Ensure the actual influence is clearly described. Don’t overlook the specified time frame, the last 3 years.
Also note that Stanford MSx is asking for “a time.” In other words one example.
The application provides an additional opportunity for you to share any other pertinent information not otherwise captured in your application. You might use this opportunity to:
• Describe the circumstances affecting academic or work performance
• Explain why you are not using a current supervisor as a reference
•Address an academic suspension or expulsion
The wording of this question suggests that you should use this space to explain things that need explaining in some way. Indeed, the application form plus the essay questions provide ample opportunity to present your holistic candidacy, so use this space for the purpose indicated – to explain something that warrants explaining in order to clarify aspects of your candidacy.
For expert guidance with your Stanford MSx 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 MSx’s MBA program and look forward to helping you too!
Stanford MSx Application Deadlines for 2022-23
|Round 1 (Joint)||September 13, 2022|
|Round 1 (MSx only)||October 14, 2022|
|Round 2 (Joint)||January 5, 2023|
|Round 2 (MSx only)||January 5, 2023|
|Round 3 (MSx only)||February 14, 2023|
Source: Stanford MSx website
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
Cindy Tokumitsu has advised hundreds of successful applicants, helping them gain acceptance to top MBA and EMBA programs in her 20 years with Accepted. She would love to help you too. Want Cindy to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!