Both the relatively complex MSx application form and your resume will establish you as a leader in your organization (and possibly even your domain), and that’s essential to be a qualified MSx applicant. Hence, you don’t need to, and shouldn’t try to, prove your qualifications with these essays. In reviewing current and former MSx student profiles, one thing stands out: they’re vibrant. They shine. They have impact, not just because of solid career strategies and impressive results, though that’s part of it. They are propelled forward by qualities of character: 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 mix. You’re already a substantial leader organizationally. 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.
No length limit; you can “use as many words as you feel necessary to convey your message.” That said, the website also advises succinctness. (If you are using the combined MBA/MSx application, you are limited to 1200 words total.)
Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?
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 that truly drives you, and if it’s that strong, it will reflect your deepest values and relate to your significant experiences. 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.
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 already be obvious from the bulk of the essay. But do still address it.
Essay 2: Why this program now? What are your personal and professional objectives, and how will the Stanford MSx Program help you achieve them?
I suggest starting with your professional objectives – include specific details about position, company, anticipated responsibilities, etc. Equally if not more important, however, is why you want to pursue this position/role: what motivates this projected career path, what impact 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 being a part of your career journey.
Toward the end of this section, add a specific point or two about your personal objectives for attending this program – this part of the question also reflects the program’s emphasis on holistic growth, and your application should respond to that emphasis. 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.
Do be explicit about “why now” – it’s an especially important point for mid-career professionals pursuing a full-time program. If you are being sponsored, you can include aspects of that condition as context; if you are shifting career focus, your answer to why-now may be more complex, e.g. market conditions combined with career factors.
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 goals.
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
• An explanation of why you do not have a letter of reference from your current direct supervisor
• An explanation of any academic suspension or expulsion
• Work experience that did not fit into the space provided
• Academic experience (e.g., independent research) not noted elsewhere
The wording of this question indicates that you should use this optional essay to explain things that need explaining in some way – not to add additional points that you think will enhance the application. Indeed, the app form plus the essay questions provide ample opportunity to present your holistic candidacy, so adhere to the spirit as well as the phrasing of this question, and stick to necessary topics – if any.
If you would like professional guidance with your Stanford MSx application, check out 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 MSx application.
***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 15+ years with Accepted. She would love to help you too. Want Cindy to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
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