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Stanford GSB Essay Tips

Stanford 2017-2018 MBA essays are unchanged from last year. In addition to reading our guidance on answering the essay questions, it would be helpful for you to the Stanford essays page and Stanford Assistant Dean of Admissions Derrick Bolton's take on writing effective essays which includes some of the best essay guidance offered by a b-school. "We want to hear your genuine voice throughout the essays that you write and this is the time to think carefully about your values, your passions, your hopes and dreams.. Truly, the most impressive essays are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us." That's excellent advice for all b-school applications.

Stanford Essay 1

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

Stanford Essay 1 Tips

Stanford Stanford wants to know - WHAT MAKES YOU TICK? They see your academic achievements and professional accomplishments, now they want to know what make you - YOU. A challenging question that forces you to delve into yourself, reflect and introspect and then articulate your findings for Stanford adcom. Yes, not an easy feat.

Ask yourself what you are most passionate about, what values you feel most strongly for, what dreams you yearn for most, what drives you, WHAT/WHO ARE YOU? Thinking back on your life and identifying the crucial milestones in your life (and how/why you consider them critical) might help you uncover the underlying themes for the essay. The choices you made at each stage of your life will be essential guides to supporting this theme and ensuring that the theme is credible. Look back on significant personal and professional situations and try to analyze what decisions you made, why you succeeded or failed, how you thought and acted. This extremely difficult exercise, if done right, will pay rich dividends across your entire MBA application process, not just this one essay.

You can structure this essay as sections devoted to your key beliefs/passions or as an introduction + life story essay or an anecdotes-driven development and success story. Whichever route you take, the essay should be a personal, credible and passionate portrayal of YOU.

Please do check the guidance on the Stanford Site, which makes life easier for all MBA applicants. "The best examples of Essay 1 reflect the process of self-examination that you have undertaken to write them. They give us a vivid and genuine image of who you are - and they also convey how you became the person you are. They do not focus merely on what you've done or accomplished. Instead, they share with us the values, experiences, and lessons that have shaped your perspectives. They are written from the heart and address not only a person, situation, or event, but also how that person, situation, or event has influenced your life."

Go for it!

Need help with your Stanford essays?

Click here to contact us >>

Stanford Essay 2

Why Stanford? (400 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 2 Tips

Describe to the reader where you want to reach in your career and then devote a significant part of the essay to why you think Stanford MBA is indeed the bridge to take you there. Make your answer very specific to your personal context and career goals. The objective is to demonstrate implicitly or explicitly that your Stanford application is a reflection of your serious, passionate and specific interest in Stanford.

Think about the unique aspects of Stanford that make it attractive to you and how well can you use them if admitted. How can the Stanford education, exposure, students, location, program, and network help you realize your dreams. Researching the school using online and offline means will pay rich dividends. If possible, and especially if you are based in the US, visit Stanford. You might be able to uncover unique aspects of the campus, culture, and the program that will help your essays stand out from other applicants.

Once again, reviewing Stanford essays guidance will be helpful: "The key here is that you should have ideas for your best self after Stanford, and related objectives for your Stanford education. How do you plan to take advantage of the incredible opportunities at Stanford? How do you envision yourself growing and learning here at Stanford GSB? And how will the Stanford experience help you become the person you aspire to be? You do not need to make up a path if you are uncertain, but a level of focused interests will enable you to make the most of your Stanford experience. Be honest with us, and especially with yourself, in addressing this question."

Need help with your Stanford essays?

Click here to contact us >>

Stanford Additional Information

Through all of the elements of your application, we believe that we get to know you well. Only complete this section if you have critical information you could not convey elsewhere on your application (e.g., extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance). Do not include essays, and please, be brief.

Stanford Additional Information Tips

Please use this space judiciously.

If there are any shortcomings in your background, comment on them with intelligence, perspective and credibility: giving vague excuses or blaming xyz for failures will be totally counter-productive. Explain the issue clearly and maintain greater focus on the correction for the issue. Keep it concise and to the point.

Essays and tips archives from past years

   

Stanford MBA Application Essays and Tips 2016-2017

Stanford MBA Application Essays and Tips 2015-2016

Stanford MBA Application Essays and Tips 2014-2015

Stanford MBA Application Essays and Tips 2013-2014

Stanford MBA Application Essays and Tips 2011-2012

   

 

Stanford MBA Application Essays and Tips 2016-2017

Stanford Essay 1

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

Stanford Essay 1 Tips

Stanford Stanford wants to know - WHAT MAKES YOU TICK? They see your academic achievements and professional accomplishments, now they want to know what make you - YOU. A challenging question that forces you to delve into yourself, reflect and introspect and then articulate your findings for Stanford adcom. Yes, not an easy feat.

Ask yourself what you are most passionate about, what values you feel most strongly for, what dreams you yearn for most, what drives you, WHAT/WHO ARE YOU? Thinking back on your life and identifying the crucial milestones in your life (and how/why you consider them critical) might help you uncover the underlying themes for the essay. The choices you made at each stage of your life will be essential guides to supporting this theme and ensuring that the theme is credible. Look back on significant personal and professional situations and try to analyze what decisions you made, why you succeeded or failed, how you thought and acted. This extremely difficult exercise, if done right, will pay rich dividends across your entire MBA application process, not just this one essay.

You can structure this essay as sections devoted to your key beliefs/passions or as an introduction + life story essay or an anecdotes-driven development and success story. Whichever route you take, the essay should be a personal, credible and passionate portrayal of YOU.

Please do check the guidance on the Stanford Site, which makes life easier for all MBA applicants. "The best examples of Essay 1 reflect the process of self-examination that you have undertaken to write them. They give us a vivid and genuine image of who you are - and they also convey how you became the person you are. They do not focus merely on what you've done or accomplished. Instead, they share with us the values, experiences, and lessons that have shaped your perspectives. They are written from the heart and address not only a person, situation, or event, but also how that person, situation, or event has influenced your life."

Go for it!

Stanford Essay 2

Why Stanford? (350 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 2 Tips

Describe to the reader where you want to reach in your career and then devote a significant part of the essay to why you think Stanford MBA is indeed the bridge to take you there. Make your answer very specific to your personal context and career goals. The objective is to demonstrate implicitly or explicitly that your Stanford application is a reflection of your serious, passionate and specific interest in Stanford.

Think about the unique aspects of Stanford that make it attractive to you and how well can you use them if admitted. How can the Stanford education, exposure, students, location, program, and network help you realize your dreams. Researching the school using online and offline means will pay rich dividends. If possible, and especially if you are based in the US, visit Stanford. You might be able to uncover unique aspects of the campus, culture, and the program that will help your essays stand out from other applicants.

Once again, reviewing Stanford essays guidance will be helpful: "The key here is that you should have ideas for your best self after Stanford, and related objectives for your Stanford education. How do you plan to take advantage of the incredible opportunities at Stanford? How do you envision yourself growing and learning here at Stanford GSB? And how will the Stanford experience help you become the person you aspire to be? You do not need to make up a path if you are uncertain, but a level of focused interests will enable you to make the most of your Stanford experience. Be honest with us, and especially with yourself, in addressing this question."

Stanford Additional Information

Through all of the elements of your application, we believe that we get to know you well. Only complete this section if you have critical information you could not convey elsewhere on your application (e.g., extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance). Do not include essays, and please, be brief.

Stanford Additional Information Tips

Please use this space judiciously.

If there are any shortcomings in your background, comment on them with intelligence, perspective and credibility: giving vague excuses or blaming xyz for failures will be totally counter-productive. Explain the issue clearly and maintain greater focus on the correction for the issue. Keep it concise and to the point.

Stanford MBA Application Essays and Tips 2015-2016

Stanford Essay 1

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

Stanford Essay 1 Tips

Stanford Stanford wants to know - WHAT MAKES YOU TICK? They see your academic achievements and professional accomplishments, now they want to know what make you - YOU. A challenging question that forces you to delve into yourself, reflect and introspect and then articulate your findings for Stanford adcom. Yes, not an easy feat.

Ask yourself what you are most passionate about, what values you feel most strongly for, what dreams you yearn for most, what drives you, WHAT/WHO ARE YOU? Thinking back on your life and identifying the crucial milestones in your life (and how/why you consider them critical) might help you uncover the underlying themes for the essay. The choices you made at each stage of your life will be essential guides to supporting this theme and ensuring that the theme is credible. Look back on significant personal and professional situations and try to analyze what decisions you made, why you succeeded or failed, how you thought and acted. This extremely difficult exercise, if done right, will pay rich dividends across your entire MBA application process, not just this one essay.

You can structure this essay as sections devoted to your key beliefs/passions or as an introduction + life story essay or an anecdotes-driven development and success story. Whichever route you take, the essay should be a personal, credible and passionate portrayal of YOU.

Please do check the guidance on the Stanford Site, which makes life easier for all MBA applicants. "The best examples of Essay 1 reflect the process of self-examination that you have undertaken to write them. They give us a vivid and genuine image of who you are - and they also convey how you became the person you are. They do not focus merely on what you've done or accomplished. Instead, they share with us the values, experiences, and lessons that have shaped your perspectives. They are written from the heart and address not only a person, situation, or event, but also how that person, situation, or event has influenced your life."

Go for it!

Stanford Essay 2

Why Stanford? (350 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 2 Tips

Describe to the reader where you want to reach in your career and then devote a significant part of the essay to why you think Stanford MBA is indeed the bridge to take you there. Make your answer very specific to your personal context and career goals. The objective is to demonstrate implicitly or explicitly that your Stanford application is a reflection of your serious, passionate and specific interest in Stanford.

Think about the unique aspects of Stanford that make it attractive to you and how well can you use them if admitted. How can the Stanford education, exposure, students, location, program, and network help you realize your dreams. Researching the school using online and offline means will pay rich dividends. If possible, and especially if you are based in the US, visit Stanford. You might be able to uncover unique aspects of the campus, culture, and the program that will help your essays stand out from other applicants.

Once again, reviewing Stanford essays guidance will be helpful: "The key here is that you should have ideas for your best self after Stanford, and related objectives for your Stanford education. How do you plan to take advantage of the incredible opportunities at Stanford? How do you envision yourself growing and learning here at Stanford GSB? And how will the Stanford experience help you become the person you aspire to be? You do not need to make up a path if you are uncertain, but a level of focused interests will enable you to make the most of your Stanford experience. Be honest with us, and especially with yourself, in addressing this question."

Stanford Additional Information

Through all of the elements of your application, we believe that we get to know you well. Only complete this section if you have critical information you could not convey elsewhere on your application (e.g., extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance). Do not include essays, and please, be brief.

Stanford Additional Information Tips

Please use this space judiciously.

If there are any shortcomings in your background, comment on them with intelligence, perspective and credibility: giving vague excuses or blaming xyz for failures will be totally counter-productive. Explain the issue clearly and maintain greater focus on the correction for the issue. Keep it concise and to the point.

Stanford MBA Application Essays and Tips 2014-2015

Stanford Essay 1

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

Stanford Essay 1 Tips

Stanford Stanford wants to know - WHAT MAKES YOU TICK? They see your academic achievements and professional accomplishments, now they want to know what make you - YOU. A challenging question that forces you to delve into yourself, reflect and introspect and then articulate your findings for Stanford adcom. Yes, not an easy feat.

Ask yourself what you are most passionate about, what values you feel most strongly for, what dreams you yearn for most, what drives you, WHAT/WHO ARE YOU? Thinking back on your life and identifying the crucial milestones in your life (and how/why you consider them critical) might help you uncover the underlying themes for the essay. The choices you made at each stage of your life will be essential guides to supporting this theme and ensuring that the theme is credible. Look back on significant personal and professional situations and try to analyze what decisions you made, why you succeeded or failed, how you thought and acted. This extremely difficult exercise, if done right, will pay rich dividends across your entire MBA application process, not just this one essay.

You can structure this essay as sections devoted to your key beliefs/passions or as an introduction + life story essay or an anecdotes-driven development and success story. Whichever route you take, the essay should be a personal, credible and passionate portrayal of YOU.

Please do check the guidance on the Stanford Site, which makes life easier for all MBA applicants. "The best examples of Essay 1 reflect the process of self-examination that you have undertaken to write them. They give us a vivid and genuine image of who you are - and they also convey how you became the person you are. They do not focus merely on what you've done or accomplished. Instead, they share with us the values, experiences, and lessons that have shaped your perspectives. They are written from the heart and address not only a person, situation, or event, but also how that person, situation, or event has influenced your life."

Go for it!

Stanford Essay 2

Why Stanford? (350 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 2 Tips

Describe to the reader where you want to reach in your career and then devote a significant part of the essay to why you think Stanford MBA is indeed the bridge to take you there. Make your answer very specific to your personal context and career goals. The objective is to demonstrate implicitly or explicitly that your Stanford application is a reflection of your serious, passionate and specific interest in Stanford.

Think about the unique aspects of Stanford that make it attractive to you and how well can you use them if admitted. How can the Stanford education, exposure, students, location, program, and network help you realize your dreams. Researching the school using online and offline means will pay rich dividends. If possible, and especially if you are based in the US, visit Stanford. You might be able to uncover unique aspects of the campus, culture, and the program that will help your essays stand out from other applicants.

Once again, reviewing Stanford essays guidance will be helpful: "The key here is that you should have ideas for your best self after Stanford, and related objectives for your Stanford education. How do you plan to take advantage of the incredible opportunities at Stanford? How do you envision yourself growing and learning here at Stanford GSB? And how will the Stanford experience help you become the person you aspire to be? You do not need to make up a path if you are uncertain, but a level of focused interests will enable you to make the most of your Stanford experience. Be honest with us, and especially with yourself, in addressing this question."

Stanford Additional Information

Through all of the elements of your application, we believe that we get to know you well. Only complete this section if you have critical information you could not convey elsewhere on your application (e.g., extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance). Do not include essays, and please, be brief.

Stanford Additional Information Tips

Please use this space judiciously.

If there are any shortcomings in your background, comment on them with intelligence, perspective and credibility: giving vague excuses or blaming xyz for failures will be totally counter-productive. Explain the issue clearly and maintain greater focus on the correction for the issue. Keep it concise and to the point.

Stanford MBA Application Essays and Tips 2013-2014

Stanford Essay 1

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

Stanford Essay 1 Tips

Stanford's first essay question asks exactly what most Admission Committees want to ask and wish they had. It goes to the heart of what EVERY decent Business School application should want to know about you - WHAT MAKES YOU TICK? Here is a chance to go beyond being a jumble of numbers (730, 112, 280, 4.3, 3.9 ugh!) and talk clearly and passionately about what makes you YOU. So grab it and don't let go.

This opening Stanford essay question is also probably the toughest MBA essay question you are likely to encounter. This is a challenging question that forces you to delve into yourself and rediscover the person you are. While you could start the exercise by asking friends and family about yourself, the person most qualified to give you clues to this Stanford essay is the one you see in the mirror. Ask yourself what you are most passionate about, what values you feel most strongly for, what dreams you yearn for most, what makes you tick, WHAT/WHO ARE YOU? If this sounds difficult and daunting - well, it is.

Thinking back on your life and identifying the crucial milestones in your life (and how/why you consider them critical) might help you uncover the basic theme for the essay. The choices you made at each stage of your life will be essential guides to supporting this theme and ensuring that the theme is credible. Look back on important personal and professional situations and try to analyze what decisions you made, why you succeeded or failed, how you thought and acted. This exercise, extremely difficult if done right, will pay rich dividends across your entire MBA application process, not just this one essay.

There are umpteen approaches to this essay - choose the one that suits you best. You can structure this essay as sections devoted to your key beliefs/passions or as an introduction plus life story essay or an anecdotes driven development and success story. Whichever route you take, the essay should be a personal, credible and passionate portrayal of YOU.

Since the other essays and the application itself offers you enormous scope selling your professional side, a keen focus on your personal outlook and life is recommended. Having said that I would recommend very strongly that an implicit (even direct) link be established between this and EVERY other Stanford essay. If something matters most to you it is reasonable to expect that it influences or even drives other aspects of your life.

I admire the guidance on the Stanford Site, which makes life easier for all MBA applicants, and feel that this lead should be followed by other b-schools. So let 'em have the last word. "The best examples of Essay 1 reflect the process of self-examination that you have undertaken to write them. They give us a vivid and genuine image of who you are - and they also convey how you became the person you are. They do not focus merely on what you've done or accomplished. Instead, they share with us the values, experiences, and lessons that have shaped your perspectives. They are written from the heart and address not only a person, situation, or event, but also how that person, situation, or event has influenced your life."

Go for it!

Stanford Essay 2

What do you want to do—REALLY—and why Stanford? (450 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 2 Tips

This is a straightforward goals essay. However, by including a single word "REALLY", Stanford transforms a simple goals statement into a personal and less formal exposition of what you wanna do in life and how Stanford can help you do that.

One reason I admire these first two Stanford essays is because these are exactly the questions that all the other REALLY want to ask but don't. These are also the questions which you could use to rephrase other b-school essays to get to the crux what a goals essay or a personal intro essay really asks for.

Without doubt, the first step is to understand what it is that you want to do. How do you visualize your future? What is your career vision? What kind of work do you want to do, and why? What do you want to accomplish with/in your life. These are some of the questions that you might consider answering here. Quoting Bolton again "Tell us what, in your heart, you would like to achieve. What is the dream that brings meaning to your life? How do you plan to make an impact? We give you broad license to envision your future.".

The broader, higher level tone to the question might see you focusing more on a visionary longer term goal than a short term career objective. As the  Stanford Site says, "Use this essay to explain your view of your future, not to repeat accomplishments from your past. You should address three distinct topics: your career aspirations, the role of an MBA education in achieving those aspirations, and your rationale for earning that MBA at Stanford, in particular.". Exhibit logic, intelligence and breadth of vision - and above all Passion - in expressing your dreams and future goals with conviction. Ask yourself, and answer in the essay, what and how you will impact the future.

Though you can actually make things a little simpler by thinking of this as the usual "goals" essay question I hope you won't. Approaching this essay exactly as it is meant to be - with all its unabashed personal focus - will help you not just with Stanford but will also make writing the "goals" essays for other schools much easier.

"Why Stanford?" is an important part of the question which will require you to show your fit with Stanford. How can the Stanford education, exposure, students, location, program and/or network help you realize your dreams. Researching the school using online and offline means will pay rich dividends. If possible, especially if you are based in USA, visit Stanford. This part of the essay also seeks answers to these questions: How serious are you about seeking admission to Stanford? What are the unique aspects of Stanford that make it attractive to you and how well can you use them if admitted? Have you talked to current Stanford students or alumni? The objective is to implicitly or explicitly demonstrate that your Stanford application is a reflection of your serious, passionate and specific interest in Stanford.

Goals, even more than other essay topics, are more a matter of credibility and authenticity than anything else. If you can add passion as well, you have the recipe for a beautiful and effective essay.

Once again I will let the Stanford essays guidance have the final say: "Use this essay to explain your view of your future, not to repeat accomplishments from your past. You should address two distinct topics: your career aspirations and your rationale for earning your MBA at Stanford, in particular. The best examples of Essay 2 express your passions or focused interests, explain why you have decided to pursue graduate education in management, and demonstrate your desire to take advantage of the opportunities that are distinctive to the Stanford MBA Program."

Go for it!

Stanford Essay 3

Answer one of the three questions below. Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it. What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years. In your short answer responses we learn more about the experiences that have shaped your attitudes, behaviors, and aspirations. (400 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 3a

Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations. (300 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 3a Tips

Leadership is the most focused-on single trait that almost all Business Schools look for: Stanford is no exception. Your leadership and team building skills are the two building blocks of this essay. Reflect on the story with those themes in mind. The "whose performance exceeded expectations" part can be used simply as a peg to conclude the story with or align it with the theme by detailing how your drive to go beyond the ordinary resulted in an extraordinary outcome.

Choosing the appropriate story from your life is a key ingredient of success in most MBA essays. While the example can be any professional or personal experience from the last three years, finalize the story for this essay only after you have considered options for the other choice questions. Selecting the story for this one should be easy. Recollect and write about an experience where your leadership position and team building skills made a vastly positive difference to the outcome. Select the example based on the extent of your contribution to the team's success and what the story tells about your skills in leadership and team development. Delve on facets of your leadership style, leadership strengths as well as team development skills including team creation, mentoring, personnel evaluation, training, motivation etc.

Conclude with how your ability to build, guide, drive and lead the team resulted in a performance that "exceeded expectations".

The only change in the essay from last year is the repetitive inclusion of "in the last three years" presumably because many candidates failed to appreciate the essay directive: so lets us keep it within the last three years.

Go for it!

Stanford Essay 3b

Tell us about a time in the last three years when you identified and pursued an opportunity to improve an organization. (400 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 3b Tips

Each person has knowledge, skills and qualities that grant him or her the potential to impact and improve the world in extraordinary ways. This essay prompt requests an instance when your actions definitively improved, hopefully transformed, your organization.

The 2010-2011 essay "Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization." should help you sharpen your base preparation for this essay.

As usual, apart from describing the story and celebrating your success, the objective of the essay is to uncover your attitude, skills, qualities and approach that made this magic possible; the story therefore will also act as a preview of how you might be able to do at Stanford and/or in your post-Stanford career.

Sure, the obvious theme is once again leadership; however innovation, vision, team work, communication or any other set of skills could be your thematic choice. The story can be in a professional or personal setting; at your current employer or with an organization connected to your out-of-work activities (e.g. a sports club or a volunteer organization).

Describe in detail the motivation, challenges, process, actions and steps that you took to convert your thought into impact. While you could have achieved the objective individually, an example in which you had a leadership role will almost always have greater value. In addition, your initiative and vision in grabbing this particular opportunity might add further dimensions to the story.

Be clear about the improvement: use numbers and quantifiable results if and when possible.

Go for it!

Stanford Essay 3c

Tell us about a time in the last three years when you went beyond what was defined or established. (400 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 3c Tips

You can choose between two distinct thematic takes on this essay. The obvious option is creativity and innovation. The other possibility is ethical strength and independent spirit.

Try to identify an instance when you found yourself introducing an innovative concept, taking a principled yet unpopular stand, implementing an out-of-the-box solution or any other situation where you fought popular opinion or established thoughts. The context can be professional or personal. Please establish the context, rationale and motivations for your action, and make apparent why your stand went against the grain.

Use this opportunity to showcase your out-of-the-box thinking, strength of character, innovation, reasoning ability and/or intellectual courage.

The story could culminate with an affirmative transformational change driven by your stance/actions, though a positive result is not demanded by the essay prompt. However, the greater the impact of your action, the greater the power of the essay.

Try to bring a personal tone to the essay, especially in the part of the essay where you formulate your stance and then stand by it. Like in all essay packages, make the final choice of the example keeping in mind the content, theme and examples you have picked for the other essays.

The only change in the essay from last year is the repetitive inclusion of "in the last three years" presumably because many candidates failed to appreciate the essay directive: so lets us keep it within the last three years.

Go for it!

Stanford MBA Application Essays and Tips 2011-2012

Stanford Essay 1

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

Stanford Essay 1 Tips

Stanford's first essay question asks exactly what most Admission Committees want to ask and wish they had. It goes to the heart of what EVERY decent Business School application should want to know about you - WHAT MAKES YOU TICK? Here is a chance to go beyond being a jumble of numbers (730, 112, 280, 4.3, 3.9 ugh!) and talk clearly and passionately about what makes you YOU. So grab it and don't let go.

Stanford's first essay question is also probably the toughest MBA essay question you are likely to encounter. This is a challenging question that forces you to delve into yourself and rediscover the person you are. While you could start the exercise by asking friends and family about yourself, the person most qualified to give you clues to this Stanford essay is the one you see in the mirror. Ask yourself what you are most passionate about, what values you feel most strongly for, what dreams you yearn for most, what makes you tick, WHAT/WHO ARE YOU? If this sounds difficult and daunting - well, it is.

Thinking back on your life and identifying the crucial milestones in your life (and how/why you consider them critical) might help you uncover the basic theme for the essay. The choices you made at each stage of your life will be essential guides to supporting this theme and ensuring that the theme is credible. Look back on important personal and professional situations and try to analyze what decisions you made, why you succeeded or failed, how you thought and acted. This exercise, extremely difficult if done right, will pay rich dividends across your entire MBA application process, not just this one essay.

There are umpteen approaches to this essay - choose the one that suits you best. You can structure this essay as sections devoted to your key beliefs/passions or as an introduction plus life story essay or an anecdotes driven development and success story. Whichever route you take, the essay should be a personal, credible and passionate portrayal of YOU.

Since the other essays and the application itself offers you enormous scope selling your professional side, a keen focus on your personal outlook and life is recommended. Having said that I would recommend very strongly that an implicit (even direct) link be established between this and EVERY other Stanford essay. If something matters most to you it is reasonable to expect that it influences or even drives other aspects of your life.

I admire the guidance on the Stanford Site, which makes life easier for all MBA applicants, and feel that this lead should be followed by other b-schools. So let 'em have the last word. "The best examples of Essay 1 reflect the process of self-examination that you have undertaken to write them. They give us a vivid and genuine image of who you are—and they also convey how you became the person you are. They do not focus merely on what you've done or accomplished. Instead, they share with us the values, experiences, and lessons that have shaped your perspectives. They are written from the heart and address not only a person, situation, or event, but also how that person, situation, or event has influenced your life."

Go for it!

Stanford Essay 2

What do you want to do—REALLY—and why Stanford? (450 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 2 Tips

This is a straightforward goals essay. However, by including a single word "REALLY", Stanford transforms a simple goals statement into a personal and less formal exposition of what you wanna do in life and how Stanford can help you do that.

One reason I admire these first two Stanford essays is because these are exactly the questions that all the other REALLY want to ask but don't. These are also the questions which you could use to rephrase other b-school essays to get to the crux what a goals essay or a personal intro essay really asks for.

Without doubt, the first step is to understand what it is that you want to do. How do you visualize your future? What is your career vision? What kind of work do you want to do, and why? What do you want to accomplish with/in your life. These are some of the questions that you might consider answering here. Quoting Bolton again "Tell us what, in your heart, you would like to achieve. What is the dream that brings meaning to your life? How do you plan to make an impact? We give you broad license to envision your future.".

The broader, higher level tone to the question might see you focusing more on a visionary longer term goal than a short term career objective. As the  Stanford Site says, "Use this essay to explain your view of your future, not to repeat accomplishments from your past. You should address three distinct topics: your career aspirations, the role of an MBA education in achieving those aspirations, and your rationale for earning that MBA at Stanford, in particular.". Exhibit logic, intelligence and breadth of vision - and above all Passion - in expressing your dreams and future goals with conviction. Ask yourself, and answer in the essay, what and how you will impact the future.

Though you can actually make things a little simpler by thinking of this as the usual "goals" essay question I hope you won't. Approaching this essay exactly as it is meant to be - with all its unabashed personal focus - will help you not just with Stanford but will also make writing the "goals" essays for other schools much easier.

"Why Stanford?" is an important part of the question which will require you to show your fit with Stanford. How can the Stanford education, exposure, students, location, program and/or network help you realize your dreams. Researching the school using online and offline means will pay rich dividends. If possible, especially if you are based in USA, visit Stanford. This part of the essay also seeks answers to these questions: How serious are you about seeking admission to Stanford? What are the unique aspects of Stanford that make it attractive to you and how well can you use them if admitted? Have you talked to current Stanford students or alumni? The objective is to implicitly or explicitly demonstrate that your Stanford application is a reflection of your serious, passionate and specific interest in Stanford.

Goals, even more than other essay topics, are more a matter of credibility and authenticity than anything else. If you can add passion as well, you have the recipe for a beautiful and effective essay.

Go for it!

Stanford Essay 3

Answer two of the four questions below. Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it. What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years. In your short answer responses (Essay 3, options A, B, C, or D), we learn more about the experiences that have shaped your attitudes, behaviors, and aspirations. (300 words each - suggested)

Stanford Essay 3a

Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations. (300 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 3a Tips

Leadership is the most focused-on single trait that almost all Business Schools look for: Stanford is no exception. Your leadership and team building skills are the two building blocks of this essay. Reflect on the story with those themes in mind. The "whose performance exceeded expectations" part can be used simply as a peg to conclude the story with or align it with the theme by detailing how your drive to go beyond the ordinary resulted in an extraordinary outcome.

Choosing the appropriate story from your life is a key ingredient of success in most MBA essays. While the example can be any professional or personal experience from the last three years, finalize the story for this essay only after you have considered options for the other choice questions. Selecting the story for this one should be easy. Recollect and write about an experience where your leadership position and team building skills made a vastly positive difference to the outcome. Select the example based on the extent of your contribution to the team's success and what the story tells about your skills in leadership and team development. Delve on facets of your leadership style, leadership strengths as well as team development skills including team creation, mentoring, personnel evaluation, training, motivation etc.

Conclude with how your ability to build, guide, drive and lead the team resulted in a performance that "exceeded expectations".

Stanford Essay 3b

Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization. (300 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 3b Tips

Each person has knowledge, skills and qualities that grant him or her the potential to impact the world in extraordinary ways. This essay prompt requests an instance when your actions definitively transformed your organization.

As usual apart from describing the story and celebrating your success, the objective of the essay is to uncover your attitude, skills, qualities and approach that made this magic possible; the story therefore will also act as a preview of how you might be able to do at Stanford and/or in your post-Stanford career.

Sure, the obvious theme is once again leadership; however innovation, vision, team work, communication or any other set of skills could be your thematic choice. The story can be in a professional or personal setting; at your current employer or with an organization connected to your out-of-work activities (e.g. a sports club or a volunteer organization).

Describe in detail the motivation, challenges, process, actions and steps that you took to convert your thought into impact. While you could have achieved the objective individually, an example in which you had a leadership role will almost always have greater value. In addition, your initiative and vision in grabbing this particular opportunity might add further dimensions to the story.

Be clear about the "lasting impact". Use numbers and quantifiable results if and when possible.

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Stanford Essay 3c

Tell us about a time when you generated support from others for an idea or initiative. (300 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 3c Tips

Once more while leadership (thought leadership, people leadership) is the obvious theme, your ability to persuade and motivate could be overlapping themes.

Recollect and write about an experience wherein through example, ideas, leadership, enthusiasm and/or relationship building you were able to persuade and motivate a team towards a specific idea or objective. Select the example based on the extent of your contribution to the team's success and what the story tells about your ability to persuade and inspire.

Vision. Communication abilities. Strength of character. Ability to inspire. Persuasiveness. Reasoning power. Relationship building. Leadership. Networking. Any or all of these qualities you possess could be covered to the best advantage in this essay. Your ability to assess stakeholder/team opinions, identify trends and predict behavior are other potential areas of focus.

For selecting the particular situation/story for the essay, look back to identify situations in which you found yourself facing resistance or apathy - for an unpopular or innovative idea or initiative. The spotlight should be on how you approached the situation, actions you took, attitude you had and approaches that you initiated, rather than an exposition of what the situation was. Focus on illustrating the steps and skills/qualities through which you generated support for your objective.

Select a story that shines a light on your ability to persuade through your leadership aptitude, people skills and emotional intelligence. The example should detail the context and rationale for your idea. It should also illustrate your approach in winning the opposition over to the idea - by understanding the opposition, communicating convincingly and clarifying ideas. Your leadership approach and the methodology you adopt would be critical to this essay's success. Though this need not be a fairy tale, a long-term positive conclusion to the story would be welcome.

Please ensure that the story differs thematically and in approach from the other choice essays.

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Stanford Essay 3d

Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined or established. (300 words - suggested)

Stanford Essay 3d Tips

You can choose between two distinct thematic takes on this essay. The obvious option is creativity and innovation. The other possibility is ethical strength and independent spirit.

Try to identify an instance when you found yourself introducing an innovative concept, taking a principled yet unpopular stand, implementing an out-of-the-box solution or any other situation where you fought popular opinion or established thoughts. The context can be professional or personal. Please establish the context, rationale and motivations for your action, and make apparent why your stand went against the grain.

Use this opportunity to showcase your out-of-the-box thinking, strength of character, innovation, reasoning ability and/or intellectual courage.

The story could culminate with a affirmative transformational change driven by your stance/actions, though a positive result is not demanded by the essay prompt. However, the greater the impact of your action, the greater the power of the essay.

Try to bring a personal tone to the essay, especially in the part of the essay where you formulate your stance and then stand by it. Like in all essay packages, make the final choice of the example keeping in mind the content, theme and examples you have picked for the other essays.

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