Stanford GSB Deadlines, Essays & Analysis (Class of 2013, Starting Fall 2011)

DEADLINES [table id=46 /]


Tell us in your own words who you really are. Answer essay questions 1, 2, and two of the four options for essay 3.

Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?

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.

Essay 2: What are your career aspirations? What do you need to learn at Stanford to achieve them?

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.

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.

Analysis: Actually, I don't have anything to add to Stanford's warm and clear comments for essays 1 and 2. Maybe they're tired of everyone trying to second-guess "what they want". You can, however, see my advice for "What matters?" from last year here.

For Essay 2, please see: The MBA Goals Essay and Why MBA School X?

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.

Analysis: I'll keep it simple here too and just say that all of these topics are essentially leadership essays. Since A and C are teamwork-focused (i.e., "internal"), and B and D are goal-focused (i.e., "external"), you should consider choosing one of each type for balance. For more on the difference between MBA teamwork and leadership, please see this post.

Option A: Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.

Analysis: Good teamwork usually doesn’t happen by accident. If you initiated an exceptional team, then you probably took pro-active steps to ensure things like good communication channels, clear roles, and flexibility. On the other hand, if you improved a broken team, then you recognized and overcame its weaknesses. Both situations require a good understanding of what makes a team function well or poorly, and the ability to influence your team members to adopt good team habits from the outset, or to overcome bad team habits along the way. Be sure to detail the actions you took and why, along with the initial goal of your team and the final result.

Option B: Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization.

Analysis: A typical leadership topic, but with an emphasis on the long-term benefits to your organization.

Option C: Tell us about a time when you generated support from others for an idea or initiative.

Analysis: Anytime you try something new, you'll face doubters and skeptics. (At least for the purpose of this essay. If everyone agreed right away, then it's probably not a good story.) What did you say or do to win them over? Did you give a fiery speech or provide incentives? Did you modify parts of your idea, while keeping your core vision intact? Did you focus just on key people to influence the broader crowd? The majority of the essay needs to focus on your actual persuasion process, but the overall idea or initiative should end in success as well.

Option D: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected.

Analysis: A typical leadership topic, but with an emphasis on the unusual nature or riskiness of the accomplishment itself. Context is key here to show just how creatively you were thinking.

Essay Length Your answers for all of the essay questions cannot exceed 1,800 words.

You have your own story to tell, so please allocate the 1,800 words among all of the essays in the way that is most effective for you. We provide some guidelines below as a starting point, but you should feel comfortable to write as much or as little as you like on any essay question, as long as you do not exceed 1,800 words total.

Essay 1: 750 words Essay 2: 450 words Essay 3: 300 words each