Like previous years, the Stanford Graduate School of Business asks MBA applicants to submit the same two required essay questions. For 2021 admissions, it has reduced the word limit from 1,150-words to 1,050 words, with the recommendation of using 650 words for Essay A and 400 for Essay B.
In this article, Poonam Tandon from myEssayReview, who has been helping students with their MBA applications since 2011, shares her tips on the Stanford MBA essay for 2021 intake.
Before we proceed to discuss the details about specific essay questions, you must be thorough with the official guidelines for the Stanford MBA essays:
Stanford MBA Essays standard guidelines
- Length of the essays: Try not to exceed the word limit of 1,050 words for both the essays combined. The recommended word limit for essay A is 650 words, and essay B is 400 words.
- Format of the essays: Stanford has strict guidelines for the format of the essays. Your essays must be double-spaced, and all the pages of the document must be numbered.
- Uploading the essays: Both the essays must be uploaded in a single document.
Let’s take a look at Poonam’s analysis of the Stanford GSB MBA essay topics for the 2021 intake.
Stanford MBA Essay A
Topic – What matters the 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 is one of the most challenging essays asked by the business schools, and Stanford has asked applicants this essay question for a long time now. This essay requires you to introspect and reflect on your experiences and lessons learned along the journey.
The answer to this question will reveal the undisclosed profound side of the applicant that cannot be found anywhere in the application. This essay is an opportunity to demonstrate who you are, what motivates you, and why.
We would like you to do some deep self-reflection, so you can genuinely illustrate who you are and how you became the person you are. Instead of focusing merely on what you have done or accomplished, share insights, experiences, and lessons that shaped your perspective. Write from the heart, and illustrate how a person, situation, or event has influenced you. Focus on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what.’
We are who we are because of the experiences and events that we have gone through in our life.
To brainstorm ideas for this essay, you will need to look back and reflect on your past experiences – growing up years, schooling, college, professional life, volunteer activities, general interests, etc., and look for some common thread that runs through some or all of them.
Since there is no direct answer to this essay, do not try to write a response right away. Prewriting your experiences to identify a unifying theme would be of great help.
Try to focus on life experiences that have shaped your values and priorities all these years. Don’t shy away from sharing the challenging experiences– often tough experiences make us stronger and instill a zeal in us to fight. Whatever stories you choose, focus on their impact on your life and your values.
As you recount your experiences, make sure to share your thought process- how you felt, thought, and reacted at that time and what lessons you eventually learned.
I suggest providing a chronological account of events that have influenced your thoughts, values, and beliefs and have shaped you into a person you are now with your firm belief system and priorities.
Please remember this essay is not directly about your accomplishments; it is about your values and perspectives that you have developed over the years. So, your focus has to be on the events, people, and anecdotes that made you the unique person you are today.
Also, elucidate here how you have translated your values into actions. This way, your accomplishments will naturally stem from your values and priorities.
Stanford MBA Essay B
Topic – 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.
The second essay concentrates on the candidates’ career goals and reasons for pursuing a management degree at Stanford. After you have explained in the first essay what matters most to you in life, you need to tell why your next step is a Stanford MBA.
Explain why you are interested in pursuing an MBA, and why you specifically want to attend Stanford GSB. You need to have clarity regarding your goals and the additional training you require, which a Stanford MBA can provide.
Thorough research of the school’s resources and curriculum will help you determine how the Stanford MBA program aligns with your aspirations. Instead of mapping out a specific career path in this essay, applicants should focus on defining the broad impact they aim to make on a service, a sector, or society.
While Essay A is your opportunity to explain what matters most to you, Essay B allows you to show how you would use your time at Stanford to further your career and what matters most to you.
In a way, Essay B picks up from where Essay A ends.
Be as specific as possible in your response to provide evidence that you have done your research. You should know everything about the aspects of the program that interest you the most.
Talk about specific classes, programs, collaboration with other parts of the school, clubs, conferences, or other offerings that distinguish Stanford from other top business schools.
Are there any particular courses that appeal to you most? Have you met current students and alumni? Have you attended any admission events that offered you additional insights about the programs and confirmed your decision to apply to Stanford? Are there any professors whose classes you are most excited about?
Stanford likes to see applicants who have big dreams and have the potential to realize those dreams. Be bold with your aspirations, but at the same time, be realistic in showing that you have the ability to fulfill your dreams.
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
- Academic experience (e.g., independent research) not noted elsewhere
As directed in the essay prompt, you may use this essay question to address a weakness in your profile, such as employment gap, low GPA/low GMAT, completion of supplemental work, or unusual choice of the recommender, academic experience not noted elsewhere. Your weakness may also bring out a positive aspect of your personality
Common myths about Stanford MBA admissions
Finally, please go through the video by Kristen Moss, Assistant Dean of admissions at Stanford wherein she talks about common myths that some students have about admission to Stanford and what is most important in the application process.
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About the author
Poonam, one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club, is a master storyteller with more than three decades of experience in successfully helping students craft compelling stories for undergraduate and graduate school programs.
A Ph.D. in English, with three decades of teaching experience in India and the US, Poonam launched myEssayReview (MER) in 2011 to provide highly personalized and dedicated consulting services to Business School applicants. Since then, she has helped hundreds of students around the world get into top MBA, EMBA, part-time MBA, and specialized graduate programs. A full-time consultant, Poonam is passionate about her work and is highly committed to each of her students’ success.
Here a few more articles you may find helpful:
- 5 Different Types of MBA Essays Explained
- Common MBA Application Mistakes to Avoid
- How to improve your MBA profile and boost your application
- MBA Application Process – Weightage of Different Components
- 2019-2020 MBA Application Deadlines
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