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Stanford GSB Class of 2018 Essay Analysis

May 08, 2015

2015/16 essay questions

Essay 1:

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

Essay 2:

Why Stanford? (400 words)

2015/16 essay question analysis

Each year, Stanford’s question #1 it is one of the highlights of the application. It is also one of the most challenging questions for many applicant’s process.  The essay requires thoughtful self-reflection and serves a dual purpose of introducing you to the committee, while sharing clear insight about how you think. The key here is that no answer is better than another; how you tell your story is more important than what story you tell.

In our experience, some successful applicants have chosen fairly common topics (e.g., family, faith, heritage, perseverance, etc.), while others choose topics that are best described as unconventional. What should be unique is the story that you share: it should be intensely personal, allowing the reader to learn your past and how that will drive your future. These stories should reflect characteristics that will make you a better Stanford student and alum. The essay should begin to lay the groundwork for the next essay… why Stanford?

Essay 2 is where you dig into more specifics about Stanford and explicitly introduce your goals (aim for 1-2 sentences to introduce your goals, which should link to themes introduced in Essay 1). Again, select a few features that are unique to Stanford (alumni, student clubs, faculty, research centers, anything about the program that genuinely appeals to you) and really dig into how those features will help you achieve the goals you have just detailed. Know these details intimately!

Stanford offers some great guidance about the approach to both questions on their website:

Since the questions are out, should I start writing?

Make sure that you take some time to thoroughly explore your motivations, what’s impacted you throughout your life, and your future plans before beginning the essay! It will reduce the number of iterations that you go through and ensure clarity to your message. Don’t expect the essay to be easy! While some people write this essay in a couple of short drafts, it takes others a couple of months to work through as they explore their answers through the process of writing them down. Either approach can lead to success! Determine which approach works best for you.

Where do I go next?

So get started thinking about topics and really explore the details of your life experience that you want to share with Stanford! You can do so through detailed background surveys and personal branding exercises. If you want help with these exercises, or in identifying themes and approaches, contact us today!

2015/16 deadlines

Round 1: Application deadline: September 22, 2015 at 5:00pm PST, decision date: December 9, 2015

Round 2: Application deadline: January 12, 2016 at 5:00pm PST, decision date: March 30, 2016

Round 3: Final application deadline: April 25, 2016 at 5:00pm PST, decision date: May 11, 2016

Other application details

Click here to fill out Stanford’s stay-in-touch form to get notified when their online application becomes available.


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Stanford resources

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