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Stanford GSB Class of 2021 Essay Analysis

June 12, 2018

Stanford GSB’s 2018-19 essay questions have remained consistent over the past few application cycles.

2018/19 essay questions

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

Essay 2: Why Stanford?

2018/19 essay question analysis

Essay 1

Each year, Stanford’s question #1 is one of the most challenging questions for many applicants across any school. It is also where many applicants learn the most about themselves. The essay requires thoughtful self-reflection, and serves a dual purpose of introducing you to the committee while also 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, such as family, faith, heritage, perseverance, and commitment to excellence. However, what we recommend to clients is to choose a topic that allows you to highlight what makes you truly unique and exceptional. One of our favorite topics remains a breakfast food, as it reminded our client of the success from returning from dangerous nighttime work conditions. Not only are these essays more fun to read, they have a higher success rate for our clients. What makes a good topic for you? 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. Finally, the essay should begin to lay the groundwork for the next essay… why Stanford?

Essay 2

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!

A key part of writing this essay is to ask yourself whether or not someone else could write this essay. The reasons why Stanford is the right choice should be individual to you, even though the resources that you mention may be applicable for other candidates. Focus not on describing the schools’ programs (since they already know what they offer), but tailor the impact of programs, opportunities, etc. to your specific situation and your long-term goals. The more specific and closely tied you make your explanations to your background, the more memorable and differentiated you will be to the Admissions Committee.

2018/19 deadlines

Round 1: Application deadline: September 18, 2018 at 11:00am PT, Decision date: December 13, 2018

Round 2: Application deadline: January 10, 2019 at 11:00am PT, Decision date: March 28, 2019

Round 3: Application deadline: April 3, 2019 at 11:00am PT, Decision date: May 16, 2019

Other application details

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The online application is expected to be released in the summer.


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