Stanford GSB has confirmed their application questions for the 2023/24 application cycle. You can find more details on their questions here.
As in prior years, Stanford is looking to learn a number of things about you through the application process:
1. What matters to you – what motivates you to your core?
2. What you aspire to do – how do you aspire to drive change in the world?
3. What impact you have had on your communities?
4. How your experiences and background impact your perspectives?
Stanford’s iconic essays remain the same for another year. The first question “What Matters Most?” suggests a 650 word limit and “Why Stanford?” has a suggested 400 word limit (1,050 words total). The school also offers applications the opportunity to submit up to three essays highlighting positive impacts you have had.
What matters most to you, and why?
Instructions from the GSB: 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?
Each year, Stanford’s question #1 is one of the most challenging questions for many applicants across any school. It is also where our clients often learn the most about themselves.
The essay should focus on motivation, not achievement. 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; explaining why your topic matters most to you is more important than what topic you choose in the first place.
In our experience, some successful applicants have chosen fairly common topics, such as family, faith, heritage, perseverance, and commitment to excellence. Those topics can work if you have strong examples to differentiate from what other applicants might write. However, what we recommend to clients is to choose a topic that allows you to highlight what makes you truly unique and exceptional. And stories that allow you to showcase your authenticity to the GSB.
One of our favorite topics remains an article of clothing, as it reminded our client of various important life events, and lessons learned from those events. 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. In fact, this is an essay we highly recommend you don't read what others wrote - doing so tends to cement in peoples' minds a "template" that they will then look to follow, rather than showcasing their true authenticity. Finally, the essay should begin to lay the groundwork for the next essay… why Stanford?
Instructions from the GSB: 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.
You are applying to Stanford GSB – your aspirations should reflect the power of what the school can bring to your ability to drive impact in the world. Successful applications do not only have big dreams, they have a track record that shows that those dreams are well-explored and will drive lasting impact. Successful applications show very thoughtful reflection on how, specifically, the program will allow you to take ownership of your own success. Some will highlight short-term goals, almost all will outline long-term goals. It needs to be clear through the essay that an MBA is a necessary step in the process, and allow the reader to understand how the GSB is the place to achieve those goals in a differential way.
Short answer questions
The application includes the same three optional 1200-character short answer questions from last year “Think about times you’ve created a positive impact, whether in professional, extracurricular, academic, or other settings. What was your impact? What made it significant to you or to others?”. While some applicants are successful without submitting all three optional essays (some submitted none), we recommend using these essays to highlight important achievements and impact you are proud of.
Given the tight word limit, structuring these answers is critical. Avoid spending more than 25% of the essay discussing what you did. And when you do, focus on the key decisions you made, and why you made those decisions. For the remainder of each essay, discuss the impact your decisions had on the outcome. Did you provide a critical insight that convinced key decision-makers to pursue a different path, with a different outcome? Did you ask for help at a critical time? The closer the link between your decisions and the positive impact created, the more effective the example will be in convincing the reader that you belong at Stanford.
Instructions from the GSB: We know that each person is more than a list of facts or pre-defined categories. With this question we provide you with an optional opportunity to elaborate on how your background or life experiences have helped shape your recent actions or choices. (1200 characters)
Similar to last year, they want you to focus more on your actions and choices, and how your background shaped them.
Deadline time: 4pm PT on below dates
Round 1: Application deadline: Sept. 12, 2023; Decision date: Dec. 7, 2023
Round 2: Application deadline: Jan. 4, 2024; Decision date: Mar. 28, 2024
Round 3: Application deadline: April 9, 2024; Decision date: May 23, 2024
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