We read your essays to get to know you as a person and to learn about the ideas and interests that motivate you. Tell us in your own words who you are.
In other parts of the application, we learn about your academic and professional accomplishments (i.e., what you have done). Through your personal essays (Essays 1 and 2), we learn more about the person behind the achievements (i.e., who you are).
Because we want to discover who you are, resist the urge to "package" yourself in order to come across in a way you think Stanford wants. Such attempts simply blur our understanding of who you are and what you can accomplish.
We want to hear your genuine voice throughout the essays that you write and this is the time to think carefully about your values, your passions, your hopes and dreams.
In your short answer responses (Essay 3, options A, B, or C), we learn more about the experiences that have shaped your attitudes, behaviors, and aspirations.
Truly, the most impressive essays are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us.
Essay Questions for Class of 2015
(entering Fall 2013)
Tell us in your own words who you are. Answer essay questions 1, 2, and one of the three 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 do you want to do—REALLY—and why Stanford?
- Use this essay to explain your view of your future, not to repeat accomplishments from your past.
- You should address two distinct topics:
- your career aspirations
- and your rationale for earning your 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.
- Essay 3: Answer one of the three 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.
- Option A: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.
- Option B: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you identified and pursued an opportunity to improve an organization.
- Option C: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you went beyond what was defined or established.
Your answers for all of the essay questions cannot exceed 1,600 words.
You have your own story to tell, so please allocate the 1,600 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 1,600 words total.
- Essay 1: 750 words
- Essay 2: 450 words
- Essay 3: 400 words
- Use a 12-point font, double spaced
- Recommended fonts are Arial, Courier, and Times New Roman
- Indicate which essay question you are answering at the beginning of each essay (this does not count towards the 1,600 word limit).
- Number all pages
- Upload all three essays as one document
- Preview the uploaded document to ensure that the formatting is true to the original
- Save a copy of your essays
Editing Your Essays
Begin work on these essays early, to give yourself time to reflect, write, and edit.
Feel free to ask your friends or family members to provide constructive feedback. When you ask for feedback, ask if the essays' tone sounds like your voice. It should. Your family and friends know you better than anyone else. If they do not believe that the essays capture who you are, how you live, what you believe, and what you aspire to do, then surely the Committee on Admissions will be unable to recognize what is most distinctive about you.
There is a big difference, however, between 'feedback' and 'coaching.' There are few hard and fast rules, but you cross a line when any part of the application (excluding the Letters of Reference) ceases to be exclusively yours in either thought or word.
Appropriate feedback occurs when you show someone your completed application, perhaps one or two times, and are apprised of errors or omissions.
In contrast, inappropriate coaching occurs when your application or your self-presentation is colored by someone else.
You best serve your own interests when your personal thoughts, individual voice, and unique style remain intact at the end of your editing process.
It is improper and a violation of the terms of this application process, to have someone else write any part of your Stanford MBA Program application. Such an act will result in denial of your application or withdrawal of your offer of admission.
If there is any other information that is critical for us to know and is not captured elsewhere, please include it. Examples of pertinent additional information include:
- Extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance
- Explanation of why you do not have a Letter of Reference from your current direct supervisor or peer
- Explanation of criminal conviction, criminal charges sustained against you in a juvenile proceeding, and/or court-supervised probation
- Explanation of academic suspension or expulsion
- Any other information that you did not have sufficient space to complete in another section of the application (please begin the information in the appropriate section)
- Additional work experience that cannot fit into the space provided
- Additional information about your academic experience (e.g., independent research) not noted elsewhere
updated 30 May 2012
Writing Effective Essays
by Derrick Bolton, MBA 1998
Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions
Regardless of the outcome of the admission process, I believe strongly that you will benefit from the opportunity for structured reflection that the business school application provides.
I hope that you will approach the application process as a way to learn about yourself—that's the goal—with the byproduct being the application that you submit to us.