Stanford MBA Application Essays for 2019-20


Stanford Essay 1: What Matters most to you and why?
For this essay, we would like you to:
• Do some deep self-examination, so you can genuinely illustrate who you are and how you came to be the person you are.
• Share the insights, experiences, and lessons that shaped your perspectives, rather than focusing merely on what you’ve done or accomplished.
• Write from the heart, and illustrate how a person, situation, or event has influenced you.
• Focus on the “why” rather than the “what.”

Stanford Essay 2: Why Stanford?
• Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions.
• Explain your decision to pursue graduate education in management.
• Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.
• If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.

Stanford MBA Winning Sample Essay – 1


Stanford: What matters most to you, and why? (750 word limit suggested)

What matters most to me is helping young people define their own success by  following intrinsic passions rather than external expectations. I’ve struggled with this  throughout my life – my teachers wanted the “perfect student”, my peers expected me to scale the corporate ladder, and my parents demanded grandchildren. I’ve learned to acknowledge outside expectations, but stay true to my heart. More importantly, I  realized I share this struggle an entire generation.

My Dad’s visiting professorship brought me from our hometown of Hyderabad, to  Singapore and Montreal. When I returned to India in 10th grade however, getting into a  top college was the only measure of success for students – and I was on the brink of failure. Struggling to adapt to the curriculum, the headmaster asked me to stay back a  year. Ashamed that I’d let my parents down, I refused to give up. Pouring over mock tests, I finished 2 years’ work in 10 months and scored top of my province in the College  Entrance Exam. Upon receiving the acceptance letter that validated my “success”, however, my sense of achievement was short-lived. That entire year, I felt reduced to a test score, a ranking posted in school hallways. I’d sneak out of study sessions to play cricket, but eventually gave up after repeated warnings from my teachers. I became  the “perfect student” but I’d lost myself in the process.

This “herd mentality” continued in college when investment banking became the new  benchmark for “top students”. Peers and alumni reinforced this expectation and by junior year, I was set to join Bank of America…until my internship with McKinsey. I sat  in a session where Daughter’s Hope (a non-profit dedicated to helping teenage mothers) shared how McKinsey’s recommendations helped save 2,500+ Indian girls every year. I was intrigued: I could see myself improving lives through nonprofit projects by doing  what I enjoy – solving business problems. Consulting felt right, but a part of me clung to investment banking. Struggling, I consulted my mentor at McKinsey: “Be honest with yourself…it’s your life.” She was right; I had been so focused on being seen as “the  best” that I forgot about what was right for me.

My graduating year, I realized that increasingly in India, finance-related careers were  the only “real” options for students. In response, I launched a mentorship program with 20 peer mentors and 20 alumni highlighting a day-in-the-life for different sectors to  550+ freshmen. My most fulfilling experience was helping my mentee April switch from finance, her “default” choice, to Particle Engineering, her true passion. April was concerned a PhD meant an academia-only career and a huge financial burden. In  response, I connected her with relevant professors, alumni and current students to address her concerns. Working with April, I saw how role-models and like-minded peers went a long way to clarifying misconceptions and inspiring courage.

As professionals, we also need to decide how we want to lead, rather than relying on  what others expect of us. My second year at McKinsey, I was caught in a conflict between my project manager and the consultants. The consultants felt pestered and  micro-managed, but their manager felt that no one had her back. “I juggle partners, clients and the team …somehow someone always ends up disappointed!” Listening to her predicament, I saw she’d tried to be the “perfect manager” as I’d been a “perfect student”. Instead of defining how she wanted to lead, she was pulled in all directions by expectations. Asked to simply collate recommendations to boost morale, I was convinced that this wouldn’t address the problem’s root-cause, and wanted to share my honest observations with company partners. However, as the youngest member on the  team, I was warned about going over my supervisor’s heads. I hesitated briefly, but as issues escalated, I followed my instincts. The partners turned out to be very appreciative of my “bravery”; and with their guidance, I helped re-align client timelines, setting up new team norms and better team priorities to solve this issue.

As an Indian citizen, I’ve seen the perils of a worldview where we box ourselves into external expectations and punish non-conformity. Stifling passions and talent costs us too much, emotionally and in terms of misallocated resources, lower workplace productivity and a lack of innovation. Through providing access to mentors that I’ve once been blessed with, I hope to inspire more students to chart their own paths. This is the change that I vow to bring – and what matters most to me.

Stanford Essay B: Why Stanford?

Like most entrepreneurs, I discovered my passion for achievement during my childhood. My first business experience was as marketing manager for my father’s firm, at a time when the economy of the former USSR was undergoing major changes. My primary responsibilities were developing new clients, finding suppliers, and offering new product lines. I received invaluable experience working in this newly established company that was trying to find its place in the emerging market economy. The firm quickly became one of the major suppliers for marine ports on the Black Sea coast with tremendous growth potential. Despite my success, Iyearned to prove myself as an individual, rather than as the president’s son.

At age 17, I flexed my entrepreneurial muscle by opening an ice cream business with a few friends. In addition to learning as much as possible about ice cream, I researched and implemented several creative sales techniques that were successful abroad, but new in the Ukraine. After a month of hard (but enjoyable) work, we paid back our loans and enjoyed the biggest market share in the area, fulfilling my goal of financial independence. Two years later, I enjoyed similar success when I opened a bar on the Black Sea coast. My partner and I worked diligently to develop creative marketing and advertising techniques to attract new customers. Within a few months, our bar became one of the most popular places in the area, and the only one allowed to remain open after 1 a.m.

In addition to providing financial independence, my first business experiences taught me that entrepreneurial success is impossible without knowing the basics. In any profession, education is paramount. After I arrived in the U.S., I completed a degree in accounting at Stanford University, passed the CPA exam, and opened my own tax consulting and accounting practice. Within three years, I had 75 clients in addition to my full- time work at Fleet Financial Group, where I was quickly promoted to Manager of Domestic Taxation. By juggling both responsibilities, I grew to understand the financial structures of different businesses and the needs of a diverse group of clients. During this time, I never lost track of my long-term goal of running my own financial company.

In my mind, a successful business enterprise is a building, in which accounting comprises the foundation. Ideally, the company’s structure will be strong enough to absorb market shocks, but flexible enough to take advantage of positive regulatory winds. To succeed as an entrepreneur in an emerging or developing market, I must have a comprehensive background in all aspects of business. I can’t imagine a better place to learn the fundamentals than Stanford.

Stanford graduates currently lead several Fortune 500 companies, including behemoths like Cisco and Hewlett Packard. Yet I am most impressed by, which was founded by Stanford Professor (and Nobel Prize Laureate) Horatio Clarke. His flawless implementation of the mathematical model to manage 401K accounts is unsurpassed in the financial world. Three years ago, my firm unsuccessfully tried to sell a similar system. While Professor Clarke’s company calculates risk management based on mathematical models, our system used artificial intelligence to make predictions. The success of Dr. Clarke’s financial engines gives me the confidence that my training at Stanford will open my mind to new thought processes and avenues for success.

While completing my BS at Stanford, I worked closely with Professor Harold Faulkner, former CEO of Applied Materials. I am eager to re-connect with Dr. Faulkner and explore a potential joint venture in eastern Europe. With Dr. Faulkner’s prior experience in the Ukraine market (and his encouragement that I pursue an MBA), I am certain that I can develop a program at Stanford that is an exceptional fit for my background and interests. In addition to my entrepreneurial pursuits, I am eager to learn the intricacies of global business transactions from the distinguished international faculty and diverse student body. In addition to providing a solid academic foundation, the MBA program will show me how to use my synergistic skills in accounting, law, and management to build and develop successful businesses in the 21st century.

Stanford’s commitment to community enrichment is also a good match for my goals and interests. Over the years, I have volunteered in several social and charitable organizations, in which I hope to eventually assume a leadership role. Certificates like PMP (Public Management Program) will be ideal preparation for my long-term political career, while initiatives like PMI (Public Management Initiative) will help me to apply my business skills in the social world. This year’s topic, “The Double Bottom Line: Promoting Profits and Public Service” is an ideal match for my plan to open a social enterprise. Seminars like “Borderless Giving a Success” will help me to start thinking creatively towards solving social problems across the globe.

To succeed as an entrepreneur, I need formal training in finance and management with a global perspective. While in business school, I yearn to broaden my focus and work in an environment that balances my role as technical visionary with that of manager, communicator and teammate. Stanford’s focus on social leadership, philanthropy and public management makes it a perfect fit for my entrepreneurial, political and humanitarian goals.

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Stanford MBA Winning Sample Essay – 2


Stanford Essay 1: What Matters most to you and why?

What matters most to me is making meaningful improvements in my native Iran. Although my short-term dream is to form a successful Internet business, my long-term aspiration is to graduate from business to politics. I take my cue from America, where industry leaders like Michael Bloomberg have revitalized communities and made great people leaders.

Iran has been ravaged by several decades of “ivory tower” politics, corruption, unemployment and caste divide. For the nation to survive, a new breed of leaders must step in and make desperately needed changes. Sadly, Iran’s younger generation has grown apathetic toward their community and society. After years of political corruption and rampant violence in elections, many have lost hope of a better future. I plan to be an advocate for change.

Sadly, Iran’s myriad problems have had terrible ramifications on her people. After decades of civil unrest, millions of children have been left without parents, and even fewer have enjoyed the benefits of an education. Throughout my childhood, I worked as a volunteer for Children First, a group that organized street shows, cultural exhibits and fundraisers to benefit abandoned children. As a volunteer, I organized the events, raised money and handled local marketing and publicity. But my greatest joy was simply spending time with the children.

My first visit was eye-opening. Raised in a financially-secure home, I always enjoyed the love and attention of two doting parents. In contrast, the thirty-one orphaned boys shared a tiny house in the ghetto with one teacher and two nannies. Although the adults provided food and shelter, they did not offer parental love. At every visit, the children embraced me as a long-lost friend and enchanted me with their playfulness. My time with the boys was both exhilarating and sobering. Although I was delighted to enrich their day, I was saddened to know that they survived on charity and the kindness of strangers.

Inspired by Children First, I continue to support organizations that serve the needs of orphaned and abandoned children. Here in the US, I am an active member of Imaginings, which supports an elementary school outside Tehran. In my role as fundraiser, I held two gala benefits, which raised over $300,000 for our cause. According to the teachers at the school, this money will support a full year of education for nearly three hundred students.

Although several charities like Imaginings try to help children, Iran’s political system must devote additional money and resources to alleviate such pressing social problems. Unfortunately, widespread corruption has prevented sustained improvement in these areas. Until Iran adopts a better political system with a sustained interest in helping disadvantaged people, orphaned children will rely on the generosity of charities.

Wherever I go, I am committed to doing my part to alleviate their stress and provide the loving support they desperately deserve.

Iran needs to implement a long-term plan to provide young people with exposure to political life. An excellent prototype is the White House internship program that was started in 1965 by John Gardner under President Lyndon Johnson. Over the years, it has given hundreds of young Americans a feel for politics and has cultivated leaders like Secretary of State Colin Powell and Retired General Wesley K. Clarke. I would like to promote a similar program in Iran to stimulate political interest among qualified youth. The contacts I make at Stanford will help me to fulfill my dream of building a stronger and safer Iran.

Stanford MBA Winning Sample Essay – 3


Stanford Essay 1: What Matters most to you and why?

During my first trip to New York City, I was amazed by the rugged skyline: what a marvelous human achievement! Later, as I walked through the airport, I saw a news clip about a teenage girl in Hawaii who lost her arm during a shark attack. Just three weeks later, she was back on her surf board with a smile on her face, as if nothing had happened. In that brief moment, the significance of the skyline paled in comparison to what the teenager had achieved. Her ability to rebound from a disaster and push herself to a higher level was a powerful example of the human spirit. What matters most to me is embracing life’s challenges with a similar passion that will enable me to push the limits of my own potential.

In my own life, I faced an unknown challenge when I began to train as a mountain climber. Despite my reputation as an excellent planner, I overestimated my ability to scale Angel’s Peak in Zion National Park. Standing at an elevation of 2500 ft with a steep drop on either side, I suddenly experienced giddiness and nausea, the classic symptoms of acrophobia. With just a quarter mile to go, I ignored the symptoms and decided to proceed with the climb. Unfortunately, about a tenth of a mile from the summit, my legs began to shake vigorously and the giddiness threatened my visibility. Acknowledging this ailment was a tremendous blow to my pride, but I was determined to eventually conquer it.

Later that year, I accompanied a group of friends on a 17-mile Half-Dome hike in the Yosemite Valley. After my experience in Utah, I was prepared for the aggressive climb. At the base of the final ascent, I was flooded with the same traumatic symptoms as before. After an initial period of self-doubt, I decided to work through them. After completing 8 miles, I simply refused to go back without reaching the top. As a precautionary measure, I wore glasses that blocked my peripheral vision. Focusing on the rock, rather than a potential fall, I eventually made it to the top.

To this day, words cannot adequately describe the exhilaration I felt at that moment. On a deep emotional level, I realized the power of persistence in achieving a seemingly impossible goal. I also realized the many ways in which my challenges as a rock climber are similar to those I will face as a leader. Both situations require nerves of steel, along with a slow, careful plan to achieve a goal. In both cases, there are no hidden agendas; my only reward is the challenge of stretching my comfort zone by conquering a steeper climb with fewer footholds and handholds. Like management, scaling a cliff requires both physical and mental dexterity; surveying the terrain for routes and obstacles is as crucial to the climb’s success as physical strength and endurance.

As I complete my application for business school, I am ready to embrace an interdisciplinary approach to solving the difficult problems that leadership will present. Just as I used a wide range of physical and mental strengths to scale the mountain, I will draw upon the resources of different disciplines at Stanford to develop decision-making or pricing models. Like most complex endeavors, climbing is actually quite simple if reduced to its fundamentals: planning, footwork and strength (finger, arm and back). Regardless of the level of difficulty, the same fundamentals help the climber negotiate the terrain. Similarly, Stanford teaches the basic concepts of running a business, which can be tailored in creative ways to satisfy different needs.

Throughout my career as an engineer, I have often been presented with challenges that initially seemed impossible. Yet I systematically conquered each obstacle by using the same techniques as when I scaled the mountain. My motivation to complete my MBA at Stanford is to acquire the tools to scale even higher mountains and achieve more significant results. Thanks to years of preparation and training, I am ready. Just a glimpse of the Half-Dome poster in my room inspires me to challenge myself and explore the world outside my comfort zone. By overcoming my demons, I opened my mind to a million new possibilities for my future.

Stanford MBA Application Essay Tips


The Stanford Graduate School of Business has announced the essay questions for the 2019-2020 application. Today, we’re sharing our Stanford MBA essay tips to help you create a positive impression through your application materials. Although the required questions are the same as prior years, Stanford has added an optional short-answer essay this season. The admissions committee at Stanford has gained significant insight into applicants by asking, “What matters most, and why?” along with “Why Stanford?” These questions are simple, yet the answers are revealing. In addition, the new optional essay allows you to go beyond your resume and describe a time you had an impact.

What Stanford is looking for?

In light of its high ranking and competitive admissions numbers, many students are intimidated to apply to Stanford GSB for their MBA. However, here at Stacy Blackman Consulting, we have worked with hundreds of applicants over the years who have successfully gained admission to Stanford. We shared some of our successful applicants’ important traits to help everyone working for admission to top tier schools. Our successful Stanford MBA applicants demonstrated true character. That means they helped others and demonstrated a sense of community. Also, they showed that they cared about the world beyond their own material wants and needs in their essays. Impact describes these applicants perfectly. As Stanford advises, “answer the question. Resist the urge to ‘package’ yourself into what you think Stanford wants to see. Doing so will only prevent us from understanding who you really are and what you hope to accomplish. The most impressive essays are the most authentic.” Therefore, these essays are meant to be personal and to show your personality and what drives you. Understanding Stanford’s culture and academics will help you tailor your application. Before starting these essays it will be useful to speak to Stanford students and alumni. Additionally, you could visit campus to see the Stanford community first hand. If you need to start your research online, read stories from current students.

Essay A: What Matters most to you and why?

For this essay, we would like you to:
• Do some deep self-examination, so you can genuinely illustrate who you are and how you came to be the person you are.
• Share the insights, experiences, and lessons that shaped your perspectives, rather than focusing merely on what you’ve done or accomplished.
• Write from the heart, and illustrate how a person, situation, or event has influenced you.
• Focus on the “why” rather than the “what.”

This Stanford MBA essay is about diving deep into what motivates you, and why. Topics can range from personal history to big picture visions of the future. However, this essay should not be explicitly career related (and the strongest essays are likely not career oriented at all). However, it is likely that some of your themes will continue in the next essay, which may focus more on your career. For example, you may have a personal passion that also has led you into a related career aspiration. Character should shine through, and introspection and honesty should persist through the entire set of essays. To generate ideas, try brainstorming over a period of a few days. Ask friends and family what values they see you demonstrating in your life and choices.

What keeps you awake at night?

Keep a notebook by your bed so you can record your first thoughts upon waking up. Review your personal history for ideas. When you look back at your life what do you admire and regret about your choices? Are there moments in your life that have led to a change in direction? Who has impacted your choices? These are the kind of questions to ask yourself as you brainstorm topics for this essay. It can be tough to write such an open-ended and challenging essay, and using vivid and specific examples will help you focus. These examples will provide the reader with images and stories to understand your perspective. After reading hundreds of essays, the ones that have descriptive stories in them stand out the most. Keep in mind as you select examples that Stanford GSB specifically advises focusing on people and experiences that have influenced you, rather than accomplishments or achievements. Don’t be scared of the tough moments in life – often self-awareness emerges from challenges. Whatever experiences you choose, it’s very important to talk about why they made an impact on your life and your values. Along with vivid examples, talk about how you felt, thought and reacted both at the time and as you reflected later. The “why” will come out of your reactions to your life experience or people who have influenced you, and the resulting introspection.

Essay 2: Why Stanford?

• Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions.
• Explain your decision to pursue graduate education in management.
• Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.
• If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.

After you have explained who you are, you will explain why your next step is a Stanford MBA. If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx, make sure you can highlight the advantages of both programs for your specific situation. You might have significant work experience but also see the benefits of attending a two-year program to achieve your goals. Therefore, you could be interested in either option.The sub questions for this essay cover both why you are interested in pursuing an MBA, and why you specifically want to attend Stanford GSB for your MBA. Stanford GSB wants to know your aspirations will be uniquely satisfied by the program at Stanford. Thorough school research will help you determine what aspects of the academic program, community and students are crucial to your aspirations. Be as specific as possible in your response to provide evidence that you have done your research. Consider everything about the aspects of the program that most appeal to you. Have you met current students and alumni? Who are the professors you are excited about? What are the unique programs? Is Stanford’s culture appealing to you, and why? Think about using specific examples, like the career path of a specific alum you admire. If the question seems too vast, take a few minutes to close your eyes and reflect. Envision your life in twenty years. Where do you live? How do you spend your days? What is your favorite activity? Does this vision fit into your career aspirations? Don’t be shy about your ambitions. Once you have identified your dream career, you also need to make sure an MBA is an important part of achieving your plans. Consider that Stanford likes to see applicants who dream big and also have the credibility to achieve their goals. Be bold with your aspirations. Write about global, big picture issues you would like to solve. Not what your parents or partner want you to do, and not the next job on the corporate ladder. In particular, explain what you with your own unique background and values want for your life. Even though you should think big, don’t make the mistake of acting as if you are already perfect with no development needed. After all, you are a work in progress, and that’s appropriate. Remember that MBA programs want to help promising candidates reach their goals and be a step on an ambitious career trajectory.

Optional Short-Answer Question:
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? You are welcome to share up to three examples. (Up to 1500 characters, approximately 250 words, for each example)
This essay is optional and should be answered in the space provided in the application. In other words, do not submit this essay with the other two. You can use up to 250 words for each example, for a total of 750 words on this essay.

Many applicants to Stanford write personal stories and describe internal motivations in the “what matters most” essay. This leaves very little space to talk about your impact on organizations or teams. If you are one of those applicants, this is the perfect place to show off some of your leadership stories. Stanford is looking for people who have inner strength and drive. But also, Stanford seeks those who can influence others. Once again, think about stories from your various roles in life. Work is usually a place to practice leadership skills, but positive leadership impact can happen anywhere. You might have an important volunteer role where leadership literally impacts lives. Or perhaps you are part of a cultural organization or political activity that is meaningful to you. Think about the stories of your life that can demonstrate the kind of positive leader you are, and showcase those stories to Stanford.

Length: Your answers for both essay questions combined may not exceed 1,150 words (1,200 words if you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs). Each of you has your own story to tell, so please allocate these words between the essays in the way that is most effective for you. Stanford suggests allocating more words to Essay A.

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