This post has been marked as OLD. EssaySnark's advice and strategies for winning MBA applications don't change from year to year, but some of the school-specific admissions policies, essay questions, or other information covered in this article may be outdated.
Stanford recently updated its admissions website for the upcoming season. They unfortunately deleted a lovely bit of wisdom from Derrick Bolton, head of their adcom. EssaySnark is re-posting it here because we believe that it’s valid and useful for candidates to all schools:
The Stanford MBA Program essays provide you a disciplined opportunity to reflect on your own “truest interests” and “highest aspirations.” While the letters of reference are stories about you told by others, these essays enable you to tell us who you are by articulating what matters most to you and why, as well as how you have decided you can best contribute to society. Please think of the Stanford essays as conversations on paper—when we read files, we feel that we meet people, also known as our “flat friends”—and tell us your story in a natural, genuine way.
The most important piece of advice on these essays is extremely simple: answer the questions—each component of each question. An additional suggestion for writing essays is equally straightforward: think a lot before you write. We want a holistic view of you as a person: your values, passions, ideas, experiences, and aspirations. Our goal is to understand what motivates you and how you have become the person you are today. In addition, we’re interested in what kind of person you wish the Stanford MBA Program to help you become. Reflective, insightful essays help us envision the individual behind all of the experiences and accomplishments that we read about elsewhere in your application.
EssaySnark distills this fabulous wisdom down to these three key points:
1. Answer the question [you have no idea how many applicants fail to do this]2. Think before you write [this is how you produce content of substance; you want quality, not just words; you don’t have much space so use it wisely!]3. Be authentic [don’t try to game the system, no posturing; just be you]
EssaySnark recommends that you re-read Mr. Bolton’s paragraph above multiple times — not just several times now, when you’ve first encountered this post, but consider bookmarking this to come back to in a few weeks, after you’ve been wrestling with your essays and are deep in the thick of it. Read this again then, and see how it helps you. EssaySnark predicts that it will.
ETA: We just stumbled upon a letter to applicants from Mr. Bolton here (in the sidebar) — unsure if this is new, if it was always there, if they just slipped it in — no knowledge. We just never saw it before. It may seem fluffy at first glance but he has some really good advice (like, read the whole website thoroughly – this goes for any school obviously, and even those who are NOT applying to Stanford could benefit from reading the Stanford website).
Here’s the best part:
Approach the application process as a chance for structured reflection—a rare opportunity to explore your values, spark your enthusiasm, and envision your potential. If you do so, you will have the foundation for a strong application.
We really like that “structured reflection” bit. Nice phrasing, Mr. B. We take that to mean, your essays should be cohesive and well put together, and should present insights, qualifications, and personal truths. (OK, we’re getting a little marshmallow-y ourselves here, we’ll quit now…)