To go along with yesterday’s ramble about giving up and trusting yourself, let’s provide a more practical counterpart:
What to do about Stanford.
The Stanford essays that we see are often the worst of any — pretty ironic, given the fact that obviously your GSB materials need to be the BEST of the bunch.
Here’s some common missteps on Stanford:
- It is not mandatory to have these amazing and ambitious career goals for Stanford. Sure, if you already DO have such goals, use ’em! But if you don’t, don’t make stuff up. Don’t tell them what you think they want to hear. Tell them THE TRUTH. (Yes, novel idea, we know.) Be straight up about how you talk about what you want to do with your life. Answer the *&#(@%! essay question.
- The goals need to show your passion. If you don’t have “big” goals to present, then make them PERSONAL goals – talk about them in a way that shows the adcom why they’re important to you, and talk about why Stanford is important. So many people write to impress, and it just don’t work. Peel back the veneer and JUST BE YOU (hey where have we heard that before?).
- They’re looking for high-impact individuals. If you don’t have high-impact stories to present in the last two essays, it’s hard for them to find a place for you. This is just the truth about Stanford. They are a special place, and everyone wants to go there. They’re only gonna pick the ones who demonstrate that they resonate with their mission. (And if EssaySnark ever catches you writing a cheesy sentence like that, with an embedded rhyme in the middle, we will throttle you.)
- Typically, the “tell us about a time” questions are asking about a SINGLE incident or event. This should be a big-bang episode that demonstrates your high-impacted-ness.
- They’re looking for authenticity. Did you attend an info session? Did you watch the video? That guy who did the speech… he seems pretty authentic to us. You need to be authentic back. (But please oh lord do *not* copy what he’s saying into your essays. Not even a quote at the top to start things off. You need your essays to be YOU, not anybody else. There is no formula for this – it needs to come from inside you.)
Shameless self-promotion: The EssaySnark Guide to the Stanford essays can help with this stuff. Promise.
Bottom line? Don’t embellish. Don’t try to fake it. Yes, it is completely obvious when you make stuff up for the essays. You are a real person. Real people get into Stanford. That means you have a chance! Don’t blow it by morphing into plastic in your essays.
And the real bottom line? This process is painful. BUT – if you find yourself struggling with draft after draft, you’ve been tearing your hair out for weeks now and it’s not coming together, if you honestly cannot come up with stories that you think are going to differentiate yourself from among the thousands of other Brave Supplicants… Don’t set yourself up for heartbreak. If you’re in love with Stanford, you should be able to express this in a compelling way through your writing (again, the SnarkStrategies Guide has advice for that). If they are just really truly not coming together after significant effort on your part — if you feel in your gut that it’s not working out — then maybe you need a heart-to-heart with yourself about whether your heart is really truly in it. Are you just shining yourself on? Or is this a dream you’re committed to and it’s seeping out of your pores?
Most people do NOT make it into Stanford. It’s just a fact. But NOBODY makes it into Stanford if they do a half-baked job of it or if they’re sloppy or if they just don’t care enough to sweat it out.
If you find yourself in the just-don’t-care category, maybe it’s time to cut your losses and move on to a school that has more reasonable chances of success, and probably less-crazymaking essays to boot.