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.
Here's what others have said about this:
I dropped Stanford off my list at the beginning of the season 🙁
It's the only US school I have visited and I still love the school.
Anyone who visits Stanford falls in love … it's an incredible place (even more so now that the Knight Center is open). We often discourage BSers from trying for Stanford if we don't see enough "amazing" in their profile… but we also do not have the whole picture, and "amazing" takes many forms! If you're in love with Stanford, there's no reason not to try.
Gee this stuff sounds familiar… I should have sworn off your blog post-submittal, I'm just getting nightmare flashbacks.
OH NO ERIN!! THAT'S NOT OUR INTENT!!
The second-guessing is hard… the WAITING is hard!! We know, we know, we know.
We'll have to pull out some more chicken videos to lighten things up around here.
We got a GSB interview in the house!! **partydance** Some Brave Supplicant updated the interview invite count w/ news of a Stanford invite – big congrats to whoever you are!!!
I didn't mean to be so negative :). I'm feeling good about the application process in general, but Stanford is always crushing because EVERYONE applies and EVERYONE wants it SO BAD but (practically) NO ONE actually gets in.
But to add to that… you'll never know if you don't try! I don't want to always wonder "what if?", so that makes it worth it for me.
@Erin: If you really feel strongly about Stanford, you should just go for it! For me, working on Stanford essays was a way of re-discovering myself. My first 2-3 drafts were crap! Eventually, I started following my instincts and writing from my heart, and I love my essays to this date! Plus, Neither do I have super high scores, nor a bluechip job.
@Essaysnark: I will be interviewing soon.
@Anonymous, I did apply to Stanford R1, which is why I said I was having nightmare flashbacks :). I'm not terribly optimistic (I never ended up loving all my essays), but I'm glad I tried regardless of what happens.
@Erin: So sorry I misunderstood your post. I'm glad you applied! My best to you!
@Anonymous: Good luck!!
@Erin and all others still waiting to hear from the GSB: *Especial* good luck!!!
20 Something Indian Engineer says
Whatever you have said about Stanford applies to each of the top 20 schools. Adcoms have years of experience admitting candidates and they can smell fishy from a distance.
@20 Something, uh, yeah sorta.
Yes to years of experience.
Yes to able to smell fishy.
No to any other school being like Stanford.