Category Archives: Stanford

Stanford GSB Admissions Essays for 2012-2013

Stanford GSB recently released its MBA admissions essays for the 2012-2013 application season. You may notice some changes to the essays since last year; we’ll dig into those changes below. Perhaps most significantly, Stanford removed one of its required essays this year, although the total recommended word count remains the same.

As it has done for the past several years, Stanford’s admissions committee provides some high-level advice right on its own website. While we think this advice is generally good, we don’t see anything in Stanford’s advice that hasn’t been said many times before. Still, any advice that comes straight from the horse’s mouth deserves your attention!

Stanford GSB Admissions Essays

  • What matters most to you, and why? (750 words recommended, out of 1,600 total)

    This question has been around for years, and while our advice has evolved subtly over the years, it mostly remains the same . With this essay, take Stanford’s advice to heart: “The best examples of Essay 1 reflect the process of self-examination that you have undertaken to write them.” This question requires a great deal of introspection, after which you should create an essay that truly answers the question asked, whether or not you feel that it’s directly applicable to your candidacy. Obviously, the more relevant your essay is to the goal of getting into business school, the better, but where many Stanford applicants go wrong is by writing about grand ideas and using impressive-sounding words, rather than a real glimpse into who they are as a person. The latter is much more powerful and, ultimately, much more effective in getting you into Stanford GSB.
  • What do you want to do — REALLY — and why Stanford? (450 words recommended)

    This question also carries over unchanged from last year. The part in ALL CAPS is a very obvious hint that the admissions committee feels like it doesn’t usually get 100% honest answers from its applicants. Also, note that this question is deliberately pretty open-ended. Stanford is inviting you to dream big. They’re less interested in whether you want to do buy-side vs. sell-side research in the banking sector… They’re more interested in what you want to do with your life. Naturally, the job you take in the near term matters, but here is your chance to reveal some big dreams. If the first question is supposed to be a super-introspective look at you past, consider this the same exercise with your future. Finally, don’t forget the “Why Stanford?” part, too. Obviously it’s a great school with a terrific brand name, but the admissions committee already knows that. Why is Stanford specifically the school that will help you achieve your dreams?
  • 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. (400 words recommended)

    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.

    Gee, do you think Stanford only wants to hear about stories that have happened in the last three years? Stanford included the “three year rule” here last year, but the fact that the admissions committee inserted it into every option suggests that too many applicants weren’t paying attention. Why do they only want to hear about the recent past? Because you’re young, and you’re still changing and growing a great deal. Something that you accomplished five years ago (perhaps while you were still in college) is far less useful in helping the admissions committee gauge your potential as a professional.

    Two of these options carry over unchanged from last year, while one of them (Option B) is essentially a marriage of two separate questions from last year. For Option A, note the emphasis on “whose performance exceeded expectations”… Results matter, and you need to show them here. This is a classic Situation-Action-Result (“SAR”) question. While Option B doesn’t specifically use the word “impact” (as it did last year), it’s pretty clear what the school looks for here… It wants to find young professionals who leave a trail of success and positive, meaningful impact everywhere they go. If you have a good example to use, we strongly urge you to answer Option B.

    Option C is another results-oriented question that also gets at a core component of leadership: the ambition and ability to do more than what is listed in your job description. We think the way this question is phrased may actually lead some to misinterpret it and tell an underwhelming story, but a great response will show that you’re someone who readily goes beyond your job description to make things happen. In some respects, we consider Options B and C to be very similar… It’s clear that Stanford is itching to find go-getters who go beyond what’s normal to make things happen!

To stay on top on all of the latest news about Stanford and other top-ranked business schools, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Advertisements

Get to Know: Stanford GSB

Stanford GSB has the lawest acceptance rate of any business school in the U.S., and it’s no surprise. Who wouldn’t want to attend an elite, cozy MBA program in the heart of Silicon Valley? Still, we’re often disappointed by how little these applicants actually know about Stanford before they apply. We always urge these applicants to go back and do their homework a bit more before they begin the application process.

Are you thinking about applying to Stanford? Here are five things that make it unique among top-ranked MBA programs:

Innovation
This is big at this school — so much so, that the GSB is engraving it into the cornerstone of the new Knight Center, which is dedicated to “the things that haven’t happened yet and the people who are about to dream them up. ” The focus on innovation is evident in courses such as Contemporary Economic Policy, for example, the content of which changes, as its name suggests, based on the real world; in the past year, topics included the financial crisis, bailouts, and healthcare.

Class Size
At under 400 students in each graduating class, Stanford is among the smallest of the top business schools in the world — and this makes for a very different experience for the student. While there are advantages in a large class in terms of the vast global alumni network, a smaller class undoubtedly helps students foster closer relationships — not just with each other, but with the faculty, too.

Silicon Valley
Venture capital has its origins on Sand Hill Road, where Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital got their start in the ‘70s — and which runs along the border of the Stanford University campus. The GSB is in the heart of Silicon Valley, and this proximity makes the school a natural incubator for great ideas. And, it means that the quality of guest speakers is phenomenal. It is not uncommon to see the likes of Steve Ballmer (Microsoft) and the founder of Siebel (Pat House) and the CEO of Skype (Josh Silverman) in the classroom — in the same week. This close proximity to so many startups also means that it’s fairly easy for students to set up independent projects and more informal school-year internships than would be possible at other schools.

Sustainability and Social Innovation
Given its mantra to “change the world” it makes sense that Stanford wants to attract students who will do just that. Stanford is a leader of its business school peers in the areas of sustainable business and social ventures, both for-profit and non-profit.

International Exposure
Stanford has a similar mix of U.S. and international students to other top schools. However, unique to Stanford is the Global Experience Requirement, whereby every student must undertake a project overseas, in a country where they have never spent significant time, in order to broaden their understanding of global issues from a management perspective. (Only Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business has a similar requirement.) Because Stanford students are encouraged to fulfill their GER in the first year of studies, the entire GSB community benefits when they return to campus and share their experiences with their classmates and professors. Stanford was one of the first graduate business programs to focus on the international aspects of business.

To stay on top on all of the latest news at Stanford and other top-ranked business schools, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Stanford GSB Application Essays and Deadlines for 2011-2012

Stanford GSB recently released its MBA admissions essays and deadlines for the 2011-2012 application season. You may notice some changes to the essays since last year and we’ll dig into those changes below.

Here are Stanford GSB’s application deadlines and essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Stanford GSB Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 12, 2011
Round 2: January 11, 2012
Round 3: April 4, 2012

Stanford actually pushed back its Round 1 and Round 2 deadlines by a few days each, while its Round 3 deadline is two days earlier than it was last year. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you’ll be notified by December 14, giving you plenty of time to pull together additional Round 2 applications in January, if needed.

Stanford GSB Admissions Essays

  • What matters most to you, and why? (750 words recommended, out of 1,800 total)

    This question has been around for a long time. Believe it or not, it used to have no word limit. Now, the essay’s 750-word limit forces applicants to be a little more economical with their words. With this essay, take Stanford’s advice to heart: “The best examples of Essay 1 reflect the process of self-examination that you have undertaken to write them.” This question requires a great deal of introspection, after which you should create an essay that truly answers the question asked, whether or not you feel that it’s directly applicable to your candidacy. Obviously, the more relevant your essay is to the goal of getting into business school, the better, but where many Stanford applicants go wrong is by writing about grand ideas and using impressive-sounding words, rather than a real glimpse into who they are as a person. The latter is much more powerful and, ultimately, much more effective in getting you into Stanford GSB.

    Finally, consider this additional advice from the Stanford admissions team: “[The best essays] 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.”

  • What do you want to do—REALLY—and why Stanford? (450 words recommended)

    This question is an evolution one one that has been on Stanford’s application for a while. The part in ALL CAPS is especially new and noteworthy, and is a very obvious hint that the admissions committee has not felt like it’s been getting REAL (now they’ve got us using all caps, too) answers from its applicants in recent years. As we always say, when a school changes or eliminates an essay question, it’s a clear sign that the question hasn’t been doing its job, which is to help the admissions committee get to know applicants better and to separate the great ones from the merely good ones.

    Savvy applicant will notice that Stanford has dropped the “career aspirations” part from last year’s question. By making it a little more open-ended, Stanford is inviting you to dream big. They’re less interested in whether you want to do buy-side vs. sell-side research in the banking sector… They’re more interested in what you want to do with your life. Naturally, the job you take in the near term matters, but here is your chance to reveal some big dreams. If the first question is supposed to be a super-introspective look at you past, consider this the same exercise with your future. Don’t forget the “Why Stanford?” part, too. Obviously it’s a great school with a terrific brand name, but so what? Why is Stanford specifically the school that will help you achieve your dreams?

  • Answer two of the four 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. (300 words recommended for each)

    Option A: Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.

    Option B: Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization.

    Option C: Tell us about a time when you generated support from others for an idea or initiative.

    Option D: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined or established.

    Aside from a slight tweak to the wording in Option C, these essays all carry over unchanged from last year, and so our advice largely remains the same. What that tells us is that the Stanford admissions office likes what it got from applicants last year. For Option A, note the emphasis on “whose performance exceeded expectations”… Results matter, and you need to show them here. This is a classic Situation-Action-Result (“SAR”) question. Again, we love the “impact” idea in Option B… Stanford is looking for young professionals that leave a trail of success and positive, meaningful impact everywhere they go. If you have a good example to use, we strongly urge you to answer Option B.

    Over the years Option C has evolved from a question about overcoming an obstacle or failure to a question that gets at one version of leadership — motivating others to support your ideas. Stanford considers this type of persuasiveness a key ingredient in the future leaders that it wants to produce. Option D is another results-oriented question that also gets at a core component of leadership: the ambition and ability to do more than what is listed in your job description. We think the way this question is phrased may actually lead some to misinterpret it and tell an underwhelming story, but a great response will show you you tackled a problem or pursued an opportunity (in the workplace or in your community) that would have otherwise gone ignored. Again, this is a terrific sign of a budding leader… This is what Stanford wants to see!

To stay on top of all the news and trends in MBA admissions, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Six Reasons to Consider Stanford GSB

If you’re gunning for a top-tier MBA, chances are that you’ve at least considered applying to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. But, besides knowing that it’s a small, top-ranked school with strong ties to Silicon Valley, how well do you really know the school? How do you know if it’s a good fit for you? And, perhaps more importantly, how do you know if the admissions committee will decide you’re a good fit for Stanford?

Today we look at six reasons why you might want to apply to Stanford:

You do not come from a technology background.
Despite a common belief to the contrary, Stanford does not have a high number of students who were in high tech either before or after going through their program. Only 6% of the Class of 2010 came from this industry, and even fewer were hired into technology firms upon graduation. Now, this does not include entrepreneurs who launched high-tech companies at Stanford, so the numbers are undoubtedly higher — and even more importantly, this does not mean that if you are a technologist, that you should in any way be discouraged from applying to Stanford. Your expertise would likely be highly valued on campus with so many erstwhile tech entrepreneurs around!

You earned your undergraduate degree in the humanities.
Stanford admits far more students who come from a liberal arts background than any other major — and far more of these humanities types than many other top schools. For the Class of 2011, nearly half (47%) studied humanities or the social sciences as an undergraduate. This compares with 36% from engineering, science, or math backgrounds.

You want to pursue a career in consulting.
With such a strong general management program, for over a generation, Stanford has been sending more graduates into consulting than any other industry. In 2009, almost a third of the class became consultants, with the majority of them moving into management consulting and a fraction going into strategy. This is at least partly attributable to the relatively high concentration of consultants entering the program. For the Class of 2011, 20% were consultants before business school.

You are interested in entrepreneurship.
This probably goes without saying: Stanford is a great place to launch a business. More than 40 graduates of the Class of 2009 (12% of the overall class) struck out on their own after completing the program — during the economic downturn, no less! The numbers have been even higher in more abundant times.

You’re thinking about a career in venture capital.
While fewer Stanford students go straight to venture capital than consulting or investment banking — less than 5% of each graduating class became VCs the past few years — it’s still more than at any other school.

You are a career switcher.
In years past, the GSB reported high numbers — well over 50%, and possibly as high as 80% — of graduates who landed in a new industry, and/or an entirely new functional area, than where they started before beginning their graduate education. The resources and format of the Stanford MBA can support those changing direction in their lives, and the environment of change even encourages it.

To learn more about Stanford and other top-ranked MBA programs, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Don’t Go to Business School Too Soon!

We’ve written in this space before about the trend at some top business schools toward accepting younger applicants. In some cases, these schools have even created specific programs to attract these candidates. But, a big question still looms: Does it make sense for someone to enter an MBA program with little or not full-time professional experience?”

A recent Wall Street Journal article, explored this issue in some depth. The article doesn’t really choose a side, but raises some interesting questions about how attractive a younger candidate is when he graduates at 24 with a fancy degree and very little work experience.

As we have said before, these schools’ reason for trying to attract younger candidates is that even Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB feel the need to hustle to get their hands on high-potential young professionals before other graduate schools (not just MBA programs) do. Stanford GSB’s Derrick Bolton said as much in the article: “When you see really talented people, you want to lock them in.”

But does it do a service to the student to lock them in so early? For us, it really comes down to whether those candidates enter business school with any significant professional experience under their belt. The HBS 2+2 Program gives new admits a chance to gain two years of experience before matriculating, although even these candidates still seem a bit young to us, thinking back to our time in business school and who seemed “with it” and who still seemed a little young to be taken seriously. But, at least those first-year students will have some professional experience, usually from blue-chip firms.

Other programs mentioned in the article, such as Stanford, will (on rare occasions) let someone matriculate straight out of college. While the rare student who does this is undoubtedly a remarkable young person who has already achieved a lot and demonstrated unheard of potential, they often still bring a level of naïveté that will induce the occasional groan from other classmates. I know, because I have see it firsthand.

And, as the WSJ article points out, the other audience to consider are professional recruiters. Here schools imply need to be pragmatic about what works and what doesn’t. If a school Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business (a fine MBA program) can’t easily place 24-year-old grads in great jobs from Harvard and Stanford still can, then it may simply mean that the “younger MBA” formula will only work for schools with strong enough brands.

At the end of the day, despite Harvard’s seeming push to get younger, we almost always advise an young applicant to wait an extra year or two before applying. That person’s application story will be stronger, his academic experience in business school will be richer, and his job candidacy will almost always be more appealing to future employers. Patience is a virtue, even in MBA admissions.

For more news and advice on getting into the world’s most competitive MBA programs, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

Stanford GSB Application Essays for 2010-2011

The Stanford Graduate School of Business has released its admissions essays for the 2010-2011 season. Bucking the trend that some other top business schools have exhibited so far this year, Stanford hasn’t made a single change to its essays. So, readers will notice that our advice mostly remains the same.

When you visit Stanford’s web site, note how much coaching the admissions committee gives applicants right on its essay page. When in doubt, start with the advice that they explicitly give you!

Here are Stanford’s admissions essays, followed by our comments in italics:

Stanford MBA Admissions Essays

  1. What matters most to you, and why? (750 words recommended, out of 1,800 total)

    This question has been around for years. Old-timers will remember that it used to have no word limit. Now, the essay’s 750-word limit forces applicants to be a little more economical with their words. With this essay, take Stanford’s advice to heart: “Truly, the most impressive essays are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us.” This question requires a great deal of introspection, after which you should create an essay that truly answers the question asked, whether or not you feel that it’s directly applicable to your candidacy. Obviously, the more relevant your essay is to the goal of getting into business school, the better, but where many Stanford applicants go wrong is by writing about grand ideas and using impressive-sounding words, rather than a real glimpse into who they are as a person. The latter makes for a much more interesting read and is, ultimately, much more effective in getting you into Stanford
  2. What are your career aspirations? How will your education at Stanford help you achieve them? (450 words recommended)

    This is the more common “Why do you want an MBA, and why this school?” question. Here you can feel more comfortable writing about the topics that business schools more often look for in their applications. Remember to keep it realistic and to demonstrate that you understand what the Stanford MBA experience will — and won’t — do for you as a growing professional. Again, you will do well to heed Stanford’s advice here: “Use this essay to explain your view of your future, not to repeat accomplishments from your past.”
  3. Answer two of the four 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. (300 words recommended for each)

    Option A: Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.

    Option B: Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization.

    Option C: Tell us about a time when you motivated others to support your vision or initiative.

    Option D: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected.

    As noted above, these essays all carry over unchanged from 2009-2010. What that tells us is that the Stanford admissions office likes what it got from applicants last year. For Option A, note the emphasis on “whose performance exceeded expectations”… Stanford wants applicants who can show strong results, and you need to show those results here. This is a classic Situation-Action-Result (“SAR”) question. Again, we love the “impact” idea in Option B… Stanford is looking for young professionals that leave a trail of success and positive, meaningful impact everywhere they go. If you have a good example to use, we strongly urge you to answer Option B.

    Over the past few years Option C has evolved from a question about overcoming an obstacle or failure to a question that gets at one version of leadership — motivating others to support your ideas. Stanford considers this type of persuasiveness a key ingredient in the future leaders that it wants to produce. Think of Option D as another results-oriented question that also gets at a core component of leadership: the ambition and ability to do more than what is listed in your job description. We think the way this question is phrased sounds a bit pedestrian, but a great response will show you you tackled a problem or pursued an opportunity (in the workplace or in your community) that would have otherwise gone ignored.

For more news and advice on getting into Stanford and other world-class business schools, be sure to subscribe to this blog and to follow us on Twitter!

Stanford GSB Application Now Online

In a brief note on the school’s web site, the Stanford Graduate School of Business announced yesterday that its application is now online for the 2009-2010 admissions season. You can access Stanford’s application here.

As we previously noted, Stanford has moved up its Round 1 application deadline to October 7th. In yesterday’s announcement, Stanford said that it may also extend interviews earlier this year. We expect that the school may send out invitations as soon s late October.

For more advice on applying to Stanford, take a look at our Stanford MBA essay analysis for the coming year. Take some time to study the changes in this year’s essays vs. last year’s… These should provide some clues as to what Stanford GSB looks for in its applicants.

To stay on top of all Stanford-related admissions news, follow us on Twitter!