Stanford Recycles Last Year’s MBA Essays

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business apparently likes the hurdles it put MBA applicants through this past year because the school has confirmed that it will repeat the exact same essay questions for candidates for the 2016-2017 admissions season, including its perennial favorite “What matters most to you, and why?”

Stanford, which had already set a first round application deadline of Sept. 21, said the two required personal essays may not exceed 1,150 words (1,200 words if you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs). The school’s release of its essay questions follows Harvard Business School’s announcement earlier this week to change its one essay question yet again (see Harvard’s New Essay For MBA Applicants).

The only very slight change this year? “Stanford is providing less guidance in terms of formatting and thus allowing GSB applicants to exercise and demonstrate a little judgment,” says Linda Abraham, founder of, a prominent admissions consulting firm.

Essay A: What matters most to you, and why?

For this essay, the school says it would like applicants 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.”

Essay B: Why Stanford?

For this essay, the school asks applicants to enlighten its admissions team on how earning an 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. S

“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,” the school said.

Essay Suggested Word Count
Essay A 750
Essay B 400
Essay B (if applying to both the MBA and MSx programs) 450

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