What Matters Most To Stanford GSB And Why

What matters to Stanford

Recently, Stanford admissions expert, Kevin Richardson  hosted a webinar about How to Get Into Stanford Business School’s MBA Program.  If you haven’t watched it, Veritas Prep strongly encourages you to do so. If you prefer to read the recap, here are some key takeaways.

There are the essays and everything else

Things like your GMAT score and undergraduate GPA show you can do the work, keep up with the class and handle the academics, however they won’t get you in. Numbers do matter, but they only paint a small part of the picture. You might think that when it comes to the GMAT, the higher the better. However, that is not always true. A former admissions director shared with us that if a candidate can’t get in with a 710, chances are that same candidate won’t get in with a 740.

You may be asking, What about my resume and activities? Those will show what have you done in the past, but what makes or breaks an application are the essays. That’s what gets you in.

Stanford GSB has one of the most challenging essay questions: “What matters most to you and why?”

One bit of advice: Don’t force what you write for this essay to fit with your career goals. The “Why Stanford?” essay can focus more on your professional side. That being said, this essay could be about business or your life outside of work. Three tips for the what matters most essay.

  1. Get personal. Tell, better yet show, the admissions committee who you are and what you have to offer. Give them insight on what drives you. It’s often discussed that to get in to Stanford you need to have an X factor. We believe that the X factor is where authenticity–your truest self–meets uniqueness–how you stand out from everyone else. You can’t control unique. You don’t know who else is applying. The thing you do have control over is your own authenticity.
  2. Dig deep. They’re looking for maturity, which is usually uncovered by truly being introspective. Kevin says, “If you’re not at least a little bit uncomfortable with the level of depth you’re sharing, you’re probably not doing it right.”
  3. “What” is minor. “Why” is everything for Stanford. Arguably, no other program focuses as much on the why as Stanford does. Related to point #2, words like “I feel”, “I remember”, “I felt”, are critically important. Share specific occasions and experiences and talk about how they impacted you.

Some students get in despite a weak essay, but this is the essay that takes the average candidate above the mark.

The “Why Stanford?” essay

It’s important to have a deep understanding of Stanford. Some of you may think Stanford is all about high tech entrepreneurs. That’s a little bit misleading. Stanford is so much more than high tech and it’s not just about entrepreneurship. Stanford’s really about being an incubator for world leaders. It’s lofty, but true!

Your answer to the why Stanford essay should focus on business. It’s how the admissions committee determines if they can help you make an impact; if they can help you achieve what you want to achieve. The three things you’ll want to address in this essay are:

  1. What are your goals?
  2. What’s the gap?
  3. How is the GSB going to fit in with that?

Our advice here:

  1. Dream big. Have big goals. Stanford wants to steward top talent to maximize the GSB impact. Clearly describe how you are going to change the world and how you are going to change lives.
  2. Tell the reader what you have already done that will help them believe you can achieve those goals and what you are missing.
  3. Again, be authentic. As Kevin puts it, Stanford says: “You should do you, we’re going to do us.”

It’s impossible to write the perfect essay for Stanford because there’s no such thing. But is is possible to craft a set of essays that make the Stanford GSB admissions team feel like they know the real you. If you can do that — and paint a picture that makes it easy for them to imagine you as a GSB student and alum — then there’s a good chance they’ll want to get to know you even more.


Do you dream of getting into Stanford? We offer a free consultation with one of our MBA admissions experts!

Kevin Richardson is a Consultant at Veritas Prep , the largest privately-owned test prep and admissions consulting company in the world. Since 2002, Veritas Prep has helped thousands of applicants gain admission to their dream schools using its team of experienced consultants and a personalized game plan for each client.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.