The Best MBA Essay Advice For Stanford, Columbia & Berkeley

Stanford GSB’s Knight Center, Photo Credit: Elena Zhukova

Stanford GSB MBA Essay Advice

When it comes to the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) MBA essays, brevity is key.

The GSB, which ranks #1 in P&Q’s Top Business Schools ranking, requires applicants to respond to two essays—both in under 1,050 words. mbaMission, an MBA admissions consulting firm, recently offered insight into Stanford GSB’s essays and what applicants should highlight in each.


The first essay asks applicants the following:

What matters most to you, and why? For this essay, we would like you to reflect deeply and write from the heart. Once you’ve identified what matters most to you, help us understand why. You might consider, for example, what makes this so important to you? What people, insights, or experiences have shaped your perspectives?

While the official word limit is 1,050 words, mbaMission actually recommends that applicants aim closer to 650 words for the first essay, highlighting that the most effective essays get the point across in fewer words. This prompt is purposely left open-ended. As mbaMission notes, there is no right answer to this question.

“We therefore encourage you to contemplate this question in depth and push yourself to explore the psychological and philosophical motivations behind your goals and achievements—behind who you are today,” according to mbaMission. “We cannot emphasize this enough: do not make a snap decision about the content of this essay. Once you have identified what you believe is an appropriate theme, discuss your idea(s) with those with whom you are closest and whose input you respect. Doing so can help validate deeply personal and authentic themes, leading to an essay that truly stands out.”


The second essay prompt asks applicants the following:

Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford GSB experience will help you realize them.

Similar to essay one, essay two doesn’t have a right answer either. Rather, as mbaMission highlights, GSB is wants applicants to tell their story in their voice.

“This means it does not have a preferred job or industry in mind that it is waiting to hear you say you plan to enter,” according to mbaMission. “It really just wants to understand your personal vision and why you feel a Stanford MBA (or MSx) in particular is necessary to facilitate this vision. If you try to present yourself as someone or something you are not, you will ultimately undermine your candidacy.”

Sources: mbaMission, P&Q

Next Page: Columbia Business School MBA Essay Advice

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