Why Stanford? Seems straightforward at first blush, right? Corralling the material you need to answer this classic MBA essay question is more challenging than you might think.
In this article, MBA Prep School delivers a fresh way to approach your “Why Stanford?” essay along with some practical advice on ways to make your essay stand out from other applicants’ essays.
Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford GSB experience will help you realize them.
Where Do We Begin?
To get started, imagine structuring your essay like a documentary film with three acts.
The first act of the movie must introduce the audience to your sense of purpose: a deeper motivation that has directed your career thus far and will undoubtedly drive your future endeavors.
The second act presents your desired destination: your career goals.
The last act, which is the most important to your target audience of Stanford admissions officers, explains why you need a Stanford MBA to continue your quest and ultimately reach the pinnacle of your career.
Developing Your Essay
Taking a cinematic approach to developing your essay will energize your imagination and help you capture rich detail in your writing.
Expressing your hopes and dreams to an outsider is never easy. By visualizing yourself as a character in a film, you may be better able to take a step back and describe where you have been and where you want to go from a perspective that the Stanford admissions committee will understand and appreciate.
Another benefit of the cinematic approach is that it provides a workable structure for Stanford Essay B: a hero’s journey where we meet you (the hero), learn where you dream of going in your career, and then understand how Stanford is going to prepare you to get there.
Always keep in mind that a successful essay will convey a sense of passion and emotion, not only for attending Stanford but also for the exciting career that awaits you on the other side.
Before taking on “Why Stanford?”, the heart of the essay, you must establish your career progress up to now, while providing a brief account of your professional strengths and weaknesses.
You’ll want to be upfront and honest about what you are missing for the journey ahead. Self-awareness denotes maturity, and a degree of humility is valued by the admissions office. Be assured that every applicant has some holes in their credentials—if not, there would be no reason for them to attend Stanford.
For example, MBA candidates typically lack leadership experience and their business exposure is often one-dimensional. GSB prides itself on expanding the horizons of its students and preparing aspiring leaders to become agents of change.
Before you write a word about why you want to attend Stanford, do your homework about the unique areas in which Stanford GSB excels. Visit campus, sit in on classes, talk to students, meet with alumni, and sign up for informational blogs and emails. It’s not difficult to become well-informed about the place, but it does demand time and effort.
However, your “Why Stanford?” essay will collapse if all you do is name a few classes, clubs, and professors, and offer knee-jerk praise of the alumni network. Your objective is to clearly connect the opportunities you discuss to your developmental goals.
In addition to leadership training, three main themes stand out in Stanford’s self-profile: innovation, a global view, and improving the human condition. Sixteen percent of students start companies upon graduating, often in tech and often in Silicon Valley. Innovation includes teaching methods and quirky campus traditions (Take a Professor to Lunch). Grounding your discussion of what draws you to Stanford to one or more of these key themes may help you show your fit for the school.
Obviously, GSB has many strengths, and you cannot discuss them all. Focus your essay on the greatest benefits of attending Stanford to you personally. Don’t forget to logically connect the skills and knowledge Stanford will help you to gain with the gaps you revealed in your first paragraph.
The Stanford MBA program believes in thinking and dreaming big; the school’s motto is, “Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world.”
Kirsten Moss, the director of MBA admissions at Stanford, says that what remains constant at GSB is “our students’ commitment to becoming leaders who will transform their industries and communities.”
Your “documentary” will be a hit with Kirsten & Company if you keep our cinematic approach in mind while designing and writing your essay. You want your readers to be cheering for you to succeed and you must convince them that Stanford GSB is the perfect next step in your hero’s journey.