Stanford GSB has come out with their essay topics for 2022 MBA applicants (for the deadlines, you can head here). The essay topics remain unchanged, including the optional essay section.

While the two main prompts may appear to be simple, they are commonly considered some of the most challenging application questions among top MBAs. So, before you tackle them, be sure to dig into Stanford’s MBA program, as one of the keys to success here is to first understand what Stanford GSB can offer you and how you would fit into the Stanford community.


Essay A: 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?

It’s easy to rush in and develop a response that focuses on your career, but you should try to avoid this at all costs. What Stanford really wants to understand here is your most central passion. Whether it’s related to your personal activities, occupation or a long-term goal is of secondary importance.

Naturally, a lot of applicants are unsure about what their essay’s ‘it’ might be. If that’s your case, focus on how you can discover ‘it.’ Try keeping a list of ideas that trigger strong positive or negative emotional responses from you. Reflect on any major changes in your life; what deep-rooted concepts drove these changes? You might even draw inspiration by auditing your library; what topics are you most consistently attracted to? Keep in mind that the relevance of this topic to you and your experiences is more important than the uniqueness of the topic itself.

After you’ve zeroed in on what matters most, concentrate on the why. Stanford loves storytellers, especially ones who develop intelligent and vulnerable narratives. So don’t hesitate to use vivid examples or dialogue to connect with your readers. If you’re unsure of which stories to choose, replay them in your mind to see whether they elicit a strong response in you.

Essay B: Why Stanford?

  • Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford GSB experience will help you realize them.
  • If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.

When answering this question, start by explaining the reason behind your desire to pursue an MBA. To do so, concentrate on a career path that would be impactful while remaining attainable. Stanford wants dreamers who understand how to navigate the ‘real world’ and know how to accomplish their goals within it.

Once you’ve figured out what you’re aiming for post-MBA, research how Stanford will help you get there. This section should be full of concrete examples. Mention courses, professors, cultural or any other aspects of Stanford’s program. Moreover, these examples should connect unique Stanford attributes to your unique needs. If you remain too general in your statements, Stanford’s likely to surmise one of two things: either that you don’t know what you truly need to accomplish your goals or that you didn’t care to spend much time learning about Stanford’s program.

Lastly, if you are going to apply to both Stanford’s MBA and MSx programs, use the extra space available here to show how both programs would strongly meet your requirements. While one might be preferable, stress the fit of both options.

Optional Short-Answer Questions: Before we get to the actual questions, let’s include an important note from Stanford.

What do we mean by “optional”? We truly mean you have the opportunity to choose. In evaluating your application, we want to know about who you are, what you have done, and how your background may have influenced your experiences. If you feel that you’ve already addressed these questions well in other areas of the application, congratulations, you’re done! If not, feel free to use this opportunity to tell us more by answering one or both questions.

The take away from these instructions should be Stanford’s call to self-reflection. You should take the time to consider your profile, as well as the stories you’ve chosen to share in your essays, in order to identify whether you’ve hit the right notes (or compensated for the wrong ones) with regards to what Stanford is looking for from someone like you.

Optional Short-Answer Question 1: Think about times you’ve created a positive impact, whether in professional, extracurricular, academic, or other settings. What was your impact? What made it significant to you or to others?

In the Essays section of the application, we ask you to tell us about who you are and how you think Stanford will help you achieve your aspirations. We are also interested in learning about the things you have done that are most meaningful to you. If you would like to go beyond your resume to discuss some of your contributions more fully, you are welcome to share up to three examples (up to 1,200 characters, or approximately 200 words, for each example).

This essay hits one point that Stanford greatly prides itself on: making a difference. Ideal GSB applicants should have that same desire. And there’s few better ways to illustrate your drive to create impact than by showing examples when you’ve actually done so.

Here, it’s best to first reflect on the various instances in your life when your actions or presence has led to a significant change. And, in this case, something significant could also be something very personal. Most times, you won’t want to focus on professional activities, as that may make you come across as someone who’s overly work-oriented or, even worse, someone who’s simply rewriting their CV. Focusing on the human aspect of examples is really vital for this question.

Once you’ve thought of various possibilities, choose the options that best complement your application and best reflect Stanford’s culture. With 200 words per example, you will have enough space to bring pathos and color into your stories, but you’ll need to use it wisely.

Optional Short-Answer Question 2: Tell us about a time within the last three years when your background influenced your participation in a situation, interaction, or project.

We know that each person is more than a list of facts or pre-defined categories. We are interested in how your background may have influenced your life experiences. In answering this question, consider how your background, such as your work, education, skills, interests, culture, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, where/how you grew up, and/or other factors had an impact on your recent actions and choices (up to 1,200 characters, or approximately 200 words).

Stanford is well known to be particularly—but not uniquely—interested in candidates who have either overcome difficult circumstances or have helped others to do so. While considering this prompt, it would be best to first identify examples from your past experiences that manage to incorporate one or both parts of this formula, especially if you didn’t get the chance to include a story with a similar theme in the rest of your application.

If you don’t have any examples available, this question could alternatively be used to address a cross-cultural situation at work or beyond, or even a ‘fish out of water’ story. Just keep in mind that, since this question is optional, it’s only worth adding a story that is a positive contribution to your application. If it’s forced, generic or could come across as boasting, it may be best to leave this space blank.

Stanford’s essay length instructions:

Both essays combined may not exceed 1,050 words. We recommend up to 650 words for Essay A and up to 400 words for Essay B.  

As the MBA with the lowest acceptance rate, Stanford GSB will require you to employ a powerful admissions strategy to maximize your chances. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to talk with our Stanford Admissions Experts and start developing the ideal strategy for you.

Published On: June 30th, 2022 / Categories: Essay, MBA, Stanford / Tags: , , /