Stanford Graduate School of Business Essay Analysis 2017 – 2018

Last updated on August 31st, 2017

Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you’re looking at applying for the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) program this year, I can tell you what you need to know about the Stanford program, and how to address the very tricky essays for 2017-18.


Well, first let’s look at the Stanford program. Arguably, it competes with Harvard as one of the top B-Schools in the world. Stanford has a class with very high GMAT scores, and a very diverse peer set.


Now let’s look at Stanford’s real USPs. The first is, Stanford has just 400 students and if you want to compare it with Harvard which has about 900, Stanford takes pride in the fact that it has a small class so there is a lot of bonhomie among the students. There is more connection and personal touch, which dovetails to a personalized program.


Starting from the first year itself, you can pick the electives. Stanford allows the students to tailor their courses. This aspect, and the small class size makes the program more personal than let’s say Harvard. But there is another thing about Stanford that is very unique. Stanford is in the heart of Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley, as we know, is the birthplace of most of the significant technology players – Google, Yahoo, and Apple. If you think about it, it fosters this sense of entrepreneurship. It’s a very cultural thing in Stanford, where you’re enamored by all these entrepreneurs around you. You get inspired by them, and you want to start something on your own. So, if you’re an entrepreneur in the technology space, the bay area is where you need to go; Silicon Valley is where you should be. What other place than Stanford for this?


Stanford MBA Deadlines – 2017-2018


Round 1

Application Deadline: September 19, 2017

Notification Date: December 14, 2017


Round 2

Application Deadline: January 10, 2018

Notification Date: March 29, 2018


Round 3

Application Deadline: April 4, 2018

Notification Date: Mid-May 2018


Let’s get into the essays if you have not already done so. You may have already realized that the biggest challenge is the first essay.



2017-2018 Stanford GSB Essay Questions


Essay A: What matters most to you, and why? (750 words)


For this essay, we would like you 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.”


This essay has been there for several years, and we’ve helped many students from CrackVerbal in writing this essay. So one thing I usually say about this essay is that you need to pick that one grain, that one single thing. I will give you some a couple of examples, which will help you understand the thinking process.


One of our students from CrackVerbal who was in IT wrote about how he had gone to Nigeria and was actually mugged by armed robbers who kept a gun to his head. He had a providential escape; he was an inch away from being dead as such people are often high on drugs. He said that it was the point when he realized what matters. This was not Stanford asking him a question but a question he asked himself. He said, “I was away from my family. What would have happened if I died?  Would people really remember me for the money that I earned, or the stuff that I have?” He realized that what mattered to him the most was the people around him. “People” could be family, friends, or the community. He then quit his job, came back to India, and started something in the area of social entrepreneurship. He wanted to give back to society because he felt that the biggest legacy he could have was what he could give back to society, not what he could take from society. That’s the kind of story that gets you thinking, right? What is that one thing! In this case, what mattered most to him was the impact he could create.


There is another story of a student who had written about how he actually he had worked in various sectors, and he then picked entrepreneurship. He said why being an entrepreneur meant so much to him. Here again, it is about impact. How he was able to give back, and in this case, it was not “not for profit”; it was a “for profit” organization, but he said that the biggest jumps that happened in the history of human civilization happened because someone somewhere decided to do things differently. There was some innovation that was happening; not invention but innovation, there is a difference. Someone said they are not going to do something in this way, but were going to do it in a different way.  That’s when progress really happened for mankind. What really mattered to him was innovation; doing things differently. He said he was not someone who was happy with status quo.


When you have 750 words, it’s a lot. You need to take multiple stories and thread them to an underlying theme. You could have a story of when you were growing up, a story of what happened in college, a story of what happened at work, but all of this must be woven into the underlying theme. It’s very important that you bring in your personal aspect. Don’t make it look like a resume. Don’t make it look like some bullet points you’re reading through. It should be personal; it should be about you. It should make them want to meet you because you sound interesting; make them wonder what else they can learn from you. That’s the kind of impact you need to have!



Essay B: Why Stanford? (400 words, or 450 words if applying to both the MBA and MSx programs)

Enlighten us on how earning your 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.


If you think about this essay, it cannot be answered by going through the laundry list of things Stanford is known for. In fact, that’s the biggest trap people fall into when they try to address this essay. They go to the Stanford website and say, “oh, it’s in Silicon Valley’. How does that matter to you? Then people write that Stanford has a great network, but you need to write how the network matters to you.  You need to connect “why Stanford” to your personal cause; what is it that you want to do, and how you think that Stanford will enable you in that mission, in that journey.  Unless and until you make that connection, it’s a waste of your time.


Here’s a litmus test. For every sentence that you write, ask yourself, “Is this a sentence only I could have written?” because it has to be unique to you as it ties back to the requirements you have from a B-School. If it is going to be a sentence that anyone could have written, it’s probably not going to be worth the real estate of your application essay.


We’ve discussed the two essays; there is also an optional essay. As I say for most optional essays, make sure that the optional essay covers something that addresses something that is deficient; it could be a gap in your employment, or a gap in your education. It should be something that you think is important information for them to know. The mistakes which students make in optional essays is that they try to retrofit a story. It’s like, “I have this bunch of stories that I want to tell a B-School. I have gone through five of them;  there are these two orphan stories and I don’t know what to do”. Then you see an optional essay, and you say, “Wow! Here is the time for me to plug it in.” Don’t do that. You will do more disservice to your application by writing things that are random than by not writing anything at all. Keep that in mind, and wish you all the best for your Stanford MBA application. If you think you want an another pair of eyes to look at your application, if you want someone who is been there and done that to vet your stories, someone who comes from maybe an Indian perspective or way of looking at it, someone with an Ivy league MBA. If you think that would help, let us know, using the link below.