Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted
Planning to apply to Stanford GSB? You’re in good company – Stanford received over 8000 applications for the class of 2018, and only accepted about 6%. Those stats are daunting. How can you convince Stanford that you deserve a coveted seat in its next MBA class? Showing that you belong at Stanford is the goal of your application. If the adcom doesn’t see a “fit” between your background and goals on the one hand and the way Stanford sees itself on the other, you will have a hard time persuading them that Stanford’s the right program for you – and more importantly, that you are the right applicant for them.
So, how can you convince the application readers that you belong at Stanford?
Here are four crucial ways:
1. Show that you have the aptitude and study skills to thrive at Stanford GSB, the school with the highest average GPA and GMAT of any U.S. MBA program.
Every so often I hear from applicants that their GPA or GMAT/GRE doesn’t represent their ability. I believe them. However, if those stats don’t show the exceptional intellect and academic ability to thrive at Stanford, you will need to prove those qualities in another way. And it isn’t easy.
2. Show that you have a goal requiring an MBA from Stanford.
This foundational step is a basic and indispensable part of your application process. It requires you to have thought deeply about your goals, and how a Stanford MBA will help you achieve them. You need to use your application, especially the second essay, to show how specific features of Stanford’s curriculum, as well as extracurricular activities, entrepreneurial networks, and other opportunities, will help you realize those goals. Remember – it’s not the adcom’s job to connect the dots for you. That’s your job. You must do your research to show that a Stanford MBA is the perfect bridge between where you are now and where you want to go.
3. Show that you support Stanford GSB’s mission –
“Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world” – and meet its criteria of a) Intellectual vitality, b) Demonstrated leadership potential, and c) Personal qualities and contributions.
In terms of the motto, establish that you’re a change agent. For the criteria, demonstrate the intellectual curiosity and leadership potential Stanford seeks. How can you meet the third criterion regarding personal contributions? By highlighting, throughout your application that you are someone who has contributed in the past (to your organization, to your community, etc.). Discuss in your essays, job and activity descriptions, and resume those times when your participation made a positive difference to your team, club, employer, church, or whatever organization lucky enough to have you as an active member. Keep in mind the admissions axiom: past behavior predicts future behavior. If you contributed in the past, they’re likely to see your potential to contribute in the future.
4. Show that you will bring your distinctive background, perspective, or experience to the Stanford GSB community.
(You’re right. This is another aspect of contribution and Stanford’s third criterion, but it’s important and I have more to say about it.) Stanford is looking for people who will add to the diversity of its class and enhance the rich learning environment in its classroom. Unique aspects of your identity, your deeds, and your ideas will best present your ability to add a special hue to the classroom mosaic and a distinctive voice to teams, classrooms, and ultimately the alumni community.
Take advantage of the space you have in your application (essays, CV, job history, and later the interview) to show your perfect fit with Stanford’s mission and opportunities, as well as your ability to be a stand-out student and distinctive contributor. When you succeed in presenting an application that succeeds in these four areas, you’ll be well on your way to proving you belong at Stanford!
Not quite sure how to apply all this advice? Still anxious about your Stanford application? Take a look at our webinar, How to Get Accepted to Stanford GSB, presented by Accepted founder Linda Abraham and take your application strategy to the next level.
Linda Abraham is the founder of Accepted, the premier admissions consultancy. She has coached MBA applicants to acceptance for over 20 years. The Wall Street Journal, US News, and Poets & Quants are among the media outlets that seek her admissions expertise.
DON’T MISS: 2017-2018 MBA Application Deadlines
When you sit down to write your MBA essay, there are certain things you should aim for: a clear, realistic goal; examples from your experience to show your skills and personal qualities in action; a personable tone that makes the adcom want to get to know you better.
But I really want to discuss common essay writing mistakes that you should stay away from! Here they are:
DON’T use jargon and buzzwords
Loading your sentences with buzzwords is a surefire way to make the adcom’s eyes glaze over. Some applicants use jargon because they think it makes them sound like experts; some resort to it because they just aren’t used to explaining their ideas in plain language. Sometimes you’ll need to use technical language in your essay, but if you read your draft and find that it’s packed with industry jargon, it’s time to do some rewriting. It’ll make your essay more original and unique – and sound more like you.
DON’T make grand, unsupported claims
Don’t just make grandiose statements about your values or personal qualities; illustrate them. “I’m passionate about helping people” doesn’t mean much without supporting details. It’s better to tell a story about the public service project you created in your community and illustrate how it impacted you.
Complaining about your application blemishes only draws attention to them. If you aren’t happy with your GPA, then take responsibility for your grades, and if relevant, provide context that explains why you did poorly…and then move on. If possible, portray your liabilities as assets by discussing the ways in which you’ve grown from your experiences, or point to times when you excelled in similar circumstances. But please, keep the tone mature. Nobody likes a crybaby.
DON’T be sloppy
This is one of the most common essay writing errors – but also one of the easiest to fix! Don’t submit without carefully proofreading your essays and checking for typos, spelling mistakes, and errors in grammar and usage. And don’t just use your computer’s spellcheck. It’s helpful to have someone else proofread your essay, too. A sloppy, error-filled essay sends a message to your readers that you are sloppy, lazy, rushed, or apathetic (or all of the above!), so make sure your essay is polished and represents you well.
Your MBA essay provides you with an opportunity to show off your best qualifications, ideas, and goals to the admissions committee. DON’T blow this chance by making one of these avoidable mistakes! DO be careful to write an essay that truly portrays your best self.
Want to learn more about common application mistakes and how to guard against them? Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your MBA Application Essays – free, today.
Linda Abraham is the founder ofAccepted, the premier admissions consultancy. She has coached MBA applicants to acceptance for over 20 years. The Wall Street Journal, US News, and Poets & Quants are among the media outlets that seek her admissions expertise