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  • Writer's pictureMalvika Patil

Stanford GSB MBA Essay Analysis 2023 - 2024

Updated: Jan 30

Stanford GSB’s MBA application essay questions for the 2023-2024 cycle remain unchanged from previous years. There are 2 core essays with a combined word limit of 1050, and Stanford recommends using 650 words for Essay A and 400 for Essay B. Stanford also asks two optional questions: a short-answer essay and an additional information essay.

Let’s explore each in turn.

Stanford GSB MBA Essay 1

What matters most to you, and why? (Suggested Word Count: 650 words)

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?

The question may look simple enough, but it isn’t easy to think of what matters most to you. This is a deeply personal essay, and Stanford’s advice to “reflect deeply and write from the heart” is sound, but vague. Identifying what matters most to you may lead you to answers like “helping people” or “success”, but these are ultimately banal goals that the Admissions Committee will roll their eyes at.

Simply being told to self-reflect and find a value or purpose that matters most to you may work for some. But if you’re struggling to reach into past experiences and come up with an impactful story, here’s some tips you can use:

  • Start with a story:

Instead of starting with a strong statement about what matters most to you, work backwards. Choose an impactful story that will serve to tackle the second part of the question “why does this matter”. This story could be from any period in your life - your upbringing, undergrad, professional life, or personal commitments. Ensure that your story is sincere and unique to you, even if it’s uncomfortable to write about.

For example: “My generation was the first to use social media as we know it. In the early days of Myspace, YouTube, and Facebook, we were also the first to experience anonymity on the internet. Then came the bullying. In college, I had my private information leaked and started receiving threats. Eventually, people moved on, but I never forgot. Over the years, I saw cases of stalking, self-harm, and suicide due to a lack of digital security. It was easy to access anyone’s information if you knew where to look.”

  • What matters most:

This story should naturally lead into “what matters most to you”. This may be linked to your professional purpose. Remember to get into the specifics - this makes your statement look more realistic and distinctive.

For example: ”What matters most to me is ensuring that children and teenagers growing up in a rapidly digitizing India are able to navigate cyber spaces safely. I want to work with the Indian government to design effective, home-grown digital security and crisis management solutions.”

  • Connect it to the choices you’ve made:

A good essay will clearly portray your core values and priorities in life. To do this, connect your story to your career trajectory and personal commitments. Explain how your purpose led you to make important personal and professional choices, but don’t just focus on your accomplishments. Talk about the risks you took, the trade-offs you made, and even your failures/challenges.

  • Bring in your goals:

Next, align what matters most to you with your short and long term goals. Be specific and outline the role, industry, and geography you plan to work in. Your goals should be ambitious but realistic, and should also briefly touch upon how a Stanford MBA will help you achieve them.

Stanford GSB MBA Essay 2

Why Stanford? (Suggested Word Count: 400 words)

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.

This question is more direct and clear. In this essay, you’ll explain in depth how the Stanford GSB MBA fits into your goals.

We recommend using the following structure:

  • Describe your aspirations:

Begin by recapping your professional purpose and goals. Highlight key responsibilities and objectives you plan to work on as part of these goals.

  • Skills you need:

What skills do you already have, and which ones will you need for your target roles? Explain the gaps that you need to fill (for which you will need an MBA).

  • How Stanford will help:

Now, describe how Stanford GSB specifically will help you fill those skill gaps. It’s not just any other MBA program - what is it about Stanford that makes you want to study there? Discuss unique aspects of the curriculum, opportunities like internships or international programs, interesting faculty, extracurriculars and student-led clubs, school culture, and network. Don’t just stick to your online research; reach out to alumni and current students to get an insider’s perspective on the school, particularly those who are in your target post-MBA industry.

Stanford GSB MBA Optional Short Answer Question

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? (Up to 3 examples; 1,200 characters, or approximately 200 words, for each example)

This question may be marked optional, but we strongly recommend that you complete it. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your impact and achievements, especially if you weren’t able to fully explore this topic in your previous essays.

Stanford wants applicants to “go beyond the resume” to discuss their contributions. We like to say that past achievements are a strong indicator of future impact, and this is exactly what the school hopes to see.

Choose 1-3 examples that speak to your abilities and potential as an effective leader. We recommend a mix of professional, extracurricular, and personal stories. Ensure that these are relatively recent and quantify your impact to make it clearer to readers outside your industry. Use the SCAR (Situation, Action, Challenge, Result) structure to provide details about your story, and analyze the lessons you learned.

Keep in mind Stanford’s mission statement - “Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world”. This will help you better align your examples with the school’s values.

Stanford GSB MBA Optional Additional Information

We know that each person is more than a list of facts or pre-defined categories. With this question we provide you with an optional opportunity to elaborate on how your background or life experiences have helped shape your recent actions or choices. (1,200 characters, maximum)

Most business schools provide applicants with some extra space to write about crucial aspects of their profile that haven’t been appropriately explored in the essays. This includes any discrepancies in your background, like low grades, gaps or overlaps in employment, a low GMAT/GRE score, or choice of recommenders.

If you have any such extenuating circumstances you’d like to discuss, add them here briefly. Focus on addressing the concern and how you grew from it. Unlike other essays that allow for storytelling, this essay should be concise, ideally using up only 100-150 words.


You might also want to check out our Stanford MBA Interview Guide for in-depth insights into Stanford's interview process, what they're looking for in prospective candidates, interview schedule and questions for 2024, and tips to ace your interview. 

For the full Stanford GSB MBA application course with example essays based on real essays by previous applicants, check out the Stanford GSB application program on

We help determined applicants get admitted to top business schools. Get in touch if you think we can help you with your MBA application. Book a free 20 mins chat now.

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