Posted on December 22, 2021

Stanford GSB Essay Tips and Deadlines: 2021-22


Stanford's Graduate School of Business, the top Silicon Valley B-school, is one of the most selective business schools in the world. The school prides itself on innovation in the classroom and emphasis on new ideas and cutting-edge developments.

From the Stanford website, "Our global reputation is hard-earned. We offer unparalleled opportunities that will help you launch a meaningful career and make a positive impact on the world."

Application Deadlines

Round Application Deadline Admissions Decision
Round 1 09 Sep 2021 09 Dec 2021
Round 2 05 Jan 2022 31 Mar 2022
Round 3 12 Apr 2022 26 May 2022

Your completed application, including your letters of reference and application fee payment, is due at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time on the deadline date for the round in which you apply.

For additional information on applying, please visit the Stanford GSB admissions website.


Like previous years, the Stanford Graduate School of Business asks MBA applicants to submit the same two required essay questions. 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. We often find effective essays that are written in fewer words.

In addition, Stanford asks two optional short answer questions to allow applicants to share experiences that they could not present in the required essays.

Stanford GSB offers guidelines and advice on its website for writing essays: "Essays help us learn about who you are rather than solely what you have done. Other parts of the application give insight into your academic and professional accomplishments; the essays reveal the person behind those achievements. In each essay, we want to hear your genuine voice. Think carefully about your values, passions, aims, and dreams. There is no "right answer" to these questions— the best answer is the one that is truest for you."

Here is MER's analysis of Stanford GSB's essays:

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

This is one of the most challenging essays asked by the business schools, and Stanford has asked applicants this essay question for a long time now. This essay requires you to introspect and reflect on your experiences and lessons learned along the journey. The answer to this question will reveal the undisclosed profound side of the applicant that cannot be found anywhere in the application. This essay is an opportunity to demonstrate who you are, what motivates you, and why. We would like you to do some deep self-reflection, so you can genuinely illustrate who you are and how you became the person you are. Instead of focusing merely on what you have done or accomplished, share insights, experiences, and lessons that shaped your perspective. Write from the heart, and illustrate how a person, situation, or event has influenced you. Focus on the 'why' rather than the 'what.'

We are who we are because of the experiences and events that we have gone through in our life. To brainstorm ideas for this essay, you will need to look back and reflect on your past experiences- growing up years, schooling, college, professional life, volunteer activities, general interests, etc., and look for some common thread that runs through some or all of them. Since there is no direct answer to this essay, do not write a response right away. Instead, prewriting your experiences to identify a unifying theme would be of great help. Try to focus on life experiences that have shaped your values and priorities all these years. Don't shy away from sharing the challenging experiences– often, tough experiences make us stronger and instill a zeal to fight. Whatever stories you choose, focus on their impact on your life and your values.

As you recount your experiences, make sure to share your thought process- how you felt, thought, and reacted at that time and what lessons you eventually learned. I suggest providing a chronological account of events that have influenced your thoughts, values, and beliefs and have shaped you into the person you are now with your firm belief system and priorities. Please remember this essay is not directly about your accomplishments; it is about the values and perspectives that you have developed over the years. So, your focus must be on the events, people, and anecdotes that made you the unique person you are today. Also, elucidate here how you have translated your values into actions. This way, your accomplishments will naturally stem from your values and priorities.

Essay B: Why Stanford? (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.

The second essay concentrates on the candidates' career goals and reasons for pursuing a management degree at Stanford. After you have explained in the first essay what matters most to you in life, you need to tell why your next step is a Stanford MBA. Explain why you are interested in pursuing an MBA and why you specifically want to attend Stanford GSB. It would be best to clarify your goals and the additional training you require, which a Stanford MBA can provide.  Thorough research of the school's resources and curriculum will help you determine how the Stanford MBA program aligns with your aspirations. Instead of mapping out a specific career path in this essay, applicants should focus on defining the broad impact they aim to make on a service, a sector, or society. While Essay A is your opportunity to explain what matters most to you, Essay B allows you to show how you would use your time at Stanford to further your career and what matters most to you. In a way, Essay B picks up from where Essay A ends.

Be as specific as possible in your response to provide evidence that you have done your research. You should know everything about the aspects of the program that interest you the most. Talk about specific classes, programs, collaboration with other parts of the school, clubs, conferences, or other offerings that distinguish Stanford from other top business schools. Are there any particular courses that appeal to you most? Have you met current students and alumni? Have you attended any admission events that offered you additional insights about the programs and confirmed your decision to apply to Stanford? Are there any professors whose classes you are most excited about?

Stanford likes to see applicants who have big dreams and have the potential to realize those dreams. So be bold with your aspirations, but at the same time, be realistic in showing that you can fulfill your dreams.

Stanford MBA optional short-answer questions

"In this section, we provide an optional opportunity for you to discuss some of your contributions and background more fully.

Optional Question A: "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)."

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?

This essay is an opportunity to share an experience when you made a difference. You may not necessarily select a professional experience.  Stanford gives you an option to choose from any area of your life- professional, personal, academic, extracurricular. The key is to show how your actions are meaningful to you and others (community, organization, or a person). As always, we suggest following the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result/ Significance).

To meet the stringent word limit, make every word count.

Optional Question B: "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)."

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

This question allows you to share more about your identity, your background. Our background (family, city, country) influences our thoughts and actions. Reflect and dig deeper into your experiences and select an experience when you took action (in a professional or personal setting) because of who you are as a person. Make sure to choose a recent incident that reflects your personality.

Though these essays are optional, we strongly encourage you to write them to give Stanford additional insights into awesome candidacy. However, make sure that it does not repeat what you have already shared in Essay A.

Additional Information:

 If there is any information that is critical for us to know and is not captured elsewhere, include it in the "Additional Information" section of the application. Pertinent examples include:

  • Extenuating circumstances affecting your candidacy, including academic, work, or test-taking experiences
  • Academic experience (e.g., independent research) not noted elsewhere

As directed in the essay prompt, you may use this essay question to address a weakness in your profile. For example, suppose you have a lower than average GMAT score, any grades below a 'C' on your transcript, academic probation, or a significant employment/ education gap. In that case, you can explain that in this essay. Also, if you cannot get your recommendation letter from your current supervisor, you should explain that in the optional essay. Your response should be positive, straightforward, brief, and fact-focused and should not sound like you are making excuses for a weakness in your profile. To provide a context for a weakness in your profile, make sure your reason is genuine to convince the Ad Com that your low grades or employment gap occurred due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. First, explain the facts, then show how you have addressed the issue, and finally, conclude by explaining why this will not impact your ability to handle the program's academic rigor.

Your weakness may also bring out a positive aspect of your personality. For example, if you discuss your employment gap, you may explain that you did something productive during that period, such as traveling, volunteering, or handling a family medical emergency.

This question is entirely optional. If you don't have any areas of concern, you may not write this essay.

Common Myths about Admissions: Finally, please go through the video by Kristen Moss, Assistant Dean of admissions at Stanford, wherein she talks about common myths that some students have about admission to Stanford and what is most important in the application process.

Free Resources

10 Key Essay Tips with Examples

MER Students Share their Success Stories

Essay Analysis of Other Top Programs-2021-22

Case Studies

AIGAC Virtual Conference 2021: MER's Key Takeaways

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs, including Stanford. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

Do you have questions about your application? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.