Stanford. Another name that symbolizes dedication to excellence of education. It is a beacon, which burns bright for the business minded individuals. Many apply. Few are interviewed. Fewer still are admitted. Read on to learn what it takes to be of the select few that are fortunate enough to join the ranks at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Stanford has consistently called upon applicants – in both recent and past years – to demonstrate that they meet three key criteria: intellectual vitality, demonstrated leadership potential, and personal qualities and contributions. Demonstrating these criteria is a must-do in your application essays, the first of which in recent years has simply asked, “What matters most to you, and why?"

How to Demonstrate Your 'Fit' for

Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB)

Stanford has consistently called upon applications – in both recent and past years – to demonstrate that they meet three key criteria: intellectual vitality, demonstrated leadership potential, and personal qualities and contributions.  Demonstrating these criteria is a must-do in your application essays, the first of which in recent years has simply asked, “What matters most to you, and why?”

In other words, Stanford is seeking students with vision and a desire to make a contribution to the world through their professional careers.  They want students who are driven to make innovative change in their careers and lives.  As they review your application, they’re looking for evidence that you stand for something real, that you have a specific legacy you’re trying to build and clear desire to add value to others.  As such, you must make your case to GSB that you’re not simply going to business school in the interest of making money, that you have a mission and clear vision for where you’re headed – not only directly post-MBA, but long term.

Consistent with this idea, Stanford champions its innovative entrepreneurship program, which is rooted in the opportunities presented by Stanford’s location near Silicon Valley.  Where better to learn innovative entrepreneurship and leadership skills? So while its students are not asked to choose majors, Stanford offers many entrepreneurship-focused electives, including classes that are entrepreneurship-linked, including venture capitalism, private equity, and business model development.  As such, if you have entrepreneurial aspirations, Stanford may be the perfect fit for you.  Do not, however, fall victim to the temptation to describe fake entrepreneurial aspirations (as some students do, simply to articulate fit).  Even if you don’t want to start a business, Stanford has much to offer you.

Note that Stanford also has a reputation for having a quantitatively-heavy academic curriculum, so applicants should work hard to stress their quantitative aptitude in their applications in their effort to demonstrate fit.  Your GMAT (or GRE) quant scores will be focused on, and if you didn’t do as well as you wanted on the test, you must provide solid examples of situations where you’ve succeeded in conducting quantitative analysis and working with numbers.  Similarly, Stanford will pay close attention to your undergraduate transcript as evidence of your quant abilities and your ability to succeed in a challenging academic environment.  GBS and HBS are known to be the two programs that pay particularly close attention to the reputation of your undergraduate institution.  So if you did not go to a prestigious university, be sure to argue why your academic background is impressive.

Stanford puts its students into study groups of 4 or 5, and those groups work together on academic assignments on a daily basis.  Successful candidates are those who can demonstrate an ability to work well with others and provide examples of successes experienced in team environments.

Stanford typically asks 2 essays, the second of which asks simply, “Why Stanford?”  They want applicants who can articulate a genuine passion for the GSB program and can describe the lengths they’ve gone to to learn more about the program.  Visiting the GSB campus goes a long way, and you should make an effort to interact with current students and mention these interactions in your essays.  Similarly, you should articulate how you plan to take advantage of the various programs and student clubs that GSB offers and how such programs will support you in your pursuit of your future goals for contribution.

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