Stanford Essay: “Why Stanford?” Breakdown

Essay B for Stanford GSB will essentially ask you to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing.  Namely, the essay wants to know, A) why you’re seeking to earn an MBA, and B) why you’re seeking to earn an MBA at Stanford, specifically.  Verbatim, the essay asks the following of you:

  • Explain your decision to pursue graduate education in management.
  • Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.

Keeping with the suggested word count that the Stanford GSB site supplies for you, this essay is expected to be about 450 words in length.  Let’s take a look at how to tackle this essay.

1. Frame career goals and state why an MBA is necessary to achieve them (~150 words)

  • The first thing that I did in my essay was state my career goal and expand on the statement a bit.  I wanted to establish a bit of overlap between Essay A and this essay to really get across the idea that what I’m passionate about penetrates all areas of my life, including the decision to apply to business school.
  • The problem of unequal educational opportunity is widespread and unjust, and is one that I intend to remedy. My long-term career goal is to launch or join a major startup dedicated to bettering education and creating educational opportunities where they do not currently exist. I look at startups like Codeacademy and Coursera that have advanced the field of education and I know that, provided with the right tools and experience, I can excel at doing the same.

  • Next, I began to establish why getting an MBA was going to be a necessary step in ultimately reaching my career goals.  Keep in mind that I applied to deferred admission at Stanford GSB, so my essay mentions what I’ll do before arriving at Stanford.  However, it still focuses on the fact that those experiences will not be enough to get me to where I ultimately want to be.  I will need an MBA for that.
  • Over the next two years I will continue to gain experience in the fields of marketing, entrepreneurship, and technology by means of working full-time and tending to my budding startup. While this time will give me crucial insights into how businesses operate, I know that an MBA education will be necessary to move beyond this and towards my ultimate goal.

2. Reference something that you need in order to accomplish your goals and how Stanford can help (~50 words per “something,” repeat 3 or 4 times)

  • Now that you’ve established that an MBA is necessary for you to achieve your career goals, you need to demonstrate why that is the case and why Stanford is the place that you want/need to help you.  Think about things you’ll need in order to get to the next level in your career.  Does this next step require strategic planning skills?  Or perhaps you need more knowledge in entrepreneurship.  List out what you’re lacking.  Next, go on the Stanford GSB site and find out what Stanford offers that can fill in these gaps.  Name specific courses, programs, clubs, etc.  This is how you’ll cover the “Why Stanford?” piece of the essay and show that you’ve done your research.
  • I would recommend choosing a different media to fulfill each “need.”  That is, don’t pick a course that can fill in gap 1, another course that can fill in gap 2, and a third course that can fill in gap 3.  Try to pull from different areas of the school.  Maybe reference some specific course, a club or two, and an international program offered.  This shows that you are planning on pursuing opportunities that Stanford offers across the board, and admissions officers love involved students.
  • One final piece of advice is to try to tailor your selections to what Stanford is known for and good at.  For example, Stanford is essentially unparalleled in both entrepreneurial spirit and location in Palo Alto.  These are things that you cannot get at every b-school.  They are what make Stanford Stanford, and so deserve special consideration and reference, in my opinion.
  • Below are some examples from my essay on how I referenced something that I needed from an MBA education and how Stanford, specifically, would help.
  • I have learned that founding a startup requires superior strategic planning skills, skills that are hard to cultivate without being in a managerial position. Through courses such as “Create a New Venture” and “Entrepreneurial Approaches to Education Reform” I will be able to develop these skills with pertinent coursework and lessons.

  • Entrepreneurs also need networks that they can consult with. The benefits of having a group of intelligent, caring people to be able to turn to for advice, inspiration, or information are innumerable and invaluable. Through the combination of Stanford’s Entrepreneur Club and the university’s unparalleled location at the heart of the startup world I will be able to meet people just as driven as me, and I am exceptionally excited by that prospect.

  • Lastly, I cannot think of more appropriate opportunities for me than the Global Experiences, and specifically the Social Innovation Study Trips in education. Having a global mindset is important to me, and the fact that I can combine this with social endeavors that I care deeply about is incredible.

3. Restate ambitions and affirm Stanford’s ability to help (~50 words)

  • This section is essentially just what it sounds like.  Finish the essay on a strong note by refreshing the reader on what your goals are and affirming that Stanford is the place that you would like to be your aid in achieving them.
  • Stanford’s culture is one of collaboration and passion, and I aim to use my experiences, knowledge, and ambitions to further this culture. I want to work with others to change the world, and I truly feel that there is no better place to do this than Stanford GSB.

As was the case with Essay A, these are just recommendations based on what worked for me.  Again, I’ve left some wiggle room with the word count (the above totals only 350/400 words) in case your other essay runs long.

3 thoughts on “Stanford Essay: “Why Stanford?” Breakdown

  1. Hello,

    This is the perfect advice for me. I had been struggling with the seemingly simple question of “Why school X?” for months on end. The way you broke down the task, coupled with the examples you penned were the perfect elixir for my epiphany. Thanks a ton! I will definitely recommend this blog to my friends.


    1. Sumrai Jack,
      I’m so glad to hear that! It’s definitely one of the more difficult essay prompts to answer because you want to answer truthfully but at the same time not have your essay sound like everyone else’s. Please let me know where you get accepted!


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