Scott Edinburgh
June 17, 2021

Stanford GSB Essays and Application Deadlines: 2021-2022


Stanford GSB, as expected, did not change the essay questions this year. Once again, Stanford’s essays have a combined word limit of 1050 words, suggesting clients allocate up to 650 words on Essay A and up to 400 words on Essay B.

This encourages applicants to remain focused and concise in their answers. Below, please find this year’s deadlines along with Personal MBA Coach’s advice on how to approach the two Stanford GSB essay questions.

The Upcoming Stanford MBA Application Deadlines Are as Follows:

Round 1: September 9, 2021

Round 2: January 5, 2022

Round 3: TBA

2021-2022 Stanford GSB Essays:

Essay A: What matters most to you, and why? (650 words suggested)

This first Stanford MBA essay is arguably one of the hardest MBA application questions across all schools. This challenging first question requires candidates to speak from the heart.

As Stanford advises, think more about your values here and WHY you made the choices you have made than WHAT you have done. Personal MBA Coach recommends you do some serious soul searching before starting. Think about what you are most passionate about. What drives you to get out of bed each morning? If you could spend your time as you wish, what would you do? Ideally, you have acted on this passion, and it extends throughout multiple aspects of your life.

Then, think carefully about why this matters to you. Did you have an experience as a child? Are you following a passion held by others in your family?

Finally, once you have established the why, you should include some WHAT here. After all, a passion or cause that you have done nothing with will not be very believable. Remember though, this is only PART of this personal essay.


Essay B: Why Stanford? (400 words suggested)

In this short Stanford GSB essay, candidates have a lot to cover. First, you should set up why you want an MBA. Naturally, this would include what your goals are and what skills you need to develop to achieve these goals.

Then, establish how Stanford will help you to fill these skill gaps. Once again, be specific! Name classes, clubs, programs, etc. and how they will help. Finally, be sure to articulate what attracts you to Stanford’s culture. We realize this is a tall order with a suggested word count of only 400 words, so be succinct.

Unlike other schools, Stanford gives the candidate discretion on how to divide the 1050 words (1100 for dual degree candidates) across the two essays. The breakdown above is a suggestion and, in general, this is an ideal breakdown for most candidates.

In addition, there are two optional questions in the Stanford GSB application.

Optional Question 1: 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?

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)


Optional Question 2: Tell us about a time within the last three years when your background influenced your participation in a situation, interaction, or project.

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 1,100 characters, or approximately 180 words)

For many other top MBA programs, Personal MBA Coach advises clients to answer optional essays only to discuss unique circumstances. Take a look at our blog on optional essay questions to learn more.

However, the requirements for addressing one or more of the optional Stanford MBA essays are not quite as stringent. You can use these optional essays to share other aspects of your candidacy not included in your essays.

That said, use these essays sparingly. Less continues to be more here.

Answer these questions only if you have something very powerful to add that is not already included elsewhere in your application.

About Personal MBA Coach:

Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 14 years and is consistently ranked #1 or #2 by leading sources including Poets&Quants.

We help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing and mock interviews. Our team includes former M7 admissions directors and former M7 admissions interviewers.

Last year, our clients earned more than $6.5M in scholarships!