HSW is a popular slang in the MBA community and comprises three ‘star’ schools, Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton. Why are they called ‘star’ schools needs no further explanation. Among these, one with no more than a 5% acceptance rate, Stanford has become a pinnacle of the MBA world. And so, it attracts a huge number of applicants from across the world. But it exactly knows the cream it wants to admit for its MBA program and filters out the rest.

But the more interesting fact is that the people who get their way into this school are not some ‘magic people’. They are among us who are aware of themselves, have clarity about their vision, and just want to make a difference in this world. So, if you are aspiring to be one of those ‘magic people’, here is a guide for you. Before moving forward, I would like to clarify that it’s not really a ‘guide’ or does not have any success formulae but insights for you to introspect. As the Stanford philosophy says, the school’s application is a by-product, the primary motive is to learn about yourself, and your motivations in life and shift your focus from ‘how’ to ‘why’. 

The First Step

The first and foremost step in this process is to answer your first ‘why’. Why do you want to apply to Stanford, or for that matter any school? Dig in deeper, a lot deeper to find the real reasons. Go beyond the school’s name, rank and its prestige as Stanford has already gone beyond the quantifiable in the quest of finding the true potential of candidates. And yes, a small piece of advice here: If you really want to make it to Stanford, be a leader or at least a person (in any capacity) who is committed to causes greater than your own, and who wants to really make this world different and better for everyone to live in. If you have done this till now, or are on the path of doing it, you already are building your ‘profile’ for Stanford. So, before applying to Stanford, check for yourself, if you tick this box or not. And if not, do not get disheartened, there are hundreds of other good MBA programs that you can opt for. 

Step Two: The First Essay

‘What matters most to you, and why?’

Your work? Your leadership accomplishments? Or the fact that you have recently been promoted to an executive post? Believe me, if you are going to write any of these for this question, you are already out of the game! Really, if you are even thinking of writing about it, DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY AND TIME. Because this question is about you, your innate beliefs, and your motivations. If I rephrase this question, it would be ‘what matters the most to you, in the end?’ Yes, dig deeper. Why are you doing whatever you are doing? Phew, another why. And to tackle this ‘why’, you have to know and exhibit your personal values, and what you really seek from this life. Your professional life and experiences are a by-product of your most fundamental values, of you as a person. So bring your personal self, an authentic personality in this essay. And while you are in this process of introspection, if anywhere you find your life and your values only revolving around you, stop right there. Because Stanford’s motto is “Change lives. Change organizations. Change the World” and you can not stand by it unless you want to dedicate your life to impacting others’ lives. 

So, now that you have finally thought of going ahead with the process, let’s try to make your life a little easier. While you answer this question, try to connect the experiences you have gained in your personal and professional domains to your values and motives. How they’ve helped to shape you into the person that you are today and contributed to your goals and aspirations. Bring a genuine person on the paper and explain how you have become this person.

Step Three: Understanding the Stanford Filter:

Before completing or even starting your essays, do foolproof research on Stanford. If possible, visit the campus, sit in the classrooms, talk to students there, and experience what it means to be a Stanford student. And if this scenario is not possible, research as much as you can. Read guides and blogs, have a free evaluation from consultants, talk to alumni and current students, and try to know the school as much as possible from whatever means.

Now after having done this, sit back and pen down all the good things about Stanford that you think you strongly resonate with. See which values are in alignment with yours and pick those through which you can bring the best narrative of how you fit and contribute to GSB.

For example, you are a male engineer who has, all his life, worked and studied in a predominantly male-dominated environment but you have always believed in equality and participation of more women in different spheres of life, bring that on! Stanford, more than any school, believes in diversity and inclusion, especially when it comes to women. You may put the narrative of how you’ve helped women in your personal life or how you envision helping this community grow.

This is just one example, you can pick out the other values and philosophies that Stanford believes in and bring stories out of your life in alignment with those. To give you an overview of the values that Stanford respects the most, try to connect empathy, collaborative leadership, passion, intellectual curiosity and maturity. For those who are in the early years of their career and still want to apply to Stanford, I would suggest they join some community service as it will help to exhibit the ‘maturity’ aspect.

And, this is how you get the answer to its second essay question, ‘Why Stanford?’. Yay, another ‘why’ tackled successfully!

The Perfect Consultant

MBA Consultants are taking a major role in helping students reach their dream schools. You always need someone who can help you understand the perspective of the admissions committee. And this is Stanford, a school with one of the slimmest acceptance rates. You anyway can not take a chance.

As I reiterate, the school’s motive is to make you self-aware and help you dive deep into knowing who you are. And so, as the school clearly says, each aspect of your application should be able to bring who you are. And, here comes the role of a consultant. For Stanford, or for any other school, your consultant should be your partner, not a ghostwriter! He should be able to bring the best, the most genuine self, and a unique person out of you. So, before choosing the ‘perfect’ consultant for you, talk to them and see, if their vibe matches yours, if they are able to craft your story in your voice and then you are all set to ace the game!

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