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  • May 2009
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Stanford Essay thoughts

  • Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?
  • Essay 2: What are your career aspirations? How will your education at Stanford help you achieve them?
  • Essay 3: Answer two of the four questions below. Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it. What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years.
    • Option A: Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.
    • Option B: Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization.
    • Option C: Tell us about a time when you motivated others to support your vision or initiative.
    • Option D: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected.

Essay #1 – An interesting question with an extremely broad subject area, but requiring an extremely focused answer. What matters most to you? This can be answered in so many different ways, and I think it is a great question for you to show the adcoms who you are. This is also a trap question because you know some people will write a robotic essay about what they believe the adcoms want them to hear. This has to be the worst thing you can do because the adcoms are looking for who you really are, not who you think they want you to be. If this essay isn’t from the heart it will read as so…

Essay #2 – Common, won’t even comment on this

Essay #3 – Of these four options I find Option C to be the most intriguing because it is the only essay that specifically asks about motivation. While motivation would no doubt be a part of the other three essays, none deals with motivation more directly than Option C. If I was applying I would certainly answer C and then I would probably just choose between the remaining, as they mostly deal with accomplishments or exceeding expectations.

I think the range of essays that Stanford provides is both challenging and a huge opportunity. While essays are not the most important part of the application process, if you commit yourself to these essays and impress the adcoms with them it should provide a leg up versus the incredibly tough competition at Stanford. Glad I am not sticking my neck into that fray


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