Adam Markus Stanford Essay Intellectual Vitality

Wharton MBA Essay Questions for Class of 2020

Aug, 17, 2017


In this post, I analyze the essay questions for the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for Fall 2018 admission. You can find testimonials from my clients admitted to Wharton in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017  here.  For my most recent post on Wharton interviews, please see here and here. My clients have […]


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Stanford GSB MBA Essays and Application for the Class of 2020

Aug, 16, 2017


In this post, I analyze the Stanford GSB MBA essays and additional information/resume/employment history/activities for Class of 2020 Admission. My analysis of Stanford GSB interviews can be found here. In addition to the Class of 2020 post, I also recommend reading and/or listening to my presentation, “So you want to get into Stanford GSB?” which was made to a Japanese […]


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HBS Class of 2020 MBA Admissions Application

Aug, 16, 2017


In this post, I will be analyzing the essay question and key components of the HBS Application for the Class of 2020.  In addition to discussing overall HBS application strategy and the required essay, I will discuss key parts of the application form, resume, and transcript. I also provide some advice for HBS reapplicants and  Harvard […]


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MIT Interview Essay Question

Feb, 16, 2017


IF YOU ARE INVITED FOR AN MBA INTERVIEW AT MIT SLOAN Those invited to interview will be asked to answer the following question: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Please share with us something […]


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MIT Sloan MBA Essays for Fall 2017 Admission

Aug, 18, 2016


In this post I will discuss the Class of 2019 MBA application admissions essays for the MIT Sloan School of Management.   You can see the my client results and testimonials here.   Before analyzing MIT Sloan School of Management MBA Essays for Fall 2017 entry, I think it is important to take a look at MIT […]


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Chicago Booth 2016-2017 MBA Application Essays

Jul, 29, 2016


This post is on the University of Chicago Booth’s MBA application essays for 2016-2017 admission to the Class of 2019. The University of Chicago is a very intellectually serious place.  Booth reflects that culture. Not everyone who goes there is an intellectual, but most are quite smart.  Your objective is to show you understand yourself, understand […]


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Wharton MBA Essay Questions for Class of 2019

Jul, 28, 2016


In this post, I analyze the essay questions for the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for Fall 2017 admission. You can find testimonials from my clients admitted to Wharton in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015  here. Unlike the trend in the last several years, where the number of essays or word count has […]


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INSEAD MBA Essay Questions for September 2017 Admission

Jul, 21, 2016


Here I discuss INSEAD’s essays for September 2017 Entry (Class of July 2018).  The application has been updated and now there is a video component.  As the details of what the video component is are not fully available at this time, I will update this post soon (July 21, 2016).  Since 2001, when I began doing […]


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Stanford GSB MBA Essays and Application for the Class of 2019

May, 17, 2016


In this post, I analyze the Stanford GSB MBA essays and additional information/resume/employment history/activities for Class of 2018 Admission. My analysis of Stanford GSB interviews can be found here. In addition to the Class of 2019 post, I also recommend reading and/or listening to my presentation, “So you want to get into Stanford GSB?” which was made to a Japanese […]


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Some brief pointers for editing MBA and other graduate school application essays

Apr, 22, 2016


 Chances are extremely high that when you initially write any application essay and even when you have a good working version of it going, it is likely to be over the word count.  If it is not over the word count, especially at the initial stage that itself is actually a problem.  In another blog post, […]


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Re: Calling all Stanford Applicants (2016 Intake) Class of 2018!! [#permalink]

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 18 Jun 2015, 00:24

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By Paul Lanzillotti, Amerasia Consulting Group

If you read the latest editions of our “How to Apply to Harvard Business School” and "How to Apply to Stanford GSB[/b]" guides, you already know that cultivating a real reason for applying to an elite MBA goes week beyond the school's name, rank, and prestige.  But more than any other MBA program in the world (yes, even HBS), GSB looks beyond having a great GMAT score, a summa cum laude GPA and a blue chip name as your employer.  While these are respectable measures of a person’s perceived worth, they are not good enough reasons to apply to GSB.

Why is this?  Simply put, you could someone with a mis-calibrated moral compass or worse, what your colleagues might call an "asshole" (more on the asshole test here and the true cost of being an asshole here).  That's right - more than any other school in the world, Stanford has a visceral aversion to those who define themselves by their accomplishments, as opposed to the innate values and beliefs that drive those accolades. Apparently, Stanford has their pick of the litterand they can afford to stand absolutely resolute in their aversion to those whose moral compass points true south.

Take a look at GSB’s first essay question “What matters most (to you and why)?”  Not only is this prompt require you to be introspective, but it also requires you to hit on 750 or so words that overwhelmingly attest to non-professional content.  And that is just where the fun begins.  For those of you who define yourself (in this essay) by laying out a series of professional and personal professional accomplishments, you will most likely run out of meaningful things to say. When I read misguided Stanford essays, I see it all the time. The essay either becomes some type of "super resume" (AKA "shit the adcom already knows or can assume") or a meandering narrative filled with clichés and pipe dreams. Stanford admissions has often said that no one can tell your story is genuinely as you can. I suppose writing it is another matter altogether.

What Stanford wants to see is a person who genuinely discusses (maturity and thus authenticity is key here) why they did something, and what they learned from it.  As opposed to simply how accomplished some feat or what they did to earn some type of employee of the month/year/century award.  It is not as simple as Stanford wanting "nice" people.  You certainly have to be successful, as successful as anybody applying to Harvard, for example.  It is just that Stanford really focuses on applicants who are actually successful because they are guided by an unwavering moral compass.  They want people who are successful professionally as a subset of being successful as a person. Ultimately, I believe that this is the key differentiator between what Stanford GSB wants and what HBS seeks.

Do not get me wrong, HBS definitely vets the character of the people that they are admitting.  But I would say that HBS believes the ultimate proof (of what you bring to their table and future tables) is in the pudding - what have you led, what have you accomplished, and it better be good, better than the rest. Whereas Stanford GSB focuses first on the moral fabric of a person. They believe it should never tear, and the truest test of that moral fiber is by overcoming obstacles that threaten to tear apart a person's values and beliefs.
Now not everybody with excellent moral character will be eligible for a seat at Stanford GSB.  I do not want to oversimplify this. But I believe that GSB would argue "how can anybody really be successful in life, if their values are suspect?  You cannot fake your values over the long-term, and that is who we are looking for." And why are they looking for this person?  Because you may have the brains and intellectual horsepower to achieve the type of goal that ultimately changes the world in a positive way. But do you actually want to do that?  Or are you just writing some bullshit in your essays, trying to convince the reader you are the second coming of Mother Teresa?

I believe that any applicant who thinks that they can pull this off (trickery) as rather unsophisticated.  I say this because I have seen a lot of Stanford essays.  People who think they are too smart (for their own good) still try.  I've been doing admissions consulting work since 2007 and I still see it all the time.  It is really hard to fake your way through 750 words that require you to connect what you have achieved, to what you have learned, to a sense of purpose - among all the other things that GSB wants to see from you in writing.

So what are some things you should think about when deciding to apply to Stanford?

Do you believe that your current professional path is the result of who you are as a person?  Who you are as a person (and thus what “matters most” in the end) is not necessarily a product of your professional experiences.[/*]
What about your future goals?  Are they big, hairy and audacious goals? Can you state that you want to create change that has a significant impact in the world. Ya, holy shit is right.[/*]
Okay, I will give you that your ultimate goals may be "aspirational" enough on paper. I mean anyone can state that they want to jump over the moon and solve world hunger. Right? But are your goals rooted in your truest values and beliefs?  Not only must they be rooted in your truest values and beliefs, but you have to explain how those values and beliefs were formulated. I mean, you can show a long history of these goals developing, right?  I hope so.[/*]
Do you have a long history of professional and personal involvement that clearly displays what you purport to be your beliefs, which are the product of your moral compass?  If you have not really been doing anything that demonstrates this, I recommend not applying.[/*]

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