June 21, 2019

Stanford GSB MBA Optional Short Answer

Stanford GSB

Optional Short Answer

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? You are welcome to share up to three examples. (Up to 1500 characters, approximately 250 words, for each example)

The two required essays shed light on who you are and how you imagine 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. In this section, we provide an optional opportunity to go beyond your resume to discuss some of your contributions more fully.

Please do not include your short-answer response in your essays upload; use the text boxes provided in the application.


Most people applying to Stanford GSB have had a positive impact somewhere. So no matter what your story is, there’s a version of that story that most other capable ‘born MBAs’ would have done in your exact same situation. Think about what those stories would be. You should be able to imagine variations in both APPROACH (leadership style, methodology, vision, etc.) but also results (big/small, more/less impressive, whatever). For now, mentally score all versions as AWESOME, GREAT, A+. “More or less the same.” Anyone would be happy with any of those versions.

Now, consider your version of the story. Your version includes an extra little something. A little harmless-looking egg that over time cracked open to become a fierce “dragon” of “additional impact.” Lasting, permanent impact. The gift that keeps on giving.

What we want to get into is WHAT WAS IT you saw that “above and beyond what those other MBA candidates would have”? Was it, indeed, above and beyond? Or in your mind, was this the only logical approach? Why do you think YOU saw this unique path, where others might not have? What is it about the way you thought through this challenge (or think through “any” challenge) that CONSIDERS lasting, positive impact in a way that others do not?

The key to impact stories is the “above and beyond” portion. The stuff you didn’t need to address, and the project would have STILL been a success—but maybe not as impactful. Here’s a rough structure for each 250-word response:

  • Establish the “good enough” version … the “If I had addressed the challenge with THIS solution, it would have been an A+.” Establish that first.
  • Next, tell us what in your estimation was MISSING from this “good enough” solution. What did you see that no one else saw? Why bother with this extra step? who would benefit? And why would that be important in the long term?
  • Was there a risk to addressing this “extra” piece? If so, explain the cost-benefit that led you to go for it. If it didn’t come with risk, explain why no one else thought to do this. There must be SOME “friction” here. Usually, it’s either (a) Perceived as too hard, not worth the risk, but you disagree and found a smart way to tackle it; or (b) Others just never realized the opportunity, but you did (perhaps due to some rare/unique aspect of your background or leadership approach).
  • Tell us what you did and how you did it. Tell us how it worked, why it worked, and why it’ll continue to be valuable.
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