Stanford Msx Essays

Both the relatively complex MSx application form and your resume will establish you as a leader in your organization (and possibly even your domain), and that’s essential to be a qualified MSx applicant. Hence, you don’t need to, and shouldn’t try to, prove your qualifications with these essays. In reviewing current and former MSx student profiles, one thing stands out: they’re vibrant. They shine. They have impact, not just because of solid career strategies and impressive results, though that’s part of it. They are propelled forward by qualities of character: passion, courage, energy, curiosity, commitment, rigor, vision, big thinking, heart. These essays are your opportunity to reveal your own special character and clarify how it will add to the mix. You’re already a substantial leader organizationally. To shape the future, you must have something to say, a point of view, a distinctive voice – so don’t hesitate to take a stand in these essays.

Essay Questions

No length limit; you can “use as many words as you feel necessary to convey your message.” That said, the website also advises succinctness. (If you are using the combined MBA/MSx application, you are limited to 1200 words total.)

Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?

To really hit a home run with this essay, you need to bare your soul, at least a bit; take a risk, be open and probing about some essential aspect of yourself. That doesn’t mean the topic must be about your personal life, though for many applicants it is. You could, for example, discuss a political belief that truly drives you, and if it’s that strong, it will reflect your deepest values and relate to your significant experiences. I do suggest using a topic that has some profound meaning to you and that will allow you to ground this essay in your experience. Ultimately, it’s your experience and how you “process” or synthesize it that will be a key part of this essay.

Sometimes my clients worry when facing this question that their most intuitive topic isn’t “unique” – to which I say, it will be by the time you’re done with the essay, if you delve deep into your experience and deliver your message via detailed anecdotes and frank reflection.

Don’t make this essay overly or overtly strategic; that ends up feeling superficial and manipulative given the topic. One straightforward approach is to structure the essay as a story, with reflection and insight at various pivotal points.

Last, don’t forgot to explicitly address “why” your chosen topic is what matters most to you. The explanation need not be long, and the “why” may already be obvious from the bulk of the essay. But do still address it.

Essay 2: Why this program now? What are your personal and professional objectives, and how will the Stanford MSx Program help you achieve them?

I suggest starting with your professional objectives – include specific details about position, company, anticipated responsibilities, etc. Equally if not more important, however, is whyyou want to pursue this position/role: what motivates this projected career path, what impact you aim to have. This information will invigorate the essay and turn a competent essay into a compelling one. It ideally will get the adcom excited about being a part of your career journey.

Toward the end of this section, add a specific point or two about your personal objectives for attending this program – this part of the question also reflects the program’s emphasis on holistic growth, and your application should respond to that emphasis. Personal objectives need not be divorced from professional ones – often, development of a given trait or capability will benefit various aspects of one’s life.

Do be explicit about “why now” – it’s an especially important point for mid-career professionals pursuing a full-time program. If you are being sponsored, you can include aspects of that condition as context; if you are shifting career focus, your answer to why-now may be more complex, e.g. market conditions combined with career factors.

In discussing how the program will benefit you, be specific: describe what skills and knowledge you need, and how the program meets those needs. Also refer to the structure, culture, and special features of the program, detailing how they will support you and your goals.

Additional information: If there is any information that is critical for us to know and is not captured elsewhere, include it in the “Additional Information” section of the application. Pertinent examples include:

• Extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance

• An explanation of why you do not have a letter of reference from your current direct supervisor

• An explanation of any academic suspension or expulsion

• Work experience that did not fit into the space provided

• Academic experience (e.g., independent research) not noted elsewhere

The wording of this question indicates that you shoulduse this optional essay to explain things that need explaining in some way – not to add additional points that you think will enhance the application. Indeed, the app form plus the essay questions provide ample opportunity to present your holistic candidacy, so adhere to the spirit as well as the phrasing of this question, and stick to necessary topics – if any.

If you would like professional guidance with your Stanford MSx application, check out Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the Stanford MSx application.


***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***

Cindy Tokumitsu has advised hundreds of successful applicants, helping them gain acceptance to top MBA and EMBA programs in her 15+ years with Accepted. She would love to help you too. Want Cindy to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!


Related Resources:

• Leadership in Admissions, free guide
• Stanford GSB 2017-18 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
• Too Old for an MBA? Check Out 3 Outstanding MBA and EMBA Alternatives, a podcast episode

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Stanford Graduate School of Business pioneered the open-ended personal essay and has continued that tradition this year. “What matters most to you and why?” is a simple question that can lead you down many paths. There isn’t a specific best kind of story for this essay, rather the best essays tell a story about who you are as a person and leader.

You can use the same application for the Stanford MSx, accelerated Masters of Science in Management degree, which is a 12-month graduate program for experienced professionals. If you have more than 8 years of work experience and would like to gain all of the benefits of a Stanford GSB degree in only one year, the MSx program is an ideal choice. Unlike executive MBA programs the design is full-time and residential.

Whatever program is best for you, Stanford is a business school devoted to innovation and growth. When approaching these essays it will be useful to have spoken with Stanford students and alumni, or visited campus to understand what values the community holds.

Your answers for both essay questions combined may not exceed 1,150 words (1,200 words if you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs). Each of you has your own story to tell, so please allocate these words between the essays in the way that is most effective for you.


For this essay, Stanford would like you to:
• Do some deep self-examination, so you can genuinely illustrate who you are and how you came to be the person you are.
• Share the insights, experiences, and lessons that shaped your perspectives, rather than focusing merely on what you’ve done or accomplished.
• Write from the heart, and illustrate how a person, situation, or event has influenced you.
• Focus on the “why” rather than the “what.”

This Stanford GSB MBA essay is your opportunity to demonstrate who you are, what motivates you, and why. Topics can range from personal history to grand visions of the future. While this topic should not be explicitly career related (and the strongest essays are likely not career oriented at all) it is possible that some of your themes will continue in the next essay, which will likely focus more on your career.

Your accomplishments and achievements are part of why you have developed into the person you are today, however it’s far more important to explain your influences, lessons learned and motivations. Introspection and honesty should persist through the entire set of essays.

To generate ideas, try brainstorming over a period of a few days. Ask friends and family what values they see you demonstrating in your life and choices. Keep a notebook by your bed so you can record your first thoughts upon waking up. Review your personal history for ideas. What keeps you awake at night? When you look back at your life what do you admire and regret about your choices? What moments in your life have led to a change in direction? Who has impacted your choices? These are the kind of questions to ask yourself as you approach topics for this essay.

Though the essay question may seem open-ended, answering the question with vivid and specific examples will provide the reader with images and stories to understand your perspective. After reading hundreds of essays, the ones that have vivid and descriptive stories in them stand out the most.

Keep in mind as you select examples that Stanford GSB specifically advises focusing on people and experiences that have influenced you, rather than accomplishments or achievements. Don’t be scared of the tough moments in life – often self-awareness emerges from challenges. Whatever experiences you choose it’s very important to talk about why they made an impact on your life and your values.

Along with vivid examples, talk about how you felt, thought and reacted both at the time and as you reflected later. The “why” will come out of your reactions to your life experience or people who have influenced you, and the resulting introspection.


Enlighten us on how earning your MBA at Stanford will enable you to realize your ambitions.
• Explain your decision to pursue graduate education in management.
• Explain the distinctive opportunities you will pursue at Stanford.
• If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.

After you have explained what is most important to you in life you need to explain why your next step is a Stanford MBA. If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx, make sure you can highlight the advantages of both programs for your specific situation. Perhaps you have significant work experience but are also interested in a two-year program and therefore would be interested in either option.

The sub questions for this essay cover both why you are interested in pursuing an MBA at all, and why you specifically want to attend Stanford GSB. Stanford GSB wants to know your aspirations will be uniquely satisfied by the program at Stanford GSB, and school research will help you determine what aspects of the academic program, community and students are crucial to your aspirations.

Be as specific as possible in your response to provide evidence that you have done your research. You should know everything about the aspects of the program that most appeal to you. Have you met current students and alumni? Who are the professors you are excited about? What are the unique programs? What appeals to you about Stanford’s culture? Perhaps you are impressed with the career path of a specific alumna and can highlight that knowledge.

When you discuss how Stanford will help you achieve your ambitions consider that Stanford likes to see applicants who dream big, and have the credibility to achieve their goals. Be bold with your aspirations. Don’t focus on what your parents or partner want you to do. Don’t think about the next job on the corporate ladder. What do you, with your own unique background and values, want for your life?

If the question seems too vast, take a few minutes to close your eyes and reflect. Envision your life in twenty years. Where do you live? How do you spend your days? What is your favorite activity? How does this vision fit into your career aspirations? Don’t be shy about your ambitions. Once you have identified your dream career, you also need to make sure an MBA is an important part of achieving your plans and explain that part in your essay.

Though you should think big, don’t make the mistake of acting as if you are already perfect with no development needed. Remember that MBA programs want to help promising candidates reach their goals and be a step on an ambitious career trajectory.

Finding the Stanford essays challenging? Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting for personalized guidance through the application process.

This entry was posted in General, Stanford Advice and tagged application, application tips, career goals, Essay Tips, Fall 2018 MBA Essay Tips, MBA application, MBA Essays, Stanford, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford GSB.
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