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Home » News » Essays » Essay Topic Analysis » Analysis of Stanford GSB Essay 3: A) Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations, B) Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization, C) Tell us about a time when you generated support from others for an idea or initiative, D) Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined or established.

Analysis of Stanford GSB Essay 3: A) Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations, B) Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization, C) Tell us about a time when you generated support from others for an idea or initiative, D) Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined or established.

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. (Recommended 300 words each)

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 generated support from others for an idea or initiative.
Option D: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined or established.

Following the broader, more philosophical duo of essays 1 and 2, these situational prompts lend themselves to crisp, concise anecdotes from the recent past.

Looking at the first item in the set, Stanford has retained previous season’s essay about building or developing a team that exceeded expectations.  Here, the Stanford adcom signals a pointed interest in the candidate’s capacity for going above and beyond,  while also shining the spotlight on one’s abilities to foster the growth of others while working together toward a goal.  Meanwhile, the words “built” and “developed” allow applicants to include instances in which they have built a team from scratch or recruited key players to work on a project.  To summarize, applicants should aim to discuss how they established a cohesive and effective team that achieved X, Y, and Z.

Option B, with its focus on lasting impact, encourages applicants to discuss a positive change they’ve brought about that represents an enduring improvement.  To illustrate this lasting transformation, applicants might establish a “before” and “after” picture in their essay to highlight the importance of their actions in the particular situation.  Effective responses will also provide a clear picture of the process by which one brought the change about, as these are the skills and instincts that will be transferable to future situations.

Option C prompts applicants to discuss their ability to be persuasive and effective while working with a team.  In answering the question, applicants should highlight their ability to come up with an idea or initiative, as well as to be persuasive in selling it to stakeholders.  Some applicants may choose a story in which their idea encountered resistance, in which case showcasing one’s ability to be diplomatic in garnering support for the idea will be key.  Overall, you should ensure that in explaining how you were able to generate support for your initiative, you demonstrate your ability to inspire others to adopt your ideas.

Finally, Option D looks for an anecdote in which applicants set themselves apart from the pack.  The adcom is looking for someone with the confidence to deviate from the norm, explore new channels, or see a situation or problem in a different light.  Fitting topics might include developing an innovative solution through nontraditional pathways or challenging the norm with an eye for how operations could be enhanced.  Ideally, the end result would be one in which you reached new insight or perspective, created a new process, or took a stand in a professional or extracurricular setting.

While these action-oriented essays serve as a contrast to the preceding broad questions about the candidate’s motivations and objectives, truly effective applications will find a way to make these responses work in conjunction with Essays 1 and 2, reinforcing themes, complementing the ideas already presented, and completing the picture of who you are.

In addressing any of these questions, it will be important to provide a clear description of the initial situation at the outset of the essay, as this will help the reader to understand the reasons for your thoughts, feelings, words and actions. Providing a detailed “before picture” will also allow the adcom to fully appreciate the difference you made. To decide which two of the four options to select, it would be wise to consider all of the situations you could discuss in response to each question, and select those that will provide a balanced picture of your activities and interests (one story from work and another from a key extracurricular might be a nice balance) while supporting the message set forth in response to Essays 1 and 2.

To read our analysis of all of Stanford’s essay questions, click here.

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Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis

Schools: Stanford GSB

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