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Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

July 14, 2009

Stanford GSB: Additional Info, Resume, Employment History, Activities

This is the fifth of five posts analyzing the Stanford GSB MBA Essay Questions for 2009/2010 Admission. The first post provides an overall perspective on applying to Stanford GSB. The second post is on Essay 1. The third post is on Essay 2. The fourth post is on Essay 3. My analysis of Stanford GSB interviews can be found here.

There is nothing more depressing to me than to look at an MBA application that is hastily put together. Worse still if it is for a school that is hard to get into. Worse yet if it is for Stanford, where, under Derrick Bolton, there is a very rigorous approach to application review.

Some people look at application forms as mere forms. I look at them as opportunities to provide admissions with as complete and impressive presentation as one can. The reason admissions made the application was because they need the information to make a decision about you, so don't provide something that is done at the last minute. For a full analysis of an MBA online application, see here.


Along with the essays, the resume and Employment History are the most critical documents that you control. Both should present you as effectively and honestly as possible. These two values are not in conflict: Be honest, be thorough, and do not be humble. You are being judged by your professional experience and this is where they get your complete record of it. If you have not done so, I suggest reading Steve Green's post on resumes.

Two years ago at the Stanford presentation in Tokyo, the admissions officer emphasized that the admissions committee closely reads transcripts. While you don't control the content at this point, you have the possibility of impacting how the transcript is interpreted. Scrutinize your own transcript. If your GPA is high, this is easy. You can relax. If on the other hand,your transcript reveals an unimpressive GPA, some very low grades, gaps in study, or anything else that concerns you, you had better figure out how to address in the Additional Information section (See application instructions PDF found on the right hand column here).


Additional Information
If there is any other information that is critical for us to know and is not captured elsewhere, include it in this section of your application. Do not include additional essays.
Examples of pertinent additional information include:

  • Extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance.
  • Explanation of why you do not have a Letter of Reference from your current direct supervisor.
  • Explanation of criminal conviction, academic suspension or expulsion, and/or failing grades.
  • Any other information that you did not have sufficient space to complete in another section of the application (begin the information in the appropriate section).
  • Additional work experience that cannot fit into the space provided.
If you read the above, it should be clear enough that this is the place to explain anything negative or potentially negative in your background or to provide additional information that did not fit in the space provided. DO NOT USE IT FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE. Yes, you may have written a great essay for Tuck, Wharton, Harvard, Chicago, NYU, MIT, INSEAD, Columbia, or London Business School, but unless your objective is to inform Stanford GSB about that, don't include it here. I don't think the categories above require interpretation as they are clear.

If you really have no explanation for something negative, don't bother writing about it. For example if your GPA is 2.9 and you have no good explanation for why it is 2.9, don't bother writing something that looks like a lame excuse. This is more likely to hurt than help you. In the same vein, don't waste the committee's time telling them that your GMAT is a much better indicator than your GPA (the opposite is also true). They have heard it before and they will look at both scores and can draw their own conclusions without you stating the obvious. That said, if you have a good explanation for a bad GPA, you should most certainly write about it.


This section is important. Of course, some applicants will not have much here, while others will have a plethora of things to mention. In any case, provide the best answer you can. Use your judgment about what to include. The above instructions make it very clear that Stanford GSB is not looking for quantity. Give them quality and don't mention anything that will show your lack of commitment: If you joined a lot of organizations for a really short time and did nothing, I don't think that it will help you to mention it.

Finally, please keep in mind that there is no perfect applicant, just like there is no perfect human being. If you have had to work 100-plus hours a week since graduating from university and your idea of extracurricular activity is sleep, don't assume that not having any great activities will hurt you. Admissions will evaluate your whole application. I have had the opportunity to work with great applicants who were admitted to Stanford, and I can say none of them were perfect, but what they were able to do was present themselves as honestly and effectively as possible

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. If you are looking for a highly experienced admissions consultant who is passionate about helping his clients succeed, please feel free to contact me at adammarkus@gmail.com to arrange an initial consultation. To learn more about my services, see here. Initial consultations are conducted by Skype or telephone. For clients in Tokyo, a free face-to-face consultation is possible after an initial Skype or telephone consultation. I only work with a limited number of clients per year and believe that an initial consultation is the best way to determine whether there is a good fit. Whether you use my service or another, I suggest making certain that the fit feels right to you.
-Adam Markus
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