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Confessions from the Director of Evaluation

Ah...June. For most admissions officers, it is our favorite month of the year. After we post our final decisions, we get the same feeling you may have had the moment you finished your last final exam at university. We have a chance both to reflect on the amazing stories our candidates have shared and to celebrate the conclusion of our last round.

Within days of our decision deadline, though, we quickly shift our attention to our next goal--that of producing a new application. Usually, you would see us huddled in conference rooms in marathon meetings throwing around potential new essay and recommendation questions to see which ones might stick.

It is with great pleasure that I announce our new 2008/2009 essay questions are posted at

But is with even greater pleasure that I tell you it has been our easiest June ever!

This year's essay and recommendation questions are really the result of a journey that began over three years ago. Derrick Bolton, the Director of MBA Admissions, and I worked with experts in the field of leadership assessment from all over the world. We wanted to develop a set of questions that would stand the test of time--that would effectively elicit only the information most critical to our assessment criteria.

The 2008/2009 questions have changed little from last year; based on our satisfaction with the thousands of essay responses we read last year, we only made slight refinements.

Let me summarize why each of them is meaningful to our committee:

Essay A: What matters most to you and why?
This question helps us learn about your ideals and values. They set the context for how you see the world. They are your guideposts when you make any decision from what type of job you pursue to what type of culture you will create in leading an organization.

Essay B: What are your career aspirations? How will your education at Stanford help you achieve them?
This question helps us understand your professional dreams and from where your passion comes to achieve them. We also get a glimpse of what skills or knowledge you think you need to develop to reach them.

Essay C: Please answer two of the questions listed below.
1. Tell us about a time when you built or developed a team.
2. Tell us about a time when you felt most effective as a leader.
3. Tell us about a time when you tried to reach a goal or complete a task that was challenging, difficult, or frustrating.
4. Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected.

We all have important stories to tell. We want to share moments when we have achieved great things or helped to shape the world around us. Essay C lists four potential questions (or prompts) to help you identify which are the two most important stories you have to tell us. The prompts themselves are not as important as the stories that they bring to the surface.

Good luck completing your application this year. I hope my "confessions" have given you a little more insight into the journey you are about to begin.

Kirsten Moss
Director of Evaluation
Stanford Graduate School of Business