I actually felt this one coming on right when I started filling out Stanford’s application. I can say, hands down, that my Stanford app gave the most incomplete picture of me as an applicant. The way the entire thing was framed and what information it asked for made it very difficult for me to explain myself, and it was also clearly looking for information about someone who was, well, not me.
First, the app had a huge “Awards” section to fill out (well, “huge” according to my standards). I had to reach really, really far to fill out that list–like, over a decade ago. So that was pretty much a waste of space.
Second, in terms of activities during college, Stanford’s app drew a firm line between unpaid and paid work/activities, which made it really difficult for me to list the things I had done. I spent basically all of my free time during the school year completing unpaid internships. I knew I was going to enter the workforce right after graduation, so I tried to get as much practical experience I could under my belt to beef up my resume, and I pointedly spent my time working off campus instead of getting too involved in student clubs and such. I probably had just 1-2 semesters where I wasn’t interning somewhere. And most of the places I worked at didn’t have money to pay interns. But unfortunately, with the way GSB divides up your experience on the app, there was only space to put down two (!) of the internships I completed. Two of the eight or so I had done. (And meanwhile, the “Awards” section had five spots to fill out. And four spots for “Activities after college.”)
And lastly, sharing your parents’ entire educational history and their occupations was mandatory. In my opinion, this only works in the favor of two groups of people: Those whose parents are Bill Gates (famous or rich or have status in some other way) and those whose parents never went to college and work a a blue collar job. I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with favoring these folks–but I don’t fall into either group.
But even if I could have filled the application with only the pieces of myself that I wanted to, I’m pretty sure I’d still get that ding. While filling out the app, I formed a picture in my mind of what GSB was looking for: Sky-high stats, young people who have already done something groundbreaking with their time (awards), people with connections (lineage) or those from a tough, disadvantaged background who have really persevered. I don’t fall into any of these categories. But, really, I’ve heard of people who fulfill all of those characteristics who were denied. I also know people who were admitted, and it’s not exactly clear to me why they were. My essays were my only hope, really. I think I wrote something pretty decent and unique, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the rest of my blah app, I guess. Oh well. Goodbye, GSB, I hardly knew ye.