Q&A with Kirsten Moss, Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions
You. Welcome. My, name is Jessica Talbert and I'm a second year MBA at, Stanford Graduate, School of Business and I'm. Here today with Kirsten Moss assistant. Dean and director of, admissions, and financial aid, hi. Jessica thanks for the introduction is admissions. Officers, we spend a much, of our time traveling around the world and meeting. With candidates to share information about Stanford and whether or not it could be a good fit for what they're looking for in their graduate, education experience. But, today we want to do something different instead, of talking about Stanford we want to talk about you and how you if you're interested in applying can, put your best foot forward in the process, what. Are some of the most common myths about the Stanford application, process you know. I think the myth that I hear most frequently, is that, members of the admissions committee at Stanford have some magic, checklist, that each, applicant, must fulfill. In order to be admitted to our program I've heard things like I have to have a GMAT score over 700, or, I need to work in a particular industry, to be admitted or even, come from a particular type of educational, institution, and really, nothing could be farther from the truth if. You think about the last few classes that we've admitted, we have students, from over 60 different countries we, have students from 160. Different educational. Institutions, and, we have students coming in from I think on. Average over 300. Different work environments, before they come different companies and there's, only 400 students, in a class so. You can see in reality we're. Not we're admitting humans, for what they've done and who they are were not admitting, people just because they went to a certain institution, or worked in a certain industry, in. Fact I was just I think, it was a few weekends ago we're at admitted students weekend which I know you've been to admit. Weekend and there were two students I was talking to and one. Of them said that both of them said they almost didn't apply to Stanford I came. This close to not apply and I'm like why one, said he was in a chat room and, somebody, told him that Oh Stanford will never admit you because of the institution, because. The university that you went to and he, was he went to a state school and in. The Midwest and then another student said the, same thing that happened to her and one, of her peers from work had told her they were talking about where they wanted to apply that, with her GPA and test scores should never get into State, so. Luckily for us both of these students decided, that, for themselves whether, or not they should apply and are now going to be entering, this fall so we're really excited about that, how. Do you decide then whether or not you have a shot at getting into Stanford, that's. A great question that's probably the million-dollar, question and, I'm hoping on all of what we discussed today will give applicants, insight into whether, or not they, have a shot but, I think if I had to go to the essence, like what is absolutely, most important, most important, and making that decision we're. Trying to answer two questions on, the admissions committee the. First is is, this particular applicant. Going to be engaged academically. When they come to our program and the, second is what kind of impact will they have after they graduate, and. If you think we care about their. Educational. Engagement. Because we're, a higher education, institution, we want our classroom, to be vibrant, you probably know as a student the more interested, folks, are when they're in their learning and curious, the better and richer that experience, will be and, then on the flip side we, do care and believe in our tagline we, want to know when, we're selecting, these students, that, they have the potential to change lives change organizations and. Change the world, Jessica.
I'm Curious about how you decided, whether to apply to Stanford. For. Me was about thinking, am. I ready to take a next leap in my career not just next step I had, spent about five years in retail and tech and kind of formulated an idea of the kind of impact I wanted to have on those industries, but, it wasn't exactly sure, what the best step forward, was in order to be successful and, I think knowing that I was ready to make that impact is what, helped me decide to apply that's. Great how, did you approach the application, process or. The application, process I. Think. I thought about it in two ways mainly, the, first one wasn't really about introspection. Really. Understanding, who. I was what, I wanted to get out of the world and what kind of impact I wanted and it's. Easier said than done for. Me it took the form of journaling, every morning and then kind of looking back after a couple of months and, seeing. What common themes there were what was important, to me on a day to day basis, and, I think once I crystalized around that I had a really good idea of like what I really wanted to get out of it who I was. The. Second part was about information, Gavin gathering. Making. Sure that what I wanted to get out of it was actually what Business School was gonna be like and not just what I thought it was gonna be like and that was, combing. Through Stanford's, resources, going. To town, halls that your office, would go to around. The u.s. and really, talking to alumni and current students, can. We talk about how you evaluate, whether someone will engage academically. At Stanford you, know we're looking for students who are curious who. Are willing to share their perspectives, both inside, and outside, of the classroom and, perhaps. Most importantly, we're looking for students, who want to seek new. Ideas new perspectives, almost, insights, or truth and to, do that in a collaborative, way when. You leave, GSB. As a leader you're, gonna go out and have some tough problems to solve but you're not going to do it by yourself you're not gonna do in your own head somewhere so, really having someone who's going to be leveraging the thoughts of others to come up with the best possible solution is important. To. Assess these behaviors, we, look at multiple places in the application the. Most obvious would be the transcript, and for me I usually read I'll I'll, take a day Tuesdays, and Thursdays during application season, I get to read from home it's my favorite thing to do and every time I get. Along. With the applicants, and your stories, but when, I open a file when the first things I do is I go to the transcript, because I tell so much about someone what are the kind of courses you took what, what were you most interested in studying are you someone who went broad and like to see how, different, disciplines. Connect with each other or maybe someone who went very deep so. That's, step one and I do get information about how curious, someone is and how it you know the rigor and, course. Choices, impacted. Them but, perhaps more. Importantly, than the transcript, is looking, for evidence of this curiosity, and other things that people have done so. Perhaps, you were, at work and there's a tough problems, to solve and you worked with others to figure it out or perhaps you did research at your university, beyond your classes. One. Of my most. Recent favorite, stories, was from someone we admit in this class and. It wasn't like no, was your sergeants, my. Coven, it could have been, and it was an individual, I think he was in business. Development in a tech, company it was a growing tech company and he joined when the company was only about 50 people and he said one of the things he loved best when he joined was that wherever he was there was laughter in the hallways and he thought that was a sign of people being optimistic.
Innovative. And then, as time went on and they were doubling and tripling in size the. Laughter went away. Yeah and he remembered going to an all-hands meeting and asked the senior management you, know this, is a concern what can I do and, came, up with the idea to do a pulse survey the. Only problem to check in with the, culture the only problem was he said he had no idea how to do it an HR survey what, cultural, engagement was, how, to build it you know how to write questions all, of that but, you watched him go through a path of just curiosity, of meeting with experts both, in the company and outside of the company researching. Material to figure out yeah what are some good benchmark, surveys how do we develop questions, that'll work, luckily they had some PhD students in this company who were doing business analytics, that I could get help from but, the point is that's a great story. About using, your curiosity. And you're trying. To find truth about this company to come up with, they. Essentially. Came up with a great answer about what they could be doing differently as they move forward so, hopefully. That helps give you a sense of what I'm looking for and how I'm looking for it many. Students, myself included are. Worried about their. Test scores what. Advice to have there this. Is probably the most frequently. Asked question that I get is what, about my GMAT score what about my GRE and the, reality. Is we. Look for a wide range or. We accept students, with a wide range of test scores and it is just one data, point and I truly, mean, that so my. Best advice is well, we look at the tests and they are important to ensure that you're gonna be able to thrive, quantitatively. And verbally in the program, so. My best advice is we look at it you, should take spend some time preparing what I hope for every applicant, is when they submit that score and I know it's stressful that, you feel it's at least a decent reflection. Of what your capabilities are, so. That's where the preparation, comes in that, being said though I know for many students test taking is not their Forte. So again, if there's a score honestly, in an application where, it's far from maybe what our median. Might be and we. We, do admit, people in the 500, to 600, in the 700s but if I see this may not be the strongest point of their application, that's, when I'm diving into the transcript, and seeing again how do they learn maybe tests just aren't their thing. So. I'd like to ask you about GPA, Stanford. Says that there's no minimum GPA, but. Can you get in without low GPA I'd. Also like to know how you evaluate GPAs, and outside of the US, both. Of those questions come up from applicants. Often as well. Again. The GPA is just one indicator, but this one is about a four year period of time often a three or four period of time so we we do look at that for. Us if you think about the GPA we, know that it's going to vary by institution, you, know the level of a GPA also even by major sometimes, I find that highly, rigorous quantitative, majors, or sometimes more, science oriented on average, students GPAs will be lower there so that's something we're taking into consideration in. Addition, if you think about international. Schools, we don't convert their their, GPAs into u.s..
Conversions. We actually, look at the country and try to be familiar with what's their educational, system and recognize. That oftentimes international. GPAs, are less inflated, than US GPAs, maybe so. If all of that is for, you to, realize, that we're trying to do our best to understand, what it looks like in your particular context. That, being said if there's if you look at your transcript, and take it and look at it with fresh eyes on an applicant and you see a point in time a semester. Court. Or whatever it was where you don't think it reflects your true capabilities tell. Us about that we. Have an additional, information, section could, have been health it could have been a personal situation but. We want that we're looking for reasons to admit, you not four reasons to deny so, any context, that you can give us to help understand, you, know what your ejector has been will be really helpful that's. Great I like the affirming of that too we're looking for reasons to admit is not to deny us exactly. And no applicant, is going to be upstanding in every dimension so, you, put your best foot forward and know that those strengths are the important things let's, discuss, letters, of reference what advice do you have for choosing recommenders. This isn't I don't. Know, if applicants, really appreciate how important the letters of reference are it's, really the one opportunity that we get to see you through someone else's eyes objectively. What, did you do and how did you do it so for, me put a lot of emphasis on, making. The selection, I can give you some tips and how to think about it at Stanford. We request, two and one we asked for a current direct supervisor, or, an alternative, you know the best alternative if that is impossible, or inappropriate, and then, for the second, recommendation, we also ask for someone who supervised your work but it could be from a non-profit it, could be extracurricular, or from the same organization, now. When you think about selecting. Them we really, just, as I've asked applicants, and their essays to tell us about the impact that they've had because, this past behavior, will predict future behavior that's. The echo that we want to see in the reference so, find someone who knows what you've done you, know really been in the trenches and can see your work and describe, not just what happened but how you did it and how the way you did it might have been different from others so, that means don't worry about the title of a person don't try to get the highest title also I hear a lot of students asking or applicants asking should, I try to find someone who went to Stanford because, that's important, no it's not it's actually what what, the what the recommender, can, tell us about you that is most important. The. Second, thing is after, them understanding, what you've done is enthusiasm. This. Is hard you know for someone who reads lots of thousands, of recommendations. This one's a hard one. To wrap your hands around but I know the best recommendations. That I read are, written from both a head space and a heart space right, so, try to think about who you've established a, relationship with someone, who really, Lucy. Azam's a great word but has a connection with you and will be able to speak to that and that's, how recommendations. Become most memorable, and, then lastly I think applicants, should think about the process, don't ask for recommendation in an email you. Know it's a big it's gonna take this person a significant, amount of time on average our references, are about two pages I'm guessing people have to spend at least an hour to to, do a good job on them what's. What, is, most disappointing, to me when I'm really looking to find reasons, to admit is I'll, get to the end of an application I'll be on the second recommend, and I'll see someone, everything's.
Been So positive and they'll, write a positive recommendation but maybe only two paragraphs, and just say they're. Phenomenal they're, the best ever they've, done a great job but, I won't have any of that data to help me make a decision and, it just means that this particular applicant, doesn't have as much. Data. I guess is the best word but landscape, for me to really understand, what they've done and how they've done it so, take, it seriously, make an appointment even if it's a 15 minute chat but ask the question courageously. And say will you write it it's important, why, where you're going what schools didn't, say do you have time to invest to do a good job on this and if someone says they're really busy that's a good indication that maybe you should go to your second choice because. It can make a difference in the end of how much, they're willing to spend, time to help you in this process and. Then for the recommenders, are, there any resources for them or how do they know how to write them ok the best, question. We try to give and many recommenders, have written more than one before, but we try to give them clear. Advice and tips Wynnum they're invited, onto our portal on the website, the, questions, will ask how has this person, differentiated. Themselves from, others that they've seen I'm doing, similar roles and what have they done and accomplished so they'll get that, and. I. Think it's a it comes down to that. They're willing to take the time to really support you you know there's no magic there but, they do have to make that investment and be close enough to you to be able to write thoughtfully. About what you've done. Many. Reapplications, worry that they are at a disadvantage to first-time applicants, is that. True and do, you have any advice for people are trying to replay we, really read them fresh so my best advice is the, person who is evaluating, your application, likely has never seen it before so, there's no reason to explain what's different, or what changed, or maybe why you think you didn't get in some people try to tell us that just, start fresh and look at we've already submitted, you don't have to change everything but think is there something at this moment in time that could be more compelling perhaps, in the last or some way I want to change it to be more representative of, where I am at this moment but.
Please Do if you're committed to Stanford reapply, there's um a lot, of students that we admit from, that category some of my favorite classmates, are, doing. Really good. But. They're here that's awesome, if. An applicant does get an interview how. Would you recommend they prepare for that interview well. First of all if an applicant gets an interview, congratulations. That's it. We usually, interview, about two candidates, for every spot that we have so. Number, one the word prepare is a really good one if you've made it this far and work this hard you. Know treat, this as it's an important part of the process we, do. Our unlike, some other schools we use our alumni for interviewers, and they are all around the globe we try to match you with people from your you, know your country, maybe perhaps an industry, that you're in if possible, currently, in so they really understand, you and it's in two parts the first half an hour is primarily, evaluative. And then, the last 15 minutes it's a chance for you to meet someone from the community so. Come prepared with the mindset to do to, do both in, the first part we're going to be it's a behavioral, based interview, so, the stories, that we were talking about before come, ready to tell them we're, going to want to know about what you're most proud of what. Was the context, what was the challenge what, did you do how, did you do it and then what was the impact, so, expect some probing, around those those. Stories and then, on the second part it's fun. Our community is so tight don't. Droid my interview a lot I would actually had a great time yeah and did you enjoy the interviewer, I did, it's. Pretty expert actually it was really good at really, drawing stories, out of me rather kind of in like intense. Questions, and. By the end of it I felt that there was somebody that I'd really gotten to know and. Somebody who was a part of a community I was excited to be a part of so the interview, was actually really great. For me and getting excited for school and. That that's a wonderful, way to to. Help with the second tip that last part of the interview is it's, a gift it's a chance to develop a relationship come. Prepared with some questions that you want to know about Stanford obviously, but, see it it's just one one, entry, step to being a part of a bigger community so, there, is a lot, of information, out there for people applying to business school I know I went through a lot of it some of it helpful some of it not yeah. One of the best resources for applying to Stanford and. I think you make a good point there's a lot of misinformation out, there as well, we. Really believe the best information start with start, with what, we put out there on the website what's, nice about it now is there's lots of conversations, with students out there so you can learn about what it's actually like from the students much, more I, think that's more interesting than hearing it from admissions, as. Well as there's you know profile information tips about the applications start there but, one of the most important things you can do is also go to an information, session and we do about a hundred of them around the globe and the reason for that is you'll get a panel, of four usually, three to five recent, graduates, and they can tell you we. Believe. That Stanford can be transformational, for. You both and what, you learn but also how you develop, so you can actually listen to how this experience, has impacted people. And their own lives both from how they went through as well as what they're doing now when they graduate, so I.
Think That's one of the best ways you can truly be, inspired but also get your questions answered and, if we're, not coming to your hometown then, go to the web we have a virtual one to where you can hear students talking and recent alumni about their experiences, any, other advice before, I give you my last words, of wisdom or, my last piece of advice we've, been spending the last half, an hour talking about how, the. Initials Committee evaluates, candidates, but I would really like to put you on the spot and, say you've you, started two years ago you're about to graduate yes. It's, just a few weeks right and I am curious what surprised, you most about joining, this community of students at the GSB oh. This. Has just been such an amazing. Two years. Difficult. But. Amazing, um, and, I think a, couple things surprised me the first one is that I knew that I was going to come here and find really, intelligent classmates. Really, accomplished, classmates, people, who were gonna make me feel like I didn't do a lot. But. I don't think I could have fathom, just the breadth of experience. And passions. That, these people would have and. How important, that was gonna be to me and my experience, here I, could, have a good idea of like what the academics, were gonna look like but. Not really the people I was gonna meet and I've met some of the most amazing people in the world yeah, and. For, that I'll be really grateful, the. Second thing that I think was really surprising to me is that I expected, to become a better. Business person here but, I didn't expect to become a better person, um. And, I. Really do think that I have and I think a lot of that I owe it to like, the breadth of experience, from, my classmates, and the time I've spent with them what, do you mean a better person, a better person. That's welfare yeah I think it's about. Having. The tools to be a little bit more introspective to. Examine, the, way that I go through the world my, own biases, and challenge them and then, really having the tool kit to do that consistently. And throughout my life so that I know when I leave this place I'll be able to look back on this experience and draw on them and. Maybe do a better job than I would have before. Business school well. That's great thank you yeah I appreciate, that, so. For my here's. My closing advice, I guess, this is for all you, applicants, out there I think. What's most important to me is, to tell you do not underestimate, your. Own potential. There's. No perfect applicant. There's no checklist, that we're looking at of attributes, that we require decide. For yourself, whether you're worth the investment to. Go through the application process and. What I know from, talking to many many applicants, in the past that, you, spending the time to know what's most important, to you what you value what, your aspirations are, and then, what you've really done in the accomplishments, you've had there's, going to be critical to you at this point in time and no matter what you do so, we're genuinely excited, to learn about you to, learn about how you how. You've actually had impact on your team's your organization's, and your communities, and what you care about so, if you have a story to tell us you know that we're here and genuinely ready to and excited to read it so.
Thanks So much Jessica for taking the time and thank you so much for this Kirstin really.