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Sample Harvard Stanford MBA essays: Written by ChatGPT, reviewed by humans

Sample Harvard Stanford MBA essays

Partly out of curiosity and largely to evaluate its impact on our own future, we asked ChatGPT to do what many have already started asking – write sample MBA essays for Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB and other top business schools.

In an earlier post, we covered how to (and not to) write an MBA Application Essay using ChatGPT.

While that was the entrée, think of this as the main dish. We have now tried to take specific examples, given the AI model as much data as one could, and then attempted to ‘objectively’ assess if it could give humans (with admission consulting experience) a run for their money.

And it should be no surprise to you, the reader, as to what our ongoing hypothesis was here. But with that as a disclaimer, we have tried to be as objective here as possible.
 

Stanford and Harvard MBA essay prompts to get examples from ChatGPT

At MBA Crystal Ball, we’ve had a lot of fun over the years tackling the ‘What matters most to you, and why?” question that Stanford GSB has been posing for several years now.

It is also among the trickiest in the MBA application world (together with the openly worded HBS question).
 

The methodology

We started with the basic questions and kept increasing the complexity as well as the data that was provided.

To prompts such as – how can I write a good essay for this and do you have a template, ChatGPT humbly accepts it doesn’t have a template but then, goes on to list a 5-part structure:

 
I. Introduction
II. What Matters Most to You
III. Why It Matters
IV. How It Will Impact Your Future Goals
V. Conclusion

 
It also gives 6 tips such as being authentic, focusing on one or two things and so on.

The tips are nothing new and apply universally, available on any number of sites, including ours, from where ChatGPT inputs would’ve been sourced.

The structure however comes under scanner up front.

In many cases, you don’t have to necessarily spell out what matters to you in what may be construed as pedantic and forced manner (I’ll explain that in a minute).

The MBA essay structure ChatGPT suggests is pretty similar irrespective of when you ask it to regenerate the response – in other words, if you follow it, the essay risks looking like a clone of many others right up front.

Next, we asked for an example and this is how it went.

[Note: For the sake of brevity, we’ve used representational samples of MBA essays written by ChatGPT, as opposed to the full output.]

 
Growing up in a small town in rural America, I always felt a strong connection to nature.

From a young age, I loved exploring the woods behind my house, playing in the creek, and watching the stars at night.

As I got older, my passion for nature only grew stronger, and I began to realize that protecting the environment was what mattered most to me.

 
Many may marvel at how legible and real it feels. Sure. But then again, remember that making basic sense isn’t what gets you through. A vast majority of humans can do that.

When you’re writing Harvard and Stanford MBA essays, you’ll need to bring in much more than these examples.

What ChatGPT generated is as generic as it gets – right from the scenery it tries to evoke an answer, the example couldn’t be further from sounding as to what a ‘real’ person would say.

We also asked it for a sample on HBS essay prompt, “As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?” and this is a small sample of what it came up with.

 
As I apply to the Harvard Business School MBA program, I want to take the opportunity to share more about what drives me and why I believe I would be an excellent candidate for this program. What matters most to me is the environment, and its protection.

Growing up in a small town in rural America, I always felt a strong connection to nature. From a young age, I loved exploring the woods behind my house, playing in the creek, and watching the stars at night. As I got older, my passion for nature only grew stronger, and I began to realize that protecting the environment was what mattered most to me.

 
This feels derivative of the Stanford MBA essay sample and retains the same generic feel.

Here’s another interesting observation we made. What ChatGPT gave us has an eerie similarity to what it generated for Poets&Quants for over a month back.

 
What matters most to me is the health of our planet and the well-being of all living beings that call it home. Growing up in a small town in the countryside, I have always had a deep connection with nature. As a child, I spent most of my time outdoors exploring the woods, streams, and fields.

Source: P&Q

 
Deja vu?

There may be thousands of applicants getting ‘inspired’ by the same examples with similar wording. Keep this in mind if you plan to use sample MBA essays of HBS, Stanford et al.

We didn’t stop there though. Taking things a notch higher, we then fed a candidate’s resume details as well as a lot of information that we ask as part of our process, into the model. We then requested it for a response. Here’s what we got (personal information masked)

 
For me, it is the ability to make conscious and deliberate choices that are guided by a holistic perspective.

Growing up, I learned the importance of this approach thanks to my father, who challenged me to develop a value proposition for everything I wanted in life.

While I initially resented the delayed gratification that came with this process, it instilled in me a desire to make choices that were well-informed and aligned with my values.

As I entered adulthood, this approach proved invaluable, particularly as a woman in a society that often creates a glass ceiling for women.

When I decided to pursue mechanical engineering despite concerns from others about my ability to land a core engineering job, I did my research, talked to successful women in the field, and ultimately became the first person in my university to land a core engineering job.

Now, I mentor other women in the XYZ program and help them interview for internships at my company.

 
The tool follows the GIGO principle (Garbage In Garbage Out). So what you feed it will influence the output it generates.

The example above sounds more real. This is because most of these were the Stanford applicant’s words that we picked up from the rough draft and structure shared while working with us.

So, what’s wrong with this? Notice the use of clichés (like holistic perspective). It continues to move around the periphery, without hitting the nail on its head.

Reading this, one gets the impression that this is an interesting person, but doesn’t quite get it.

But it can be a good starting point, right? Wrong.

After hours of brainstorming to discover what makes the candidate click, this is what eventually resulted in an admit from the toughest school in the world to get into.

 
One of my last memories of my great-grandmother is of her lying weakly in the bed, urging me to keep her XYZ edition of XYZ book and saying, “Don’t let gender limit your potential [candidate name], the way I did!

She had won the book for being her XYZ university’s gold-medalist. Despite her academic promise, she never pursued international research opportunities offered to her; it was “unseemly” for a woman to work alone in another country. History repeated itself across generations in my family.

My grandmother studied medicine. My mother is the only person in our family with a master’s degree. My aunt was a national-level swimmer with Olympic potential.

All talented women, but none allowed to professionally explore their potential. I grew up listening to their stories of would-be triumphs and many regrets.

But the picture they painted for me was one of hope and dreams, giving me courage to break the prejudices of a conservative society that had shackled their dreams.

Not without a hint of vengeance, I vowed to never let my life be dictated by my gender.

The first real test of this vow was while deciding my undergrad major.

 
Of course, there was much more hard-hitting content in the essay. But what we’ve shared should give you an idea of how different her submitted essay was compared to the examples we got from ChatGPT.

If the candidate had followed the rigid structure or the first draft proposed by ChatGPT, the above version would never had come out.

Even before the ChatGPT era, we’ve been cautioning candidates against reading up sample MBA essays or asking for one. They do nothing but to bias you that there is a right answer out there. There isn’t.

In the words of ChatGPT, you have to be authentic. And without an interactive back and forth, without the right dosage of art and creativity thrown in for good measure, the current system is likely to make you biased.

Let’s see what the online tool does with the HBS prompt now. This time, showing how it ends. Here’s the sample Harvard MBA essay generated by ChatGPT.

 
Throughout my life, I have faced questions about my aspirations and abilities as a woman. But through conscious deliberation, I have developed conviction in my own choices and processes, allowing me to challenge society’s preconceptions of what is appropriate for me.

In pursuing an MBA at Harvard Business School, I hope to further develop my skills in leadership, problem-solving, and collaboration. With a passion for creating value and making informed decisions, I am confident that I can contribute to the HBS community and bring a unique perspective to class discussions and projects. Thank you for considering my candidacy.

 
The first sentence is quite a mouthful without giving away much of real substance. The Why HBS piece is a boilerplate response that is just sheer waste of space. Compared to how we helped the applicant end it.

 
I have had my aspirations repeatedly questioned at various stages of my life, and it is my confidence in my abilities and choices that has allowed me to go beyond what the society considered “appropriate” for me.

I love creating “value propositions” and I believe that I can really refine my strategy building skills at HBS, especially over the strategy classes in Term 2. In addition, the field immersions would also help me try out my decision making frameworks on real life projects.

I believe this exposure, coupled with a stint in consulting and my background in engineering will enable me to pursue my goal of becoming a well-rounded strategy leader in a technology enterprise, who is able to create the right “value propositions” for the company and help women look beyond the questions that our society continuously throws at them!

 
As humans, it’s hard for us to leave something that’s already there (in this case, say a first draft from ChatGPT) and start from scratch. Its after all an art.

Many argue as to why are these essays required, for they are not going to become artists. But that’s not correct. For becoming a business leader is no less than art where you have to balance conflicting priorities, and not just think objectively, but humanly and manage emotions too.

In essence, play with the AI model but if you are serious about your applications, stay authentic and avoid the temptation to take the easy route. The route won’t lead anywhere.

Living and breathing humans are better at understanding pain, euphoria and other emotions that go into making a good MBA essay. And with experience it gets better. We have a few of those seasoned mentors in our team, who can help you with your MBA applications.

Play around with ChatGPT till you figure out what it can and cannot do. And then drop us an email for the serious application work: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com


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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Email. Or follow on Linkedin, Facebook.

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