Stanford University has close to 9,500 students admitted to any one of its seven different graduate schools, all of which require a Stanford graduate school statement of purpose as part of the admissions process. The school hosts over 100 programs, which have an interdisciplinary nature, as the school prides itself on how a majority of programs integrate interdisciplinary study into their curriculum. The school uses a centralized application system to accept and review graduate school applications, but submitting a statement of purpose is as essential as submitting a research resume or a graduate school cover letter. This article will present a statement of purpose drafted according to the various requirements or prompts from several of the university’s school, such as Stanford Law School, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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Stanford Graduate School of Business Stanford Graduate School of Education PhD in Developmental and Psychological Sciences Stanford Law School FAQs

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the Stanford Graduate School of Business is one of the best MBA programs in the US and one of the best MBA programs in the world. After graduating from the two-year Stanford MBA (there is a one-year MSX, dual-degree program, along with a PhD also offered) 65% of graduates enter different careers, while also raising nearly $1 billion to finance their own start-ups.

The MBA requirements for the school include submitting a Stanford MBA personal statement, but the program also requires applicants respond to two prompts asking similar questions that graduate school statements of purpose usually ask, such as “tell me about yourself” and “why this school?”. The school requests these two Stanford supplemental essays, along with other important materials, such as a grad school letters of recommendation. Both essays should not exceed more than 1050 words, and the school recommends maximum 650 words for the first, and 200 words for the second.

Essay Prompt #1

What matters most to you, and why?

Stanford Graduate School Statement of Purpose Example #1

What matters most to me is the interplay between my family, my Korean heritage, and the concept of Han. When asked a direct question, it is always a good to open with a direct response like this one. In Korean culture, Han is a complex and multifaceted concept, encompassing deep-seated emotions such as sorrow, pain, and resilience. It represents the collective history of suffering and the perseverance of the Korean people. Always use the simplest, most direct terms to explain complicated subjects, but also keep it short.

My family's experience during the LA Uprising of 1992, when our business was destroyed, brought the concept of Han to the forefront of my life. Stanford recommends “writing from the heart” and here you see an inciting personal incident that will fuel the rest of the narrative. Witnessing the devastation and its impact on our community was a profound experience. It ignited a sense of determination within me to not only overcome adversity but also to contribute positively to society.

As Korean immigrants, my parents had poured their heart and soul into building a successful enterprise, only to see it destroyed in the chaos that unfolded. Again, Stanford asks a personal, non-technical answer, so you have leeway to mention troubling incidents, and negative emotions, but don’t focus on them too much. But amidst the rubble and despair, my father's resilience and business acumen shone through. He saw an opportunity to rebuild not just our own lives but also the community that had suffered alongside us. Mentioning negative things should always be countered with how they inspired or motivated you, which is good way to move the story along and talk about something positive or uplifting.

He began purchasing the destroyed properties at a time when others were fleeing. He rented out those spaces below market value, not seeking to make a profit, but to provide a platform for others to rebuild their dreams. Witnessing my father's dedication to the community had a profound impact on me. It made me realize that business is not just about individual success; it is about creating an environment where everyone can thrive.

My father's actions were not solely driven by financial gain, but by a deep commitment to restoring the bonds of community and revitalizing the neighborhood we called home. His investment in the community paid off. Slowly but steadily, the once-devastated Koreatown began to flourish again. The stores my father had rented out below market value became vibrant hubs of activity, attracting entrepreneurs and customers alike. Koreatown transformed into a bustling, vibrant, and essential part of Los Angeles and the United States. This is a very specific example, but you can use the same narrative elements (an inspiring figure, overcoming adversity, the positive results) in your statement.

This experience shaped my understanding of the interconnectedness between business, community, and societal progress. It taught me the power of entrepreneurship as a catalyst for change and the responsibility we have to build inclusive and thriving communities.

Inspired by my father's example, I realized that my passion lies not only in the pursuit of personal success but also in creating an environment where others can thrive. I recognized the importance of community building and how it lays the foundation for sustainable business growth. After mentioning the inspiring figure (in this statement, a father figure), you must always match this figure to changes they inspired in you. And say it explicitly, “this person inspired me”.

Ultimately, what matters most to me is the unwavering spirit of my family, the cultural heritage that shapes my identity, and the dedication to contribute to a more equitable and compassionate society. I will carry the concept of Han with me as a reminder of the sacrifices made and the resilience that has propelled me forward. It fuels my commitment to create a positive legacy, honoring the past while shaping a better future for generations to come. As the question did not ask about specifics (career goals, why Stanford?) you can talk about personal aspirations and goals, rather than goals associated with joining the program or starting a successful business.

Essay Prompt #2

Why Stanford? Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford GSB experience will help you realize them.

Stanford Graduate School Statement of Purpose Example #2

Stanford stands out as my top choice for pursuing my graduate studies because of its unparalleled commitment to interdisciplinary education and its alignment with my aspirations. Again, you are asked a direct question, and it is best to give a direct answer, while expanding on the elements you mentioned, in this case, “interdisciplinary” education, which you follow-up with concrete examples. Through its innovative programs and initiatives, Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) offers a unique platform to explore my research interests and effect meaningful change in the business world.

One aspect that draws me to Stanford GSB is its dedication to research and thought leadership in areas that directly align with my interests. The Corporations and Society research lab, for instance, delves into the complex relationships between businesses and society, examining how corporations can contribute positively to societal well-being.

This resonates with my own goal of understanding and advocating for the advancement of Latino entrepreneurs and their potential for economic empowerment. Additionally, the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative's work in supporting and studying the experiences of Latino business owners further demonstrates the school's commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Regardless of the graduate school you apply to, they all want to know the same thing, “why us?” and you can mention a lot of things (real Stanford students talk about the school’s diversity, interdisciplinary approach, and the amount of relevant research being done), but they must be specific to the school and necessary to your particular interests.

Moreover, Stanford GSB's interdisciplinary approach is vital to my aspirations. Don’t be coy about how the school is essential to your interests or research. Be direct in what the school offers you, and why it is the right fit for you, but also mention what you will contribute to the school. By blending various fields such as corporate governance, finance, labor studies, analytics, and social sciences, the school provides a comprehensive framework for understanding complex business challenges. This multidimensional approach aligns perfectly with my vision of exploring the barriers that impede Latinos from becoming business owners rather than solely relying on labor roles. I am eager to engage in cross-disciplinary discussions and collaborate with faculty and fellow students who share a similar passion for effecting change in the business landscape.

Stanford Graduate School of Education

The Stanford Graduate School of Education perhaps best exemplifies the school’s dedication to interdisciplinary study. The program offers doctoral programs in all major subject areas of elementary and high school education (English, history, social sciences, mathematics), while also offering cross-discipline studies in the areas of developmental psychology, learning sciences, and race and inequality in education. It also offers a Master of Teacher Education for students who want to teach at the elementary or high-school level. The School of Education offers various degrees (Master’s or PhD) and several programs have unique prompts and questions it asks applicants to address in the statement of purpose, which we will analyze and use here.

PhD in Developmental and Psychological Sciences

Essay Prompt #1

Describe experiences that illustrate why you are applying to the graduate program in DAPS. These experiences should include academic, research, or professional experiences, and they may also include personal experiences that further demonstrate your commitment to this course of study.

From witnessing my niece Andrea's journey with an unknown learning disability, I was awakened to the profound impact early childhood development can have on a child's life. The prompt mentions academic, professional and research experiences, but also personal ones, so it is allowable to talk about something personal, but, again, make sure to address the prompt’s other elements by moving to the other areas (academic, professional) in due course. Andrea faced challenges with speech, focus, and concentration, hindering her ability to learn and communicate effectively. Her parents sought answers from numerous experts in child development, early childhood education, and medical professionals, only to encounter frustrating dead ends. Inspired by Andrea's story I embarked on a path in early childhood education to delve into the complexities of childhood development.

As an early childhood educator, I have encountered children like Andrea, who exhibit unexplainable or undiagnosable disabilities, which are neither extreme or truly debilitating (Andrea is currently a vivacious, 14-year-old attending high school), but still put them at a disadvantage. A professional experience connected to your personal one. These children, often overlooked or misunderstood by traditional approaches, compelled me to explore the intersections of education, psychology, and neuroscience to uncover new insights and potential solutions. Using strong, “power” words (I.e., “compel”, “passion”, “determination”) help convey your enthusiasm for your subject and research.

My passion lies in pushing the boundaries of knowledge in early childhood development and expanding research efforts into understanding and addressing developmental disabilities. I believe that to truly make a difference, we must approach this issue from a multidisciplinary perspective. Therefore, I aim to combine disciplines such as environmental science, cognitive and brain science, and social factors to explore the complexities of developmental disabilities. One of the most important things to remember about writing a statement of purpose is to describe a purpose, which may seem like a given, but it demands emphasizing. Talk only about what you have done and what you want to do, not necessarily who you are, which is best left to personal statements or interviews, if your program holds interviews. The faculty reading your statement are interested in your preparation and familiarity with the subject, but they are more interested in how you plan to achieve your goals at their institution. 

Drawing from environmental science, I aim to investigate how various prenatal and postnatal factors, including exposure to toxins, nutrition, and the quality of early childhood environments, impact developmental outcomes. By understanding the potential influence of these environmental factors, we can identify preventive measures and interventions that promote healthy development from the earliest stages of life.

In parallel, cognitive and brain science offer a valuable lens to examine the intricacies of brain development and how it relates to learning and behavior. Through neuroimaging techniques and advanced research methodologies, we can gain insights into the neural underpinnings of developmental disabilities and identify effective strategies for intervention and support.

Additionally, I recognize the significant role that social factors, such as poverty and other disadvantages, play in shaping early childhood development. By incorporating a social justice lens into my research, I aim to address the disparities that exist and identify equitable solutions that ensure all children, regardless of their background, receive the support they need to thrive.

My aspirations align seamlessly with the Stanford Graduate School of Education's Grand Challenges initiative, which aims to address significant problems in education through interdisciplinary collaboration and research. Particularly, the focus areas of "Science of Learning," "Promise of Every Child," and "Identities and Participation Challenges" deeply resonate with my research and interests. Doctoral-level statements of purpose should always outline how your research interests coincide with current research being done at the school.  

My personal experiences with my niece and the children I have encountered as an early childhood educator have ignited my passion to understand and address developmental disabilities. By combining disciplines such as environmental science, cognitive and brain science, and social factors, I aspire to expand our knowledge, advocate for evidence-based interventions, and work towards a more inclusive and equitable early childhood education system. Stanford Graduate School of Education offers the ideal platform to realize these aspirations, and I am excited about the prospect of collaborating with faculty and fellow students who share my dedication to advancing our understanding of early childhood development.

Stanford Law School

Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD)

Stanford Law School (SLS) is one of the most sought-after law schools in the US and according to law school admission statistics it is not one of the easiest law schools to get into. Of the six advanced, graduate-level degree programs at SLS, the Doctor of the Science of Law degree (a PhD-equivalent) is the most advanced, and Stanford admits only a handful of applicants every year. The program’s mission, in keeping with the school’s interdisciplinary nature, is to give driven and ambitious law degree holders from outside the US the opportunity to learn more about other fields interconnected with the law, such as the humanities, economics, and international development.

Entry to the program has similar requirements as that of any PhD programs, as students must submit law school letters of recommendation, a law school resume, and a Stanford law school personal statement. However, the law school requirements ask for a research proposal, instead of a statement of purpose, which is not necessarily the same thing. But as all applicants must submit a law school personal statement, we will present one here rather than Stanford graduate school statement of purpose example, as it is still a graduate program at Stanford, and make the necessary adjustments to content and style required of a personal statement.

Stanford Law School Personal Statement Example

The path that led me to pursue the Doctor of the Science of Law program at Stanford Law School was not a conventional one. Unlike a statement of purpose, a personal statement can include details about your personal past, and whatever motivations you had to enter this particular field, but only if they are related to what you are doing academically or professionally. It began amidst the fervor of the anti-World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Genoa. I was among those protesting. I went with peaceful intentions but the anger of the moment spilled over into violence, which I did not take part in. Many of my friends were either seriously injured or arrested, but rather than becoming radicalized, I had the opposite experience. This is a fictional sample. You should always use discretion when thinking about what to mention about your past, especially if it is something controversial. However, as with anything else you write about, if you are able to connect your involvement with your academic and professional pursuits, then you can mention it as something that changed, motivated or inspired you.

It was during this transformative moment that I realized my advocacy required more than just passion and fieriness—it necessitated a deeper understanding of the intricate intersection of law, economics, and global trade. This realization sparked my journey from a protester to a research fellow at the WTO, which is the only place where I felt my intellectual curiosity could be sated, and ultimately lead me to Stanford Law School.

But I started at the University of Bologna, where I completed my law degree and then made the decision to join the organization that I had once protested against. I did it with a clear mind and conscience. My only goal in working at WTO was to broaden my understanding of how to reimagine global trade frameworks that address not only economic growth but also the broader well-being of societies and the planet. Here and in the preceding paragraph is where you can turn the narrative back to your academic pursuits and future goals and ultimately talk more about how Stanford can help in this regard.

During my tenure as a research fellow at the WTO, I witnessed firsthand the limitations of the current system and its focus on efficiency and capital accumulation. This experience, combined with my MA in Economics from UCLA, propelled me towards seeking a new path—one that prioritizes sustainability, equity, environmental protection, and the empowerment of nations to safeguard their natural resources. It was after completing my fellowship when my grander ideas came into play.

My vision centers on creating a framework that places sustainability and environmental protection at the forefront of trade policies. By integrating legal mechanisms that encourage responsible business practices and accountability, we can foster economic growth while safeguarding our shared natural resources. Through in-depth research, collaboration with global stakeholders, and engagement with international organizations, I aim to contribute to the development of a just and sustainable international trade order.


1. What is a Stanford graduate school statement of purpose?

A Stanford graduate school statement of purpose is a necessary document for how to get into grad school at Stanford. It should outline your research interests for the Master or doctoral program you are applying to. 

2. What is the difference between a Stanford graduate school statement of purpose and a personal statement?

A Stanford graduate school statement of purpose is different from a personal statement because a personal statement asks for personal details related to your background, upbrining and general history. A statement of purpose demonstrates what you know about your subject, what you plan to research and how this research will contribute to the larger knowledge of your particular subject. 

3. Do all the programs at Stanford require an Stanford graduate school statement of purpose?

A majority of programs do, yes. 

4. What is the difference between a statement of purpose and a grad school career goals statement?

The difference between these two documents is that the statement of purpose deals with the near-future, meaning your time at graduate school. But the career goals statemetn is for after you leave academia to transition to industry.

5. How long should my Stanford graduate school statement of purpose be?

There are no specific formatting rules for the Stanford graduate school statement of purpose, but they are usually between 500 to 750 words or more. 

6. Who can help me with my statement of purpose?

You can ask for help from your thesis advisor or former faculty member. You can also try hiring PhD admissions consultant who may guide you on what to write by reading and revising the various drafts of your statement. 

7. Why does Stanford ask for an MIT graduate school statement of purpose?

Stanford, like all graduate schools, asks for a statement of purpose because it wants to determine whether the applicant’s academic record, research history and investigative threads have anything to do with the program’s offerings and research agenda, and whether the candidate will be a good fit for the program. 

8. Do I have to write a Stanford graduate school statement of purpose?

Yes, writing and submitting a Stanford graduate school statement of purpose is part of applying to any graduate program at Stanford. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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