icon-case-study Katherine
Degree 3.6 from UCLA, Electrical Engineering
Initial GRE Score 151Q/141V
Profile 36-year old Indian female career switcher needs MBA to pivot from engineering to non-profit management
Target Schools HBS (Reach)
Stanford GSB (Reach)
Oxford Saïd (Reach)
Cambridge Judge (Reach)

Application Branding Strategy

Katherine’s biggest hurdle to overcome was one she could do nothing about: age. B-Schools like their students in their 20’s and, well, that’s just the way it is. Katherine decided to roll the dice with Harvard and Stanford—her two dream schools. We advised her to apply to schools that like their applicants a bit more mature (many strong European schools do just that) so she added Oxford and Cambridge. Our strategy was to brand her as someone who has acquired hard-fought skills in the classroom, in the boardroom, and in the home as a mother.


Katherine’s essays presented a very compelling, if disjointed, narrative. We tightened up her career objectives, clarified her vision for each school (in this case Stanford) and tied it all into Stanford’s learning philosophy of “change lives, change organizations and change the world.”.


Katherine felt confident going into her eventual Stanford interview because the essays helped her refine the talking points that made it possible.

Bottom Line

Final GRE Score



Cambridge Judge


Stanford GSB


Oxford Saïd

We help you capture the vital elements that top MBA and graduate schools looks for in your personal statement. Below is a side-by-side comparison of Katherine’s initial draft to Stanford GSB and the final version that led to his acceptance.


Why Stanford? (400 words)

Looking back at the short life I’ve lived, I have championed ‘misfit’– growing up with brothers, living disguising as a Sinhalese, immigrant, going to school as a mom, successful woman engineer, all attribute to my ignorance of ‘misfit.’ Me believing we are more equal than we are different has led me to chase all the wonderful things in life.

When researching for an MBA program, Stanford GSB motto stood out first– “Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world.” Through my story I have impacted some to change how they view their own story. However, in order to change lives, I need to change myself – my story should not stop at a mother, immigrant, and civil war survivor finally becoming a NASA’s Mars Rover 2020 engineer. I don’t want my impact to get plateaued. I want my story to get better. I want my impact to be larger than myself - For that, I need to change. In search of a career transition from my traditional engineering role in solving technical problems to solving problems for social change, Stanford GSB program fits perfectly to my needs – At Stanford, I no longer be a ‘misfit.’

I greatly value each of the major four pillars GSB program stands on today: Teaching to innovate, create and dream; Learn to lead; Change the world; How to broaden your community.

I intend to concentrate in social innovation, enhancing my existing knowledge in managing nonprofit growth while allowing me to understand more complex social problems that drive social change in a sustainable way. At GSB, the possibility to take electives across any Stanford department allows me the opportunity to develop innovative solutions across variety of interdisciplinary field of study will broaden my knowledge and equipped me better as I venture into real world post MBA. Moreover, without constrained to the application period, allowing me the possibility to make decisions during first year possibility of a duel degree program gives me relief knowing the programs flexibility and how important flexibility is to me as a mother and a wife.

I am specifically interested in social change in STEM community as I strongly believe technology created for everyone should have diverse perspectives. GSB exceptional geographical location in the heart of Silicon Valley, will be a great opportunity for industry leaders such as Fern Mandelbaum Joelle Emerson to conveniently visit campus as regular lecturers so I get the first-hand feedback of my mission. Its close proximity to many startups, including numbers of startups founded by my friends and colleagues, allows me convenience to setup independent projects during school year and opportunity of summer projects other MBA programs will not easily have access to.

As a relationship-driven person, I value Stanford’s small class size and intimate learning experience. While there are advantages of a large class in terms of the vast global alumni network, a smaller class undoubtedly helps students foster closer relationships. As somewhat of an introverted engineer, the intimate close knit will help me to make life long bonds with my peers at GSB. In addition, program’s focus on teaching students how to escape their comfort zone in order to learn themselves, through interpersonal dynamic courses, Executive Challenge and Leadership Lab, I imagine learning more of myself and my fellow GSBers. Groups of as small as 6 students with simulations and roleplay while forcing self-respect can be challenging. There were numerous times in the past, I shied away from placing myself in situations where I had to take decisions that didn’t seem to win everyone’s favor – I did, when it was no other way to bypass, but often left me wonder whether there was a better way to make those decisions. Immediate feedback from industry leaders through Executive Challenge addressing very barriers that kept me from taking risky decisions during my technical career will be invaluable to pivot my career as a business leader.

I have been in contact with numerous GSB past and present students. One thing I drew largely from my experience talking to students and alumni around the world, offering advice and some who sat graciously with me for hours in front of Coupa Café, was the unparalleled level of collaboration among students. Program’s non-disclosure of grades has allowed them to take academic risks and work collaborate with peers without competing and really learning from each other. As an undergrad, this very reason hindered me taking academic risks and I stuck with what I knew best. Moreover, grades came in between us when collaboration was not demanded. If my goal is to change the world, I need to understand the world in a larger context by taking academic risks. That is the only way I can broaden the community. Stanford’s collaborative environment will get me there.

To me understanding the world also means understanding my sense of place in the world. During school year, my day-to-day interaction with culturally and intellectually diverse student cohort comprised of over 40% international students will give me the global sense I am looking for. Rest of the year, will fill with Global Study, GMIX and Global Seminar experience not only I get to experience on my own and also to enrich myself from the experiences fellow GSBers bring back home.

I want my story to continue as a mother, immigrant, civil war survivor, Mars Rover engineer and a change agent for women who’s also changing the world. I want to achieve that without feeling ‘misfit.’ When my daughter graduates from Boston University with a STEM degree, I want to see she steps into a world her contribution is demanded and needed.


Why Stanford? (400 words)

I intend to use my Stanford MBA to “change lives, change organizations and change the world,” just maybe not in that exact order.

First, I intend to change organizations. My short-term goal, after shoring up my general management and strategic planning skills at Stanford, is to join the executive human resources team of a Silicon Valley-based technology company to change the way the organization designs and implements leadership initiatives aimed at redressing the gender imbalance in STEM roles.

In this way, I hope to help “change” organizations.

To do so, I will need a deeper understanding of how to implement business-driven educational initiatives in complex organizational structures. While many MBA programs offer generic classes in organizational behavior, Stanford’s Social Innovation focus allows me to take specialized courses such as “Entrepreneurial Approaches to Education Reform,” Scaling Change,” and “Compassion and Leadership”. Meanwhile, my long-term goal of scaling my non-profit globally would be well served by deepening my understanding of non-profit management through courses such as “Strategic Management of Nonprofit Organizations and Social Ventures” and “Strategic Philanthropy”. Since my formal education is as an engineer, Stanford’s interdisciplinary approach to learning will round me out as a business leader.

Next, I intend to change lives. Beyond the care of my own family, my main interest lies in creating new opportunities for women to be part of the educational and professional STEM communities. GSB’s proximity to Silicon Valley—a hub of both technological and organizational innovation—will allow me to develop vital contacts with companies that have been forerunners in driving social impact (Salesforce’s Philanthropy/Education/Nonprofit Cloud and the work of Google’s Education/Economic Opportunity/Inclusion division both stand out). The goal of my existing nonprofit—to expand the reach of STEM opportunities worldwide, especially to women living under creative tyranny—will be enhanced by leveraging the vast resources of these companies.

In this way, I hope to help change lives.

Finally, I intend to help change the world. As a relationship-driven person, I value Stanford’s small class size and intimate learning experience. I was encouraged to hear current GSB students at Coupa Café describe the unparalleled level of collaboration and academic risk-taking due to non-disclosure of grades. This unique program feature, along with the unusually dynamic connections created in the vibrant intellectual hub of Silicon Valley, makes Stanford a place where the world as I know it will change forever.

In this way, I hope to change my world.