So you want to go to business school at Stanford. As a company based in the San Francisco Bay Area, we get it. There’s sunshine (well, at least in Palo Alto), mild temperatures year-round, and most importantly, a vibrant, business-savvy, techie, cultural scene. And oh yeah, the #1 business school in the United States.*
Unfortunately, this hidden gem hasn’t failed to elude other would-be MBA applicants. Last year, Stanford Graduate School of Business received about 7355 applications for its approximately 400 spots. You’re prepping for the GMAT, so you know that means about 18 applicants for every seat.
So let’s cut to the chase. What GMAT scores do you need to get into Stanford? I wish there was a magic number I could give you, but the reality is, there is quite a range of GMAT scores in Stanford’s typical incoming class. The GMAT scores of the Class of 2016 at Stanford ranged from 550 to 790. (But you know who has an even bigger GMAT score range? His name starts with H and ends with -arvard.)
So this means I have some good news and bad news for you. You might want to have a seat for this.
The good news is that Stanford, just like its other top business school friends, is always willing to make a few exceptions for exceptional students (and if you want to read more of my thoughts on this, check out our Harvard GMAT Score post). So if you are bringing an incredible backstory, impressive work experience, or some beneficial diversity to the class, Stanford might be willing to overlook a lower GMAT score.
The bad news is that you shouldn’t ever kid yourself into thinking that test scores aren’t an important part of your business school application or that very many applicants get into Stanford with scores in the 500s or 600s. Test scores are a VERY, VERY important part of your app. Average GMAT scores account for a significant percentage in the determination of the all-important U.S. News and World Report rankings, and dips and rises in GMAT scores of incoming classes are meticulously picked apart every year in media speculations about the competitiveness and strength of certain programs.
The magic number that is perhaps even more important to examine than GMAT ranges is the average GMAT score at Stanford, which was 732 for the Class of 2016. And that average is coming largely from students scoring in the 700s, pulled down a bit by a few dozen exceptions.
So let me break it down with some score ranges to better answer the question about the GMAT scores you need for your California dreams. (Note that while the ranges below are similar to my evaluation of Harvard’s GMAT scores, I’ve upped them a bit here based on both historical data and anecdotal evidence as well as because of the presumed pressure on Stanford to maintain its status in the rankings.)
Stanford GMAT Score Ranges
The safe zone: 750-800. If your scores are in this range, as long as your work experience, GPA, resume and recommendations are on track with the average Stanford hopeful, you have a good shot. Keep in mind, though, that even an 800 doesn’t guarantee admissions. Even in this range you need a dash of luck or some pull. You need to hope that you don’t turn an admissions officer off somehow or that there aren’t too many “yous” in the applicant pool.
The go-for-it zone: 710-750. You are definitely in range here for a chance at admissions, but other aspects of your application are going to need to also A. impress or B. help round out the diversity of the class.
The questionable zone: 660-710. Your application is likely going to face some serious extra scrutiny. You must have something to offer Stanford that no one else is bringing. You can expect that roughly only around 10% of admission offers are handed out to applicants in this range.
The shot-in-the-dark zone: 500-660. Again, those admitted in this range are the superstars; the individuals whom Stanford is willing to let impact its published score range or ranking because they are that outstanding. According to Stanford admissions, the lowest score ever admitted to the MBA program was around a 520 to 540. (At Harvard, it was a 480).
If your scores are in the “questionable” or “shot-in-the-dark” ranges, I highly recommend you do some serious GMAT prep or consider the GRE as an alternative, a test that is now well-accepted at Stanford. GMAT scores are a big deal at Stanford, so do everything you can to make yours as competitive as possible so the rest of your application can shine like the California sun.
*according to U.S. News and World Report 2016 business school rankings.
Stanford GSB Class of 2016 Profile