Stanford MBA: How to Get Into Stanford GSB

You’re considering an MBA; it won’t be all too long before you come across the Stanford Graduate School of Business, universally recognized as one of the world’s premiere Graduate Schools of Business. Stanford offers three full-time degree programs: the MBA, the MSx (a compressed one-year program generally pursued by mid-career professionals), and a Ph.D. We’ll focus on the Stanford MBA in this article.

Stanford MBA Profile

Both US News and Financial Times ranked Stanford as the #1 business school of 2021, while Fortune ranked it as #2 in its 2021 Best MBA Program rankings.

An inordinate amount of the buzz surrounding the Stanford Graduate School of Business addresses its continually increasing selectivity. The Class of 2022 had 7324 applicants, and 436 new students were accepted.

If we grind a few numbers, we see that the Stanford MBA acceptance rate is just under 6%, or just over 1 of every 16 is admitted. It is indeed a tight cut, but that ought not to discourage you when you believe you’ve got the academic chops to be a serious candidate.

Stanford University

Stanford GMAT Scores

It’s really important to note here that while the Stanford GSB has one of the highest average GMAT scores around, 733 (96th percentile), the range of these scores is broad.  The scores of those admitted to the class of 2022 runs from 600 (54thth percentile) to 790 (99th percentile).  GRE scores of admitted students reflected a similar high mean and broad range, and 25% of the class was admitted on GRE scores.

Total enrollment436
Median GRE score164 - 84th percentile (Q)
165 - 96th percentile (V)
Median GMAT score733 - 96th percentile
Median TOEFL score113 - 96th percentile
Median GPA3.8
Acceptance rate6%
Women47%
First generation university students9%
Students of Color37%
International citizens35%
Average work experience4.7 years
Undergraduate majors

  • 44% Business

  • 37% Engineering, math, and natural sciences

  • 18% Humanities

(Source: Stanford Graduate School of Business)

The takeaway from these data is that you can take the Stanford GSB adcom at its word when it tells you to be yourself and to put your best foot as you see it forward. In its admissions process, the university will give you every opportunity to show how you will both contribute to the program as a student and how you will use your education, to, in the words of the university, “Change lives, change organizations, change the world.”  Stanford wants an interesting class of interesting people, and the characteristics of the class 2022 are adequately diverse to reassure anyone that Stanford GSB looks at more than just academics.   There are a lot of in-person and virtual admissions events that offer great opportunities to learn more about the program, and the university strongly encourages applicants to attend.

What are the Requirements for Admission to Stanford Graduate School of Business?

General Evaluation Criteria

General evaluation criteria include intellectual vitality, demonstrated leadership potential, and personal qualities and contributions.   There are a lot of ways to demonstrate these qualities in addition to strong academics. If you’ve got the stuff, they want to consider your application! 

At risk of repetition, if you believe you can handle the academics and like the program, you really ought to apply. Stanford has a well-deserved reputation of being far more friendly and less competitive than many of its similarly ranked peers, and the admissions criteria reflect this approach. Stanford GSB has no preferred undergraduate curriculum and no minimum GPA.  There really is no prototypical student.  DACA recipients and undocumented who otherwise meet criteria are encouraged to apply, and nine percent of the class of 2022 are in the first generation of their families to graduate from a four year program.

In the application process, you can show them how you shine via a number of paths: undergraduate GPA, GMAT or GRE Scores (or TOEFL scores if appropriate), examples of activities and awards, a recounting of your professional experience, and two letters of reference.  Potential applicants with  GMAT or GRE scores at the lower end of the admitted class’ range can most quickly improve their chances of admission by improving their exam scores.  For more information on the relative merits of the GMAT and the GRE as vehicles for admission to a top MBA program, see our GMAT vs. GRE comparison.

Essays

Additional parts of the application include two essays whose combined total word count is less than 1,050 words. They address two very broad topics that permit you to show Stanford what a great match you and the Graduate School of Business will be: “What matters most to you, and why?” and “Why Stanford?”

Letters of Recommendation

The recommendations are particularly important at Stanford; it is here that you get to shine and at the same time be reasonably humble, so choose your recommendations authors carefully.  Show your leadership / contributions to something larger than yourself here.

Optional Items

There are also two optional essay questions that permit you to add any information you’d like the committee to know about that did not come up elsewhere in your package.

Stanford MBA Program: Curriculum, Cost, and More

The program itself is a high-end intellectual playground. The Stanford GSB faculty of 111 is chock full of Nobel Laureates, including recipients of 5 Nobel prizes for economics alone since 1990, not to mention the countless recipients of additional academic awards. These scholars are distributed across eight broadly defined academic areas – Accounting, Economics, Finance, Marketing, Operations, Information and Technology, Organizational Behavior, and Political Economy.

Curriculum

The Graduate School of Business operates on a quarter system. First-year MBA students typically take core courses, with one or two electives in the Winter and Spring quarters. This is typically followed by the Global Management Immersion Experience requirement, four weeks abroad with a group of 20–30 students and a professor, working in a sponsoring organization. Student may also self-design and direct an individual Global Experience. COVID has of course had an effect on this program’s recent implementation, but Stanford GSB is keeping its finger on the pulse as circumstances evolve.

Second year students take almost exclusively elective courses. These courses come from the following disciplines, and at least 100 courses change year to year.

  • Accounting
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Finance
  • Global management
  • Human resources
  • Information technology
  • Leadership
  • Managerial economics
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Organizational behavior
  • Political economics
  • Public management
  • Strategic management

Students will also complete 12 additional academic credits which can come from any of the six schools that comprise the whole of Stanford University, including the Schools of Business, the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, the Graduate School of Education, the School of Engineering, the School of Humanities and Sciences, the School of Law, and the School of Medicine. (12% of the class of 2020’s graduates’ new ventures were in healthcare.)

Dual Degrees

One Graduate School of Business alumnus in 6 gets a joint or dual degree. While the standard JD/MBA is certainly popular, 2020’s class also included MBA graduates who combined their degrees with an MA in education, an MPP in Public Planning, as well as with Masters degrees in engineering and computers. At the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the world really is your oyster!

How much does a Stanford MBA cost?

Once you manage to get in, can you afford it? As is the case with all the top programs, it’s expensive. Stanford estimates the cost per year for all tuition and expenses with a “moderate” lifestyle in Palo Alto at $119,964 for a single student at $144.042 for married students. You’ll need to add between $3,000 and $4,500 for the Global Experience requirement.

Here’s the good news. Once you get in, they’ll help you to get through. 

More than $20 million in fellowships are awarded annually. The average need-based award (that’s right, “award” – you won’t be asked to pay it back) is $80,000 spread over the two years.

That’s just the beginning; there’s a load of financial aid Stanford makes available in addition to the above-mentioned fellowships. These include, but are by no means limited to, the Stanford GSB BOLD fellows fund, aimed at low-income students and/or those subject to intergenerational wealth disparities.

A lot of aid is based upon race and ethnicity, and a lot is further based upon geographic origins, religious beliefs, and even veteran status and a student’s need to support family members. Other FA opportunities include fellowships and loan forgiveness for students who pursue employment in the nonprofit and public service sectors, and Stanford has a web page dedicated to referrals to external scholarships available to international students as well as to US citizens and permanent residents.

Stanford GSB Employment Outcomes

One is naturally inclined to ask what the ROI on this heavy investment in intellectual excellence looks like. In a word (OK, two words), it looks bright and brilliant. Stanford MBA graduates are among the most heavily recruited students, and they are recruited by the world’s most innovative organizations.

Data for the class of 2020:

  • 91% received offers within 90 days of graduation
    • 34% in finance
    • 24% technology
    • 15% consulting
    • Other 27% of grads spread across a number of industries, with 18% starting new ventures
  • 63% of those reporting said they changed their function or industry

Not only will you be recruited, but you’ll be also well paid. The highest mean starting salary was in Finance, $182,706 annually. The lowest mean salary, not surprisingly in a category characterized as “Other”, was $129,088 annually.

As a point of comparison, the mean starting salary of all 2020 MBA graduates in California was $85,331. (Source: Investopedia)

Add to the above that 41% of the Stanford MBA class of 2020 got stock compensation of some sort, and 71% expect to receive a performance bonus, and the ROI looks impressive indeed.

How to Get Into Stanford GSB: Takeaways

The Stanford MBA is clearly an outstanding academic opportunity – indeed, a collection of outstanding academic opportunities. The hard part is getting accepted.

Some common threads:

Stanford Graduate School of Business likes students who are successful as a result of pursuing their passions to the fullest, as opposed to those who check off a large number of boxes as an end in itself.

Community involvement is highly valued; the school offers academic programs through the Center for Social Innovation and the Public Management program, and offers loan reduction for graduates who pursue employment in this space. Stanford is not a competitive cutthroat environment, but rather a place where differences are accepted and students support each other.

If you are an authentic person who’s a team player, the Stanford Graduate School of Management is a definite “must-see” during your exploration of top-notch MBA programs! And you can explore additional top-tier programs in Magoosh’s list of top MBAs!

Ready to get an awesome GMAT score? Start here.

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Authors

  • Thomas J. Miller

    Few people are as familiar with the ins and outs of the GMAT's sections as is Tom Miller. Since 1995, when the exam was pencil and paper only, Tom has designed, taught, and edited programs for several international test prep companies and MBA programs to address each change in the exam’s content and format. His students have gone on to graduate from many of the world’s top MBA programs.   Tom has authored an acclaimed GMAT grammar crash course, “Verbal Boot Camp”, and has a long track record of helping the “math-phobic” successfully get their scores up to the level required to succeed in business school. He has also helped many students get the superior scores required for scholarships and admission to the world’s top MBA programs.   Tom’s business school experience goes beyond the particulars of the GMAT. He has taught Economics and Statistics as an Executive in Residence and Adjunct Professor at the Butler University MBA program and taught Business Business Law at Stenden University in Qatar, where he was the faculty Senior Lecturer.   Tom has won numerous awards for his publications on leadership, core values, and peak performance in “Proceedings” of the US Naval Institute and is the first enlisted man to win the Navy League of the United States’ Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement.   Tom holds degrees in English, German, and Art History from Indiana University, and a law degree from the Cleveland Marshall College of law. You can connect with him on LinkedIn for further information.

  • Derrick P. Haynes

    Derrick is a Test Prep Expert at Magoosh. You can reach out to him for all your GMAT needs, especially questions regarding: How to mentally prepare for the GMAT, How to create an Error Log, and Tips for how to Dominate the Quant section. Outside of GMAT Prep, Derrick is a 6th Grade math teacher in Harlem, NY. His family has called Harlem home for over 60 years, coming up from The Carolinas during the Great Migrations. Derrick earned a B.A, in Economics from Morehouse College and, prior to his career in education, was a client manager at Goldman Sachs. This fall, he is proud to be starting his my MBA journey at The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Hit up Derrick on Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, or Youtube (Alexis & Derrick). STAY SHARP!

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