If you are applying to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, this guide created by MBA Prep School is a great place to start learning about the MBA program.
This school guide will provide you with a comprehensive foundation to plot your journey toward the Knight Center in Palo Alto, California.
Setting & Campus Life
Setting & Campus Life
Compared to its east coast peers, Stanford boasts a mellow atmosphere – aided by warm weather and swaying palm trees – and promotes collaboration rather than competition.
Its location in the heart of Silicon Valley, just south of San Francisco, provides students with unmatched access to the vibrant and fast-growing technology industry.
Stanford also prides itself on its flexibility – it allows and even encourages its graduate students to take classes within each of its seven schools: business, law, engineering, humanities and sciences, earth sciences, education, and medicine.
More broadly, California represents the eighth largest economy in the world with high export volumes, which creates significant opportunities for international business for those MBAs living in the Golden State.
Stanford GSB School Ranking
- US News (2020): #1 (tie)
- Economist (2019): #9
- Financial Times (2020): #3
- Businessweek (2019-20): #1
- Poets & Quants (2021): #1
Stanford GSB Application Deadlines
|R1||September 9, 2021||Rolling||December 9, 2021|
|R2||January 5, 2022||Rolling||March 31, 2022|
|R3||April 12, 2022||Rolling||May 26, 2022|
Stanford GSB Class Profile
Profile data for the Stanford MBA Class of 2022:
- GPA Average: 3.73
- GMAT Range: 600 – 790
- GMAT Median: 732
- GRE Median: Verbal: 165, Quant: 165
- # of Applicants: 7,324
- # of Admits: 504 (Class of 2022)
- Class Size: 417
- Acceptance rate: 6.9% (Class of 2022)
- International vs Domestic: 35% international
- Demographics: 47% female
- Diversity Information: 47% US students of color
Click to read the full Stanford MBA class profile (opens in a new tab)
Stanford GSB Admissions Strategy
As a top school, Stanford sets a high bar for admissions meaning that you will need to present yourself in the best possible light and prove to the admissions committee that what makes you compelling as a candidate matches the strengths and qualities that the GSB cares about most.
What fit qualities does the Stanford GSB look for in applicants?
“In assessing intellectual vitality, we believe that your attitude toward learning is as important as your aptitude. We hope that your application will convey your passion, dedication, and genuine interest in expanding your intellectual horizons.”
–Stanford Graduate School of Business Admissions Committee
“First, leaders envision a direction for their organization by challenging assumptions, finding root causes, and stimulating collaboration. Second, leaders endeavor to drive results by taking initiative above and beyond their responsibilities, setting challenging goals, and persisting to achieve them. Third, leaders engage their followers through communicating a compelling vision and influencing others to support them in their efforts. Fourth, leaders empower others by developing their skills and capabilities. And lastly, leaders build trust and respect through demonstrating integrity and sharing their values, concerns, vulnerabilities, and optimism. Leaders become entrusted because others believe in them. To be effective, senior executives need to use leadership behaviors in each of these five domains. What my research has shown is that early-career professionals also need to use the same behaviors to become high performers.”
–Kirsten Moss, Admissions Director, Stanford GSB
“We look for evidence of your desire to make a lasting impact in the organizations you serve throughout your career, inspiring and motivating your colleagues.”
–Stanford Graduate School of Business Admissions Committee
What distinguishes Stanford GSB from other top business schools?
Stanford prides itself on a wide array of courses and experiential learning opportunities focused on entrepreneurship. These include classes like Startup Garage and Formation of New Ventures, a dedicated on-campus space for the incubation of new ideas (the CoLab), and a multitude of opportunities to connect with the rest of Stanford’s entrepreneurially-minded undergraduate and graduate community.
The GSB’s slogan is “Change Lives, Change Organizations, Change the World” — and between its mandatory Global Study Trips, Global Management Immersion Experiences, the Stanford-Tsinghua Exchange Program (STEP), its students have more than ample opportunities to get out into that “world.”
Focus on Impact
Stanford is deeply committed to helping its students explore and tackle social and environmental issues. The school not only serves up a variety of courses through its Center for Social Innovation, but also offers a Certificate in Public Management and Social Innovation, as well as a globally-networked community rich in non-profit, government, and philanthropic sectors.
What unique/special resources does the school offer?
From its hands-on Lead Labs curriculum, in which a second-year MBA coaches five to six first-year students, to its Executive Challenge and Arbuckle Leadership Fellows program, Stanford offers a cornucopia of academic and experiential leadership opportunities.
View from the Top
Each year, a select group of second-year students is invited to campus, then interview the world’s most eminent leaders — from former professional athletes like Earvin “Magic” Johnson to contemporary legends like Sheryl Sandberg — in a speaker series that feels both inspiring and intimate.
Aside from on-demand communication coaching, including the use of a recording studio for live video feedback, the GSB offers its students a program called LOWkeynotes: an opportunity to craft and deliver a nine-minute TED-esque talk to the Stanford community, on an idea related to the school’s mission (Change Lives, Change Organizations, Change the World).
How do members of the MBA community describe the school’s culture?
“The network is the most important aspect of my education at Stanford GSB. Incredible opportunities have resulted from the relationships formed, the employment advice provided, and the close friendships built among my classmates.”
–Irina Pavlova (Source: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/experience)
Training to Research
“I could not think of a more focused place for training researchers. I learned everything I know about research here – study design, data analysis, publication norms – and the reality is that for the kind of jobs you want, you need to be a good researcher first.”
–Miguel M. Unzueta
The Springboard You Need
“Stanford GSB has given me the courage and skills to follow my heart and pursue ideas I am passionate about.”
Who are some of the GSB’s most well-known or popular professors?
Glenn Kramon, Stanford ’75, has been an editor for The New York Times for more than a quarter-century. Reporters whom he has supervised and edited have won 10 Pulitzer Prizes, and have been finalists for the Pulitzer 25 times. His projects have included series about the overlooked problem of concussions among young athletes; the dangers of distracted driving; the safety and environmental hazards of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks; cheating on taxes, and loopholes and inequities in the tax code; and the ways the United States is and is not moving toward a more secure energy future. He also introduced a system to ensure that Times editors become good managers, and authored a handbook on running the newsroom. Earlier he served as business editor of The Times and wrote about the business of healthcare and health insurance.
Jennifer Aaker is the General Atlantic Professor of Marketing. Her research focuses on “the psychology of time, money, and happiness,” and her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Forbes, and the New York Times. She has been awarded the Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award and the Early Career Award for Outstanding Research from the Society for Consumer Psychology as well as Stanford GSB’s Distinguished Teaching Award. In the 2018-2019 academic year, Aaker taught three classes: “Designing AI to Cultivate Human Wellbeing”, “Humor: Serious Business”, and “Rethinking Purpose.”
David Dodson teaches “Managing Growing Enterprises” and “Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition” at the GSB. He is a graduate of Stanford University (Economics ’83, MBA ‘87), and a former case writer (1988). Dodson has been active for twenty-five years in the formation of new businesses through entrepreneurial acquisition. After graduating from the GSB, under the direction of Professor Irv Grousbeck, he wrote the original course material for search funds—then in its infancy. After one year as a case writer, David raised his own search fund. Between 1990 and 2004, Dodson operated as CEO or Executive Chairman of five companies, including co-founding Wind River Environmental, the largest specialty trucking company of its kind; ADAP, Inc., an auto parts retailer that was eventually sold to Auto Zone; Smith Alarm Systems, Inc.; Paragon Systems, Inc.; and Worldbridge Broadband Services Inc, which was eventually sold to C-Corp. Dodson has been an active mentor and investor in over fifty early-stage companies and has been on the board of directors of over a dozen companies, including Asurion, LLC, an insurance company with over 15,000 employees operating in 14 countries. Dodson also co-founded Project Healthy Children (recently renamed “Sanku”) which was named one of the world’s most innovative companies by FastCompany in 2019, and the 2013 Ashoka Changemaker prize-winner.
Mechanics of the admissions process
Applicants to the Stanford GSB are asked to answer questions about their personal, educational, and professional background and upload unofficial transcripts to the online application.
Candidates are also expected to submit their GRE or GMAT scores as well as the results of their TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE examination.
Applicants are asked to designate two recommenders. One recommender should be your current direct supervisor, and the other should be another supervisor.
Finally, applicants submit two essays. From the GSB website: “Both essays combined may not exceed 1,050 words. We recommend up to 650 words for Essay A and up to 400 words for Essay B. We often find effective essays that are written in fewer words. Essays should be uploaded as a single, double-spaced document with the question that is being answered at the top of each essay.”
Stanford GSB applicants are expected to submit a $275 application fee along with their other application materials. Applicants who qualify for deferred enrollment are only expected to submit $100. Active-duty U.S. military service members and veterans qualify for a waived application fee.
Stanford GSB Application Checklist
The official application contains seven portions required for all candidates, with one additional item required for international students.
- Background information
- Application fee
- Two essays
- Two letters of recommendation
- GMAT or GRE score
- English language test score (if applicable)
Stanford GSB Essay Analysis
2021-2022 Stanford GSB Essay Prompts
We request that you write two personal essays. In each essay, we want to hear your genuine voice. Think carefully about your values, passions, aims, and dreams prior to writing them. There is no “right answer” to these questions — the best answer is the one that is truest for you.
Essay A: What matters most to you, and why?
For this essay, we would like you to reflect deeply and write from the heart. Once you’ve identified what matters most to you, help us understand why. You might consider, for example, what makes this so important to you? What people, insights, or experiences have shaped your perspectives?
Essay B: Why Stanford?
Describe your aspirations and how your Stanford GSB experience will help you realize them. If you are applying to both the MBA and MSx programs, use Essay B to address your interest in both programs.
Both essays combined may not exceed 1,050 words. We recommend up to 650 words for Essay A and up to 400 words for Essay B. We often find effective essays that are written in fewer words.
Optional Short-Answer Question
The two required essays shed light on who you are and how you imagine Stanford will help you achieve your aspirations. We are also interested in learning about the things you have done that are most meaningful to you. In this section, we provide an optional opportunity to go beyond your resume to discuss some of your contributions more fully:
Think about times you’ve created a positive impact, whether in professional, extracurricular, academic, or other settings. What was your impact? What made it significant to you or to others? You are welcome to share up to three examples. (Up to 1500 characters, approximately 250 words, for each example)
2021-2022 Stanford GSB Essay Tips
MBA Prep School has published detailed essay guidance and tips. Click to read our 2021-2022 Stanford GSB Essay Tips:
Stanford GSB Recommendation Letter Questions
Stanford GSB asks recommenders to respond to three questions in their recommendation letter.
- How does the applicant’s performance compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (E.g., what are the applicant’s principal strengths?) – Up to 500 words
- Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. – Up to 500 words
- (Optional) Is there anything else we should know?
Stanford GSB Interview Tips
Are Stanford’s interviews invitation-only?
Who conducts Stanford’s interviews?
Interviews are conducted by trained alumni or a member of the Admissions team.
What interview style does Stanford use?
The “style” of GSB interviews is widely reported as being “conversational”, “relaxed”, and even “enjoyable.”
Some interviewers described their role broadly as “filtering out bad applicants” while others described the goal of the interview as being to “allow the applicant to cover specific life/career moments that may not have been highlighted in the rest of the application.”
In some cases, the interviewers focused on how the experiences the applicant had could contribute to the GSB learning experience and how the business principles taught at Stanford could be applied in different work and non-work scenarios.
Each year the interviewers are given a specific set of questions and have some flexibility in terms of which questions they focus on. The interviewers will typically have been given only a copy of your resume (bring along a spare copy just in case); rarely will they have your complete application. Most interviews are conducted off-site; however, alumni based in/around Silicon Valley might also opt to conduct their interviews at the GSB.
Sample Stanford interview questions:
- Why an MBA?
- Why now?
- Why Stanford?
- What are your career goals?
- Why did you make the decisions you’ve made – School X, Employer X, etc.?
- What are your overarching goals? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Tie this to a specific story or example. This is a partially personal question…
- What is it specifically that you expect to learn from the diversity at Stanford?
- Describe a time when you were placed in a diverse situation and you learned something positive from the experience? Something negative?
- What is the last book you read?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- What do you think the qualities are that define a leader?
- What specific leadership skills did you learn from job X?
- How were those leadership skills tested/challenged in a later situation and how did you handle it?
- Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision.
- What’s an obstacle you faced?
- When have you made an impact?
- Tell me about leading a team?
- How do you plan to make the most of Stanford’s academic resources?
Stanford GSB Post-MBA Careers
What fields or industries do most graduates go to work in post-MBA?
Technology (25%), Consulting (20%), Private Equity (15%)
- Webinar: Mastering the HBS, Stanford and Wharton Essays
- Entering MBA Class Profile (opens in new tab)
- Evaluation Criteria (opens in new tab)
- Stanford GSB MBA Brochure – 2016 but still useful! (opens in new tab)