Stanford GSB has developed tremendously through the years and is considered one of the world’s best business schools. With a transformative experience, rigorous education, and diverse student life, attending Stanford GSB, for many, is a dream come true.
But, with its considerably competitive nature and association with prestige, some applicants find themselves at a loss for the best way to improve their chances of admission. They may even find themselves unsure of what exact tools are needed to apply.
This article will highlight all of the components Stanford GSB requires in its application process and provide tips to improve your application’s quality for the best admission chances.
About Stanford GSB
Every business school is unique, and Stanford is no different. It is known for its moral leadership, transformational experience, breakthrough knowledge, and positive impact.
Stanford embodies these values in its mission statement, which is to “create ideas that deepen and advance our understanding of management and with those ideas develop innovative, principled and insightful leaders who change the world.”
They stand by this mission, only accepting students who, according to Dean Garth Saloner, “have the capacity to change the world.” Their new curriculum focuses on developing the student as a future leader, offering courses and seminars on critical and analytical thinking.
In the first year, students are tasked with building general management knowledge and gaining global exposure. All students are required to study abroad or participate in an international immersion trip to assist with this, and broaden their perspective to change how they could lead in the future.
The core courses taken in the first year will focus on complex managerial issues through experience and detailed feedback from classmates and leadership coaches. With about 400 students admitted a year, the class sizes are intimate and encompass the school with a collaborative culture that assists in growth with peers.
Versatile teaching styles allow the faculty to select a teaching method that is best for each specific subject. This teaching-style ensures that students are taught in various ways and more effectively due to the courses’ customizable nature.
This allows students to choose courses that align more with their background and aspirations rather than becoming victims to the common ‘one-size fits all’ teaching method. The diversity within the GSB community is also essential to highlight when surveying Stanford’s strengths.
It is diverse in its professional background, personal experiences, goals, cultures, ethnicities, gender, sexual orientations, religions, and nationalities. They aim to create inclusive spaces for all students, supporting and celebrating diversity at every chance.
There are also a variety of extracurricular activities offered that aim to enrich the student experience. Stanford offers an MBA program, MSx Program, full-time degree programs, and more, all taught through various formats such as in-person, self-paced online, live online as well as on a full and part-time basis.
These programs can suit a variety of needs, tailored to accommodate the student and their needs specifically. Stanford GSB promises a collaborative environment that reduces student competition, deepens relationships, and nurtures ideas that increase the experience’s value and impact. These values promote learning together, faculty partnerships, and integrated living and learning.
Stanford GSB may try to promote itself as a school without the restraints of competitive admissions. But with the vast disparity between the number of applicants and the number of students admitted, competition still presents a challenge in the application process.
By reviewing the class profile, Stanford receives over 7000 applicants but only accepts around 400 students, meaning there is an estimated 6% acceptance rate. While there are no specific requirements on test scores and work experience for admission to Stanford GSB, their statistics on these subjects from their entering students are as follows.
Most students who attend have about 4.7 years of average work experience in the field they plan to pursue after receiving their MBA. While the area in which they worked before was not entirely relevant to admission, it seems important to note that 20% of admits came from the Investment Management field.
The average GMAT score was 733, and for those who took the GRE instead, the average score was 165 in the Verbal section and 164 in the Quantitative area. For those required to take the TOEFL exam, the average score was 133. The average entering GPA was 3.8.
Again, there is no minimum GMAT or GRE score requirement for admission, but to fall into these averages when applying would be a plus.
Want to know if you'll be a good fit for Stanford GSB's culture?
Check out our guide on what Stanford GSB is looking for
Requirements and How to Apply
Like most graduate business school admissions, Stanford has three application rounds for its MBA program throughout the year. The first round is usually mid-September, the second at the beginning of January the following year, and the third at the beginning of April.
When applying, you will have to provide transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions you have attended or are currently attending. These transcripts would also provide academic degrees pursued or received, GPA, and language proficiency.
A bachelor’s degree or equivalent is required for admission and is overlooked only in rare cases. While no minimum GPA is required, you must be proficient in English, and taking calculus or statistics would significantly strengthen your application.
All applicants must also submit a valid GMAT or GRE score and TOEFL if necessary. The TOEFL exam would only be required if some of the classes on your transcript were taught or if you attended a different university in another language.
Work experience is also not required for entry to the Stanford MBA program, but there is a section for you to input any relevant experiences you’ve had. The work experience section would include positions held after you began attending university and can include up to 4 specific job roles per employer.
These jobs can consist of paid or unpaid internships alongside full or part-time employment. This section should also include the industry and job function you hope to pursue after obtaining your MBA and a one-page business resume unless specific circumstances require it to be longer.
The Stanford GSB application requires two letters of reference. One should be from a current supervisor and the other from someone else who has supervised any work you have done.
These letters evaluate your character outside of your academic life and provide an unbiased account on how your experiences outside of the classroom have developed your work-ethic. There will also be the standard section for personal information such as DOB, citizenship, family information, social security, activities/interest, and up to 5 awards and honors.
Two personal essays are required to help learn who you are as an applicant rather than what you’ve done. The first essay asks, “What matters most to you and why?” and the second, “Why Stanford?” Both essays combined may not exceed 1050 words, with some structural requirements such as all pages numbered, double spaced, and one document for both essays.
The admissions committee recommends that the first essay be 650 words and the second 400 at most. There is a $275 nonrefundable application fee, but the admissions office offers fee waivers to eligible students.
Tips For Success
There are various components to the Stanford graduate business school application; therefore, proper planning is the first key to success. Documents such as transcripts, test scores, and letters of reference may take time to collect.
Because of this, you should begin gathering information up to a year before the application submission date. These methods are the best way to ensure all information is correct with the best application quality in mind.
1. Apply Early
The best time to apply would be in the first two rounds of the application process. While round 3 is an option, this round is usually a lot more competitive, making the chances of admission lower than if you were to submit your application in the first two rounds.
In the third round, admissions committees have already gotten the opportunity to picture what the entering class will become. Therefore, in this round, they’re deliberately searching for applicants who stand out from the applicants they have seen prior. More specifically, they are looking for students coming from underrepresented groups.
These differences could come from searching for applicants with a different professional background than what they’ve seen so far or a personal experience that stands apart from the typical applicant.
Unless you are coming from an underrepresented background or possess something that vigorously sets you apart from the sea of applicants, the first two rounds would be the best to target. Applying in the first two rounds also allocates enough time before the entering class would begin to do several new student activities.
Students accepted in the third round often miss many events offered for students to participate in that would make their transition into the school easier. By the time they would be enrolled with a set start day, these events and/or their deadlines will have already passed.
These activities include completing recommended quantitative or English language coursework, access to on-campus housing lottery, time to complete visa application status, and an opportunity to attend admit weekend.
2. Collect Honest Letters of Reference
While it is difficult to bypass the average academic achievements and work experience Stanford students possess, it is imperative to note that this is only a portion of the application process. Stanford GSB takes multiple factors into account when evaluating applicants, which goes beyond just academic achievement.
The admission committee also looks into experiences, perspectives, aspirations, values, and accomplishments. Within these factors, they search for intellectual vitality and character traits that will demonstrate leadership potential.
Character traits and unique qualities could easily be used to your advantage when gathering information for your application. You may fall short in test scores and GPA, but your essays and letters of reference could quickly remedy this. The best letters of reference must keep in mind that more words are not necessarily better.
These letters should be a concise and honest example of your character as an applicant, exemplifying all of your best qualities that align with the traits Stanford is looking for in a prospective student. By building a relationship with your recommenders, you have the power to increase the authenticity of these letters of reference.
Some structural tips would be to avoid using acronyms and exclude internships, which would fall under work experience for your letters of reference. But, a concise letter that recounts the times you have displayed leadership and worked toward your aspirations will more than suffice.
3. Shine In Your Essays
As previously mentioned, two short essays are required in the application asking "What matters most to you and why?" and "Why Stanford?". These essays are an opportunity to showcase your personality and achievements along with your academic success.
While it is a very open-ended question, it can be used to your advantage as an applicant in your MBA essay. Your Stanford GSB essay is what sets you apart from the sea of applicants, giving you the best opportunity to demonstrate the broad perspective and open-mindedness the admissions committee is seeking.
For the best essay, you can list your accomplishments, provide anecdotes, and highlight achievements that influenced you as a person. They are looking for how your experiences and travels impacted you as a person, and want to see how you flourished in situations that may have required flexibility and leadership skills.
Stanford GSB also offers two optional short answer questions, which would be another opportunity to highlight who you are, what you have done, and how your background has influenced you personally and academically.
For those that feel their academic experience suffered due to personal hardship, these optional questions are an opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding a poor academic career. All in all, the best tips for success would be to have honest letters of reference, an emotion-provoking essay, and knowing what kind of enrollment and which round would be best for you to apply.
1. Are some parts of the application worth more than others?
No, no part of the Stanford GSB application weighs more than the other. Every component of the application should be treated with the same urgency and seen as imperative to admission.
2. What do I do if I recently took the GMAT/GRE/TOEFL/IELTS but haven’t received my scores? How do I complete that part of the application?
You can enter temporary scores into the ‘Test Scores’ section of the application if you have taken the test but have not received your scores. If you haven’t taken the test, you must enter zeros in all required fields for the GMAT.
For the GRE, you must enter 130 in the required score section and zero in the required percentage section. You can explain your circumstances further in the “Additional Information” section and provide new information on your application once you receive your scores.
3. Who can I call or email with questions about Stanford MBA admissions?
The best people to contact would be the Stanford MBA admissions office. Their website has a 'Stay In Touch' form that prospective students can fill out. This feature will send updates, event invitations, etc., associated with the program.
For more specific questions, there is an 'Ask A Question' form on their FAQ page that can be filled out and returned with a response from an admissions office associate. There are also the standard options of calling or emailing the admissions office directly with any questions or concerns.
4. Where can I get more information on the GRE and GMAT exams?
Students can find more information for the GRE and GMAT exams on the official testing websites www.ets.com and www.mba.com/exams/gmat. Here you will find the information you will need to prepare, register, and receive score reports to submit with your application.
5. Does visiting the campus or attending an MBA admissions event affect my chance of admission?
While visiting and learning more information is encouraged by Stanford's admissions office, it does not affect your admission chances and is entirely optional.
6. What kind of activities and extracurriculars would be considered suitable for the Stanford GSB application?
Any activity you participated in that would be considered an instance that you were well-versed or open-minded is often suggested. Talking about traveling or field studies would fit well into this and emphasizing how these events impacted you and your aspirations would look great on your application.
7. What resources can I expect for financial aid and grant assistance?
Once admitted, Stanford GSB provides you with much of the information and guidance you will need to apply for FAFSA. Rather than going in blind, Stanford assists students in this process every semester they enroll and make them aware of the documents they will need to ensure an easy Financial-Aid application.
8. Can you apply multiple times to the Stanford MBA program?
You may only apply once during any application cycle, but there is no limit on how many times you can apply to the MBA program in its entirety.
Applying to Stanford GSB can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of your academic career. But by arming yourself with the proper knowledge and assembling a plan of action, you can ensure an easy application process and improve your chances of admittance.
The tips for success mentioned in this article will give you a leg up when trying to get into Stanford GSB.
About Inspira Futures
At Inspira Futures, our sole focus is to get you accepted at your dream business school. Our team of experts consists of former admission committee members and alums from Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and other M7 schools. Our goal is to help you write great essays, ace interviews, and win scholarships. Without any stress or hassle. Our clients have gone on to secure admits at the world's top business schools while also being winners of some of the most prestigious scholarships like Stanford Knight Hennessy, HBS Baker Scholars, and many others.