Dartmouth’s Tuck vs. Stanford Graduate School of Business

Stanford University's Graduate School of Business

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business

Of the prestige, brandname business schools in the world, you’re not likely to find two business schools that are more like each other than Dartmouth and Stanford. They’re similar in size and spirit. They’re both smaller MBA programs, with a similar mix of exceptionally smart students who play nicely together in a highly collaborative culture, with superb faculty. Because both schools get the majority of their budgets from fundraising and endowments, rather than tuition which accounts for about 40% or less of spending, they can better afford the luxury of smaller classes and higher faculty-to-student ratios. Both schools offer a true premium MBA experience. There’s no mixing of day and night students, or outsourcing big chunks of the core curriculum to poorly paid adjuncts, or spreading limited resources across part-time and executive MBA programs. Tuck has stronger East Coast connections, while Stanford is competely dominant in Silicon Valley.

The most dramatic differences between these two MBA educational giants?

Geography: This one is simple. It’s the difference between east coast and west coast.

This is an obvious point, but an important one. Stanford is in the heart of Silicon Valley on a campus dotted with massive palm trees that sway in the afternoon breezes. In the winter months, when Tuck students are bundled up and trudging through ice and snow, Stanford MBAs might still be wearing shorts. The Stanford campus, dotted with swaying palm trees and poppies in the spring, is located between San Jose and San Francisco, which is about a 45-minute drive away. San Francisco is a magical place. Anyone who has visited the city inherently understands how easy it is to leave your heart there. Hanover is the quintessential New England college town. It’s quaint, picture perfect after a fresh snowfall, and fairly isolated. You fly here into a tiny airport in West Lebanon, tsix miles south of Hanover. When the weather turns bad, you face a white-knuckle flight onto the short landing strip that’s carved into a mountainside. Sleepy Hanover rolls up the sidewalks pretty early, with little variety in restaurants and bars.  The Canoe Club, on Main St. in Hanover is pretty much it. Boston is a two-hour drive away, a big difference compared to the 45-minute ride down Route 101 into San Fran from Stanford.

Size: With about 390 students per class, Stanford pretty much guarantees that almost every student knows each other. At Tuck, it’s even smaller with about 250 students per class divided into four sections. Total full-time MBA enrollment at Dartmouth is just 510 compared to Stanford’s 766.

Culture: The bonding that occurs at the Tuck School among students is second-to-none due to its size, the fact that most first-years reside on its compact B-school campus, and because of Hanover itself (there aren’t many places to disappear). Very close relationships are formed between students and faculty at Tuck for the same reasons. Tuckies are decidedly an outdoorsy bunch: in the winter, students are likely to engage in ice hockey matches, skiing, and ice skating; in the summer, they’re off hiking on Mount Moosilauke on the edge of the White Mountains National Forest, rowing and canoeing on the Connecticut River, or playing rugby and squash. Stanford’s culture is not nearly as tight-knit or outdoorsy. On the other hand, Stanford MBAs are just as collaborative, if not as outdoorsy. Many ski during the winter months in Lake Tahoe, about a four-hour drive. They just have more places to escape the campus than their counterparts at Tuck. The upside is that Hanover allows students to more easily focus on both the learning and the opportunity to know all your classmates. The downside is that, as one recent graduate put it, “Tuck is a Petri dish socially to the point that it can become unhealthy.”

Facilities: The campus of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is small and compact: just four buildings, including one residence hall. In contrast, the Tuck School is a compellingly attractive mix of brick Georgian buildings and modern state-of-the-art brick and copper clad buildings. The Tuck campus is composed of 11 connected buildings, most of them brand new or newly renovated. Stell Hall, with its beautiful cathedral ceiling, carved oak interior and welcoming fireplace, sits in contrast to the soaring glass atrium and massive granite hearth in the newly constructed Raether Hall. Both spaces–reflecting the old and the new–are among the most stunningly impressive faciliities of any business schools. Tuck’s three residence halls arguably make up the best MBA dormitory complex in the world. Most of the MBA courses at Stanford are taught in windowless classrooms in the South Building, constructed in 1966. That will change in 2011 when a new and impressive GSB campus is completed about 500 yards east of the current location on Memorial Way. The Knight Management Center, named after Nike founder and Stanford alum Phil Knight who tossed in $100 million of the $350 million cost, will bring the business school up to nine world-class buildings. Stanford still will have only one dorm–The Schwab Residential Center–that houses just 220 of its 766 students. Dartmouth’s trio of residence halls along with its nearby Sachem Village for married and partnered students competely reinforces the intimate nature of the MBA program. The available square footage will increase by 30% over the current 280,000 sq. foot of space (Dartmouth has 360,000 square foot of space).

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  • Ana Belen Mañón

    Welcome to Tuck!

  • Zach


    Where can I find this data for other schools: “However, 20 years out of Tuck, about half of its grads end up as entrepreneurs–roughly the same percentage as Stanford.”

    I am interested in schools like Tuck that feed the job force straight out of B-school and then have their alumni endeavor as entrepreneurs later in their careers – I think this is the most appealing path for me and would love to see a list of how the top 50 schools fair in this category (if data is available obviously).


  • Was this written 10 years ago?

    You really need to update this article.

  • rubicx

    Considering most of it is more SUNY than Ivy, of course, it’s forgotten.

  • Mike,

    First off, congrats. Those are two of the world’s best business schools and two of my personal favorites. You must be an incredible MBA applicant to have received an invite from both Tuck and Darden. They are very similar schools as you note–small, collaborative, caring and generous students and faculty, a general management approach, very strong alumni networks, premium MBA experiences (without distracting part-time MBA programs, undergrads, etc. They are in business for the flagship full-time MBA program and they devote their resources to make sure that program is the absolute best it can be.

    My sense is that the quality of teaching at Darden is consistently better than it is at Tuck, that the first-year core is more challenging than it is at Tuck as well. On the other hand, the Tuck alumni network is stronger than the one at Darden, and, of course the Tuck brand has more prestige and stature. Yet even pay over a 20-year career, according to currently available data, isn’t all that different: $3.1 million for a Tuckie and $2.9 million for a Darden grad.

    I honestly don’t think you can make a bad decision here, either way. And to close the deal, I would re-visit each campus and stay a night, speak with a few more students and teachers and act on your gut. It is worth the extra cost and effort to help you make up your mind and feel no regret over the choice.

    All this said, you asked a question and I won’t evade an answer: I would probably go with the bigger brand, especially because it would buy you the best alumni network on the market (better even than Harvard or Stanford). I’d take out the larger loan and head north.

  • Mike

    John – i was recently admitted to Tuck and Darden w/ third tuition scholarship. I love both schools as aside from location and case method vs blend i see many things in common. I am currently located in the Northeast and everyone i talk to doesnt even consider the fact that i may go to UVA upon getting into Tuck and i think this may be a function of being in Tucks backyard/resonating ivy leage stigma for those who dont neccesarily know anything about business schools. Is the Tuck brand that much stonger than Darden where i should seriously be considering passing on the $$?

  • Jess,

    Very good suggestion. We will fix these charts and update them with the latest info over the next few weeks.

  • Jess

    HI John,

    Great article, as always. If I may make one suggestion: on your ranking comparison charts, have you considered flipping the Y-axis (so 1 would appear at the top… and a dip in the line would corresponded to a dip in the rankings)? It may make your charts, which I love, more meaningful visually. Just a suggestion.


  • Quite a bit of weight is put on both GPA and work experience. If you have been following our series on “Your Chances of Getting In,” it will give you a good feel for how these variables are weighed by the top schools.

  • sari

    This was indeed an exhaustive comparison … as a fairly young (25 years) aspirant for 2012, what’s the premium these schools put on work ex and age? Also, how critical is the under grad GPA ?

  • Ouri

    Hi John,

    I wanted to know if you can make a quick comparison between these schools from the aspect of foreign students?

    I talked to some Tuck and Stanford alumni, and got the feeling that it is far more difficult for a foreign student to integrate with US students in Tuck, in comparison with Stanford’s foreign students. Do you think Tuck’s strong community aspect is less relevant for foreign students than other schools’, such as Stanford?

  • Deepak Kapoor

    hi john !!
    I am applying to Tuck (no doubt, I am already done with Stanford app :).
    What are the stakes on technology and entrepreneurship as far as Tuck is concerned ?

  • Lim,

    Thank you John. B-school research will never be the same again! As a prospective career changer, I’m particularly interested in the who hires who section.

  • Lim,

    Yes, indeed. I wish I had more time! I haven’t forgotten about Cornell. It’s a fabulous business school. I soon plan to finally get to Cornell, Darden, Duke, UNC, and UCLA. These smackdowns take a good deal of research and writing time. Utlmately, I would hope to have hundreds of them on the site. Best, John.

  • Lim,

    Hmm.. anyone still remember Cornell? I thought Johnson school of management was great. Can’t wait for the ‘forgotten Ivy’ to come out and join the smackdown party too. 🙂

  • Vikalp

    Simply Incredible. I have never gone through such an exhaustive comparison of two schools. Thanks!!
    Kindly direct me to some other similar comparisons as well. I will be applying for Fall 2011 this year.

  • Congratulations Derrick! You’re going to an incredible school. Meantime, thanks for your kind comments. They’re really appreciated.

  • DD


    This is a great post about two amazing schools. I will be attending Tuck this fall and can’t tell you how excited I am to attend. I had a fairly arduous process, applying to six schools, accepted to four (MIT, Kellogg, Yale, Tuck). I am confident I made the right decision about attending Tuck, and am looking forward to an amazing experience.

    This site is great as well, and looking forward to seeing more profiles, reading more smackdowns, and spreading the word to MBA candidates going forward!