Dartmouth’s Tuck vs. Stanford Graduate School of Business

Teaching Methods: At Stanford, there’s less reliance on case studies than Dartmouth but it’s not that great a difference. Stanford estimates that case studies make up 40% of the teaching vs. 50% at Dartmouth. Team projects make up 20% of the estimated class work at Dartmouth, and about 15% at Stanford. Good old-fashioned lectures, experiential learning, and simulations make up the rest. Obviously, teaching methods vary by course. In “Managerial Finance,” for example, Stanford MBAs will case studies account for about half of the work. In “Strategic Leadership,” however, most of the teaching (60%) is via case study, with about 10% lecture, and 30% experiential learning. The quality of teaching at Tuck may surpass that at Stanford party due to the slightly greater emphasis on case study teaching, a historical bias toward teaching excellence, and the isolated nature of Hanover which encourages closer faculty-student engagement. As one recent Stanford grad told BusinessWeek in a survey: “There’s an overemphasis on the theoretical, esoteric, and ephemeral” at Stanford. “The faculty members don’t want to teach, and in many cases, aren’t prepared to teach.” We think that is a wild exaggeration but you get the point.

Program Focus: Both MBA programs have a general management focus. The biggest single difference is in entrepreneurship. Stanford’s location in Palo Alto, just down the street from Sand Hill Road, known for its concentration of venture capitalists, as well the mindset of its students makes the GSB the ideal place for would-be entrepreneurs in technology. “Our entrepreneurship curriculum is stunning,” says Stanford Dean Garth Saloner, “and our courses are taught with a faculty and a practitioner. All the cases are ours, and the protagonists in the cases are almost always in the classroom.” Stanford devotes 10 to 15 teachers to entrepreneurship and offers nearly two dozen electives in the subject, compared to eight at Dartmouth. As a percentage, more Stanford grads (about 15%) are likely to either start companies or immediately work for startups than grads at Dartmouth. Indeed, about 10% of Stanford’s graduating class launch companies right out of school, versus about 2% at Dartmouth. However, 20 years out of Tuck, about half of its grads end up as entrepreneurs–roughly the same percentage as Stanford. In the 2010 survey of B-school deans and directors by U.S. News & World Report, the deans rank Stanford number two in entrepreneurship (Tuck doesn’t show up among 32 schools cited for excellence in this area). In general management, Stanford is ranked second behind Harvard, while Tuck comes in fifth. Stanford gets a number four ranking in marketing (Tuck is 16th), is fifth in finance (Tuck is tied for 16th), 11th in international business (Tuck is 18th), and third in non-profit management (Tuck doesn’t make the list of 11 schools cited for excellence in non-profit management). We don’t put too much credence in these specialty rankings, but they are a data point to consider.

Curriculum: Stanford has turned the basic MBA curriculum inside out. It introduced a new and highly innovative program in 2007 that has even won recognition from rivals at Harvard Business School. The new program puts more critical thinking, leadership development, expanded global content, and a global experience requirement into the MBA. It also allows students more flexiblity in customizing their coursework to account for their ability level. The program begins with a set of “management perspectives” courses, including one focused on the global context, followed by a set of customizable core courses in 11 “management foundation areas.” Each of the 11 areas offers at least three choices for students based on their background and experience. You can take the base-level course, an accelerated version of the course for students with a reasonably strong background in the field, or the advanced-applications option for students with very strong backgrounds in the subject. Tuck offers a more traditional MBA program with a lock-step core curriculum that all students move through. Among the more creative academic innovations at Tuck are “Research to Practice” seminars in which classes of 10 students take a deep dive in a topic–from corporate diversity to legal impediments to entrepreneurship in Latin America–working closely with faculty on cutting-edge research.

On-Campus Recruiting: If you’re aiming for a top MBA job at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, the Dartmouth- or Stanford-punched MBA will easily get you in the door. Stanford is at a slight disadvantage in the overall MBA job market, largely because recruiters find it difficult to get students to move away from the West Coast (some 52% of grads stay in the west) as well as because of the more entrepreneurial mindset of the students which puts a smaller percentage of the class in the open job market. One result: half of Stanford’s graduating MBAs do self-directed job searches. If you are from Dartmouth and want a job in technology, it’s another story. One recent Tuck grad who had his heart set on landing a tech job ended up settling for a consulting gig in San Francisco because Google didn’t recruit on campus and he couldn’t land a spot on Apple’s limited interview schedule at Tuck.

Alumni Network: Stanford has a clear and convincing edge if you want to work in Silicon Valley or the West Coast. With 16,852 living MBA alums, twice as many as Dartmouth, Stanford can claim the deepest concentration of MBAs in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley–and especially in the technology industry versus Dartmouth. About 10%–848–of Dartmouth’s 8,600 living alums reside in California. More Stanford alums live in the South Bay alone than Tuck has in California. Overall, Stanford counts nearly five times the total. And in New York, an MBA employer capital of sorts, Dartmouth is pretty much equal with Stanford in alums. Even so, you can’t really go wrong by being part of either the Dartmouth or the Stanford alumni network. Over the years, BusinessWeek surveys of MBA graduates show that Harvard, Stanford and Dartmouth boast the strongest alumni networks of any business schools in the world. For our money, Dartmouth has the best and most supportive MBA alumni network in the world. How can we make such a claim? We’ll quote that old cliche about how money speaks and talk is cheap. The proof is in the percentage of alums who routinely donate money to the school. Tuck leads all business schools by a huge margin, with an alumni participation rate of 66.7% in its most recent fund-raising campaign–and Tuck has had 60%-plus percent participation for the past 25 years. No other top business school, including Stanford, comes close to 50%, while the average of Tuck’s peer schools come in at less than 25%. Put another way, the Tuck participation rate is three times the average of the top 20 business schools. It demonstrates the alumni’s remarkable loyalty to and relationship with the school and its students. “If someone wants to go to San Diego and looks in our database and finds 20 alums there, he or she can get return emails from 19 of them in one day,” says Paul Danos, dean of the Tuck School. “There’s a comfort to have that network for the rest of your life.” Yet, Stanford has 256 alums in San Diego so you’d obviously have a deeper pool to fish in if you want to work on the West Coast.

  • 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!