Top Feeder Companies To Stanford

A mere half dozen of America’s most elite consulting and investment banking firms account for more than a third of the students in Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business Class of 2013, according to an analysis by Poets&Quants.

Stanford admits who have done a stint at consultants McKinsey & Co. at one time or another account for an estimated 10% of the class. The other five companies who had employed the most members of Stanford’s latest incoming class are Boston Consulting Group, Bain, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and J.P. Morgan/Chase. Together, these half dozen firms represent an estimated 33.9% of the 397 first-year students in Stanford’s MBA program.

It shatters the common myth that Stanford is the anti-establishment school versus Harvard. In fact, the admission stats show that Harvard is less Establishment than its West Coast rival. And Stanford’s heavy reliance on just six elite firms for more than a third of its MBA students is also a primary reason why Stanford’s starting salaries are as high as they are–former consultants and investment bankers tend to be among the highest paid graduates.


The data provides a rare glimpse into the educational and work backgrounds of the students accepted and enrolled at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Business schools keep this information close to the vest, never disclosing this information in typical class profiles. Yet, an applicant’s undergraduate and work backgrounds loom large in admission decisions, in some cases dwarfing the importance of other factors from grade point averages and GMAT scores to the quality of one’s essays or admissions interview.

Percentage of Class of 2013 At Five Top Schools From Six Elite Employers

The analysis shows that Stanford’s admissions staff relies more heavily on a handful of firms to filter applicants into its prestige MBA program than any of its top business school rivals (see table on left). The same six firms, for example, account for about half the percentage of Class of 2013 MBA students at Harvard Business School, where Poets&Quants estimates that 17.8% of the first-year students are from these same six companies. Stanford’s enrolled students from these super elite firms, in fact, is nearly four times the percentage of those at Columbia Business School, where an estimated 9.6% of the Class of 2013 have one of those six firms on their resumes.

  • JohnAByrne

    Mr. Actuary,

    We do use LinkedIn. Facebook is often a starting point for these feeder stories because many incoming classes form a Facebook group. So it becomes a relatively easy way to corral all the members of the latest class. However, in every case, we verify every name and usually collect employment and undergraduate data on LinkedIn. We also then supplement the Facebook list through more general LinkedIn searches. 

  • Mr. Actuary


    Have you thought about using LinkedIn instead of Facebook.  For example, on LinkedIn, you can type “MBA” as a search, and you can filter by school, previous company, current company, etc. You might be able to get m ore sophisticated data.  Just a thought,


    Mr. Actuary

  • Mr. B

    Stanford is a top school –> People who are admitted to it and to other schools (with the exception of HBS) will always choose it…

    The stats should be % of admitted students – not % of class. I’m ex McK and I personally know 3 2014 McK MBAs that passed on CBS or Booth or HBS (or a subset of the three) to go to Stanford…

  • Mr Awesome

    So what about Ernst and Young, KPMG, Deloitte, etc?  Would I have a much better chance at getting into one of those MBA programs if I worked at Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan compared to those companies that I listed previously?

  • Guest

    Would be interesting to see actual numbers as Stanford class size is 1/3 of Harvard’s.  Percentages overstate actual numbers.

  • Byrne332

    That’s hard to tell because the detail in a LinkedIn or Facebook profile can be sketchy.

  • Monsieur Nuclear Option

    You can’t possibly argue that Harvard and Wharton are more prone to admitting elite ibankers and consultants than Chicago and Columbia. Elite ibankers and consultants simply prefer Harvard, Wharton and Stanford way more than they prefer Chicago and Columbia and they prefer Stanford way more than they prefer Harvard and Wharton. In fact, it is very, very likely that Stanford’s ding rate for employees of these six firms is much higher than Harvard’s and Wharton’s for the same population.

  • Nes

    So, for GS, JPM and Morgan Stanley, are most of the people in the above table from their Investment Banking divisions, or is it somewhat spread out?

  • Maidinindya

    John, I have a question – when you say someone is “from” McKinsey… does that mean that that McKinsey was their last employer or that they worked at McKinsey at some time in their career?  Because based on my own experience, there are a lot of students at these school who did something “creative” but worked for a big brand right before though.

    I’d be interested to see what the stats looked like if the groups were “percentage of students who have worked for a top feeder company some time in their career” and those who haven’t…. My sense is that it would make the schools look even worse.

  • SA

    This info is quite amazing, John. Clears up a lot of myths. Thanks.

  • JohnAByrne

    Both. So we’re accounting for multiple jobs which is explained in the story. After all, admissions considers the entire work experience record of applicants so being at McKinsey for two years and then a private equity firm for a year or two more does not make McKinsey less relevant. In fact, in many cases, it is more relevant. 

  • guest

    are these the firms where people worked right before MBA or is this anywhere between undergrad and MBA? I suspect a large number of consultants take another 1/2 year pit stop before MBA, which may not be accounted for here.

  • Joe

    Sounds about right. hence HBS’ reputation of educating scions of third world dictators, communist leaders, despots, mass murderers, environmental polluters, etc. Some schools have a weird concept of ethics. I thought Stanford was different because of it touchy feely reputation though.

  • Joe

     Or Bolton has become lazy.

  • Joe

    The numbers for Chicago Booth are interesting. They don’t get as much from these 6 firms pre-MBA but they pretty much produce as much or more students that go to these 6 firms post-MBA.

    I guess Chicago Booth is great for career switchers who want to do banking or consulting. Great career services? Or is it that getting the Booth brand on you qualifies you for a banking or consulting job even if you werent one before?

    It would be great to see if the other schools’ post-MBA consultants and bankers got into these 6 employers because they were already former employees. That would be great information for career changers

  • Guest

    Sounds like somebody was rejected from Stanford and is still envious of those who were accepted.

  • trek820

      I think these schools operate on the golden rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules”.  I think it is safe to say that these companies have alumni in high places, and they contribute generously.  These schools are businesses and want to make money like every other.

  • Guest

    Turns out Bolton chases prestige just like everyone else. I can’t think of a single school with a greater disparity between what the adcom says and what they do.

  • guest

    Dude, chill out. The author has every right to include whatever school he wants to and however many school he likes. You tone when making suggestions is just arrogant and obnoxious.
    Plus the table says “Five Top Schools” not top five schools

  • Chill out bro

    Dude, chill out. The author has every right to include whatever school he wants to and however many school he likes. You tone when making suggestions is just arrogant and obnoxious.
    Plus the table says “Five Top Schools” not top five schools

  • Matt

    Guest, the P&Q ranking is valid for one year. John cannot update the ranking every time one of the major rankings changes.

    However, I agree that John should be use always the same order when listing schools, based on the current P&Q ranking. Wharton should be listed 4th in this list.

  • Matt

    Woah!! this is call “diversity”?

  • Jjthomson1976

    Caribou Coffee has more students than Google and Microsoft? That is very unexpected.

  • Suggestions

    John, if I may, I have some suggestions on how you ranked top 5 above. 

    1. Why is Wharton listed 3rd when it is Booth that’s ranked 3rd on your 2011 MBA table? 
    2. Columbia and MIT Sloan are tied for 5 on your ranking, why did you not include MIT Sloan on the list? 
    3. The most up to date top 5 Poets&Quants ranking, updated for the new Financial Times and US News results, should be different: Harvard, Stanford, Booth, Wharton, Kellogg. Can you please update and share the latest accurate ranking? Going off of an old ranking is just old. 
    4. You know the difference between top 4 to let’s say top 9 or 10 schools are almost nil. It would have been great to get a expanded breakdown of the “Five Top Schools” list that covers up to top 9 or 10 schools. Seriously, your top 5 to 8 or 9 changes all the time. Thank you.  

  • you

    I agree, I think Stanford answers its own essay question, “what matters most to you and why?” According to what Stanford is doing compared to other top schools, the answer to the question is pretty obvious —– “The most important thing to me is working at a top name firm, because that will get me into Stanford. Thanks.”

  • Guest

    Stanford MBA is a joke. What a brand wh0&3s.

  • A50

    nevermind, just re-read to realize you picked that up from their website.

  • A50


    Check your Bain stats. There can’t be 20 estimated in the class of 2012 and 20 found in LinkedIn, so either it should be 30/20 (my guess) or 20/14.