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Stanford GSB’s ‘Trickle Down Anxiety’ Begins

Stanford University Graduate School of Business - Ethan Baron photo

Stanford University Graduate School of Business – Ethan Baron photo

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business begins sending out invitations to round one MBA applicants for interviews today (Oct. 17), a process that will last for an entire month until Nov. 16. The school, with the most selective prestige MBA program in the world, says its agonizingly slow process is the result of the care it takes in reviewing applications.

Applicants who fail to get an interview invite by Nov. 16 will either be rejected or placed on a waitlist for further consideration with round two candidates. This is the first year that the school’s admissions office won’t be led by Derrick Bolton who had the primary role as the business school’s gatekeeper for 15 years. He left on Sept. 1 to take on a new assignment as dean of admissions for the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program. MBA Program Director Margaret Long Hayes is now temporarily leading the Office of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid in the interim.

Generally, admissions sets a goal of interviewing about 1,000 of its more than 8,000 applicants each year, but the total number often creeps up to around 1,200 for the nearly 420 spots in a class. If you get invited to the 45-to-60 minute interviews, your odds of getting an offer are slightly better than one in three.

Last year, a record 8,116 candidates applied for a seat in Stanford’s Class of 2018, up 2.7% on the 7,899 applicants a year earlier. The school received 19.5 applications for each of its 417 seats, nearly twice as many as the 10.4 candidates for each Harvard Business School seat. According to the school, the acceptance rate fell slightly to just 6%, nearly a full percentage point lower than two years ago and one tenth of a percent off the previous year’s 6.1% acceptance rate. The competition is expected to be just as severe in the 2016-2017 admissions cycle.

STANFORD FEELS THE NEED TO EXPLAIN WHY IT TAKES A MONTH TO SEND OUT INVITES

Margaret Long Hayes, assistant dean of Stanford's MBA program, is acting as interim head of admissions

Margaret Long Hayes, assistant dean of Stanford’s MBA program, is acting as interim head of admissions

In a blog post, the school seems to know that its long process creates considerable anxiety for applicants. “Why does it take so long?,” the school asks. “Why don’t you send all the interview invitations on one date? Because you’re human and so are we. This is not an automated process. We respect the time and care you put into your application, and so we want to take the time to understand each applicant’s background, aspirations, and potential. While scores and grades command attention in the blogosphere, each of you is more than a combination of staistics. We are building a community as well as a class. Yes, it’s slower, but that is because real people are getting to know you through your application.”

The school says it does not review applications in any order. “Applicants are not ranked when we send out interview invitations,” according to the admissions staff. “The timing of your interview invitation reflects only the order in which your application was reviewed.”

Some admission consultants are critical of Stanford’s evaluation process. “The Stanford admission and interview process is the most untransparent, and to applicants, one of the most frustrating among the top 10 schools,” says Sandy Kreisberg, founder and CEO of HBSGuru.com. “Amid all their PC posturing and excusing themselves, they offer very little guidance about when interview invites are in fact coming to you, the applicant. It is a sort of ‘trickle down anxiety’ for a long time encased in therapeutic BS.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE INTERVIEW AT STANFORD?

At Stanford, applicant interviews are not done by admissions staff as they are at Harvard Business School. Instead, the GSB enlists its alumni to conduct interviews of candidates. That process leads some to question the importance of the interview.

“For the most part, the actual interview, with some random alum rarely makes a difference,” believes Kreisberg. “The alum reports are not normalized; the alums are not seriously trained, and for the most part, to judge from the letters of recommendation they write, the alums ability to actually articulate what happened in an event, and what their reactions were, often defaults to the usual cliches. To the extent that some 20% to 35% of alums are actually good at capturing in some 360-degree perspective, what happened in an interview, well, that just goes to show how random the process is. It is just pure luck that you got that alum.”

Even so, applicants obviously need to be invited to interview in order to be admitted to the school’s MBA program. Stanford said it would notify invited round one candidates whether they have been admitted or not on Dec. 15.

DON’T MISS: STANFORD BUMPS CLASS GMATS UP FOUR POINTS or WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU APPLY TO STANFORD’S MBA PROGRAM

  • asdf

    Sandy, have you heard of many PE GSB invites yet? None in my network and nothing definitive on Clearwire. Thanks!

  • asdf

    Sandy, have you heard of many PE GSB invites yet? None in my network and nothing definitive on Clearwire. Thanks!

  • Japs

    This guy is clearly ConfusedApplicant.

  • Lee Hoytt

    I’m based in SF and got an interview invite today. 3.72 from Georgetown, 760 GMAT, 6 yrs experience (finance/consulting and then real estate).

  • Xjs

    Thanks for the insight. Unfortunately, I think I made the mistake on my application/recommendation templates of focusing too much on my entrepreneurial future, emphasizing creativity/innovation and not enough focus on past leadership. I used my startup ambition as a framework for the “why GSB” essay. I have started some organizations/small businesses in college, hopefully this shapes up to a more compelling story.

  • hbsguru

    If you mean, is it an advantage, even if small. to claim you want to be a tech entrepreneur vs someone with very similar background and stats who says he wants to be impactful leader in established tech compay, e.g. in solar energy etc.
    Not really. What you say you want to do in an HBS or Stan. app does not count much all by itself, altho it can provide a halo to strong historical record of accomplishment, e.g. your prior jobs, if it somehow grows out of that record.
    Entrepreneur is a mildly suspect category to B schools because it is the default zone for a lot of confused applicants with often non-traditional backgrounds, and they are hard to quantify. If you have a demonstrated history of starting a company and growing it, and then say, “that was fun,” I want to do that again, except on a REALLY big scale, that can be effective, but what is effective is the recorded history, not your aspiration.

  • Xjs

    Sorry to clarify, I meant that it’s a small advantage not a game changer. Thanks!