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Round 1: September 15th, 2017
Round 2: January 10th, 2018
Round 3: April 4th, 2018
Applying to Stanford GSB is making a bet against the odds, and the odds here are daunting. In 2015-2016, a record 8,116 candidates applied for a seat in Stanford’s Class of 2018, up 2.7% on last year’s 7,899. The school, which boasts the most selective prestige MBA program in the world, received 19.5 applications for each of its 417 seats. That’s nearly twice as many as the 10.4 candidates for each Harvard Business School seat. Applications have increased by at least 200 year-over-year for the past five years.
According to the school, the acceptance rate lowered to 6%, nearly a full percentage point lower than two years ago and one tenth of a percent off last year’s 6.1% acceptance rate. The school said its yield–the percentage of admits who enroll in the program–is 88%, second only to HBS. Stanford MBAs typically land among the highest first-year pay packages in the world. And MBA startups at Stanford have been at near record levels in the past few years, making the school the place to incubate a business from scratch, search for capital from angel investors and VCs, and launch. In 2016, roughly 15% of the graduating MBAs, a slight dip from last year’s 16%. Class of 2016 entrepreneurs were involved in 17 industries. The top three were: software, 17%; internet services, 12%; and other technology, 8%.
In fact, the startup mindset has become so dominant at the school that the dean of its MBA program now believes Stanford should try to somewhat discourage it. “From our standpoint, we don’t need to sell entrepreneurship here because we get it for free,” says Madhav Rajan, the former senior associate dean for academic affairs. He believes that the school’s location–in the heart of Silicon Valley–allows it to have a near hands-off approach to entrepreneurship because the startup bug strikes naturally given the surrounding ecosystem of angel investors, VC firms, and company founders.
“Students will automatically think Stanford is entrepreneurship,” he adds. “We don’t need to sell anybody on it. If anything, this is a trend we have to push against more than embrace. We have a completely different problem than anybody else. We don’t want to be the graduate school of entrepreneurship. We are a school of general management.”
The school’s goal is ambitious: to only accept students who, in former Dean Garth Saloner’s words, “have the leadership capacity to change the world.” The tagline of the school? “Change Lives, Change Organizations, Change the World.” This lofty mission is taken seriously by the admissions staff, which sorts through more than 7,000 applications from top-tier candidates. In 2016, the school got a new dean, university economist Jonathan Levin, who succeeded Saloner who resigned after a leadership and sex scandal that caused embarrassing headlines all over the world.
The negative news it generated had no impact on the school’s overall standing. Stanford GSB opened a $345 million world-class campus in 2011. The complex gives Stanford’s B-School some 360,000 square feet of space, roughly 30% more than it had in its previous location. There are now 13 tiered classrooms, 20 flat-floored classrooms, and 70 breakout and study rooms. The larger number of breakout rooms, in particular, will help the school to more effectively deliver a curriculum that emphasizes smaller seminar-style courses. A 600-seat auditorium replaces the previous 324-seat model. There are also eight 16-person seminar rooms to allow for more intimate instruction, eight showers for MBA students, and an 870-car parking structure–a big selling point on a campus where parking was always an ordeal.
Completely gone are the windowless classrooms in the B-school’s former blocky building, which was put up in 1966. With the exception of a behavioral lab, all the classrooms now have natural light.
Stanford isn’t cheap. In fact, in 2016, the cost of a Stanford MBA reached a breathtaking $210,838, including the $4,000 school estimate for a study trip. The price tag includes $64,050 in annual tuition, $29,202 a year in living allowances (the highest estimate among the top 25 U.S. schools), $1,437 a year for books and supplies, another $1,350 for what the school calls “instructional materials,” annual required medical insurance of $4,680, and $1,062 for Week Zero, when faculty pilot week-long classes based on their research.
As high as the $210,838 is, it’s also for a single MBA student living on campus with “a moderate lifestyle.” Live off campus and the recommended budget by the school quickly rises to $220,966. Come to Stanford’s MBA program as a married student who wants to live off campus and the cost of the degree jumps to $254,830. But at least at Stanford, incoming students are guaranteed that their tuition won’t go up in their second year in the MBA program. Many schools pass on a 3% to 5% tuition increase to students in their last year.
On the other hand, Stanford has been among a group of schools that aggressively increased its scholarship support of students to help defray the escalating costs of tuition and fees. Stanford says that tuition has gone up by 16% in the past five years, but the pool of money available for scholarships has risen 80% to $15.7 million from $8.7 million. Stanford’s average student fellowship grant is about $35,830, higher than any other business school.