Best Quora MBA Questions & Answers

Stanford University

Stanford University


Question: Does Stanford business school mostly admit students from prestigious undergrad institutions?

John A. Byrne, editor-in-chief of Poets&Quants, former executive editor of BusinessWeek: Stanford’s Graduate School of Business may be at the epicenter of Silicon Valley, so it is widely presumed to be an institution that is more open and more egalitarian than Harvard Business School. That is not true, however. By and large, MBA admissions at the elite business schools is an elite game. Admissions officials are looking for gold-plated undergraduate degrees and gold-plated work experience. Not silver. Not bronze. And certainly not any kind of tarnished metal.

A few years ago we analyzed the feeder colleges and companies of the leading business schools and were amazed at what we found at Stanford and other schools. There is no reason to think this has changed since this analysis of the Class of 2013. Stanford undergrads made up an estimated 7.4% of the class, with the following schools not far behind: U Penn (6.3% of the class), Yale (5.9%), Harvard (5.2%), and the University of Virginia (3.0%).

All told, about 25% of Stanford’s class hailed from one of the original eight Ivy League schools. That compares to roughly 21.2% of the MBA students at Columbia Business School, 30.0% at Harvard Business School, and 33.1% at Wharton. Toss Stanford into that Ivy League bunch and roughly one of every three MBA students in the GSB class went to one of only six highly selective U.S. schools.

The only five non-U.S. universities to make the top 25 feeder schools at Stanford? The Indian Institute of Technology, Peking University, the New Economic School in Russia, the University of Cambridge, and the University of New South Wales.

Of the top 25 feeder colleges, pretty much all were prestige institutions, Ivy, Near Ivy, or Public Ivy. If you got in from a public university other than Berkeley, UVA, Michigan, Texas, UCLA, or UNC, you either walked on water with a super GMAT score and a great job or you had an inside connection.

Here’s our story on feeder colleges to Stanford: Top Feeder Colleges To Stanford B-School – Poets and Quants

Stacy Blackman, president, Stacy Blackman Consulting, MBA admissions consulting: Thanks to John Byrne and the other contributors here for jumping in on this question with quantifiable data. It’s important for applicants to understand that between feeder schools and feeder companies, the Stanford MBA is a very narrow target indeed! I would never attempt to dissuade a qualified applicant from giving it their best shot, but it’s always helpful to keep this data in mind, so that applicants understand precisely what they’re dealing with.

Jonathan Salzberg, Stanford MBA candidate 2016: I think that’s a fair statement. The most represented schools in my class were Stanford and Harvard by a decent margin, with the highest concentration out of the Ivy League and about 85%-90% of the U.S. students coming from top 25 universities. There were a few that came from schools outside of that, but not a ton. I don’t have a great understanding of quality of schools outside of the U.S.

Leah Derus, MBA MIT Sloan 2010, MBA admissions consultant in NYC: The majority come from prestigious undergrad institutions. Yes. The majority also come from privileged backgrounds.

Related question: How do I get into Stanford with a poor GPA?

Anonymous: My assumption is that you think this is the only weakness you have and that you consider yourself strong enough to get into Stanford.

If you study the evaluation criterion at Stanford carefully, you will notice that Stanford GSB uses “Intellectual Vitality” (IV for short) as a criterion for admission. (Source: Evaluation Criteria.) Now, GPA is an input to IV, but you can add additional perspectives to demonstrate your IV, if you believe in yourself.

Firstly, try getting a high GMAT score. Definitely above average. Write GRE as well and share scores. Any other professional exams that you can showcase, do it.

Secondly, think about situations, experiences and things you have done that can be used to demonstrate IV — not GPA but IV. For example, showcase a complex problem-solving situation where you were able to solve the problem largely attributable to your IV.

Thirdly, think of some awards and external recognitions that you have got (or you can get by participating in certain activities, like MENSA) that can improve your case for your IV.

Lastly, offer perspective (not excuses or bad reasons) about why your GPA was lower. Maybe you were engaged in a project or some extracurricular activities that led to low GPA. Share what you learned from it. Don’t try to build a case that you are fine with low GPA, even if you are, because it doesn’t make sense.

Finally, it’s about the story. There is always drama, tragedy, and victory in a a good story. Share yours!

Mark Braga: I was a student at Stanford for three years before I dropped out, as one of my mobile games became a big hit and I and four of my friends decided to make games for a living.

From what I know, top American universities usually look at the student’s overall record. So you can make it up with an outstanding cover letter, which really tells why they should choose you over someone with a good GPA. I always tell this to a lot of aspiring students. Make your cover letter dramatic. If they read a cover letter which says, “I am really passionate about computer science and I know C++ …” and that guy has straight A’s but your cover letter says, “I have worked my ass off (dont put this literally :P) for the last 4 years doing a very tough high school education and at the same time following my passion of programming and already have these projects …” they will choose poor grades with extraordinary work ethic and eagerness to learn over some guy with straight A’s. But you should also have some projects to back it up. They can be any simple projects you have done which will back up your cover letter.

Next thing is showing variety in your activities. This shows you have a broad mindset and you like to challenge yourself and learn new things.

Kevin Sacher, Stanford ’82 (we used data cards my first semester), Wharton MBA ’89: Probably not, unless you can document that your low GPA was the result of a learning disability (let’s say dyslexia) that you’ve overcome / are now able to compensate for.

This, plus test scores that show that your intellectual horsepower is far beyond what is indicated by your GPA, plus some spectacular other accomplishment might give you a chance.

If your grades were low because you were so bored at school that you didn’t function well (for example, you got 100% on all your tests but got B’s or C’s because you didn’t do the homework or “show your work”), you might be able to convey this in a compelling way and convince the admissions folks that you can do the work if it’s stimulating enough and get in that way. (A lot of Stanford kids were bored but they were able to get A’s anyway.)

You’ll still need that spectacular other thing or things.

But if you worked fairly hard and didn’t get A’s or if you were not motivated enough to do the work, then you probably don’t want to go to Stanford anyway … it will be much harder than high school and you’ll be miserable.

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