Stanford GSB Reports 5-Point Slide In GMATs

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, which could long claim having the highest average GMATs for its entering classes of MBA students, today (Sept. 26) reported a five-point slide in that well-watched metric in MBA admissions. The new average of 732, down from 737 in the past two years, brings Stanford in a tie for the highest average with Columbia Business School, Northwestern Kellogg, and the Wharton School.

The lower average GMAT score, the first in many years at the GSB, occurs at a time when many other schools have been increasing their averages even in the face of application declines. Columbia, for example, saw its GMAT average soar eight full points this year when applications fell by 2.6%. In common with most U.S. business schools, Stanford said applications to its MBA program fell by 4.6% this past year to 7,797 from last year’s record of 8,173.

The decline in Stanford’s GMAT average coincides with publicly expressed concern by Kirsten Moss, assistant dean and director of MBA admissions and financial aid, that some prospective students are deciding not to apply to the school because they have lower-than-average scores that they perceive would harm their chances of admission. “Some of our students tell me that they almost did not apply because they did not come from a ‘top’ university, or they were from the ‘wrong’ industry, or their GMAT or GPA was ‘too low,’” says Moss in an interview with Poets&Quants. “This is heartbreaking to me (see Stanford’s MBA Gatekeeper On A ‘Heartbreaking’ GSB Myth).”


MBA admission consultants hoped the new GMAT average could slow the arm’s race for ever higher averages, in part fueled by U.S. News‘ business school rankings which weight the scores in their annual lists of the best MBA programs. “I am sure that Kirsten Moss would tell you that her job is to admit the best class, not the best GMAT scores,” says Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission, a leading MBA admissions consulting firm. “Even with Stanford near its peak application volume, there still has to be a sense at the GSB that sky high GMAT averages are discouraging some otherwise strong applicants and possibly even limiting diversity in the applicant pool. We push truly remarkable applicants with lower scores to apply to the GSB and many decline, thinking that they are wasting their time – that has to irk the GSB.

“So, the drop may have been intentional, but remember, the hurdle at the GSB is still quite high,” adds Shinewald. “And, in reducing their average, they may have been aided ever so slightly by the increase in GRE test takers and the small decrease in applications – a mandate may have met ‘friendly’ macro conditions, taking some heat off of the GSB’s admissions office. So, let’s see what happens next year – I don’t see them taking it much lower, as some peer schools are still finding ways to increase their averages. I always find it absurd that top business schools are allegedly teaching visionary, “fearless” leadership, but show such fealty to these averages. Who will have the courage to take a step back? Maybe the GSB has started – let’s see. I suspect that even if they drop 10 more points, they will still be number one in selectivity.”


In releasing its class profile for the Class of 2020, Stanford also reported that GMATs for the 419 incoming students range from a low of 600 to 790. The average undergraduate grade point average also fell slightly to 3.72 from 3.74. For the second straight year, Stanford also disclosed GRE scores for its entering class. The average verbal GRE score this year is 165, with a range of 156 to 170. The average quant score on the GRE is also 165, with a range of 152 to 170.

The school noted that its new MBA students come from very diverse backgrounds, including 63 countries, 172 undergraduate institutions and 306 organizations — an increase in all three categories. Women make up 41% of the school’s Class of 2020, up from 40% a year earlier, while internationals comprise 42% of the students, a metric that includes permanent U.S. residents and dual citizens, compared to 41% last year. U.S. minorities total 27% of the class, down two percentage points from a year earlier. The entering students averaged four years of work experience, with a range of zero to 11 years.

The percentage of students who come from humanities and social science backgrounds also increased. Stanford said that humanities and social science undergraduate majors make up 48% of this year’s entering class, up four percentage points from the 44% last year. STEM grads with engineering, math and natural sciences degrees fell to 34%, from 37% a year earlier, while business majors in the class dipped a single percent to 18% from 19%.