Stanford GSB To Latin America: Apply To Our MBA Program For Free

In a world where MBA students pay more than $200,000 to attend an elite business school for two years, a $275 application fee may not seem like a lot. But Stanford Graduate School of Business Class of 2020 MBA Yohanna Maldonado knows the cost to apply to B-school has long been a major barrier for a huge number of people from one region of the world: Latin America.

Maldonado, a Venezuela native, is among those applauding Stanford’s move, announced today (August 11), to suspend its application fee for Latin American MBA applicants making less than $40,000 per year. The Sí Se Puede Latin America Fee Waiver, effective immediately, means residents from Puerto Rico to Peru can apply for free to Stanford’s No. 1- ranked program — a big deal for a part of the world where per capita income is under $10,000. Stanford’s round one deadline is September 15.

After posting about the fee waiver on her LinkedIn page, Maldonado says she was swiftly contacted by Latin Americans curious about applying.

“Three people reached out,” she tells Poets&Quants, “and they were like, ‘Oh, I was thinking about it, and I saw your post, and it seems like they want Latin Americans — so they’re going to take some time to look at my curriculum vitae because if not, they wouldn’t be doing this.’ And I think that that’s a really, really good message to send as a university: ‘We are looking for Latin people. We even have a fee waiver.’ I think that that messaging is very important.

“The $275, I know it sounds like not much here, but in Latin America, that is a significant amount of money.”


Yohanna Maldonado. LinkedIn

The Stanford MBA Class of 2021 that enrolled in the fall of 2019 was comprised of 9% Latin Americans. The previous class, which included Yohanna Maldonado, was a similar number, with about three dozen students — “a very tiny community, for sure,” she says. “We were like 36 or something — I don’t remember the exact number. We were so close, honestly, but I for sure would want to see more, because I think that in general I did miss a lot of an international perspective in our classes and more points of view in the class from people from all over the world.”

Applicants do not need to apply separately for the Sí Se Puede Latin America Fee Waiver, and the salary currency conversion to U.S. dollars will be calculated based on exchange rates on June 1, 2020.

But the waiver is not the only way through which Stanford aims to increase the numbers of students enrolled in its MBA program from Venezuela and across Latin America. The school also promises to increase fellowship opportunities. Once applicants are admitted to the MBA program, Stanford GSB “will match eligible students to need-based financial aid opportunities,” says Elisa Koppl, associate director of the school’s MBA Admissions Office. According to school information, the average Stanford GSB fellowship is about $40,000 per year or $80,000 in total awards.

In a recent LowKeynote speech, which gives Stanford GSB students the opportunity to develop presentations on ideas and actions that can enhance people’s lives and communities around the globe, Maldonado spoke about “hope” and the possibility that Stanford MBAs can return to Venezuela and help their families and communities there.

“There is a strong social fabric being built in Venezuela that is worth standing for,” she said.

“When I was considering applying to different MBA programs, Stanford GSB always felt like a dream and that it might not even be worth the application. This fee waiver is yet another example of how the school is thinking about increasing diversity on campus and attracting more people from Latin America. I am excited to welcome many more admits in the following years.”


Hispanics do not make up large populations at any of the top-ranked schools. At the six schools in the top 10 that have divulged MBA student population in the Class of 2021 by race (Stanford, Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, and Northwestern Kellogg School of Management have not), the average Hispanic population was just over 5%. Yale School of Management boasted the highest number of Hispanic MBA enrollees, with 7.5%, and Wharton had the lowest, at 1%. Application diversity is more difficult to determine without disclosure from the schools, which they tend to be reluctant to do.

What is clear, however, is that Stanford’s fee waiver will go a long way toward encouraging interest from talent pools that otherwise might lower their sights. That’s the goal of Becky Kleiner and Micky Malka, managing partners at Ribbit Capital, who are both from Venezuela and have lived abroad for many years. Their gift made the fee waiver possible.

“When the right tools are given to the right people, good and massive changes in society will follow,” Malka said in a Stanford news release. “During our time living abroad, we have had the opportunity to interact with many Stanford GSB graduates from Latin America. We have seen that many have returned to their home countries and generated great impact on their societies and businesses post-graduation. We believe that the region is home to many more people who are capable of creating that kind of impact, given the chance.

“This is the reason we are working with Stanford GSB. The Sí Se Puede Latin America Program aims to remove barriers to apply to the MBA program and encourages applicants from Venezuela and throughout Latin America to take that next step. By helping students to apply to and attend Stanford GSB, we hope to attract those who want to make a difference in their communities and the world.”

It may “only” be $275, but for many, that $275 may be the difference in achieving a better life, Maldonado says.

“The first time I read about it, I had the same kind of reaction: ‘If you’re going to spend a hundred thousand dollars on an MBA, this is not really a big deal,'” says Maldonado, who now works as a consultant for a journalism nonprofit in San Francisco. “And then I posted on my LinkedIn a real quickie line: ‘Hey, this is me, a new Stanford grad. If you have any questions, reach out.’ And the amount of people that reached out was insane! It was insane. People that I had never talked to, complete strangers. It got shared many times. More than 25,000 views!

“And then talking to people, I understood a different point, that Stanford is such a dream. It’s so hard to get in. The 6% thing, you read about it. And you’re a Latin American and working at a shoe company that no one knows about. And it’s like, ‘I’m never going to do it. They’re not going to accept me.’ And then when they make it free to apply, it changes things. It’s like, ‘Okay, I’m already working on my GMAT, I’m applying to other schools — I’m going to give it a shot because it doesn’t cost anything.'”


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