Stanford Enrolls Its Largest MBA Class Ever

Stanford GSB is putting a newfound focus on diversity

Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) has enrolled its largest class of MBAs ever, welcoming 436 students this fall. This year’s entering class is 19 students over last year’s new cohort and 17 more than the school’s previous record high. Stanford was able to achieve its largest class as applications to its MBA program remained essentially flat at 7,324, with 18 fewer applicants than last year. The success in bringing a larger class to campus during COVID occurs in a year when the GSB’s East Coast rival, Harvard Business School, enrolled one of its smallest classes ever, 206 students fewer than a year earlier.

Through one of the most uncertain admission cycles ever, Stanford was able to maintain its record level of women, who again account for 47% of the class. That percentage matches the school’s record last year which was up six percentage points from 41% two years ago. Stanford GSB also held on to a sizable percentage of international admits who comprise 35% of the Class of 2022 from 66 countries, even after offering all of them the chance to defer their admission. The international population fell by eight percentage points, or 18.6%, from the record 43% of last year’s incoming class. In contrast, Wharton saw the percentage of international students shrink noticeably from 30% to 19% or almost a third.

“It was the wild, wild west of admissions this year,” says Kirsten Moss, assistant dean and director of MBA admissions and financial aid. “We weathered a storm with a ton of collaboration and a ton of customer service and we are proud of this class. “Every class has superstars and so does this one, but it took so much teamwork to land it.”


Kirsten Moss, assistant dean of admissions & financial aid at Stanford GSB

Unlike several other schools, including Wharton, Stanford decided not to extend its final round when the pandemic struck and test centers closed, resisting the temptation to boost its application volume to get back to the school’s record peak of 8,173 in the 2016-2017 admissions cycle. “We ended round one with a strong yield–the percentage of admits who enroll–and in round two we were a bit more aggressive with our accept rate and we had a really strong yield again,” adds Moss. “So going into round three, we were really confident we could deliver a strong class. Our apps could have been higher if we extended the round, but making sure our decisions were sound was more important.”

The school did allow applicants to turn in test scores after they submitted their applications as accommodation due to the closure of test centers. “We were making decisions throughout the summer, but we didn’t open the floodgates,” explains Moss. “That felt very fair to us.”

The pandemic-induced recession is now fueling a dramatic increase in interest in graduate education. Moss said that MBA applications were up for the school’s round one deadline of Sept. 15th. While Stanford did not report an acceptance rate for 2019-2020, Poets&Quants estimates that it came to 7%, the lowest for any prestigious MBA program in the world. That is nearly half as much as the estimated 13% admit rate at Harvard or the 22% rate at Wharton (see table below for a comparison of this year’s incoming MBA classes with Harvard and Wharton).

Moss said the summer “melt,” the numbers of admits who ultimately decide not to attend, was minimal. “By mid-July, we lost almost no one which was really remarkable, far less than in the past year. Who would have thought that as California got more and more constricted and we had to launch a hybrid model that people held on? Some schools were significantly over where they wanted to be. For us, we brought the plane in right where we wanted it to land.”


According to the school’s new class profile published today (Sept. 30), Stanford GSB’s newest students, like those in previous classes, excelled academically. The average GMAT score is 733, a point off from last year’s 734 average, but now 11 points higher than Wharton which saw its GMAT average plunge by 10 points. The range of GMAT scores in this year’s class goes from a low of 600 to 790. The average GRE verbal score is 165 and the quantitative average is 164, with the verbal range from a low of 150 to a high of 170 and the quant range from 151 to 170. Some 25% of the class took the GRE, up from 19% last year. The average TOEFL score was 113, with a range of 107 to 118.

The average undergraduate GPA for those who attended U.S. schools with a 4.0 GPA scale is 3.8. “GPA is the highest it has ever been,” notes Moss, “but that is more coincidence than strategic.” As undergraduates, 37% of students majored in engineering/mathematics/natural sciences, 34% in social sciences, 18% in business, and 44% in the humanities and social sciences. For the first time ever, Staford reported on the percentage of first-generation college grads in the class. Nine percent of the Class of 2022 were the first in their families to graduate from a four-year college or university. Fourteen percent of students are holders of advanced degrees.

The average work experience of the Class of 2022 is 4.7 years, up .1 year but the oldest a Stanford class has been for some time. Their employment backgrounds reflect tremendous professional variety, with students coming from 291 different organizations. “We have everyone from professional musicians to Navy Seals, Top Gun veterans and Army Rangers in the class,” adds Moss.


As if often the case, there were generally few changes in the industry backgrounds of the incoming class of students (see table on following page). The largest single group hail from investment management, private equity and venture capital firms. At 20% this year, it’s up a single percentage point from a year earlier. Add in the additional 5% of the class from financial services and students with financial backgrounds total more than a quarter of the entire class at 25%.

More notably, the percentage of students with consulting backgrounds fell three percentage points to 17% from 20% last year. Healthcare and media entertainment largely make up the slack. Students with work experience in the healthcare industry rose to 7% of the Class of 2022, up from 5% a year earlier. MBA candidates with backgrounds in media and entertainment rose four percentage points to 7% this year from 3% in 2019. Students who had served in the military also were up to 4%, a percentage point higher than last year.

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