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These Are the Key Traits Stanford’s GSB Looks For In Applicants

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is one of the most sought after MBA degrees in the world. While the B-school does not disclose the acceptance rate to its MBA program, experts estimate that it falls around 10%.

Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently broke down the drivers behind Stanford GSB’s elusive acceptance rate and offered insight into why the B-school’s admit patterns have become increasingly reliant on qualitative aspects.


Stanford’s GSB doesn’t just accept any ordinary applicant. According to Blackman, the B-school “seeks talented, diverse and smart people who will make a significant impact in business and society. Stanford GSB students seem to have this ‘X’ factor associated with them, almost like an ‘unexpected’ trait or experience. They take risks, push beyond the imaginable and lead with passion.”

Stanford’s GSB outlines three key traits that define the ideal MBA student: Intellectual vitality, demonstrated leadership potential, and personal qualities and contributions.

Intellectual vitality has to do with your curiosity of learning beyond the classroom alone.

“In assessing intellectual vitality, we believe you are far more than your GPA or standardized test scores,” according to Stanford’s GSB. “While we do review these to assess your readiness for our academic program, we look beyond them to consider your interest in seeking new knowledge or expertise; your willingness to test and challenge assumptions; and your ability to develop new ideas or perspectives.”

Demonstrated leadership potential covers quite a few aspects. In particular, Stanford seeks out applicants who hold a wide range of leadership traits and behaviors.

“The leadership behaviors we seek when evaluating your application include: strategic thinking, initiative, persistence, results orientation, engaging others, and developing others,” according to Stanford’s GSB. “In your application, we are looking for times when you have used these behaviors to create impact or change.”

Lastly, Stanford specifically looks for those applicants who can demonstrate not only what they’ve been able to accomplish, but how their values, passions, and experiences have shaped their identity—in other words, the ‘X’ factor.

“We seek to admit candidates who bring diverse perspectives and experiences to the MBA class because we believe that Stanford’s collaborative educational process leverages the breadth of students’ backgrounds to deliver a range of insights and approaches to real-world problems,” according to the B-school.


That ‘X’ factor is an aspect that, experts say, needs to be clearly conveyed in your MBA application to Stanford’s GSB.

Simply having unique experiences, however, won’t be enough to make the cut. It’s about your outlook on life—the past, present, and future—and how that outlook shapes both your identity and the world around you.

“Maturity and self-awareness are key,” a client of Stacy Blackman Consulting who was admitted to Stanford’s GSB says. “Ultimately, your experiences probably aren’t that unique, given the huge number of applications programs will get every year. But it’s how you frame them, reflect on them, and use them to showcase yourself that will set you apart from others.”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, Fortune, Stanford Graduate School of Business

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