The Stanford MBA: What You Need To Know
Ranked No. 1 by Poets&Quants, Stanford’s MBA boasts the most selective prestigious program in the world. First offering its MBA in 1925, Stanford Graduate School of Business is a place where anything and everything is possible, where the boundaries of knowledge are pushed beyond what’s imaginable and diverse ideas and perspectives aren’t just accepted, they’re encouraged.
Former Dean Garth Saloner says Stanford’s goal is to “have the leadership capacity to change the world.” Stanford’s goal is ambitious, but if any program can reach it this one. The tagline of the school is, “Change Lives, Change Organizations, Change the World,” and this lofty mission is taken seriously by the admissions staff, which sorts through more than 7,300 applications from top-tier candidates in 2020.
Their incoming class numbers have hovered around 420 students for the last five years, and this year they welcomed 426 students for the class of 2023.
The first year of the two-year MBA builds students’ general management knowledge and global exposure, mostly consisting of core courses potentially with room for one to two electives in winter and spring. Stanford offers practical experiences, leadership coaches, and courses with methods designed to enhance leadership skills.
As one might expect, many of the required courses can be calibrated to the student’s skills, experience, and future goals. The global experience requirement is also completed in the first year and offers various exciting programs for students to explore and engage in worldwide issues in order to fully appreciate the complexities involved in global management.
The second-year curriculum can be tailored through electives, seminars, a joint or dual degree, and courses at other Stanford schools, designed to help broaden experiences and perspectives, strengthen areas of development, allow students to explore new subjects, and ensure a well-rounded general management education. Stanford GSB adds new electives or substantially revises existing topics every year to respond to changes in the business environment, the social sector, and students’ interests.
“My favorite part of our MBA program is the way we combine the best research faculty of any business school in the world — truly world-class (and some Nobel-winning) social scientists — with highly successful practitioners to create a curriculum that is both deep and practical. All students get exposure to a broad range of topics and then have the ability to dive deep into those that are most relevant to their interests and goals,” says Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Paul Oyer.
From participatory teaching methods, to student clubs, to on-campus living, Stanford GSB’s collaborative culture is designed to reduce competition between students and deepen relationships.
For prospective students applying, Stanford GSB won’t give out a checklist for the entire application because there really isn’t one with the exception of materials such as the GMAT/GRE, two letters of reference and essays and if applicable, an English language proficiency test. There is no typical Stanford MBA student, and Admissions’ advice to students is to ensure that their application is a true reflection of themselves. As important as the application materials are is the criteria that admissions scrutinize, generally Intellectual Vitality, Demonstrated Leadership Potential, and Personal Qualities & Contributions.
Post-graduation, Stanford MBAs typically land among the highest first year pay packages in the world. MBA startups at Stanford have been at near-record levels over the years, making the school the place to incubate a business from scratch, search for capital from angel investors and VCs, and launch.
Although the startup mindset has become so dominant at the school that the dean of its MBA program now believes Stanford should try to somewhat discourage it. “From our standpoint, we don’t need to sell entrepreneurship here because we get it for free,” says Madhav Rajan, the former senior associate dean for academic affairs. He believes that the school’s location–in the heart of Silicon Valley–allows it to have a near hands-off approach to entrepreneurship because the startup bug strikes naturally given the surrounding ecosystem of angel investors, VC firms, and company founders.