The Stanford Graduate School of Business, or as it is known to its students, “the GSB,” is the most selective MBA program in the world, admitting only an estimated 7% of its applicants for the Class of 2022, ahead of its perennial rival, Harvard Business School (HBS), which accepted an estimated 13%. Why is the Stanford GSB so popular? Many would argue that its symbiotic relationship with Silicon Valley has pushed this elite MBA program to new heights—countless Stanford GSB graduates have become venture capitalists and start-up entrepreneurs, adding to the lore of the school. Still, the GSB’s impact can be felt far beyond Silicon Valley; Nike founder Phil Knight, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, and social entrepreneur Jacqueline Novogratz are all graduates, and only 14% of students in the Class of 2022 have a background in the tech industry. So maybe arguing that Silicon Valley is the appeal is an oversimplification, but students generally agree that the GSB is the place for those who are unashamed to pursue big dreams. Beyond that, the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s warm California weather and reputation for a close-knit and laid-back community (punctuated by its legendary “Touchy Feely” course, which is a catalyst for soft-skill development), along with the sky-high annual salaries that its graduates initially command ($159,544 on average for the Class of 2020), contribute to its desirability and selectivity. So with the Stanford GSB receiving 7,324 applications and matriculating 436 students for the Class of 2022, you need to think carefully about what you offer and how to carve out your place in the class. Fortunately, mbaMission offers a depth of resources and services to help you on your journey.
The Stanford Graduate School of Business Insider’s Guide
After consulting with Stanford MBA students, admissions committee members, and alumni about their GSB experiences, we have prepared our Insider’s Guide to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. We take an in-depth look at life as a Stanford GSB student, highlighting how the school’s location, class size, curriculum, teaching methods, facilities, alumni base/involvement, and rankings all affect its culture and MBA experience. Then we delve into the GSB’s standout faculty and unique professional student clubs, revealing how they facilitate the careers of GSB MBA students. Through our guide, you will learn more about the spirit of innovation that runs through the Stanford GSB—the Venture Studio, Startup Garage, interdisciplinary d.school, and other such resources and opportunities. Further, you will come to understand how a campus once known as “the Farm” is now shaped by the Knight Management Center, with its numerous meeting spaces and environmentally sustainable design. Of course, you can also read up on the Interpersonal Dynamics course (colloquially known as “Touchy Feely”) and gain a sense of its place in a larger leadership program, highlighted by the Executive Challenge and Leadership Labs, which are facilitated by second-year MBA Arbuckle Leadership Fellows. Stanford GSB dean Jonathan Levin has been guiding the Graduate School of Business since 2016—through our guide, you will experience the remarkable program that continues to develop under his watch.
Stanford GSB Essay Tips, 2021–2022
Stanford’s assistant dean of MBA admissions and financial aid, Kirsten Moss, has maintained the traditional Stanford GSB essay questions “Why Stanford?” and “What matters most to you, and why?” and gives applicants a total of 1,050 words with which to respond. Because the “What matters?” prompt is so challenging, we—as noted earlier—wrote a book in which we critique successful Stanford GSB essays. The key to this essay is authenticity and sincerity, meaning that you must represent yourself as best you can, rather than trying to represent the completely unachievable. The Stanford MBA admissions committee is not expecting the superhuman but is anticipating that applicants will have a values-based approach to outperformance. Further, it will want to be sure that your response to “Why Stanford?” shows that you deeply understand the GSB’s culture and your fit therein. You don’t need a list of GSB resources to prove that point; rather, you need to have thoughtfully considered your professional needs and how they can be met by the Stanford GSB.
In addition to the two major prompts, the Stanford GSB also provides two optional essays—we strongly suggest that you respond to these because otherwise, you will be implicitly suggesting that you have less to offer than others. Via these two brief prompts, you have the opportunity to show the GSB how you have made an impact in a particular setting and how your values have informed your decisions. Your Stanford MBA admissions reader is more likely to be impressed by a consistent track record of values-based achievements than by a single unheard-of accomplishment.
In our essay analysis, we provide in-depth guidance on each of the Stanford GSB’s 2021–2022 essay questions:
- Essay A: What matters most to you, and why?
- Essay B: Why Stanford?
- Optional Question 1: Think about times you’ve created a positive impact, whether in professional, extracurricular, academic, or other settings. What was your impact? What made it significant to you or to others? (You can share up to three examples—up to 1,200 characters, or approximately 200 words, for each example.)
- Optional Question 2: Tell us about a time within the last three years when your background influenced your participation in a situation, interaction, or project. (Up to 1,200 characters, or approximately 200 words.)
Click here to read our analysis
“What Matters?” and “What More?”: 50 Successful Essays for the Stanford GSB and HBS (and Why They Worked)
The application essay questions for the world’s two most competitive MBA programs—Harvard Business School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB)—are notoriously challenging. Even if these schools had more generous acceptance rates (currently 10% and 6%, respectively), their essay prompts would still vex candidates with both their simplicity and their open-ended nature. Yet therein lies the beauty of these essay questions—you are in control! You are a unique individual, and this is your chance to show HBS and the GSB who you really are and why you are an applicant worthy of admittance.
Having helped hundreds of candidates gain acceptance to these programs, Jeremy Shinewald of mbaMission and Liza Weale of Gatehouse Admissions, in partnership with Poets&Quants, have pooled their collective experience to now help you. Using a carefully curated collection of 50 successful essays to HBS and the GSB, they have broken down why each one worked and created a truly essential guide to crafting essays for these schools more confidently and effectively.
“What Matters?” and “What More?”: 50 Successful Essays for the Stanford GSB and HBS (and Why They Worked) is a 190-page digital book offering the following:
- Actual HBS and Stanford GSB essays, submitted by past candidates who were ultimately admitted, along with expert commentary on the strengths (and sometimes weaknesses!) of each one
- Ten “pairs” of essays for HBS and the GSB, showing how the same candidate approached the two schools’ differing essay prompts
- Two essays by reapplicants, highlighting useful tactics for writing these essays the second time around
- Overviews and examples of four different approaches you can take to composing your essays: thematic, inflection points, single anecdote, and mosaic
- Best practices for each program’s essay question, such as how to handle the prompts’ vastly different word counts and what not to include in your essays
The widely varying essays in this guide prove that no one definitive path to success exists. On the contrary, the schools are clearly open to a vast range of topics, experiences, styles, and voices. The guidance, samples, and critiques in “What Matters?” and “What More?” will help you find the best approach for sharing your strongest stories with these programs—and position yourself for success! If you plan to apply to Harvard Business School or the Stanford GSB, this book is a must-have resource!
Stanford GSB Business School Rankings
The Stanford Graduate School of Business has consistently placed in the top ten, if not the top spot, of most popular business school rankings for many years. It is arguably one of the most selective business schools in the world and, quite subjectively, the school rivals HBS in terms of prestige and competitiveness. For six years in a row, Stanford stood in the number one spot in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, sometimes sharing the position with the likes of HBS and UPenn Wharton, before dropping to a tied second place with Chicago Booth in the 2017 rankings and finally to the fourth spot in 2018 and 2019. The school rose back to the second spot in the 2020 ranking, and finally topped the list again in the 2021 ranking, tied with UPenn Wharton. The school remained in the top spot in the 2022 ranking, this time without sharing the honor with another school.
Stanford GSB Deadlines (2021–2022 Application Season)
September 9, 2021
Round 1 Decision
December 9, 2021
January 5, 2022
Round 2 Decision
March 31, 2022