Stanford GSB — MBA Program & Application Overview

Working on your Stanford GSB Application? Here's everything you need to know about the program, plus practical strategies and tips to give you the best shot at getting in.

Posted June 19, 2024

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The Graduate School of Business at Stanford University is perhaps the most sought-after MBA program in the world. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, it is one of the most competitive business schools, offering vast professional and academic opportunities to students. Here’s what you need to know about getting that highly coveted “call” from the Stanford GSB Dean of Admissions.

Stanford GSB Class Profile (Class of 2025)

Fast Facts:

  • Location: Stanford, California
  • Founded: 1925
  • Class Size: 431
  • Applicants: 6,190
  • Acceptance Rate: 6.96%

GSB Class Profile:

  • Average Work Experience: 5 years
  • Average GMAT Score: 738
  • Average GRE Score: 164 (Quant), 164 (Verbal)
  • Average TOEFL Score: 113
  • Women: 46%
  • International: 36%
  • Students of Color: 50%
  • First-Generation: 11%
  • Hold Advanced Degrees: 17%

"We won’t give you a checklist to mark off, because there isn’t one. There is no typical Stanford MBA student, no ideal for applicants to chase. Our advice is to just focus on you and ensure that your application is a true reflection of yourself."

GSB Admissions Committee

2024-2025 Application Overview

Stanford GSB MBA Application Deadlines

Round 1: September 10, 2024

  • Decisions Released: December 5, 2024

Round 2: January 8, 2025

  • Decisions released April 3, 2025

Round 3: April 8, 2025

  • Decisions released May 29, 2025

*Note: Deferred MBA candidates may apply in any round, though most apply in Round 3.

GMAT & GRE Scores

Stanford GSB GMAT/GRE Requirements

The Stanford Graduate School of Business requires that you submit either the GMAT or the GRE. It accepts both tests and does not have a preference for either.

GMAT/GRE Deadlines

For each application, here are the dates by which you need to take the GMAT or GRE:

  • Round 1 — You must have taken the GMAT/GRE on or after September 10, 2019
  • Round 2 — You must have taken the GMAT/GRE on or after January 8, 2020
  • Round 3 — You must have taken the GMAT/GRE on or after April 8, 2020

GMAT vs. GRE for Stanford GSB

When choosing an exam, consider your strengths. Traditionally, the GMAT is understood to have a harder quantitative section, while the GRE has a more robust Verbal section.

To read more, click here: GRE vs. GMAT for Business School - Which to Take and How to Ace Both and Top 50+ Free Resources for GMAT/GRE Prep

GSB Application Essays

Stanford GSB Essay Prompts (2024)

The GSB requires you to submit two essays. The prompts are:

1. What matters most to you, and why? 2. Why Stanford?

The word limit for the two essays combined is 1,000 words. The GSB recommends 650 words for the first essay and 350 words for the second.

Stanford GSB MBA Essay Tips

  1. These essays are designed to highlight not necessarily what you’ve accomplished, but who you are as a person
  2. The admissions committee can read about your accolades and achievements in the rest of your application; these essays are your opportunity to express yourself beyond the bullets on your resume
  3. What matters most to you, and why?
    • In this essay, the committee is asking you to reflect deeply and write from the heart. It’s the quintessential “personal statement” essay
    • You’ll need to make a concerted effort at introspection to complete this essay; if you don’t dig deep enough, you won’t crack through to the admissions committee
    • Consider working with someone, whether a family member, friend, mentor, or coach, to undergo that introspective process; having a guide can help you get deep enough to share something real
    • See: Craft a Powerful Essay for Stanford GSB: What Matters Most & Why?
  4. Why Stanford?
    • This is a straight-ahead “why MBA/why this business school” type of essay
    • Here, you want to let the admissions committee know why Stanford is your top choice business school, and how enrolling will help you achieve your career goals
    • There’s additional text to the question, reading: “Describe your aspirations and how Stanford will help you achieve them.” This gives you a better idea of how to more comprehensively answer the question
    • Do your research on the school and find specific professors, classes, and clubs that speak to you and your goals, and mention these in the essay to let the admission committee know that you’re serious about attending — picture yourself actually enrolled at the GSB, and paint that picture for the committee
    • Give yourself three months, at a minimum, to draft, write, and edit these essays. Don’t underestimate how hard this is!
    • Don’t copy and paste your resume. It’s okay to tell professional stories, but make sure they relate to your overall narrative
    • See: 5 Expert Tips for the “Why Stanford?” MBA Application Essay

General MBA Essay Tips

  • Answer the question. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many applicants don’t do it!
  • Be specific, and quantify any results you produced. These small details can be the difference between a great and merely good essay
  • Be vulnerable, and be honest. The worst thing you can do is try and guess what the admissions committee wants to hear. That’s a guaranteed way to make the admissions committee fall asleep
  • Don’t exaggerate, inflate, or lie. Full stop.

Click here to read more: How to Write a Powerful MBA Essay and Stanford GSB MBA Essays: Prompts, Tips, & Examples


Join a Leland Group Class

We often have MBA admissions classes that specifically cover the GSB application. Classes are a great way to try out expert coaching at an affordable price and in a more intimate setting than events. Browse all of the upcoming classes here.


Letters of Recommendation

For the GSB, you’ll need two recommendation letters submitted on or before the deadline of the round you’re applying in. One should be from your current direct supervisor (or the best alternative), and the second should be from someone else who has supervised you.

Who to Choose

The short answer is to choose someone who knows you well, can truly speak to your abilities, and will be your advocate. You want someone who will fight for you, not just say nice things.

Specifically, Stanford asks for a current direct supervisor (or the best alternative) and a second one from someone else who has supervised you. Some of the reasons for not having your current supervisor include:

  • Self-employment
  • Working for a family business in which a family member is your supervisor
  • Having begun a new position where your direct supervisor does not know you well
  • Having not notified your direct supervisor that you are applying to business school
  • Students

Stanford GSB Deferred MBA Applicants – Stanford recommends using people who have supervised your extracurricular activities or work experience. You may use a direct supervisor from a summer, part-time, or internship position. Professors don’t usually make the greatest recommenders because most can’t speak to your career potential. If you have worked closely with a professor on a work-related task (e.g. research assistant), you may be able to use them. We suggest discussing your recommender options with a coach.

GSB Recommender Questions

Your recommenders will fill out a personal qualities and skills grid, and answer three additional questions:

  • How does the applicant’s performance compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples (e.g., what are the applicant’s principal strengths?).
  • Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (Up to 500 words)
  • (Optional) Is there anything else we should know? Please be concise

Key Tips for GSB Recommendations

  • These recommendation letters are meant to capture the impact you’ve had in your professional career. They’re the only part of your application that won’t come directly from you, and as such, they’re a pivotal part of your application
  • These recommendations should offer concrete examples that are as specific as possible to illustrate what you’ve done, how you did it, and the impact/results
  • If you’re applying as a deferred applicant and do not have full-time work experience, you may ask for a reference from a direct supervisor from a summer, part-time, or internship position. You may also ask someone you worked with for extracurricular, research, volunteer, or community activities
  • When you enter your recommenders into the GSB application, they’ll receive an email with log-in details. They’ll then use that log-in to upload your recommendation letters through an online portal. Make sure they upload their materials before the deadline — you don’t want your rec letter to be the cause of a late application

Click here to read more about How to Get the Perfect MBA Recommendation Letter, and here for our free Leland Recommender Prep Template.

Personal Information, Activities, and Awards

This is the meat and potatoes of the actual application. Here, you’ll enter personal information, including your date of birth, citizenship, family details, and Social Security Number (for US Citizens and Permanent Residents).

You’ll also be asked how you spend your time outside of work and school, i.e. your extracurricular activities, which can be athletic, charitable, civic, community, or professional in nature. Finally, you’ll also be given space to list awards and honors you have accumulated to date.

Don’t procrastinate on this part! The time it requires often surprises applicants. You want to be strategic in how you frame your experiences and supplement the rest of your application.

Read: How to Nail Your Stanford GSB Short-Answer Questions

Resume

You will need to upload a current MBA resume. Note that an MBA resume is not the same thing as a career resume. Rather than trying to qualify you for a job, it needs to add to the story of who you are, what you’ve done, and what you can do.

Stanford does not require full-time work experience prior to applying; they welcome deferred candidates and recent graduates who may have only worked in a part-time or internship capacity. Resumes for these candidates will look slightly different, we recommend working with an expert to outline and draft them.

Download free example resumes from top MBA admits here.

The admissions committee also does not privilege a specific industry, function, or background; they consider applicants from venture capital to consulting, from the nonprofit sector to tech. It’s much more important to focus on what you did within those industries/companies. Ask yourself, “What did I do that the CEO would care about?” and supplement with metrics (i.e. quantify your impact).

Stanford offers general resume writing guidelines through its Career Services page. Find more information about writing a resume for business school at How to Craft the Ultimate MBA Resume.

Academic Transcripts

  • A U.S. Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited institution is required. Degrees from international universities with three-year baccalaureate degrees are valid equivalents
  • To learn more about equivalent degrees Stanford will accept, navigate to the GSB application site
  • If your transcript is not yet available, you may upload an “unofficial” or student copy. However, once you are admitted, you will be required to submit the official copy to GSB

GSB Interviews

Roughly 1 of 10 applicants to the Stanford Graduate School of Business are extended an in-person or virtual interview designed to help the admissions committee get to know you better as a potential member of the next incoming MBA class, and as a human being, as well as for you to better get to know the GSB.

GSB Interview Format

  • Interviewer: Stanford GSB Alum or Admissions Officer
  • Model: Invite-Only
  • Schedule (2024-2025):
    • R1: Late September to Mid-November
    • R2: Mid-January to Mid-March
    • R3: Late April to Mid-May

Stanford GSB Interview Process & Tips

  • During and after the interview, you’ll be given the opportunity to ask questions about Stanford to determine if it’s the right program for you. Make sure to prepare thoughtful questions!
  • The interview process starts with the invitation, after which you will need to inform them of your location so they can pair you with an interviewer. You and your interviewer will then schedule the interview, preferably within a week. You should submit your resume to your interviewer. The interview will then be conducted and your interviewer will then submit an assessment to the Admissions Office. They will then add the interview assessment to your application file and consider your entire application to evaluate your candidacy.
  • Take time to thoroughly research the school, program, and interviewer. One main objective of the interview is to demonstrate your genuine interest/desire to attend the program, and show that you are a cultural fit. Head here for more Stanford GSB interview tips.

Read: How to Ace Your MBA Interview: With Prep Questions & Answers and How to Nail Your Virtual MBA Interview.

Cost of Stanford GSB MBA Program

Tuition & General Fees

Stanford’s tuition requirements for 2024-2025 are roughly $82,455. Other fees include housing, transportation, books and materials, health insurance, and more. Luckily, there are ways to pay for your degree including scholarships, loans, grants, fellowships, and more.

Read: Stanford GSB: MBA Tuition & Fees Breakdown and Financial Aid Options for Pursuing an MBA Program

Application Fee

To apply, you’ll need to pay the $275 nonrefundable application fee. The GSB offers some fee waivers and fee reduction options, including:

  • If you are an active-duty US military service member, a US military veteran who has been honorably discharged, or are serving in the US military reserves, you are eligible for a fee waiver
  • Those who are from Latin America and make less than $40,000 a year are also eligible for fee waivers are also eligible to have their application fees waived
  • If you’re applying as a deferred candidate, the application fee is $100
  • If the application fee is a significant financial burden, you can request a need-based waiver from the Admissions Office

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Stanford GSB Deferred Admissions

Who is eligible for the Stanford GSB deferred enrollment program?

If you’re a current undergraduate student in your final year of study, you can apply as a deferred candidate to Stanford’s MBA program. For this cycle, you’re eligible to apply if you will graduate from college between October 1, 2024, and September 30, 2025. Most deferred applicants will choose to submit their application during the Round 3 deadline period (April 8, 2025), but any application round is acceptable. You’re also eligible to apply as a deferred candidate if you’re currently enrolled in a graduate program that you began immediately after undergraduate graduation.

Who should apply for the Stanford GSB deferred enrollment program?

Applying as a deferred candidate allows you to ensure and save your spot at the GSB before jumping into your career and earning professional experience. Rather than judging your experience, the admissions committee is judging your potential. You have the entire deferment period–2 to 5 years–to pursue whatever you wish, knowing that you have been admitted. You also don’t have to worry about studying for and taking a standardized test while working full-time. Lastly, it’s cheaper to apply to deferred programs. Stanford decreases its application fee; for most other programs, it’s waived entirely.

What does the Stanford GSB deferred application entail?

The application for Stanford’s deferred MBA program is almost identical to its traditional application. However, different strategies are needed because the candidate’s profile differs from those coming out of the workforce. Read more about the application, and tips for applying, here.

MBA Admissions Coach Recommendations

Wherever you are in your application, we have a coach for you! Working with an expert will help you tell your story in a compelling and cohesive way and make you stand out. Here are some popular coaches:

Stanford GSB Program & Curriculum

Sitting at the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford GSB is a leading business school at the forefront of innovation and collaboration. You will learn from world-class faculty, guest lecturers, and industry experts through case studies, lectures, small-group seminars, simulations, prototyping, role-playing scenarios, hands-on experiences, project-based courses, and multifunctional scenarios. You will also collaborate with a diverse and talented group of classmates.

Interested in the classes at Stanford GSB? Read The 5 Best Classes at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and The Best Professors at Stanford GSB

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the GSB curriculum for the traditional 2-year, full-time program.

First Year, Autumn Quarter

Stanford employs a quarter system. That means your classes will be 10 weeks long, and you’ll have three quarters per year: Fall, Winter, and Spring. The quarter system maximizes the number of classes you’re able to take during your two-year experience and ensures a diverse breadth of knowledge. Read: Not Every MBA Program is Made Equal–An Overview of the Program Structures of Top Business Schools.

In your first year at the GSB, you’ll build your general management expertise, learn decision-making and communication skills, and gain global experience beyond the traditional business school environment. All of the classes this first quarter are required.

GSB Core Courses:

  • Ethics in Management
  • Finance I
  • Financial Accounting
  • Leadership Labs
  • Managerial Skills
  • Managing Group and Teams
  • Optimization and Simulation Modeling
  • Organizational Behavior

First Year, Winter/Spring Quarter

In your first year of Winter and Spring Quarters, you’ll still complete core/required classes, but you will also have the opportunity to take electives and fulfill your distribution requirements. Stanford also allows you to take a number of elective classes in other graduate schools on campus, which are commonly referred to as “across-the-street” classes. These are approved on a case-by-case basis and usually must be at a graduate level or higher to count for GSB credit.

GSB Elective Distribution Requirements:

  • Data Analysis and Decision-Making
  • Finance II
  • Human Resource Management
  • Information Management
  • Macroeconomics
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Macroeconomics
  • Operations
  • Strategic Leadership
  • Strategy Beyond Markets

Second Year

Your second year at the GSB is made up entirely of electives. You’ll be able to select whichever courses you like, depending on the skills and experiences you’re looking to build. You can strengthen your leadership skills, gain a more solid management foundation, and explore new subjects. You’ll be able to choose from over 100 elective courses, as well as those courses “across-the-street.”

Classes typically fall into one of these categories:

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • General and Interdisciplinary
  • Economic Analysis and Policy
  • Marketing
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Operations Info and Technology
  • Political Economics
  • Strategic Management

Sample electives include:

  • The Future of Cities: Entrepreneurship, Policy & Business Strategy
  • Startup Garage
  • Building and Managing Professional Sales Organizations
  • Corporate Financial Modeling
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Private Equity — An Overview of the Industry
  • Entrepreneurship from Diverse Perspectives
  • Marketing Research

See all Stanford GSB electives here

Global Experiences

Global immersion is a hallmark of the Stanford MBA program. First-year students are required to fulfill a global study requirement in one of four ways:

1. Global Management Immersion Experience (GMIX)

A GMIX is an opportunity to travel abroad and understand a different culture and business environment. You’ll spend four weeks in the summer working for a sponsoring organization in one of several industries (consumer products, energy, finance, international development, media and entertainment, health care, technology, or non-profit). Stanford helps source these organizations and projects, or you are free to create your own personalized GMIX.

2. Global Study Trips

Global Study Trips are the opportunity to spend a quarter with other student leaders in an intensive group-learning experience. During this time, you will examine a challenging global issue by talking to a diverse group of stakeholders, including CEOs, small-business owners, government officials, early career professionals, and entrepreneurs, in a group of 20 to 30 students led by a faculty member.

3. Stanford-Tsinghua Exchange Program (STEP)

STEP is an academic exchange program between Stanford GSB and Tsinghua University’s business school, the School of Economics and Management in Beijing. In this exchange program, you will enroll in a Stanford GSB elective course and collaborate with Tsinghua MBA students on projects of mutual interest. Through the program, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of doing business in China and China’s role in the global economy. Typically, Stanford GSB students travel to Beijing over Thanksgiving week while Tsinghua students come to the Stanford University campus in late January/early February.

4. Self-Directed Experience

If you’re interested in crafting your own global experience, Stanford will support you so you can fulfill your global requirement as well as your academic and career goals.

GSB Joint & Dual-Degree Programs

Stanford University offers a wide range of joint degree programs to help students tailor their education to their unique academic and professional interests. Students may either apply directly to a joint degree program or apply to the other schools during their MBA programs.

JD/MBA — Stanford Law School

This four-year joint degree program is designed for individuals who want a career in law or public service, or those who wish to gain general management skills or enter a management career with the skills and competencies of a lawyer.

MD/MBA Dual Degree — Stanford School of Medicine

This five-year program is for those who want to study both medicine and management. A rigorous business education can be a strong foundation for students interested in hospital administration or opening their own practices.

Stanford MBA/Master's Degrees

  • MA Education/MBA — Stanford Graduate School of Education: This joint program is for those who are interested in education (both K-12 and higher ed). It includes courses on education policy, education management, the application of technology to education (EdTech), and teaching.
  • MPP/MBA — Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences: Through this degree, you’ll be able to pursue both an MBA and a Master’s in Public Policy. This degree is for individuals who want a career at the intersection of management and government policy.
  • MS Computer Science/MBA — Department of Computer Science: This program is designed for those who are interested in engineering, and who will likely pursue a career in technology or technology venture capital.
  • MS Electrical Engineering/MBA — Department of Electrical Engineering: This is another combination of Stanford’s world-class programs. You’ll develop a deep and connected understanding of engineering and executing future innovations that will involve both technology and business.
  • MS Environment and Resources (E-IPER)/MBA — Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences: This joint degree aims to give you an understanding of environmental issues through the lens of business as well as science, engineering, and technology.

Opportunities Outside Stanford

GSB MBA students can also pursue coursework and degrees in other institutions. Eligible schools and programs include:

  • Harvard Kennedy School: MPA, MPA-ID, or MPP
  • Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS): MA
  • Princeton School of Public and International Affairs: MPA
  • Yale Law School: JD
  • Yale Medical School: MD

Stanford MBA Executive Experience

While Stanford does not offer a part-time or executive MBA program, it does have several executive education opportunities, including a master’s degree and three professional certificates. Head here to learn more.

GSB Experience

Watch below for more information about the teaching methods at the GSB, as well as the Executive Challenge, an event for MBA1s which takes place every year at the Knight Management Center.

Teaching Methods at the GSB

Stanford GSB Executive Challenge

Stanford GSB Employment Report

A good way to check whether Stanford GSB will align with your career goals is to look at the data in its employment report. Each year, top schools outline what industries, functions, and geographic locations their graduates are entering. They also report on salaries and signing bonuses, as well as other information. See if graduates are going into your industry/function of choice – it’s a good sign that there are career resources available to help you get there.

Read: Key Insights & Takeaways From the Stanford GSB Employment Report

GSB FAQs

How do I apply to the GSB?

  • The GSB admissions process consists of a written application, which includes a resume, letters of recommendation, and multiple essays, followed by (for those offered) an interview. The exact requirements depend on whether you’re a joint degree applicant, deferred applicant, international applicant, executive MBA applicant, and/or re-applicant.

In which part of the application may I enter additional information, including special circumstances?

  • If you have important details that you want the Admissions Committee to know, you can add them in the Additional Information section of the application.

How do I add new information if I have already submitted my application?

  • If you’ve already submitted your application, you cannot edit it. The only thing you can update is your contact information. If you want to change something on your application, you can inform the Board during your interview.

Does the reputation/history of my undergraduate institution or company affect my chances of being accepted?

  • No. GSB puts an emphasis on diversity and therefore considers individuals from a wide spectrum of academic and work experiences.

What constitutes work experience?

  • Work experience includes professional opportunities in which the applicant has been able to develop his or her own professional and leadership skills.

Whom should recommendations come from?

  • One recommendation should come from your current direct supervisor and your second from someone else who has also supervised you in the past.

What is the process for recommenders?

  • First, you, the candidate, will enter your recommenders’ names and email addresses into your online application. Then your recommenders will receive an email instructing them to fill out the recommendation. Recommendations are submitted separately but will be automatically batched with the rest of your application. Don’t wait for your recommenders to submit their letters before you submit your own application. Read more about How to Get the Perfect MBA Letter of Recommendation.

Is the recommendation deadline the same as the application deadline?

  • Yes. Recommenders are encouraged to submit their recommendations when they’re ready. It’s your responsibility as the applicant to ensure the recommender submits their materials in advance of the deadline.

When should I expect an invitation for an interview?

  • Invitations for interviews are sent on a rolling basis. The timing of your interview does not impact your application. Invitations to interview are always a positive indicator no matter when you receive them.

How can I best prepare for my GSB interview?

  • The interview is designed to get to know you / understand you better as an MBA candidate. The GSB encourages its applicants to relax and be ready to talk about themselves. Read more about How to Ace Your MBA Interview.

Are test scores (GMAT/GRE and/or TOEFL/IELTS) required for the 2024-2025 admission cycle?

  • Yes. To apply to Stanford, you must take either the GMAT or the GRE. The TOEFL/IELTS is also required, when applicable. Official online versions of these exams are acceptable.

I recently took the GMAT/GRE and or TOEFL/IELTS but have not received my scores. How do I complete the Test Scores section of my application?

  • If you have taken a test but do not have the official score yet, you will need to enter temporary scores in the required fields in the online application. If you will be taking the GMAT, please enter zero (0) in all the required fields. If you are taking the GRE, enter 130 in the required scores field and 0 in the required percentage fields. You may provide additional information regarding your scores in the online application. The same goes for your TOEFL/IELTS scores.

Can I visit Stanford’s campus to sit in on a class, take a tour, or attend an information session?

  • They are hosting some in-person events including their flagship diversity conferences, Women in Leadership and Diversity in Leadership on campus. They are also offering On-campus Class Visits and Chat with an Admissions Officer events on select dates at the Knight Management Center. Registration is required. Please note these events are subject to local and university health policy and are subject to change.
  • GSB has online alternatives for information sessions, campus tours, and student chats, and new online offerings will continue to be added. Stay in touch with them to get the latest news about future events, including virtual opportunities. You can also visit MBA admission events for up-to-date information about events.

Does visiting campus or attending an admissions event affect my chances of admission?

  • No. Visiting will not affect your chances of admission. Visiting events are solely designed for you to learn more about Stanford.

Whom can I call or email with questions about Stanford MBA Admissions?

  • You may email Stanford or call the Admissions office at +1 (650) 723-2766. They are available from Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

Here are a few other articles you may find helpful as you research and apply to MBA programs:

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