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 September 22, 2023

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The Stanford Graduate School of Business is perhaps the most sought-after MBA program in the world. Located in sunny Palo Alto and embedded in the heart of Silicon Valley, it has one of the lowest acceptance rates out there. Here’s what you need to know about getting that highly coveted “call” from the Stanford GSB Dean of Admissions.

Stanford GSB Class Profile (2024)

  • Location: Stanford, California
  • Class Size: 424
  • Applicants: 6,152
  • Acceptance Rate: ~6%
  • Average Work Experience: 4.9 years
  • Average GMAT: 737
  • Average GRE: 163 (Quant), 164 (Verbal)
  • Average TOEFL: 113
  • Women: 44%
  • International: 37%
  • Students of Color: 51%
  • First-Generation: 12%
  • Hold Advanced Degrees: 13%

"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

2023-2024 Application Overview

Stanford Application Deadlines

Round 1: September 12, 2023

  • Decisions Released: December 7, 2023

Round 2: January 4, 2024

  • Decisions released March 28, 2024

Round 3: April 9, 2024

  • Decisions released May 23, 2024

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

Read more about the recently released deadlines here: Stanford GSB MBA Application Deadlines (2023-2024)

GMAT & GRE Scores

The GSB requires that you submit either the GMAT or the GRE. It accepts both tests and does not have a preference for either. For each application, here are the dates by which you need to take the GMAT / GRE:

  • Round 1 — You must have taken the GMAT / GRE on or after September 12, 2018
  • Round 2 — You must have taken the GMAT / GRE on or after January 4, 2019
  • Round 3 — You must have taken the GMAT / GRE on or after April 9, 2019

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 Essays

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 1,050 words. The GSB recommends 650 words for the first essay and 400 for the second.

Top Tips for the GSB Essays:

  • These essays are designed to highlight not necessarily what you’ve accomplished, but who you are as a person
  • 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
  • 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
  • Why Stanford?
    • This is a straight-ahead “why MBA / why this school” type of essay
    • Here, you want to let the school know why Stanford is your top choice of MBA program, 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
  • Finally, some practical tips & tricks:
    • (1) Answer the question. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many applicants don’t do it!
    • (2) Be specific, and quantify any results you. These small details can be the difference between a great and merely good essay
    • (3) 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
    • (4) Don’t exaggerate, inflate, or lie. Full stop
    • Click here to read more about How to Write a Powerful MBA Essay and 7 MBA Essay Tips to Make You Stand Out in 2022.

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

GSB Recommender Requirements

For the GSB application, you’ll need two recommendations 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.

The GSB uses the Common Letter of Recommendation, which means your recommenders will fill out personal qualities and skills grid, and answer two additional questions:

  • How do the candidate's performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (300 words)
  • Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant's response. (250 words)

Here are some key tips & tricks for the GSB letters of recommendation:

  • 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, specific examples — 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.

GSB Interviews

Roughly 1 of 10 applicants to the GSB are extended an interview. This interview is designed to help the admissions committee get to know you better as an applicant, and as a human being, as well as for you to better get to know the GSB. Here are some tips & tricks for your Stanford GSB interview:

  • A trained member of the global GSB MBA community, or an MBA admissions officer, will conduct your interview
  • 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
  • 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 as scheduled and once it is done, your interviewer will then submit an assessment to the MBA Admissions Office. They will then add the interview assessment to your application file and consider your entire application to evaluate your candidacy.
  • The interview schedule for the 2023-2024 cycle starts in late September to mid-November for Round 1, mid-January to mid-March for Round 2, and late April to mid-May for Round 3.

To find tips for your MBA interview, click here — How to Ace Your MBA Interview: With Prep Questions and Answers. Doing the interview online? We’ve got you covered with How to Nail Your Virtual MBA Interview.

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Other Application Items

Application Fee

  • To apply, you’ll need to pay the $275 nonrefundable application fee. This is to offset the cost of reviewing applications
  • The GSB offers fee waivers and fee reductions:
    • 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

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 only. Note that only the last four digits will be visible in your application)
  • 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


  • You will need to upload a current business resume
  • Stanford does not require full-time work experience prior to applying for their MBA program; they welcome deferred candidates / recent graduates who may have only worked in a part-time / internship capacity
  • Stanford also does not privilege a specific industry, function, or background; they consider applicants from venture capital to consulting, from the nonprofit sector to tech
  • Find more information 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

Stanford GSB Deferred Admissions

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, 2022, and September 30, 2023. Most deferred applicants will choose to submit their application during the Round 3 deadline period (April 9, 2024).

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.

Applying as a deferred candidate allows you to save your spot at the GSB, before jumping into your career and earning professional experience. You may defer your enrollment between 2 and 5 years.

To learn more, visit our deferred school hub: The GSB Deferred Enrollment Program.

MBA Admissions Coach Recommendations

GSB Program Overview

Sitting at the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford’s GSB is at the forefront of innovation and collaboration.

At the GSB, you will learn from world-class faculty, guest lecturers, and industry experts. In their curriculum, Stanford employs 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 some of the business classes at Stanford? Read this article from a GSB MBA: The 5 Best Classes at Stanford's Graduate School of Business.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of a sample Stanford 4 year plan and Stanford MBA curriculum:

First Year, Autumn Quarter

First of all, 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 MBA experience and ensures a diverse breadth of knowledge.

In your first quarter at the GSB, you’ll build your general and functional management skills, exercise leadership, and gain global experience. All of the classes this first quarter are required.

You’ll also be assigned a section in your first quarter, and you will attend most of your first-quarter classes with that section. Beginning your second quarter, you will no longer be assigned to classes with your section.

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 some required classes, but will also be offered the opportunity to take electives.

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.

Courses offered:

  • 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 entirely made up 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 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

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:

  • Global Management Immersion Experience (GMIX) —
    • A GMIX is an opportunity to travel abroad and observe /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.
  • Global Explorations
    • Global Explorations 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. Global Explorations are comprised of twenty to thirty students and a faculty member.
  • Stanford-Tsinghua Exchange Program (STEP)
    • STEP is an academic exchange program between Stanford GSB and Tsinghua University 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, as well as China’s role in the global economy.
    • Typically, Stanford MBA students travel to Beijing over Thanksgiving week while Tsinghua students come to campus in late January/early February. Due to the current pandemic, however, STEP offers virtual deep-dive experiences instead.
  • Self-Directed Experience
    • If you’re interested in crafting your own global experience, Stanford will support you so can fulfill your global requirement as well as your academic and career goals

Joint Degree 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 / enter a management career with the skills and competencies of a lawyer

MA Education/MBA — Stanford Graduate School of Education

This joint program is for those who are interested in education (both in 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 combines two of Stanford’s world-class programs: its MBA, and its Masters in Computer Science. It’s designed for those who are interested in engineering, and who will likely pursue a career in technology/technology venture capital

MS Electrical Engineering/MBA — Department of Electrical Engineering

This is another combination of Stanford’s world-class programs: its MBA, and its Masters in Electrical Engineering. In this program, 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

MD/MBA Dual Degree — Stanford School of Medicine

This five-year program is for those who want to study both medicine and management

Opportunities Outside Stanford

Stanford MBA students can also pursue coursework and degrees in other professional schools outside of the school. Eligible 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

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.

Teaching Methods at the GSB

Stanford GSB Executive Challenge

Meet GSB Admits & Applicants in Leland’s Free Slack Community

If you’re applying to GSB, boost your odds by joining the Leland MBA Applicant Community. It’s a free, private community of MBA applicants, admits, and world-class admissions coaches, all here to answer questions, give feedback, share stories, and help each other through the admissions process.

Membership in the Community is by invitation only. To apply, click below.


How do I apply to the GSB?

  • The GSB admissions process consists of a written application, which includes a resume, letters of recommendation, and several 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 2023-2024 admission cycle?

  • Yes. To apply to Stanford, you must take either the GMAT or the GRE. The TOEFL/IELTS is also required, when applicable. Because of the pandemic, 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.
  • They have 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 Stanford or attending a Stanford MBA 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.

Final Note

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

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