MBA Admissions Q&A: Stanford GSB |

MBA Admissions Q&A: Stanford GSB

By Mike Grill

Updated July 25, 2019 Updated July 25, 2019

Stanford Graduate School of Business needs no introduction – it is quite simply one of the most sought-after institutions at which to study an MBA and is a current member of the trio of US schools that are tied for first place in the 2014/15 edition of QS’s regional MBA rankings for North America.

Being the dream school of many an applicant, however, does engender a level of competition to match and Stanford GSB’s MBA admissions director, Lisa Giannangeli, says that its acceptance rate tends to hover between the 5 and 7% mark. Indeed, the school received close to 8,000 applications for admission to the class of 2017, from which just over 400 new students were enrolled. Those are some tough odds. At this point, it’s probably best to hand over to Giannangeli for some further insight into the application process for the Stanford MBA.

MBA admissions director at Stanford, Lisa Giannangeli
What is the typical acceptance rate to the Stanford MBA program?

Our acceptance rate typically ranges from 5-7%.

What are the most important aspects of the Stanford GSB MBA application process besides GMAT score, prior GPA, and current job position? 

We base our evaluation on the totality of information available. No single factor — whether it be your college performance, essay, test scores, interview, letters of reference or work experience — is decisive. We consider applications holistically, and take into account factors such as your background, experiences, perspectives, fit with Stanford GSB and its MBA program, aspirations, values and accomplishments.

What is a common mistake you see applicants make?

We want to hear your genuine, authentic voice – ‘packaging’ yourself into what you think Stanford wants to see will only prevent us from understanding who you really are and what you hope to accomplish. 

What is something you would like to see applicants do more often?

Think deeply and self-reflect. Approach the application process as a rare opportunity to explore your values, spark your enthusiasm and envision your potential.

What does the Stanford GSB application process look like?

You submit your online application materials including academic transcripts, GMAT or GRE test scores, TOEFL/IELTS/PTE English language proficiency test scores (if applicable), résumé,  two letters of reference, two essays, application form and fee. 

After a thorough review of your online application, we will invite some candidates to interview. If you are invited, you are considered competitive for admission - every candidate who is ultimately offered admission will be interviewed. 

We have three rounds in which you can apply each year. While we admit candidates in all three rounds, we would encourage you to apply earlier rather than later, and ideally in either round one or round two.

How can a candidate overcome a lower GMAT score?

We look at all sections of your GMAT score and not just the total score, and always remind candidates that test scores are just one piece of your application. We care about your academic attitude in addition to your aptitude. Are you an intellectually-curious person with a deep desire to learn? Do you like to share your knowledge with others? Do you have a strategic orientation?  Yes, we look at your test scores, but we look more broadly at your ability to thrive in our academically-rigorous program.

Having said that, there are many ways you can overcome a lower GMAT score. Let’s say you feel your quantitative score is not as high as you would like. Is there evidence elsewhere in your application that would highlight your quantitative or analytical abilities? Perhaps you took calculus or statistics during college. Perhaps you are currently working in a very analytical role. Perhaps you have decided to take an online course or community college course recently to shore up your abilities in a particular area. There are many things you can do to demonstrate both your academic aptitude and attitude.

MBA admissions tips

Essay(s): You don’t need to try to impress us or show that you are unique. You don’t need to have accomplishments or feats that are unusual or different from your peers (e.g. traveling to an exotic place or talking about a tragic situation in your life). If you concentrate your efforts on telling us who you are, differentiation will occur naturally.

Interview: Relax and remember there are no trick questions! The interviews are intended to be conversational.

Letter(s) of recommendation: Do not write your own letter of reference; it is improper and a violation of the terms of the application process. If your recommender asks you to write your own letter, find a different recommender. However, you can remind recommenders of relevant anecdotes and experiences you have had which may help them as they are writing your letters of reference.

CV/résumé: We ask for a one-page résumé. Please submit a one-page résumé. 

School visit: We invite you to visit campus and attend an information session, sit in on a class, and tour the business school. We understand, however, that many prospective applicants may not have the time or resources to visit, and as such, your visit does not impact our admission decision.  We also offer a variety of events around the world where you can connect with Stanford GSB admissions officers, students and our alumni.

This article was originally published in October 2015 . It was last updated in July 2019

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Mike's remit covers content, SEO and blogger outreach. Outside of his work for, he is an assistant coach for MLU outfit, the Portland Stags.