What Are We Really Looking for?
We're looking for outstanding individuals, and the very qualities that define you make the GSB a stimulating place to learn.
We recognize that what happens to your application after you submit it to Stanford may seem mysterious. It need not be. Here, we attempt to share with you what we consider when we evaluate applications.
As we build the class, we seek the most promising students in terms of intellectual distinction and professional merit. We base this judgment on the totality of information available. No single factor—whether your college performance, essay, test score, interview, letter of reference, or work experience—is decisive.
We consider each application holistically, and take into account factors such as your background, experiences, perspectives, fit with the GSB and its MBA Program, aspirations, values, and accomplishments.
We evaluate each applicant in the context of the application year and are guided especially by three primary admission criteria of intellectual vitality, demonstrated leadership potential, and personal qualities and contributions.
A few basic assumptions underlie our approach.
First, just as no two Stanford MBA students are the same, no two Stanford MBA applicants are the same either. This means we must pay careful attention to the particular circumstances of each applicant.
Second, we believe that past actions usually are the best predictor of future performance.
Third, we believe that how you have developed your talents is as important as what you have actually accomplished.
Fourth, while there is no single academic or professional background most suitable for the MBA Program, admitted candidates tend to have sound analytical skills and strong performance in managing programs, processes, or people.
And finally, we look for diversity in the MBA class because we believe that the GSB's collaborative educational process leverages students' diverse backgrounds to deliver a range of perspectives and approaches to real-world problems. We define diversity in the broadest possible terms, encompassing (but not limited to) educational and professional background, personal experiences and goals, culture, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and nationality.
We Evaluate All Applicants In Three Areas:
One of the ideas or themes that is central in our minds as we evaluate an application is your intellectual vitality.
You can demonstrate this in many ways, not simply through grades and test scores. In other words, your attitude toward learning is as important as your aptitude.
Because the Stanford community believes in the power of ideas to shape the future, we want to see your passion, dedication, and genuine interest in expanding your intellectual horizons throughout your application.
We look for evidence of the kind of curiosity and interest that will allow you to spark a lively discussion in class and continue that conversation during coffee with a faculty member, walking back to the Schwab Residential Center with a classmate, or over dinner with alumni.
Another consideration is the initiative with which you seek out opportunities that enhance your knowledge. We want to understand your willingness to "suspend disbelief"—by mastering concepts that may not be immediately relevant to your intended career, to carve your path in ambiguous environments, and to support the School's goal of developing knowledge that deepens and advances the practice of management.
Another factor that is primary in our minds as we read your application is your demonstrated leadership potential.
In short, we try to understand your character and your professional competence.
Your personal character matters not only because integrity is the cornerstone of any academic community, but also because of the vast responsibility our society reposes in leaders of businesses and social-sector organizations.
As a result, we look for evidence of behaviors consistent with your ideals, even under difficult circumstances—a sort of directed idealism.
We want to understand your personal motivation and convictions, and your ability to confront complex, unfamiliar issues with good judgment.
We envision you defending your position with vigor and respect to a peer advocating a different view.
We also try to uncover the ways in which challenges to your beliefs may have changed some of your perspectives and reinforced others.
In understanding your competence, we look for both leadership experience and potential. In doing so, we don’t limit ourselves to your professional life. Neither should you. We look at your background for evidence of your impact on the people and organizations around you, and the impact of those experiences on you.
Learning about your activities, experiences, interests, and aspirations helps us discover your potential contributions to Stanford and to society.
We imagine you working with a group of students and faculty to design a new multi-disciplinary course on ethical issues in life sciences or leading the Principal Investing Conference.
We look for evidence of your desire to make a lasting impact in the organizations you serve throughout your career, inspiring and motivating your colleagues.
We consider your awareness of what you do well and the areas in which you can improve; your group and interpersonal skills; and your commitment to utilizing fully your opportunities and available resources.
These qualities will help you to shape your own experience as a student, and will influence your ability to shape the future as an alumna or alumnus.
A third major concept that we consider is the perspective that you bring to the Stanford community—your personal qualities and contributions.
In a world that often rewards conformity, the Stanford community thrives only when you share your individual experiences and perspectives.
As a result, the strongest applications we see are those in which your thoughts and voice remain intact.
To understand how you will contribute to and benefit from the Business School community, we want to know about you: your experiences, beliefs, your passions, your dreams, your goals. Will you revolutionize the Healthcare Innovation Conference, take initiative, or be the dissenting voice in a classroom discussion?
Take time to reflect on who you are, and have confidence in yourself. We always remember that there is neither an "ideal" candidate nor a "typical" Stanford MBA student. You should remember this, too.
Yes, our community includes students who have pursued incomparable opportunities. This doesn't mean that something remarkable (either positive or negative) must have happened to you to be a strong candidate. In fact, most Stanford MBA students have excelled by doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. It is what you make of an experience that matters to us, not simply the experience itself.
updated 19 June 2012
"My decision to pursue an MBA at Stanford was closely tied to my desire to help my tribe.
I'm a member of the Puyallup tribe, an urban tribe near Tacoma, Washington, which had experienced tremendous economic success in tribal gaming through the late 1990's, but very little had been accomplished outside of tribal gaming. I feared that if we did not begin to diversify our investments, we would not have a sustainable tribal economy.
After graduating from the Stanford GSB, I became CEO of Marine View Ventures, a wholly owned corporate entity of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, which serves as the economic development arm of the Tribe.
I believe that a leader must be able to express his/her vision in a way that is understood by others and that attracts others in the cause. The most important lesson I learned at Stanford was to think big."
Chad Wright, MBA 2004
CEO, Marine View Ventures
Stanford University admits qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the University. Consistent with its obligations under the law, Stanford prohibits unlawful discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law in the administration of the University's programs and activities.
The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding this nondiscrimination policy: the Director of the Diversity and Access Office, Mariposa House, 585 Capistrano Way, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-8230; (650) 723-0755 (voice), (650) 723-1216 (TTY), (650) 723-1791 (fax), email@example.com
updated 19 June 2012