With an acceptance rate of 6%, the Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford GSB) is one of the most competitive business schools to gain admission to. What qualities does the school value when it evaluates candidates?
On its website, Stanford clearly states its evaluation criteria, which are the following: Intellectual Vitality, Demonstrated Leadership Potential, and Personal Qualities & Contributions. Let's go through each of these criteria in more detail.
Given the rich learning environment at Stanford, the Admissions Committee wants to see your passion when it comes to broadening your “intellectual horizons.” While your undergraduate GPA and GMAT/GRE score play into this equation, this quality encompasses much more than that. It is about demonstrating a curiosity to learn more and taking the initiative to do so. This can come through in both your professional and extracurricular endeavors. For example, when there is not a clear cut answer, do you seek out knowledge to learn more? Are you able to creatively solve problems? Do you foster a learning environment in your communities? These are just some questions to think about as it pertains to intellectual vitality.
Demonstrated leadership potential
Leadership potential is a key quality that all of the top-tier programs seek in candidates. Similar to what I wrote about in my blog post about what Harvard Business School looks for, through your endeavors, both professional and extracurricular, Stanford wants to see your potential to lead and demonstrate impact. This latter point is important; through the projects, activities, and initiatives that you have led, how have you impacted people and organizations? In addition, an important aspect of leadership for Stanford is your personal character, given the responsibility that leaders have in society. As the school states on its website, “We want to understand your personal motivation and convictions, and your ability to confront complex, unfamiliar issues with good judgment. We also try to uncover the ways in which challenges to your beliefs may have changed some of your perspectives and reinforced others.” Remember that Stanford, and every top-tier MBA program, will evaluate your past successes and use those experiences as an indicator of your potential to succeed as a leader in the future.
Personal qualities and contributions
Stanford is seeking candidates who are authentic; they want to know who you are and how your experiences in school, personally, and in the workplace, have shaped you. In particular, the school wants to understand “your experiences, beliefs, passions, dreams, and ambitions.” There is no other single person in this world who has walked in your shoes, had your exact experiences, and seen the world from your eyes. From my experience, what really sets successful applicants to Stanford apart from others is providing color on why something has been instrumental in shaping them or why something means so much to them. This helps the Admissions Committee understand how you will contribute as a student at Stanford.
With this knowledge, you will be in a stronger position to craft your Stanford application in accordance with what the school values.
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Ivy Groupe is a boutique MBA admissions consulting company founded by Shaifali Aggarwal, who received her MBA from Harvard Business School and undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Shaifali’s philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out. With this approach, Shaifali’s clients have gained admission to top-tier MBA programs such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, Booth, Tuck, and Yale, among others.