Harvard Business School vs. Stanford: Which MBA?

The Ultimate MBA Program Comparison: HBS vs GSB

Admissions: what does Harvard HBS seek?
Admissions: what does Stanford GSB seek?
Application Essays, Candidate Evaluation & Demographics
Admissions Stats, Demographics & Class Size
Culture
Geography
Size
Facilities
Teaching Methods
Program Focus
Jobs, Pay and Employment Location
Rankings
Admitted to Both, How to Decide?

Let’s just say it right out: Stanford and Harvard are the two best business schools in the world. In terms of prestige and status, you can’t do better than to win the coveted MBA letters from either Stanford or Harvard. So it’s not surprising that a large number of people who apply to Stanford also apply to Harvard and vice versa. When Harvard gets turned down by applicants it accepts (about 11% of those who gain an offer), more often than not the applicants go west to Stanford, which accepts only 6.5% of those who apply for admission.  The same is true when Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) is passed over by accepted applicants. They inevitably head for Harvard Business School (HBS).

There will always be the persistent stereotypes about these powerhouse schools, that Stanford has historically been the place for those who want to do tech or entrepreneurship and Harvard is the place for those who want to climb a more traditional corporate ladder to the top of a Fortune 500 company. 

Times have changed everything including aspects of these two superstar programs. There are actually some similarities between the two programs. One of the senior consultants on my Stacy Blackman Consulting team shared, “HBS and GSB are now largely looking for similar sorts of people – those that can make a big difference, whether in large or entrepreneurial settings, with a focus on capitalism but not forgetting compassion, at least from a longer-term perspective.”  The two schools’ cultures may continue to meld; for example, the current HBS Dean Srikant Datar brings to his role two masters and a doctoral degree from Stanford University.

Throughout this smackdown, we use insights from MBA Admissions Officers and other valuable perspectives to analyze the key differences between these two MBA educational giants. We also highlight the advice from two former Stacy Blackman Consulting clients who received admits to both Harvard and Stanford and two other recent alums. You’ll learn how they navigated their admissions decisions and made the most of their b-school experience. Not only did we tap into the expertise of the former GSB and HBS Admissions Officers on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team; we also reviewed this intel with the Executive Directors and Admissions Officers at both of these MBA programs and have incorporated their insights, perspectives, and advice. 

For details on MBA program application deadlines, check out our comparison chart here.

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Admissions: what does Harvard HBS seek?

We asked the HBS Admissions Officers on our Stacy Blackman Consulting team, “What does HBS Admissions look for?” The consensus is as follows:

HBS is a general management school, and it aims to foster leadership and broad skill sets for its students to take on senior roles upon graduation. It’s looking for academic excellence, as evidenced by test scores, undergraduate studies, and grades, as well as strong interpersonal skills and charisma, which will be tested in the interview process. HBS is also keen to recruit people who demonstrate ingenuity, innovative thinking, and who also want to make a positive difference in the world with their degree. 

We also want to know, “what does HBS Admissions want to avoid?” The consensus among our former HBS Admissions Officers is as follows:

Throughout the HBS admissions process, the application readers will be looking for a balance of ambition and humility. An issue in the past with HBS students can be arrogance, especially when applicants are coming from elite (e.g., prep high school, Ivy league, leading consulting/banking firms, etc.). It’s important to be able to balance confidence with strong self-awareness; if any arrogance is detected in the essays or interview, that will undermine any admit chance.

Admissions: what does Stanford GSB seek?

We asked “What does Stanford GSB Admissions look for?” of the former Stanford GSB Admissions Officers (AdCom) on our Stacy Blackman Consulting team.   Here’s the consensus:

Stanford GSB seeks talented, diverse and smart people who will make a significant impact in business and society. Stanford GSB students seem to have this ‘X’ factor associated with them, almost like an “unexpected” trait or experience. They take risks, push beyond the imaginable and lead with passion.

We asked the same former Stanford GSB Admissions Officers, “What does Stanford GSB Admissions want to avoid?” The consensus is:

People who are looking at an MBA as merely the expected step in getting credentials for their next job in a corporate/firm ladder and/or the hyper-competitive types.

The former GSB AdCom team at Stacy Blackman Consulting added: 

GSB’s smaller size means that it is more conscious of class balance and diversity.  GSB is more willing to consider candidates that took risks, failed, learned from their experiences and returned more resilient than ever. 

Stanford MBA student

Application Essays, Candidate Evaluation & Demographics

There are stark differences between the HBS and GSB application main essay prompts.  The hallmark of the GSB application is its What Matters Most and Why essay– one of several GSB essay prompts– whereas the single open-ended HBS essay prompt takes a very different approach. Sample HBS essays from successful admits and sample GSB essays from successful admits are instructive to applicants. Outside the actual essay prompts, both programs embed within their application forms extensive short answer questions that are not to be dismissed, as they present opportunities for the applicant to share more about themselves.

Rishabh Agarwal, one of Stacy Blackman Consulting’s successful admits to both HBS and the GSB, shared the differences between his HBS and GSB essay approach. For HBS, “there were endless amounts of topics and stories that you could choose from, which made planning and brainstorming more crucial. I had to ensure that I was able to highlight parts of my career and life in one cohesive essay.”  For GSB, “there are a couple of more focused essay prompts with room to share other parts of your story in optional short-answer questions. It’s helpful to think about how all the essays and questions relate to each other. I made sure I wasn’t being redundant in my responses, while also making it a point to highlight various parts of my application in the most applicable section.”

Another successful admit to HBS and GSB and past Stacy Blackman Consulting client, Nick Qiu, shared about the admissions process, “A key difference between the two programs is the interview process. GSB has a rolling interview invite window while HBS has the set interview release dates. The GSB interview is much more casual (I did mine at a Starbucks in khakis) with an alum while the HBS one is much more formal and standardized. Both were quite conversational and both interviewers were great to talk to.”

Rishabh Agarwal added about the interview process difference. For HBS, “the interview was strictly 30 mins that started and ended exactly on time. It was rapid questions and very detailed questions about my career and goals. It was fast-paced, intense, and diligent.” For GSB, “I interviewed in NYC. The interview was longer at 45+ minutes, and it was more conversational. It was more about building a rapport with the interviewer and less about explaining career path or future goals. I liked and enjoyed both interviews and how they were conducted. The interview formats and style seem representative of each school’s approach to the interview process and MBA education.”

When we evaluated all our successful dual admits across our Stacy Blackman Consulting client pool, we found that their essays had some common success factors.  Irrespective of the differences between the program application essays, it was clear that both HBS and the GSB value themes of:

  1. Core passion and driving motivation shared through several examples, professional, community, personal
  2. Autobiographical and also key achievements
  3. Multi-themed as opposed to one specific life experience, but with a structured framework of some type and not colloquial, freeflow presentation

Similarly, academic stats, intellectual horsepower, leadership track record, career clarity, and proven drive are all table stakes equally for HBS and GSB admissions, as you can see from the chart below.  

Diving deeper, HBS and GSB do look for some different things in candidates. Plus, each has a distinct evaluation process. HBS and GSB Admissions officers assess whether the candidate has shown a consistent match with the school’s value system and core success factors through every application touchpoint.  

“Regardless of how you’ve shown leadership, HBS is really looking for a track record or habit,” says a former HBS Admissions Officer who is now on the Stacy Blackman Consulting team. “For admissions to Harvard Business School, accomplishment, past and future, is paramount. Harvard values getting things done.”

By contrast, we consistently hear from the former Stanford GSB admissions officers on our team about how the GSB seeks “diverse people who seek a transformative experience.”  The GSB has always prioritized values, ideals and aspirations. 

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Admissions Stats, Demographics & Class Size

Class profile stats inclusive of GMAT and GPA are comparable between the two programs as the chart below shows. Notably, GPA and GMAT score averages for both programs have increased in recent seasons.

Class of 2022 Admissions StatsHarvardStanford
Average GMAT728733
GMAT Range620-790600-790
Average GPA3.73.8
Estimated selectivity10.02%7.00%

The GRE has become more common and is considered an acceptable replacement for the GMAT. One in four and one in five students got in with a GRE score for GSB and HBS, respectively. 

The numbers for women, international and minority students are for the Class of 2022, and they don’t show any consistent differences between the programs.

Class of 2022*HarvardStanford
Enrolled MBA Students732 (-206)436 (+19)
International MBA Students33% (-10.8%)35% (-18.6%)
Women MBA Students44% (+2.3%)47% (Same)
Black American Students11%7%
Hispanic/Latinx Students9%11%
Asian American Students19%23%

*Federal reporting % of domestic students. HBS stats are here: https://www.hbs.edu/racialequity/data/Pages/default.aspx and GSB states are here: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/programs/mba/admission/class-profile 

Stanford has been known to open its doors to far more poets than Harvard, but that has been decreasing in recent years as the data now shows a shift towards STEM. Since 2011, STEM backgrounds have increased for both programs markedly, shifting from 36% in 2011 to 37% in the Class of 2022 at Stanford and from 33% in 2011 to 37% in 2022 at HBS.

Students who did their undergraduate work in the humanities and social sciences represent 44% (down from 47% in 2011) of the Class of 2022 at Stanford, and also 37% at Harvard (down from 40% in 2011). 

Undergrad DegreesHarvardStanford
Humanities and social sciences37%44%
Engineering/Math/ STEM37%37%
Business22%18%

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Culture

A recent applicant who was admitted to both HBS and the GSB with Stacy Blackman Consulting said, “I got into both schools and my decision came down to culture. The two schools have a very different feel in my mind, and I think they will attract different people because of that. I’d advise admits to visit both schools, sit in on a class, etc. I suspect you will know after that – trust your gut.”

Another double admit client, whose reapplicant profile was profiled on the Poets&Quants site several seasons ago, selected the GSB over HBS because that candidate felt that Stanford’s approach matched his style better. His consultant at Stacy Blackman Consulting shared, “Stanford GSB is about personal development and is known to be a supportive culture.”

Sarah Hinkfuss Diekroeger, a double admit who has since graduated from Stanford GSB, was drawn to the student culture at the GSB. She said, “From the moment I came to campus during the welcome weekend, I was impressed by how real everyone was. Rather than starting with baseball stats, students asked how I was doing… and then really listened to my answer. The GSB community is incredibly impressive, but also extremely humble. I loved discovering amazing feats from the past lives of my classmates – and often accidentally! I became comfortable being my full self as a student at GSB. This will stick with me for my life, and plays out in powerful ways in my professional and personal life every day.”

Hannah Oh Ringel, a double admit and GSB alum, shared, “Stanford lives its ethos to the fullest. Every student is passionate about changing or creating something. Then, Stanford provides you with the resources to do so. My classmates are comfortable taking risks for the sake of building something bigger than themselves.”

Nick Qiu, a past Stacy Blackman Consulting client, shared why he chose HBS over the GSB: “I wanted to have more global opportunities and Harvard alum are further flung. I also wanted a more structured classroom experience. While I loved the shorts and flip-flops feel of GSB, I sensed that most of the learning was done outside of the classroom and coming from a military background, I wanted as rigorous of a classroom experience as possible. I also loved the idea of going to the oldest business school and its historical self-contained campus.” 

Perspectives vary here. “HBS is case-driven and the class moves at an exceedingly rapid pace. HBS is not for the faint of heart. Stanford is all about heart,” expressed a senior Stacy Blackman Consulting consultant who has guided many to both HBS and GSB.

Nick Qiu, a double admit who chose HBS over the GSB, added, “I liked how open everyone was at HBS. While it was difficult to know everyone in a 900 person class, it was so easy to talk to people from different backgrounds. It felt like everyone was always up for adventure and travel. Although, I suspect this is not unique to HBS.”

Other cultural stereotypes that P&Q has written about include: 

  • HBS: East Coast swagger vs  GSB: laid back cool
  • HBS: Colonial Prudence vs. GSB: Gold Rush Urgency
  • HBS:  Incumbent Might vs. GSB: Technological Innovation
  • HBS:  Hard-Edged Realism vs. GSB: Starry-Eyed Idealism

Rishabh Agarwal, a double admit, was leaning towards the GSB initially but was won over by HBS after admit day, despite stereotypes. He reflected, “I was mesmerized by the structure, intensity, and rhythm of the case discussion. I felt both at home and out of my comfort zone at HBS. I wanted to stretch myself and knew that I would be forced to that at HBS more than at GSB (case discussion, profile of classmates, larger class size). I spent a lot of time speaking to alumni from both schools. Each person was as impressive as the next, but I felt HBS’s larger alumni network was a strong selling point. My admitted peers were humble, curious, and friendly…which caught me by surprise. All the stereotypes I had heard didn’t hold true. The Social Enterprise Initiative was exceptionally impressive and I knew I would be able to pursue my interests and meet like minded people.”

Geography

This is an obvious point, but an important one. Stanford is in the heart of Silicon Valley on a campus dotted with massive palm trees that sway in the afternoon breeze. GSB alum, Sarah Hinkfuss Diekroeger, shared, “I went to Harvard for undergrad and chose the GSB because I wanted to diversify my experiences. And, the weather is pretty great out here!”

In the winter months, when Harvard students are bundled up and trudging through ice and snow, Stanford MBAs might still be wearing shorts or headed for a surf outing. The Stanford campus is located between San Jose and San Francisco, which is about a 45-minute drive away. 

Harvard Business School, of course, is in Boston, one of the world’s most dynamic and inviting cities. Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is just minutes away. So is world-class arts and culture of all kinds. But the winter months can be brutal in New England so the east-west difference is a big one.

Size

Harvard Business School is more than 2 times larger as a program, allowing for a larger alumni network often reinforcing a stronger brand name internationally. With about 436 students per class, Stanford pretty much guarantees that almost every student knows each other. A Stanford class is less than half that of Harvard which has the largest MBA enrollment of any top U.S. school. Total full-time MBA enrollment at Stanford is just 822, versus Harvard’s 1,871. It’s the difference between “intimate scale” and “large scale.”

Facilities

Harvard Business School is like a university unto itself with 36 separate buildings on 40 acres of property along the Charles River. Strategy guru, Michael Porter, and his Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness even have their own building on campus. There is no other business school in the world that can even remotely match Harvard for its expansive classrooms and study halls. 

The campus of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is small and compact: a complex of eight separate buildings created around three quadrangles opened in 2011, and two residence halls. Stanford’s Knight Management Center, named after Nike founder and Stanford alum Phil Knight who tossed in $100 million of the $345 million cost, has given the school modern, up-to-date, world-class facilities that exceed LEED Platinum ratings for environmental sustainability. Situated within Stanford University, one of the world’s leading teaching and research institutions, the GSB is within short walking distance of six world-class schools: medicine, law, engineering, education, earth sciences, and humanities & sciences. This co-location on one contiguous campus allows interdisciplinary collaboration and study, fostering the creation of breakthrough innovations. In fact, 85% of GSB students take classes “across the street” (referring to other Stanford University classes), and 20% of MBA students pursue a joint or dual degree.

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Teaching Methods

While both programs are deeply Socratic, HBS’s case approach is often viewed as the most intellectually challenging or “stressful” amongst the top programs. At Harvard, students dissect cases, pose questions, and defend ideas, even when discussions are heated or jarring. The case study at HBS thoroughly dominates and overshadows team projects, simulations and experiential learning.  The ten courses at Harvard in the first year alone will require 300 case studies.

Stacy Blackman Consulting had a military client who matriculated to HBS and shared with us after he graduated, “War was easy, HBS is hard.”  A Stacy Blackman Consulting consultant who is an HBS alum explained, “HBS grades on a curve and a major portion of the grade is class participation. An HBS professor can call a student, even if he or she does not have a hand up, and expect an answer in a second.  I liked being part of a class, watching and learning. But, an HBS professor often cold-called a student and could then drill with very challenging questions.” Some professors can drag out this cold call to excruciatingly long discussions, although there is a system for cold calling such as identifying students who have specialized expertise into a case or to expose a student who has been checked out during discussion. 

HBS attracts students who view the prospect of getting cold-called in front of 89 other super-smart people as an exciting opportunity. The case study method can be an effective pedagogy for the right student.

A lesser known perspective of HBS’s case study method is the skydeck tradition, which actually humanizes, celebrates and unifies the HBS student culture. Cold-calling anecdotes can turn into HBS student bonding during skydeck–a weekly tradition at HBS. On Fridays after the last case of the week, skydeck groups of HBS students traditionally gather at the front of class and present a multi-media spectacle (illustrated by powerpoint, youtube, live acting, etc) to blow off steam and recap anecdotes of section-mates, professors, other events at HBS. 

“Though I respect Harvard’s socratic method, Stanford was a better fit for my post-military chapter,” shared Hannah Oh Ringel, a Stanford GSB alum who received double admits, on why she chose the GSB over HBS. “Coming from the military, I was comfortable in structured environments. I desired change. I wanted the freedom to design a curriculum around my passions. I loved Stanford’s focus on experiential learning and personal development.”

Stanford’s culture is more confessional, a ‘know thyself’ exploration that prepares the individual to become not just a skilled manager but a great leader. The first-year curriculum is designed to equip students with foundational managerial skills and holistic leadership insights. At Stanford, there’s far less reliance solely on case studies. Team projects, experiential learning, lecture and simulations make up half the teaching. Obviously, teaching methods vary by course. In “Managing Growing Enterprises,” or “Startup Garage,” for example, Stanford classes lean heavily toward experiential learning. In “Strategic Leadership,” however, most of the teaching (60%) is via case study, with about 10% lecture, and 30% experiential learning. 

Sarah Hinkfuss Diekroeger, GSB alum who was admitted to both programs, shared, “I loved the GSB ethos about developing the full person and tapping into my unique leadership strengths. I was so excited to take Touchy Feely. I couldn’t wait to learn about my classmates in TALK. I deeply respected every person I knew who went to GSB.”

GSB’s famous Interpersonal Dynamics course, nicknamed ‘Touchy Feely,’ is often cited by alumni as the class at the GSB that has the greatest lasting impact. The course consists of a “T-Group” of 12 people that meets for 3-5 hours straight with honesty and candor around a prompt, readings or short lecture. With many participants brought to tears at some stage through open, raw discussion, it is really the polar opposite of the HBS case study model. Other signature experiential programs focus on learning by doing, such as the day-long Executive Challenge, which is the culmination event of the required leadership course in the first quarter. The role-play simulation brings more than 200 alums back to campus to serve as judges to provide feedback on students’ leadership approach. In the second year, students apply to serve as coaches to put into practice their learnings on leadership. In this hands-on way, students are not just reflecting on what others have done in the past, as the case method teaches, but focused on the future and how best to prepare for an ever-changing world.

The GSB Impact Fund is another example of Stanford’s innovative learning model. Designed to expose students to the process of “impact investing”, the fund is managed by students with oversight from faculty, and under the guidance of the Center for Social Innovation. Students gain hands-on experience applying classroom knowledge to real-world impact investing, a deeper understanding about issues in particular fields and preparation for their future career.

Drawing on the breadth and depth of intellectual capital “across the street” at Stanford University, several interdisciplinary classes require students to team with those from other schools to create solutions to some of the world’s pressing problems. For example, Biodesign Innovation offered jointly by the Stanford schools of business and medicine, plus the departments of mechanical engineering and bioengineering, simulates the business world where medical doctors, engineers, and MBAs must learn to speak one another’s language in order to find answers to stubborn health problems. Similarly, students from Stanford’s engineering, design and business schools team up in Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability to come up with low-cost solutions in developing countries to such problems as access to clean water, alternatives to costly and dangerous kerosene-powered lamps and cooking stoves.

HBS interview

Program Focus

Both MBA programs have a general management focus. Stanford’s location in Palo Alto, just down the street from Sand Hill Road, known for its concentration of venture capitalists, as well as the multidisciplinary collaboration of its students makes the GSB the ideal place for entrepreneurs. The GSB draws students interested in the innovation ecosystem, where technology is viewed as a tool for shaping the future. 

Stanford GSB is home to multiple world-class research initiatives, including the Center for Entrepreneurship (CES) and the Center for Social Innovation (CSI). The CES serves entrepreneurial faculty members and graduate students from across Stanford, in partnership with the greater entrepreneurial community to drive global innovation. CSI’s mission is to bring social and environmental change to the world through research, education, and experiential learning. Students collaborate with a community of leaders actively working across sectors, frontiers, and disciplines to solve the world’s most challenging problems.

Harvard Business School’s size makes it a formidable player in entrepreneurship. Harvard, for example, has its own building devoted to the subject, the Arthur Rock Center, named after the HBS alum who invested in both Apple and Intel. 

Harvard boasts 35 faculty members who teach entrepreneurship, the second-largest faculty group at the school, versus Stanford’s 10 to 15 teachers, a number that includes adjunct instructors. All first-year MBAs at Harvard have a required course in entrepreneurship and can choose from nearly two dozen second-year electives on the topic–pretty much the same number of courses that Stanford offers. It’s also worth noting that Pitchbook 2020’s rankings for the university programs that produce the most entrepreneurs that go on to garner venture funding rated HBS as #1 for Female Founders, Founder Count, Capital raised, and Company count. 

Meanwhile, Stanford GSB consistently tops Poets & Quants’ ranking of business schools with the most startups (for three consecutive years in 2020), and the amount of funding raised by GSB alums from angel investors and venture capitalists is “substantially higher” than funds raised by HBS alums; according to Poets & Quants. This can likely be attributed to the numbers of Stanford grads who play prominent roles at leading VC firms in Silicon Valley.

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Jobs, Pay and Employment Location

If you’re aiming for a top MBA job at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, the Harvard- or Stanford-punched MBA will help get you in the door.  The same is true overall of tech placement. A wealth of data can be found in their career placement reports:

Harvard HBS Employment Report

Stanford GSB Employment Report

In the Class of 2020 career placement report, Stanford placed 34% into the industry of finance and 28% into the tech industry, followed by 15% into consulting.  By contrast, HBS placed the same into finance (34%), only 19% into tech (translating to higher overall numbers given a larger student class for HBS), and 24% into consulting. Stanford has an edge in tech, given its location, and geography also plays a part, although less influential in recent years, in where MBAs land their first jobs. 

Some 60% of Stanford grads stay in the West immediately after graduation, while 25% of HBS grads migrate to the West Coast. About 20% of GSB grads land jobs in the Northeast, compared to 41% of HBS grads. Only 11% seek a career internationally through Stanford whereas about 15% place abroad professionally from HBS.

Jobs & Pay DataHarvardStanford
MBAs employed 3 months after commencement95%91%
Consulting Industry24%15%
Finance Industry34%34%
Tech Industry19%28%
Health Care7%4%
Northeast Location41%20%
West Coast Location25%60%
Southwest Location6%4%
South3%3%
Mid Atlantic3%1%
Midwest8%2%
International15%11%

 

As a percentage, more Stanford grads are likely to either start companies or immediately work for early stage companies than grads at Harvard. Indeed, in 2020, about 18% of Stanford’s graduating class launch companies right out of school, versus about 10% at Harvard. 

However, 15 years out of HBS, about half of its grads end up as entrepreneurs–roughly the same percentage as Stanford. Even more surprisingly, Harvard alums compose the most alumni in VC at nearly 25% of the entire venture capital industry but GSB is a close second, with 40% of VCs surveyed claiming either a Harvard or Stanford MBA education. Clearly, the lines blur between Harvard and Stanford long term with respect to entrepreneurial career paths.

Sarah Hinkfuss Diekroeger shared the reasons why she chose the GSB over HBS. She said, “I was interested in transitioning from tech to investing, and knew that the only way to see if investing was the right path for me would be to try it out. I was excited to learn from the investing community in Silicon Valley / SF and take advantage of GSB’s incredible alumni network in venture capital and growth equity.”

Interest in diverse, high-growth companies among the graduating class at Stanford, along with a risk-tolerant mindset means many of Stanford’s graduating MBAs do self-directed job searches to find the perfect career match. For the sixth consecutive year in 2020, Stanford’s graduating MBA class earned the highest median and average salaries across peer schools.

Job & Pay DataStanfordHarvard
Average starting salary$159,544 in 2020
(up from $132,769 in 2011) (Average signing bonus: $32,551)
$150,000 in 2020
(up from $131,219  in 2011)
Estimated median pay & signing bonus 2020 Median: $156,000; Sign Bonus: $26,500$80,000

Alumni Network

You can’t really go wrong by being part of either the Harvard or the Stanford alumni network. With over 47,000 living MBA alums, Harvard’s network is larger and more global. Stanford, meantime, boasts over 19,000 living MBA alums, with over 60 regional chapters (including 45 outside of the US) as well as diversity alumni groups. Harvard also has more global reach because of the size of its network. Because Stanford is clearly the underdog to Harvard’s size and massive resources, it’s very likely that GSB alums try to be a bit more helpful to each other than those at Harvard.

Rankings

In earlier rankings, Harvard tended to edge out Stanford. Stanford has come up in recent years by multiple ranking reports.

 

Poets & Quants2020US News 2022US News 2021US News 2020US News 2019
Stanford11124
Harvard45631

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Admitted to Both, How to Decide?

Sarah Hinkfuss Diekroeger, the Stanford GSB graduate shares, “1) Use your gut – Get a feel for the culture at both schools by visiting, talking to students, talking to alums, and walking around campus… what do you notice? Where do you feel more comfortable? 2) Be practical – if there’s a field that you’re particularly interested in entering, which school better positions you to do so? Which school’s approach better complements your weaknesses, or helps you draw out your strengths? 3) Lucky you! You can’t go wrong!”

Nick Qiu, HBS alum who was admitted to both programs, recommends future double admits, “My advice to anyone who is admitted to both is to take a breath and relax. You are facing fantastic choices and you can’t go wrong. It’s a very personal decision and you should consider what is important to you. What is important to you may be very different from what is important to me. Visit both schools, talk to alums and current students. Walk the campuses and envision yourself as a student at each. Then flip a coin. See how the coin flip makes you feel and go with your gut.” 

Sarah Hinkfuss Diekroeger, who was admitted to both programs, shared, “Go with your gut, whichever program and people excite you more! A pros and cons list will only get you so far. When I envisioned my two years at Stanford, I felt energized and inspired. I haven’t looked back since.”

Rishabh Agarwal, who was also admitted to both programs, reflected, “It was a difficult decision that I felt privileged to be making. He added advice to future dual admits to HBS and the GSB here: 

  • Take a breath, enjoy the accomplishment, let it sink in. 
  • Before talking to alumni or your network, spend time really assessing what matters most to you in your MBA experience and career. Ignore rankings, salary data, job placements, etc. Both are exceptional schools and any one data point is not going to be representative of your experience or future. 
  • Take the pressure off and realize that either way you will have a once in a lifetime experience at a prestigious institution. 
  • Go to admit day and spend time on campus and visiting classes. There’s no better way to get a feel for the schools. 
  • Spend time talking to alumni who you admire and learn what they liked about their experience. Truthfully assess how visiting the school/talking to alumni/other admits/any other data points fit your list of what you want and value in your MBA experience. 
  • Pick from the heart.

Additional success factors for other HBS and GSB dual admits through the Stacy Blackman Consulting annual study can be found here. Enjoy!

Check out our other Which MBA comparisons here.  For details on MBA program application deadlines, check out our comparison chart here.

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Reprinted from Poetsandquants, 2021