News, Advice and Resources for Stanford Graduate School Business MBA Applicants


Stanford GSB MBA


Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.

(6.8% accepted; 79.7% yield)

also known as 
  • The Stanford Graduate School of Business 
  • The Stanford MBA Program 

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What are we looking for?

At Stanford, we're looking for outstanding individuals and the very qualities that define you make the GSB such a stimulating place to learn.

» Intellectual Vitality
» Demonstrated Leadership Potential
» Personal Qualities & Contributions





Academic Record

There is no recommended curriculum for undergraduate study, but we expect you to challenge yourself throughout your academic career and to do well. If you have earned academic honors, we give you the opportunity to list them in the application.



Grade Point Average (GPA)

Many applicants worry that we may not know that lower grades in one concentration (or university; or, for international students, educational system) may be equivalent to the strongest at another. We do.

However, it is not a grade point average (or rank in class, or actual grade) that is of greatest importance to us.

By focusing on your achievements within context, we evaluate how you have excelled within your individual academic environment and how you have taken advantage of the opportunities available to you in your school and community.

GPA Reporting for Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees

  • If you attended a school that does not report annual and cumulative GPA, you should compute it yourself. Only classes that have counted (or will be counted) toward your degree are to be included in that calculation.
  • If you attended a school that calculates grades using a 4.0 numeric grading system, report a grade point average (GPA) for each undergraduate year and a cumulative average of all undergraduate years attended, and (if applicable) report a GPA for your graduate degree.
  • If you attended a school that reports grades on a scale other than a 4.0 numeric system, report that GPA or other classification and the grading scale used.
  • Undergraduate GPA Reporting
    • In the Education section of the online application, in the box marked Undergraduate Cumulative GPA, include only those courses in calculating your GPA that counted toward your undergraduate degree.
  • Graduate GPA Reporting
    • If you have multiple graduate degrees, report your graduate degree GPA on the application form for one degree only. Only courses that counted towards that degree are to be included in that graduate degree GPA.




  • Do not mail an official transcript. We request an official transcript only after admission, and will notify you.
  • Do not include transcripts from secondary school.
  • Scan and upload a black-and-white copy of the front and back of your university transcript(s). The transcript may be unofficial.
  • Confirm that your uploaded transcript is readable and that the name of the institution is on it. If your transcripts are illegible, it will delay your application.
  • If you have difficulty uploading a copy or reducing the file size of your scanned transcript to 500 kilobytes (KB), you may use the self-reported transcript template provided in the online application as an alternative.
  • If your transcript is in a language other than English, please include an English translation.
  • Submit transcript(s) from each university you have attended for one full academic year (two academic semesters, three quarters or trimesters) or more, regardless of the number of credits received.
  • Transcripts for units that were transferred from a previous institution are not required if the courses, units, and grades are included on your undergraduate transcript.
  • Transcripts from year-abroad programs are not necessary if the grades are included on your undergraduate transcript.
  • Transcripts should include degree conferred and conferral date, if applicable.
  • Any discrepancy between the uploaded transcript and the official transcript could result in the denial of your application or withdrawal of your offer of admission.



Language Proficiency

Fluency in foreign languages is not required for admission to the MBA Program. However, the value of foreign language proficiency for a global manager is clear.

Language skills provide much more than business access. They expose you to new realms of cultures, ideas, and values. Languages provide not only an appreciation for a world outside your own, but also a new perspective on your own culture.

In the application, you can assess your proficiency for up to three languages (excluding English) using the following language proficiency levels and corresponding descriptions.

If you speak more than three languages, or speak a language that is not listed, please use the Additional Information section.

Level 1: Elementary proficiency
  • Able to satisfy routine survival needs and minimum courtesy requirements
  • Can ask and answer questions on familiar topics
Level 2: Limited working proficiency
  • Can handle confidently, but not easily, most social situations, including casual conversations about current events, work, and family
  • Can handle limited work requirements, but need help in handling complications or difficulties
Level 3: Professional working proficiency
  • Able to participate effectively in formal and informal conversations on practical, social, and professional topics
  • Can discuss particular interests and fields of competence with reasonable ease
  • Would never be taken for a native speaker, but errors never interfere with understanding and rarely disturb the native speaker
Level 4: Full professional proficiency
  • Able to use the language fluently and accurately for all professional needs
  • Can understand and participate in conversations within own personal and professional experience with fluency and precision of vocabulary
  • Would rarely be taken for a native speaker, but can respond appropriately even in unfamiliar situations
  • Can handle informal interpreting from and into the language
Level 5: Native or bilingual proficiency
  • Are fluent in the language, such that speech on all levels is fully accepted by educated native speakers in all of its features, including vocabulary, jargon, and pertinent cultural references

*These descriptions are based on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale developed by the United States Foreign Service Institute.


Awards and Honors

We want to learn about your accomplishments, specifically those for which you have received recognition. We are interested in your successes inside and outside of the classroom.

  • Please list up to five awards and/or honors and describe the basis upon which you were selected.
  • These may include academic, civic, or professional activities for which you received recognition.
  • List each in order of importance to you, with the most important listed first.






We do not expect every applicant to be involved in activities outside the classroom or workplace.

If you have been involved in activities, however, this is an excellent way for us to learn more about your interests and experiences.

  • Please report your activities in order of importance to you, with the most important listed first.
  • A sustained depth of commitment in one or two activities may demonstrate your passion more than minimal participation in five or six organizations.
  • Report activities during university/college separately from those after university/college.
  • Examples of activities in which you are/have been involved may include charitable, civic, community, and professional.
  • Please avoid using acronyms to describe your activities.
  • Do not report internships in this section. Instead, report internships in the part-time employment section.




Employment History & Resume

In this section of the online application, you have an opportunity to describe your employment history, including your responsibilities, your challenges, and accomplishments.

Include both full-time and part-time work experiences.

We value diversity of experience in our student body, so no one industry or function or background is preferred over another.

As you approach your MBA application, keep in mind that we are more interested in the impact you have had in your work place than the name or stature of your organization.

Have you made the most of your professional opportunities? Are you cultivating your leadership and team skills and making a difference? We look at your responses in conjunction with your recommendations to create a broad picture of the impact you have had in your work environment(s).

If you have had more than one job, we also ask why you left your previous employer(s). Your response to this question will help us understand your career development and what has motivated your decision making.

We also ask you to report the industry and job function you hope to pursue after you obtain your MBA.




After completing the Employment History section, please upload a current copy of your resume. Recommended length is up to two pages.

For College Seniors, the recommended length is one page.





We read your essays to get to know you as a person and to learn about the ideas and interests that motivate you. Tell us in your own words who you are.

In other parts of the application, we learn about your academic and professional accomplishments (i.e., what you have done). Through your personal essays (Essays 1 and 2), we learn more about the person behind the achievements (i.e., who you are).

Because we want to discover who you are, resist the urge to "package" yourself in order to come across in a way you think Stanford wants. Such attempts simply blur our understanding of who you are and what you can accomplish.

We want to hear your genuine voice throughout the essays that you write and this is the time to think carefully about your values, your passions, your hopes and dreams.

In your short answer responses (Essay 3, options A, B, or C), we learn more about the experiences that have shaped your attitudes, behaviors, and aspirations.

Truly, the most impressive essays are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us.




Essay Questions for Class of 2015
(entering Fall 2013)

Tell us in your own words who you are. Answer essay questions 1, 2, and one of the three options for essay 3.

  • Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?
    • The best examples of Essay 1 reflect the process of self-examination that you have undertaken to write them.
    • They give us a vivid and genuine image of who you are—and they also convey how you became the person you are.
    • They do not focus merely on what you've done or accomplished. Instead, they share with us the values, experiences, and lessons that have shaped your perspectives.
    • They are written from the heart and address not only a person, situation, or event, but also how that person, situation, or event has influenced your life.
  • Essay 2: What do you want to do—REALLY—and why Stanford?
    • Use this essay to explain your view of your future, not to repeat accomplishments from your past.
    • You should address two distinct topics:
      • your career aspirations
      • and your rationale for earning your MBA at Stanford, in particular.
    • The best examples of Essay 2 express your passions or focused interests, explain why you have decided to pursue graduate education in management,  and demonstrate your desire to take advantage of the opportunities that are distinctive to the Stanford MBA Program.
  • Essay 3: Answer one of the three questions below. Tell us not only what you did but also how you did it. What was the outcome? How did people respond? Only describe experiences that have occurred during the last three years.
    • Option A: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.
    • Option B: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you identified and pursued an opportunity to improve an organization.
    • Option C: Tell us about a time in the last three years when you went beyond what was defined or established.


Essay Length

Your answers for all of the essay questions cannot exceed 1,600 words.

You have your own story to tell, so please allocate the 1,600 words among all of the essays in the way that is most effective for you. We provide some guidelines below as a starting point, but you should feel comfortable to write as much or as little as you like on any essay question, as long as you do not exceed 1,600 words total.

  • Essay 1: 750 words
  • Essay 2: 450 words
  • Essay 3: 400 words




  • Use a 12-point font, double spaced
  • Recommended fonts are Arial, Courier, and Times New Roman
  • Indicate which essay question you are answering at the beginning of each essay (this does not count towards the 1,600 word limit).
  • Number all pages
  • Upload all three essays as one document
  • Preview the uploaded document to ensure that the formatting is true to the original
  • Save a copy of your essays


Editing Your Essays

Begin work on these essays early, to give yourself time to reflect, write, and edit.

Feel free to ask your friends or family members to provide constructive feedback. When you ask for feedback, ask if the essays' tone sounds like your voice. It should. Your family and friends know you better than anyone else. If they do not believe that the essays capture who you are, how you live, what you believe, and what you aspire to do, then surely the Committee on Admissions will be unable to recognize what is most distinctive about you.

There is a big difference, however, between 'feedback' and 'coaching.' There are few hard and fast rules, but you cross a line when any part of the application (excluding the Letters of Reference) ceases to be exclusively yours in either thought or word.

Appropriate feedback occurs when you show someone your completed application, perhaps one or two times, and are apprised of errors or omissions.

In contrast, inappropriate coaching occurs when your application or your self-presentation is colored by someone else.

You best serve your own interests when your personal thoughts, individual voice, and unique style remain intact at the end of your editing process.

It is improper and a violation of the terms of this application process, to have someone else write any part of your Stanford MBA Program application. Such an act will result in denial of your application or withdrawal of your offer of admission.


Additional Information

If there is any other information that is critical for us to know and is not captured elsewhere, please include it. Examples of pertinent additional information include:

  • Extenuating circumstances affecting academic or work performance
  • Explanation of why you do not have a Letter of Reference from your current direct supervisor or peer
  • Explanation of criminal conviction, criminal charges sustained against you in a juvenile proceeding, and/or court-supervised probation
  • Explanation of academic suspension or expulsion
  • Any other information that you did not have sufficient space to complete in another section of the application (please begin the information in the appropriate section)
  • Additional work experience that cannot fit into the space provided
  • Additional information about your academic experience (e.g., independent research) not noted elsewhere





Writing Effective Essays

advice from Stanford MBA Admissions Dean Derrick Bolton

Regardless of the outcome of the admission process, I believe strongly that you will benefit from the opportunity for structured reflection that the business school application provides. I hope that you will approach the application process as a way to learn about yourself—that's the goal—with the byproduct being the application that you submit to us.

Rarely during our lives are we asked to think deeply about what is most important to us. Stanford professor Bill Damon’s book, The Moral Advantage: How to Succeed in Business by Doing the Right Thing, contained the following passages that might help you maintain the larger context as you delve into the essay writing process.

"We are not always aware of the forces that ultimately move us. While focusing on the "how" questions—how to survive, how to get ahead, how to make a name for ourselves—often we forget the "why" questions that are more essential for finding and staying on the best course: Why pursue this objective? Why behave in this manner? Why aspire to this kind of life? Why become this type of person?

These "why" questions help us realize our highest aspirations and our truest interests. To answer these questions well, we must decide what matters most to us, what we will be able to contribute to in our careers, what are the right (as opposed to the wrong) ways of behaving as we aim toward this end, and, ultimately, what kind of persons we want to become. Because everyone, everywhere, wants to live an admirable life, a life of consequence, the "why" questions cannot be ignored for long without great peril to one’s personal stability and enduring success. It is like ignoring the rudder on a ship—no matter how much you look after all the boat’s other moving parts, you may end up lost at sea."

Essay Philosophy

The Stanford MBA Program essays provide you an opportunity to reflect on your own "truest interests" and "highest aspirations."

While the letters of reference are stories about you told by others, these essays enable you to tell your own story, what matters most to you and why, as well as how you have decided you can best contribute to society.

Please think of the Stanford essays as conversations on paper—when we read files, we feel that we meet people, also known as our "flat friends"—and tell us your story in a natural, genuine way.

Our goal is to understand what motivates you and how you have become the person you are today. In addition, we’re interested in what kind of person you need the Stanford MBA Program to help you become.

Reflective, insightful essays help us envision the individual behind all of the experiences and accomplishments that we read about elsewhere in your application.

The most important piece of advice on these essays is extremely simple: answer the questions—each component of each question.

An additional suggestion for writing essays is equally straightforward: think a lot before you write. We want a holistic view of you as a person: your values, passions, ideas, experiences, and aspirations.

Essay 1

In the first essay, tell a story—and tell a story that only you can tell.

Tell this essay in a straightforward and sincere way. This probably sounds strange, since these are essays for business school, but we really don’t expect to hear about your business experience in this essay (though, of course, you are free to write about whatever you would like).

Remember that we have your entire application—work history, letters of reference, short-answer responses, etc.—to learn what you have accomplished and the type of impact you have made. Your task in this first essay is to connect the people, situations, and events in your life with the values you adhere to and the choices you have made. This essay gives you a terrific opportunity to learn about yourself!

Many good essays describe the "what," but great essays move to the next order and describe how and why these "whats" have influenced your life. The most common mistake applicants make is spending too much time describing the "what" and not enough time describing how and why these guiding forces have shaped your behavior, attitudes, and objectives in your personal and professional lives. Please be assured that we do appreciate and reward thoughtful self-assessment and appropriate levels of self-disclosure.

[VINCE HINTS: Stanford Essay 1 Tips are here]

Essay 2

In the second essay, please note that there are two separate but related questions. Answer both! First, we ask you what you want to do - REALLY. Tell us what you aspire to do. You don’t need to come up with a "safe" answer because you’re worried that your true aim is not what we want to see. REALLY. What are your ideas for your best self after Stanford? What, and how, do you hope to contribute in your professional life after earning your MBA?

Tell us what, in your heart, you would like to achieve. What is the dream that brings meaning to your life? How do you plan to make an impact? We give you broad license to envision your future. Take advantage of it. You may, however, find it difficult to explain why you need an MBA to reach your aims if those aims are completely undefined. Be honest, with yourself and with us, in addressing those questions. You certainly do not need to make up a path, but a level of focused interests will enable you to make the most of the Stanford experience.

Second, we ask why Stanford. How will the MBA Program at Stanford help you turn your dreams into reality? The key here is that you should have objectives for your Stanford education. How do you plan to take advantage of the incredible opportunities at Stanford? How do you envision yourself contributing, growing, and learning here at the Graduate School of Business? And how will the Stanford experience help you become the person you described in the first part of Essay 2?

From both parts of Essay 2, we learn about your dreams, what has shaped them, and how Stanford can help you bring them into fruition.

Essay 3: Short Answers

Tell us about a time when you…

A. Built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.
B. Made a lasting impact on an organization.
C. Generated support from others for an idea or initiative.
D. Went beyond what was defined or established.

Unlike the two previous essays, in which you are asked to write about your life from a more holistic perspective, these questions ask you to reflect on a specific recent experience (within the last three years) that has made a difference to you and/or the people around you.

The best answers will transport us to that moment in time by painting a vivid picture not only of what you did, but also of how you did it. Include supporting details. What led to the situation? What did you say? How did they respond? What were you thinking at the time? What were you feeling at the time? Include details about what you thought and felt during that time and your perceptions about how others responded. From these short-answer responses, we visualize you "in action."

Good People Can Give Bad Advice

Moving beyond the specific essay and short-answer questions, I'd like to address a couple of myths.

Myth #1: Tell the Committee on Admissions what makes you unique in your essays. This often leads applicants to believe that you 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).

But how are you to know which of your experiences are unique when you know neither the backgrounds of the other applicants nor the topics they have chosen? What makes you unique is not that you have had these experiences, but rather how and why your perspective has changed or been reinforced as a result of those and other everyday experiences.

That is a story that only you can tell. If you concentrate your efforts on telling us who you are, differentiation will occur naturally; if your goal is to appear unique, you actually may achieve the opposite effect.

Truly, the most impressive essays that we read each year are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us.

Myth #2: There is a widespread perception that if you don't have amazing essays, you won't be admitted even if you are a compelling applicant.

Please remember that no single element of your application is dispositive. And since we recognize that our application has limits, we constantly remind ourselves to focus on the applicant rather than the application.

This means that we will admit someone despite the application essays if we feel we’ve gotten a good sense of the person overall. Yes, the essays are important. But they are neither our only avenue of understanding you, nor are they disproportionately influential in the admission process.

Accounting Versus Marketing

Alumnus Leo Linbeck, MBA '94 told me something on an alumni panel in Houston a few years ago that I have since appropriated.

Leo said that, in management terms, the Stanford essays are not a marketing exercise but an accounting exercise.

This is not an undertaking in which you look at an audience/customer (i.e., the Committee on Admissions) and then write what you believe we want to hear. It is quite the opposite. This is a process in which you look inside yourself and try to express most clearly what is there. We are trying to get a good sense of your perspectives, your thoughts on management and leadership, and how Stanford can help you realize your goals.

As Professor Damon would say, we are helping you ensure that your rudder steers you to the right port.

Derrick Bolton, MBA 1998
Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions

updated 6 July 2011

(found at; accessed 2011/07)




Admission Criteria
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:

Intellectual Vitality

  • 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.


Demonstrated Leadership Potential

  • 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.


Personal Qualities and Contributions

  • 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.

(found at; accessed 2011/06)



Entering Full-Time MBA Students: 385 Students
6.8% accepted = #1 most selective program*
79.7% yield = 2nd highest yield rate*
7,204 applicants
488 accepted 
389 enrolled
*among 50 US MBA programs with lowest admit rate
(found at; accessed 2011/08) 

Range of GMAT Scores: 540 to 800
Median GMAT: 730

TOEFL Scores (Internet-based)
Range 101-119
Median 113

(found at; accessed 2012/07)

Average Age: 28
Average Work Experience: 48 months

% Students who are Women: 34%
% Students who are International: 33%
% Students who are US Ethnic Minorities: 21%

Bloomberg Businessweek: 5
U.S. News & World Report: 1
Financial Times: 4

Average Base Salary: $120,000
Median Base Salary: $120,000

(found at; accessed 2011/07)



Dean's Corner

How To Secure Compelling Letters of Reference

A Deep Breath

Applying to business school is a major effort.  We understand that preparing applications can become quite overwhelming, especially given the demands of existing commitments such as your job and family. Maintaining a semblance of sanity during this process may seem out of reach. That's understandable. The best advice I can give you is to stop thinking about all of that for a few seconds and to take a deep breath...and then keep reading.  (Come on....deep breath!)

This moment of taking a deep breath is very important as it allows you to take a step back, and reassess your entire situation. It is an opportunity to reflect and analogous to how we think about the entire application process.

I hope that you will feel, either during the process or after you complete it, that you have benefitted from this chance for structured reflection.  During this deep breath exercise, you get to think about your experiences and values, assess your potential as a leader, determine what brings you meaning, and identify the path to realize your impact in our society. Embrace this opportunity.
The Benefit to You of Asking for Recommendations

Your essay responses give you a chance to contemplate your life experiences, to renew or revise your aspirations, and then to share your story in a thoughtful, personal way. Most candidates tell us that writing the essays was of great value, with hindsight.  Securing your letters of reference is an experience that can be just as valuable.

One of the joys of my job is getting to meet so many immensely talented candidates, all around the world, as you consider applying to Stanford.  Most of you are at points of inflection or in periods of transition. It is an honor for me to be able to provide a modicum of comfort or counsel as you work through this process.  The question that you ask me most frequently at information sessions is some variant of "who should write my recommendations" or "is this person a good choice to provide a reference."

Let me guide you in answering your own queries. Who are the people with whom you discuss your life, work, and dreams?  Did someone influence you in identifying this path?  These people are likely the ones who know you well, who care about you, and whom you respect.  In your professional environment, they probably are people with whom you have worked closely, who can evaluate your impact, from whom you have learned, whom you admire, in whom you place your confidence, who care about you, and whose opinions you value.  This list may not align perfectly with your recommenders, but may provide you with a classification that will help you in selecting the most appropriate recommenders.

Asking someone who is committed to your success to write a letter of recommendation allows you to initiate candid conversations about your personal and professional development. Through these discussions, you will acquire valuable feedback that you can use to understand your own strengths and development needs, make a larger impact in your current position, build stronger working relationships, and refine your personal and professional aspirations.

In other words, instead of viewing the recommendation process solely as a means to an end (the letter of reference), I encourage you to view this process as a learning experience in and of itself. If you do so, I believe your recommender will produce a more powerful letter of reference because the process itself will have been so compelling.
Stories about You, Written by Others

Recommendations are stories about you, written by others, and complement the information you provide in your essays. The richness and depth of additional perspectives are essential to our understanding of you.

Other than selecting your recommenders, you have very little control over this part of the application; as such, you might be tempted to write some or all of the content yourself. That would be a mistake.

To be explicit, do not write your own letter of reference. The recommender alone must determine the content of the letter. We would not suggest, however, that you simply register your recommender without providing her/him with some context. You must demonstrate judgment here. It is appropriate for you to give your recommender context on what you are trying to convey through your application, particularly how the Stanford MBA experience can help you reach your goals. You may wish to provide some personal and professional background information.

You might review the recommendation form and jot down relevant anecdotes in which you demonstrated the competencies in question.  Specific stories will help make you come alive in the process, and your recommender will appreciate the information. Again, you will need to exercise your judgment in providing a framework. The content of the letter submitted, however, must be determined solely by the recommender.
Types of Recommendations

Recommendations are a vital part of the admission process. Letters of reference help us to learn more about your character, behaviors, and attitudes, as well as your impact on those around you.  These letters demonstrate to us not only how you can contribute at Stanford, but also how the Stanford experience can help you.

There are three letters of reference required for the Stanford MBA Program application. All three recommendations should provide evidence of your impact on people and organizations; they also should demonstrate your ability to learn and grow.

First recommendation (Professional/Workplace) should come from your current, direct supervisor.
Second recommendation (Professional/Workplace) should come from another individual in a position to evaluate your performance.
Third recommendation (Peer/Team) should come from a person who has experience with you as an equal.

The first of the two Professional/Workplace references must come from your current direct supervisor. We want to hear from someone who has had extensive and recent interaction with you.

There are valid reasons why it may not be possible for you to secure a recommendation from a current, direct supervisor.  For example, you have just moved to a new job, or you may not wish your direct supervisor to know that you are applying to business school.  If that is the case, then simply include a brief but specific explanation in the Additional Information section of the application.

The second of the two Professional/Workplace references could come from anyone else in a position to provide a perspective on your work, such as a previous supervisor, indirect supervisor, client, customer, investor, or board member.

The third recommendation (Peer/Team) should come from someone who can speak descriptively about what it's like to work side-by-side with you on a project or on a team. This letter of reference may come from within or outside the workplace. For example, you could choose a co-worker from your organization, or you could pick a colleague from a community activity or a sports team. We understand that this person may not always be a peer in title, but it should be a person for whom there is no structural/positional influence in your relationship. We hope that you understand, and adhere to, the spirit of this request.

Please remember that not all friends are peers.  And also remember that you have more context about your relationship with the Peer/Team recommender than we do.  The only thing we will know is what the letter says. It’s fine for you to pick a peer whose title differs from yours, as long as that person views you as a peer; if that person writes the letter from the perspective of a supervisor, then it typically will not strengthen your application.
What Matters Most in Selecting a Recommender

We often are asked how you should select recommenders. Do titles matter? Will a recommendation from a Stanford MBA alumna/us make more of an impact? Is it better to get all three recommendations from the same company/organization, or is it better to have them come from different companies/organizations?  Should I get a recommendation from a professor?

The short answer to these questions is that we focus on the content of the letter.  The recommender's title, alumni affiliation, company/organization, or status pales in comparison to the letter’s content.

This means you should choose a recommender who knows you well, and who will make time to write a detailed, thoughtful letter of reference.

Regardless of the recommender's title or position, if the person does not know you well, and does not take the time to provide specific anecdotes and candid examples, the letter will not strengthen your application.

The same considerations apply to faculty member recommendations. We love professors—we are a school, after all—but faculty members typically are not the best choices for MBA recommendations. If you worked with a faculty member outside the classroom, perhaps as a teaching assistant or on an independent research opportunity, then that professor might be in a position to write a helpful recommendation. Still, you need to think carefully about whether that person can address the questions we ask in the recommendation form.

We often say at the Business School that most Stanford MBA students have excelled by doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. If you commit to make this ordinary recommendation process extraordinarily valuable for you, it will yield benefits that extend far beyond your application.

Tip #1: Give your recommenders as much time as possible.

Your recommenders care about you, and most are honored that you select them for such an important role.  But they are busy people.  Try to give them as much time as possible.  Register your recommenders early.

Tip #2: Sit down with your recommender to talk through the letter.

You should not simply register your recommender and expect her/him to complete the letter.  Sit down with your recommender over coffee, or just in the office, for a few minutes.  Explain how important the letter is in the admission process, and to you.  Prepare for that conversation by identifying specific instances that you feel might be helpful for the recommender to highlight.  Be prepared to discuss those anecdotes—and to hear the recommender’s feedback.  To repeat,  you should not write the letter of reference, nor should you determine the final content, but I think it’s appropriate and helpful for you to talk with your recommender.

Tip #3: Manage the recommendations like a project.

The most frequent calls we receive on application deadline days are from panicked applicants fretting, "I am ready to submit my application, but my recommender is on a transcontinental labor...trapped on a conference call...on a ship...unable to access the internet, etc."

Tip #3 is intended to help you avoid having to make such a call. You should check in with your recommender throughout the process to ensure that he/she is making progress and still on track. Be respectful but firm: you need to acknowledge that the recommender is doing you a favor, while using your influencing skills to ensure that the work is submitted in a timely manner. To avoid the mad rush on deadline day, and to spare you the anxiety of an overdue recommendation, we encourage recommenders to submit letters of reference the day before the application deadline.

Best wishes,
Derrick Bolton, MBA 1998
Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions
(found at; accessed 2011/10)


Advice for Recommenders: 

How to write an effective Letter of Recommendation
Edited Transcript of Interview

RITA WINKLER: How important are the letters of recommendation?

KIRSTEN MOSS: Admission is more art than science. And at the end of the day our goal is to admit a class of the highest potential leaders we can find who will go out and make a positive difference in this world. And what we believe at Stanford is that the best predictor of future leadership potential is what’s happened in the past.

And that’s where you come in as a recommender. You are our opportunity to get an objective opinion about the impact that this candidate has had on your organization and on other people. You can tell us how they have accomplished their goals--not just what they’ve done--because you’ve been there watching them.

And, lastly, you can tell us how other people respond to their leadership style. Everybody leads in a different way and you can give us those details about how people in the organization feel about this candidate. All of those opinions are important in making our decision and also ones that the candidate themselves cannot provide.

RITA WINKLER: We ask that recommenders provide very specific recommendations. Why can’t they just write a short note about their experience with the applicant?

KIRSTEN MOSS: We think long and hard about what information is critical from a recommender to help us make our admission decisions. In fact that’s a lot of what I spend my time on--exploring with the admission committee…what do we need to know.

We ask you four different things:
• One, what’s the context of your relationship with the applicant that you’re recommending?
• Two, what impact has this applicant had on your organization.
• Three, how have they performed versus their peers?
• And the fourth question is, tell us about a time you’ve given constructive feedback to the candidate and that helps us see how the candidate has grown over time.

So each of these four things is critical to us in making a final application decision.

The reason, if you just write a short note—to get back to your question Rita--is that I’m worried that in a couple of paragraphs, you might not be able to answer all four of these questions.

RITA WINKLER: Would you agree that also by asking very structured questions the applicants really compete in a much more level playing field?

KIRSTEN MOSS: That’s a good point. We really believe that each of these--whether it’s what they’ve done or how they’ve done it, or how they’ve grown--are critical to understanding their potential as a leader. So if you’re not giving us all four, it takes away the level playing field for the applicant that you are advocating for.

RITA WINKLER: You have literally read thousands of applications. In your experience what distinguishes an effective letter of recommendation?

KIRSTEN MOSS: That’s really a great question Rita. In preparation for our time together today, I thought long and hard about how to write effective recommendations. And I also spoke with the other officers on our admissions committee to get their opinions. What surprised me was how unanimous the feedback was. Almost everyone said,

…when I read a really great recommendation the person jumps off the page and they really come alive. I feel like I know them; I know the good, the bad, and the warts; if I walked into a room, I could almost pick out this person.

That’s how effective the recommendation is. So once I heard that, I tried to step back and think what are the tips I could give to you so you can incorporate them in writing your recommendations. There are four tips that I came up with. The first step, I have to tell you, is to come with an honest perspective. You might ask yourself, ‘well, I’m honest,’… so what does that mean? Really, when you think about this candidate give us some insight into where this candidate has grown. Give us some sense of what the spikes are. What do they do phenomenally well? What are they strong at? But also things that they’ve had to work on.

I think some of the toughest recommendations for us to get our hands around are those where-- we ask you to mark a grid, for instance, of different behaviors that this candidate has, different qualities; there are 15 of them--and every single box is marked a 5. And then in addition we’ll ask you to give us some constructive feedback that you’ve given to the candidate and the feedback will be all…I’ll call it generic, such as: ‘they are a perfectionist, they work too hard, they don’t have good balance in their life because they are always the last to leave, or turn the office lights off.’ And what happens in a recommendation where everything is good is… it loses its authenticity. You know, you don’t get an appreciation of what’s really strong about a particular candidate if everything is put down as their attributes and their strengths.

So the best feedback I can give you--and the most honest tip--is that the more you can tell about who this candidate is--good, bad and all--the more that we can see them live, 3-D, as a real person; and not just a piece of paper.

The second tip that I wanted to give to you is to remember to provide the admissions committee with not just what you think about a candidate but evidence on why you think that. A typical mistake that some recommenders will make--let’s say we’re talking about applicant Rajiv--and I’ll read a recommendation, and it will say that Rajiv is a great team player, people love to be around him, everyone always wants him to be on their team, he’s very smart, he’s very analytical, he’s a great modeler… I’ll go through an entire recommendation and yet at the end of it I wont have areal sense of the details of the impact he’s actually had, I’ll have only a list of superlatives.

RITA WINKLER: Could you give an example of the kind of information that would make a difference?

KIRSTEN MOSS: Absolutely. In fact yesterday I was reading a recommendation that really stuck with me. And this particular candidate—it was a recommendation written by a peer--and the recommender was speaking in the recommendation about just how intellectually curious Jonathon was and how he loved to solve problems. And the detailed examples he gave me…they stuck with me because I could visualize it so clearly: They were in an investment bank and sitting around a table discussing a very complicated financial instrument and even the managing directors and vice presidents couldn’t figure out how to value this instrument. So after an hour they called it quits. And at that point Jonathon ran out to the public library, he pulled three finance books off the shelf, ran back, learned about things he’d never studied before and by the next morning put a model on his Vice President’s desk that came up with two different ways of thinking how to value this option. Now, that’s an extreme example, but it really shows you how struck this peer was with the fact that Jonathon isn’t just smart but he’s going to go to all ends to try and solve problems and that’s what he loves to do. For me, that makes a recommendation come alive.

RITA WINKLER: Yeah, that’s a really good example.

KIRSTEN MOSS: The third tip that I wanted to tell you about today is to remember to tell us about how a candidate behaves. It’s just as important as what they do.

RITA WINKLER: Can you give an example?

KIRSTEN MOSS: Well, we are very interested in somebody’s ability to be a future leader. So I remember two recommendations that I recently read, and each of them painted a picture, in a very different way, of a potential leader. And it just struck me of how, you know, thoughtful and effective these recommendations were.

The first was about a woman on a soccer team--her peer wrote this recommendation--and she really had spoken about how this particular woman was always the last to leave soccer practice, did more sit-ups then anyone else; if the coach said run four miles she always ran five. Over the course of the season--even though she was one of the younger players on the team--people started to rally to the level of expectation that she set for herself. It was almost as if she was setting a higher bar than even the coach and together she was bringing the team with her. Practices became more serious; people became more engaged. And this peer just stepped back and said that’s the kind of leader she is, that she set such a high standard that all of us want to follow. And for me that was a very poignant example of how someone could lead.

Ironically the next application that I read had a similar sports example. And this particular individual had a very different leadership style. When someone was having trouble on the team he was the person in the locker room sitting down and seeing if he could help. If someone was having difficulty with a technique--it was a basketball team--on a particular shot, he would be there after practice showing them how to use the backboard. Or even…he was the person to think about having Friday night team dinners and organizing them in his dorm to bring the team together.

Again neither of these individuals was team captains but both had a dramatic impact on the culture of the team and in very different ways. So trying to explain to us the “how” and not just the “what” can bring a whole layer of richness to the evaluation of an applicant.

RITA WINKLER: And it also shows that there are very different flavors of leadership.

KIRSTEN MOSS: Absolutely.

And the last tip is: Remember to tell us a little bit about the context in which an applicant has impact. A good example of this is…suppose you work in an industry where someone in the admission committee might not be familiar with--give us some understanding of how things work in that particular environment.

I was just reading a recommendation for someone who worked in a manufacturing facility and who had been recently promoted to supervise individuals who were making yarn. Now, I’ve never worked on a manufacturing floor. But the recommender really did a wonderful job of explaining it for me: It was a unionized workforce; there had been many layoffs before the supervisor was given this responsibility. And, in addition, most of the people didn’t have a college education. So those were great contextual details that let me appreciate the impact the supervisor had as he instituted changes on that factory floor.

So those would be the four things I think you should keep in mind when you are writing any recommendation:
• Give us an honest perspective
• Provide us with evidence
• Think about the “how” as well as the “what”
• And lastly tell us about the context in which the candidate is operating

RITA WINKLER: If you were asked to write a letter of recommendation, how would you personally start the process?

KIRSTEN MOSS: You know, if we think back to what makes an effective recommendation it’s about bringing this person alive. So, I think the most important thing would be--once you have a sense of what the questions are--to really sit back and reflect. The questions will guide you. You are also going to want to gather up some information, so you have details on how the candidate has impacted your organization. Whether it’s performance reviews or projects you’ve worked on…but at the end of the day it’s that time to step back and ask why this person is different? Why is their impact different? How, if they left tomorrow, would my organization have been touched in a unique way? And I think that will get the juices flowing so you can bring them to life for us.

RITA WINKLER: And what would you not do?

KIRSTEN MOSS: There are no shortcuts. You really need to spend that time and reflect. Sometimes recommenders will ask applicants to bullet-point some ideas for them and how they might answer the questions. However, at the end of the day this is really where you’re taking away sort of your fresh perspective and your creative insights. There have been cases where I’ll put three recommendations together and see that the questions were answered almost exactly the same in each case; all with the best of intentions. But it’s recommenders trying to use the talking points the applicant has provided and it comes out very stale across the board.

RITA WINKLER: And it also deprives us of that breadth that really makes the applicant leap off the page and describes him or her in a unique way.

KIRSTEN MOSS: Yeah, because you really do have a unique view of this person that no one else in the world has. And it’s important to capture that and spend the time to get it on the page.

RITA WINKLER: Our applicants come from all countries of the world and so some recommenders may not speak English fluently or not at all. Are language skills a barrier to writing and effective recommendation?

KIRSTEN MOSS: Let’s suppose that this candidate is coming from Japan or from South Korea and their supervisors’ first language is Japanese or Korean. We will certainly--when we read that application--take that fact into consideration. It’s really the content of the recommendation--not the spelling, not the grammar, not even the word choice--that’s going to be important to us as we read that recommendation. However, it’s always an option for the recommender--if that would make you feel more comfortable—to have your recommendation translated and attaching that translation. So, if you feel more comfortable writing in your first language, it’s absolutely an option to do that translation.

RITA WINKLER: So in other words, when we read a recommendation from a non-native English speaker we still get enough information?

KIRSTEN MOSS: Absolutely. The examples used in the recommendation and the content of what they’re telling us, in my experience, comes through. We are actively looking for individuals who have had experiences working all over the world and that means that their direct supervisors, inmost cases, will not speak English as a first language. So it’s something that happens often and we are very comfortable with looking for content and not how well it is written in English.

RITA WINKLER: Now let me ask you this, an applicant is coming to me and is asking me to write a letter of recommendation but I’m not comfortable with providing a letter of recommendation. Maybe I don’t feel positive about the applicant and my evaluation or my letter of recommendation would not be in support. What would you advise recommenders do in a situation like that?

KIRSTEN MOSS: I think honesty is always the best policy. So I think having a frank conversation with the applicant about both the good and some of the constructive feedback that you’d want to supply the admission committee and allowing in that discussion both you and applicant to come to a good decision about whether you are the right person…or whether there would be potentially someone else who could write the recommendation in a different light. If you’re their work supervisor we have requested that applicants get one recommendation from their direct supervisor. So in some cases--despite there being some constructive criticism--you may be the best person for that applicant to ask.

RITA WINKLER: Does a negative recommendation automatically disqualify an applicant? And by the same token, does a positive recommendation automatically get the applicant accepted?

KIRSTEN MOSS: Each recommendation is one of many, many data points that we look at for any candidate. So one recommendation—whether positive or negative--wouldn’t determine the final outcome of any candidate’s file. That being said, we talked earlier about every candidate having opportunities to develop just as they have spikes or things that come very easily to them. But the more that you can give us insight into both dimensions, and what they do well and where they’ve grown, the better the recommendation will be.

RITA WINKLER: We require three letters of recommendation; one from a direct supervisor, one from the workplace and then one from a peer. How does the information we get from these three different perspectives differ?

KIRSTEN MOSS: We’re unique from other schools, in that we require a peer recommendation and to your question, Rita, we really believe that that provides a whole different perspective. We’re looking for people who have leadership potential and as I’m sure our recommenders can appreciate, you lead in different ways when you’re the manager, when you’re a teammate or when you’re taking directions from someone else. So in each of these recommendations we think we’re going to get a different flavor of what it’s like to work with the candidate, whether it’s side by side or in more of a direct supervisor relationship.

RITA WINKLER: Do we ask different questions?

KIRSTEN MOSS: Each of you will be required to give us the same four pieces of information but what we’ve seen is that the flavors of your responses really differ because you’re in a different working relationship.

RITA WINKLER: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions.

KIRSTEN MOSS: My pleasure.






Your admission interview is both evaluative and informative: it is not only an opportunity for us to learn more about you, but also for you to learn more about Stanford.

Our goal is for the interview to be a positive exchange of ideas and information.

We use the information derived from the interview in context, just as we use all other information in the application process.

The interview focuses on past actions rather than on hypothetical situations. The primary questions revolve around attitudes, behaviors, and skills that we believe are key to good citizenship in the Stanford community and vital to high-impact leadership post-MBA.

We ask you to reflect on your personal and professional experiences, what you've learned about yourself, and how best to lead people and manage situations.

You'll probably surprise even yourself with the many ways you've demonstrated leadership in your life; take advantage of this opportunity to think about the people, situations, and events that have shaped you.

If you are invited to interview, the MBA Admissions Office will contact you via email.

Approximate Interview Schedule

Round 1 Mid October to mid-December If you are offered a place in the waitpool without an interview, you may be interviewed after you accept your spot in the waitpool.
Round 2 Mid-January to late March
Round 3 Early April to mid-May




Interview Process

All interviews are by invitation only and almost all are conducted by alumni near where you live or work. Candidates invited to interview have been reviewed by the Committee on Admissions and are considered competitive for admission.

We do not have resources to interview every applicant to the Stanford MBA Program, but we will interview every candidate who is offered admission to the class. We expect to interview roughly 900 applicants this year.

  • We will contact you via email or phone to notify you of your interview invitation.
  • Do not call or contact our office to request an interview.
  • After you receive an invitation, you and your interviewer will set up a mutually convenient date and time to meet.
  • If you are offered a place in the waitpool without an interview, you may be interviewed after you accept your spot in the waitpool.
  • We do not provide interview feedback.





College Seniors

We encourage college seniors to consider applying to the MBA
Program for direct or deferred enrollment.

We will offer admission to college seniors who present superior academic credentials and outstanding evidence of leadership potential through extracurricular and community activities.

If you are a college senior and feel you would benefit from obtaining full-time work experience before enrolling, you may defer enrollment for one to three years.

The Committee on Admissions also may offer deferred admission to college seniors whom we feel would better contribute, grow, and learn in the MBA Program after obtaining full-time work experience.


Qualities We Seek in Undergraduate Applicants

  • Extensive leadership demonstrated through activities, research, or work experiences.
  • Superb academic credentials
  • Maturity and self-confidence
  • An ability to articulate why you wish to attend business school now


Direct Enrollment

For most college seniors, deferred enrollment is a better choice than direct enrollment. Consider attending business school immediately following your university program if:

  • You feel ready to pursue your MBA because of your academic background, extracurricular experiences, work experiences, and personal aspirations.


Deferred Enrollment

Exceptional college seniors who prefer to work for one to three years before enrolling may defer admission. You select on the application the year in which you would like to enroll.

This may be a good choice if you are unsure of your professional path and would like to explore an industry. In addition, certain industries—private equity and biotechnology in particular—tend to recruit only MBA candidates with pre-MBA experience in that field, or with specialized knowledge. Management consulting firms also typically prefer MBA candidates with work experience.

If you are interested in pursuing a career path in one of these fields, deferring for a couple of years may be a strategic decision.

If you choose to defer enrollment, we expect you to work full-time during the deferral period. Pursue opportunities that enable you to build your skills and knowledge, expand your perspective, and develop professional judgment and self-confidence.


Which Application Round?

We offer three application rounds; please apply in the round that makes the most sense for you. College seniors who wish to defer admission incur no disadvantage by applying in the third round.


Advice for Undergraduate Applicants

    • Take the GMAT or GRE in your junior or early in your senior year.
    • Pursue opportunities for independent research, such as lab work, seminars, and theses.
    • Take courses in mathematics—such as calculus, microeconomics, or statistics—to strengthen your quantitative exposure.
    • Take an accounting course to understand the language of business.
    • Take logic courses—such as computer programming, philosophy, and physics—to refine your analytical capabilities.
    • Become fluent in at least one language beyond your native one.
    • Read the Wall Street Journal, Economist, and Financial Times to understand the business environment and learn about industries, careers, and organizations.
    • Explore professional pursuits through challenging summer internships. Cultivate strong relationships with supervisors and mentors, and seek out opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge.
    • Investigate different careers to refine your goals. Sites like WetFeet offer a wealth of information about organizations and professional fields. Talk to friends, or relatives who work in your field of interest.
    • Even if you intend to enroll in an MBA program directly after graduation, participate in your college’s recruiting process to learn about careers, organizations and industries. It’s smart to have options.





Admission to the Stanford MBA Program is very competitive. We cannot offer a place to as many applicants as we would like in any year.

If you are not offered admission you are welcome to reapply in a future application year. Each year we offer admission to reapplicants who present compelling applications.

What You Should Know

  • Having applied in a previous year is not considered a negative factor in your application.
  • Reapplicants are evaluated on the merits of the new application and are required to complete and submit an entirely new application, including Letters of Reference, Transcript(s), and Application Form.
  • The Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions does have access to previous applications, however, and may choose whether to review them prior to a final decision.
  • Give yourself a fresh start when you approach your application. 
  • Address areas of relative weakness, if possible.
  • Determine if other recommenders may provide a more insightful and thorough perspective.
  • Add new information that may be helpful in the admission process.


Use Current Application Materials

  • Application requirements, including essay questions, change from year to year. It is important that you meet current application requirements.
  • The application fee is not waived for reapplicants.
  • As long as your test scores (GMAT-GRE and TOEFL-IELTS-PTE) remain valid, you do not need to have them resent from the test centers. However, you do need to self-report them in the application. If your test scores are no longer valid you need to retake them.



We cannot provide feedback on denied applications.



Application Requirements for Class of 2016 (Entering Fall 2014)

Qualification Required Description

Undergraduate Degree


  • The equivalent of a US bachelor's degree is required.
  • Degrees from international universities offering only 3-year baccalaureate degrees are valid equivalents.
    • Britain: British patterned education – bachelor’s degree with honors.
    • France: Maitrise from university or completion of three-year diplome d’ingenieur from grandes écoles. Note: the gradue (graduate certificate) does not meet the minimum requirement. Three-year Bologna compliant bachelor’s degree accepted.
    • Germany: The Diplom, Magister Artium (M.A.) or Staatsexamen. Three-year Bologna compliant bachelor’s degree accepted.
    • Russian republics: University diploma requiring four years of study. Three-year Bologna compliant bachelor’s degree accepted (requires the Diploma Supplement issued in accordance with the Bologna Declaration).
    • Other European countries: University degree requiring four years of study.
    • Middle East: University degree requiring four years of study.
    • Africa: Three-year bachelor's degree from university systems based on the British or French model. Four-year bachelor's degree from all others.
    • Canada: Three-year bachelor’s degree from Quebec, four-year bachelor’s degree from other provinces.
    • Latin America: University degree requiring four years of study.
    • Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan: Bachelor’s degree in engineering or medicine; master’s degree in all other fields.
    • India: The two-year master’s degree following the three-year bachelor’s degree is preferred but not required.
    • Philippines: Four-year bachelor’s degree.
    • Other Asian countries: University degree requiring four years of study.

Work Experience


  • There is no minimum work experience required for entry to the Stanford MBA Program, nor is there a maximum.
  • College seniors and recent college graduates are encouraged to apply, as are those with all levels of work experience.



  • The GMAT is required, but we accept the GRE as an alternative.
  • We do not accept the LSAT, MCAT, or other tests.
  • Learn more about the GMAT and GRE:

» Minimum


  • There is no minimum GMAT/GRE score required for graduate study at Stanford University.
  • Admitted candidates typically have performed well.


Yes, if...

  • If you have an undergraduate or graduate degree from a college or university where instruction is provided in a language other than English, you must submit results of the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE.
  • You must take the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE even if some classes were taught in English.
  • Applies even if you're a native English speaker who attended a non-English language instruction college/university.
  • Is your TOEFL-IELTS-PTE still valid? Check the TOEFL-IELTS-PTE Calculator
  • Learn more about the TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE:

» Minimum TOEFL-IELTS-PTE Score


  • The minimum TOEFL score for graduate study at Stanford University is:
    • 250 for the computer-based test (CBT)
    • 100 for the internet-based test (iBT)
    • 600 for the paper-based test (PBT)
  • The minimum IELTS overall band score for study at the Stanford MBA Program is 7.0.
  • The minimum PTE overall score for study at the Stanford MBA Program is 68.

» Educational History


  • Complete educational history is required, starting with secondary school (high school).
  • List colleges/universities attended, including grade point average (GPA) by degree, majors, degree(s) received, and date of degree conferral.

» Academic Record


  • There is no recommended curriculum for undergraduate study (e.g. no preferred major/field of study), but we expect you to challenge yourself throughout your academic career and to do well.
  • If you have earned academic honors, we give you the opportunity to list them in the application.
  • Many applicants worry that we may not know that lower grades in one concentration (or university; or, for international students, educational system) may be equivalent to the strongest at another. We do.
  • But remember, it is not a grade point average (or rank in class, or actual grade) that is of greatest importance. By focusing on your achievements within context, we evaluate how you have excelled within your individual academic environment and how you have taken advantage of what was available to you in your school and community.

» Minimum GPA


  • No minimum GPA required for admission to the Stanford MBA Program.

» Unofficial Transcript


  • Unofficial transcript, scanned (preferably) or self-reported, is required for your application
  • Follow detailed steps for how to submit transcripts

» Official Transcript

Only if we notify you

  • We request an official transcript only after admission, and will notify you.
  • If obtaining an official transcript from your undergraduate institution will be difficult, you may request to have one sent to the MBA Admissions Office when you are invited to interview.

» Language Requirement


  • If you speak foreign languages (excluding English) you may list them in your application.

» Activities


  • If you have participated in activities outside of class, list them in your application.

» Employment History

Yes, except for college

  • Describe your full-time and part-time employment, including your core responsibilities, your most significant challenges, your greatest accomplishments, and reason for leaving (if applicable).

» Resume


  • Upload a current resume (1 page preferred, 2 page maximum).
  • Follow the instructions in your online application.

» Letters of Reference


» Letters of Reference: Online Submission


  • Your recommenders must submit Letters of Reference online.
  • Follow the instructions in your application.

» Essays


» Interviews


» Application Fee


  • The non-refundable application fee is $265
  • Fee waivers are granted only to university/college seniors who receive need-based financial aid.
  • No other fee waivers are granted.

» Extra Pages &
Additional Information


  • Extra pages or additional information can be uploaded to the Additional Information section of the online application.
  • Limit submissions to materials relevant to your application.
Supplemental Materials No
  • Do not email, fax, or mail supplemental application materials to our office.
  • We will not match CDs, DVDs, books, photos, etc. to your application.
  • If you must correspond with our office about your online application, include your AYID number from your online application.

» Apply Online


  • You must submit your application and supplemental materials (if any) online.





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Link highlights


The Stanford Weekly

Published by Vince Ricci



Stanford GSB Class of 2013

  • I really liked Vince's SOS because it gave me new perspectives and objective opinions. It was not "double-checking" but rather "completing".

  • Vince's essay counseling helped me not only with constructive feedback on important aspects of essays, like whether AdCom believe essays and care about them, but also the decision-making criteria to finalize the essays.

  • I received Vince's SOS service on my essays and interview trainings for Stanford GSB. When I contacted him, I had already spent a few months on this essay with a few other consultants, but his SOS gave me totally new perspectives and supported me not only technically (the contents, English expression, the structure), but also mentally.

  • His SOS and interview training were definitely critical to my success; in the end, I gained admissions to Stanford GSB.


1. Analysis and Practical advice

  • Since he has extensive experience of getting applicants into top business schools in the past, he knows this unclear admission process quite well. Since each school has different policies and tastes, this analysis based on successful  experience are quite critical, especially when applying to multiple schools. As one example of technical and objective helps, he suggested to delete some parts, which I believed sort of "necessary" to put in the essays. However, thanks to his practical advice, I could avoid redundancy and save word counts. Besides, he made some practical suggestions on my English expressions and the structure. In terms of one critical perspective to see essays, "Do I believe?", he pointed out how I can make my essays more believable.


2. Professionalism and Flexibility

  • Firstly, I was not sure about SOS. That sort of service without long-term commitment could be a waste of money because such SOS consultants could just "review" the application and make some comments. However, he was highly committed to giving this second opinion services. He not only gave comprehensive review on my essays during the one-hour feedback session, but also added constructive  opinions to my final essays even after SOS, although I used up the whole one-hour feedback session. As you can see his SOS Terms and Conditions, he did not have to give additional reviews on my essays. This demonstrates how result-oriented he is. Overall, from my experience of having his SOS and interview, he can become not only flexible to adjust his style to clients' needs, but also proactive to lead clients to the success.


3. A True Partner

  • Most importantly, the greatest advice he gave me was to be really as honest to myself just as I would be able to show my final version to my future children with. This word helped me to avoid writing someone's value and gave me the courage to show my real feeling from my heart in the essay at the end of last minute of the application due date. Finally, to future applicants. Applying to MBA is a long process; thus, I would like suggest future applicants to meet as various MBA admission consultants as possible. Some have a track record and network, while the other are capable of rewriting or modifying essays. Among them, I found Vince the result-oriented professional with strong analytical skills, wide network, and successful track record, and a true partner for applicants.


Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA Class of 2006

Most MBA applicants are looking for admissions counselors with deep knowledge and experience. Of course, those issues are important but what mattered most to me when I was looking for my "partner" was trust. I needed to confirm that we could work together as a team to struggle together for half a year and win at the end.

I was so lucky to get acquainted with Vince in my MBA preparation and now I truly believe that without him, I would not have received an admission offer from Stanford GSB. Many thanks!

知識と経験 こそ、多くのアプリカントがアドミッションカウンセラーに対して期待していることだと思いますが、私の場合は、それ以上に重視したことは、「そ のカウンセラーと、しっかりとした信頼関係を築くことができるか」ということ。半年にも及ぶアプリケーションの準備期間を一緒に戦っていくわけですから、 お互いの信頼なしでは、それを乗り切ることは出来ません。その意味では、自分の場合はVinceに出会えて本当にラッキーでしたし、彼がいなければ、自分 が Stanford GSBに合格することもなかったでしょう。いろいろと、ありがとう!


- Updated by Vince on 11 Mar 2016

  • I have been a full-time international graduate admissions consultant since 2002

  • Based in Tokyo, Japan, I help clients around the world 

  • In 2007, I launched VincePrep because I wanted to help the best candidates aiming for the top schools

  • To share my insights with a talented team, I rejoined Agos as Consulting Director in 2014 

  • Now, I lead 10 professionals who deliver Japan’s best graduate admissions results

  • I also serve as president-elect of The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC)

  • Given my ongoing professional and personal commitments, I accept very few clients

  • Usually, I refer prospects to one of my highly-experienced and successful colleagues   

  • If interested, please complete this intake form

  • Meanwhile, please explore my YouTube channel, and be sure to subscribe for the latest updates

  • Thank you for your interest, and best wishes for your success!



Vince's clients
admitted since 2007
Kellogg  24
Stanford 1
Tuck  8
Wharton  26

+8 Fulbright Scholars

Full list here




"You encouraged me to be genuine, and helped me find the right, true stories that captured who I am. In this way, you offer applicants not only an effective admissions advisory, but also a unique journey of self discovery and empowering dreams."

Harvard Business School Class of 2015, with Fulbright Scholarship (also admitted Stanford GSB)


"First, you limit the number of your clients so that you can maintain the high quality of your services while many other MBA consultants accept clients almost beyond their capacity. Second, you are really great 'catalyst.' Each question you asked me made me think and thus deepened my stories. Thanks to you, I was able to come up with excellent ideas that I could never come up with alone."

Kellogg Class of 2015 (also admitted Berkeley Haas)


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