Get to Know: Stanford GSB

Stanford GSB has the lawest acceptance rate of any business school in the U.S., and it’s no surprise. Who wouldn’t want to attend an elite, cozy MBA program in the heart of Silicon Valley? Still, we’re often disappointed by how little these applicants actually know about Stanford before they apply. We always urge these applicants to go back and do their homework a bit more before they begin the application process.

Are you thinking about applying to Stanford? Here are five things that make it unique among top-ranked MBA programs:

This is big at this school — so much so, that the GSB is engraving it into the cornerstone of the new Knight Center, which is dedicated to “the things that haven’t happened yet and the people who are about to dream them up. ” The focus on innovation is evident in courses such as Contemporary Economic Policy, for example, the content of which changes, as its name suggests, based on the real world; in the past year, topics included the financial crisis, bailouts, and healthcare.

Class Size
At under 400 students in each graduating class, Stanford is among the smallest of the top business schools in the world — and this makes for a very different experience for the student. While there are advantages in a large class in terms of the vast global alumni network, a smaller class undoubtedly helps students foster closer relationships — not just with each other, but with the faculty, too.

Silicon Valley
Venture capital has its origins on Sand Hill Road, where Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital got their start in the ‘70s — and which runs along the border of the Stanford University campus. The GSB is in the heart of Silicon Valley, and this proximity makes the school a natural incubator for great ideas. And, it means that the quality of guest speakers is phenomenal. It is not uncommon to see the likes of Steve Ballmer (Microsoft) and the founder of Siebel (Pat House) and the CEO of Skype (Josh Silverman) in the classroom — in the same week. This close proximity to so many startups also means that it’s fairly easy for students to set up independent projects and more informal school-year internships than would be possible at other schools.

Sustainability and Social Innovation
Given its mantra to “change the world” it makes sense that Stanford wants to attract students who will do just that. Stanford is a leader of its business school peers in the areas of sustainable business and social ventures, both for-profit and non-profit.

International Exposure
Stanford has a similar mix of U.S. and international students to other top schools. However, unique to Stanford is the Global Experience Requirement, whereby every student must undertake a project overseas, in a country where they have never spent significant time, in order to broaden their understanding of global issues from a management perspective. (Only Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business has a similar requirement.) Because Stanford students are encouraged to fulfill their GER in the first year of studies, the entire GSB community benefits when they return to campus and share their experiences with their classmates and professors. Stanford was one of the first graduate business programs to focus on the international aspects of business.

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