The MBA Aspirant’s Dream Choice: Harvard or Stanford 

Both Harvard Business School (HBS) and the Stanford Graduate School of Business are two of the most coveted B schools in the world. Both colleges have managed to stay on the top of the list in most rankings. What makes them the most sought-after places to take an MBA?

Harvard Business School has existed for more than a hundred years, while the Stanford Graduate School of Business was founded ninety-five years ago.

A popular belief is that Harvard is the ideal school for those who want to pursue a career in corporate growth, and Stanford is meant for those who wish to go for their start-ups. But that may just be a belief. 

Some others say that HBS is a place for the studious minded while Stanford allows for more mingling of their students.

This belief may have stemmed from the fact that Stanford once had half the class size of Harvard, but this is no longer true. Stanford admitted 848 students for its 2019 program. Harvard has reduced its class size from 930 the previous year to 720 in the current year. 

What then, is the reality, and how do the two B-schools differ? 

Where are they located? 

Both colleges are located on different coastlines. 

Harvard University is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a colourful, multicultural city just across the Charles River from Boston.

Stanford is in Silicon Valley, located between San Jose and San Francisco. 

Selection criteria: 

Both B-schools accept GMAT or GRE scores. Though there is no official confirmation, the average GMAT score accepted for HBS and Stanford is 730 and 737. Expected GPA of 3.67 for HBS and 3.72 for Stanford.

students from non- English-speaking countries will need a TOEFL score of 109 or more on the IBT or a score above 75 on the PTE; or, an IELTS score above 7.5. / PTE score above 75. 

Test  Harvard  Stanford 
GMAT  730 (range of 590 to 800) 737 (range of 600 to 790)
GRE 328 329
TOEFL IBT 109 100
TOEFL PBT 109 100
IELTS 7.5 7.5
GPA 3.67 3.72
PTE 75 75

What candidate profiles are suitable?

Both colleges look for good academics and a unique profile. Students who have displayed good leadership acumen and can demonstrate how they think on their feet stand a good chance.

Many students who have shown how individualistic they are have made it to the programs, rather than those who fit into a mould. They look for diversity and intellectual exuberance, with integrity and a willingness to learn. 

Although neither B-school specifies work experience as an admission criterion, those who have worked for over four years stand a fair chance at conversion.

At least 25% of admissions at Harvard are believed to have come from top management consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain, BCG, etc. 

Both colleges ask you to submit essays. Essays that are written honestly and innovatively pass the admission channel. The resume should manifest originality or it will not go through. 

Students with under graduation in technical courses may be preferred at HBS, but students with humanities background make it here too. 

Harvard has a 43% ratio of girls while Stanford has 47%. The international mix at Harvard is 37% and Stanford is 43%. 

The fee structure:

The tuition fees at both colleges range from $73,000 to $74,000 per annum. But this does not factor other expenses. Add living expenses to this to get a picture of the funds required.

Both B-schools offer scholarships. One needs to tap the right channels to earn funding.   

The course structure:

Both B-schools have a two-year residential MBA program.

Neither HBS nor Stanford allows students to waive off lectures, and class attendance is mandatory. 


HBS has a wide variety of courses, but the same syllabus is offered for all the first years.  

The second year allows for choosing electives. The teaching is primarily focused on case studies, giving students exposure to more than 500 cases. 

Winter sessions are based on internships where students experience real-life experience through the Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD), working in groups with their classmates in the real world, getting to learn practically whatever they have studied in classrooms.   


One finds diversity in Stanford’s teaching methods. The curriculum at Stanford is based on a quarterly system and is highly personalized. 

Students get eight courses of a foundation in General Management Perspective and eleven courses of General Management Foundation besides a global experience during their first year.   

The Stanford curriculum comes in a combination of case studies with lectures, team projects, and role-playing.

Course rankings

US News ranks Stanford at number two in management, while Harvard ranks number one.

Both the schools are neck-in-neck for the top spot in entrepreneurship with Stanford ranked number two and Harvard number five.

Over sixty different courses related to innovation and entrepreneurship are offered at Stanford, while Harvard has one in four electives on entrepreneurship. Over thirty-nine faculty members teach entrepreneurship courses at Harvard and fifteen teach the same at Stanford.

Harvard offers thirty-two courses on entrepreneurship management. Half of HBS graduates start at least one venture. 

Harvard is ranked eight and Stanford stands at number four in marketing.

Harvard ranks number seven in Finance after Stanford. 

Harvard gets an edge over Stanford in Non-profit specialty. Stanford ranks number three and Harvard is at number two. 

Stanford is ranked number nine in Production/ Operations specialty.


US News ranking Harvard Stanford
Management 1 2
Entrepreneurship 5 2
Marketing 8 4
Non-profit 2 3
Finance   6
Information systems NA 6
Supply chain logistics NA 9
Business Analytics NA 6
Production Operations NA 4
Project Management NA 2
International 2 NA

Placements and Internships:

Both HBS and Stanford students get fairly customised career plans. Harvard graduates continue to access the B-school’s job board, career counselling, and alumni programs well after they have graduated.

HBS career centre is a host of activities, events, and coaching to provide personalised career counselling free for their graduates four times a year. 

The Stanford Career Management Centre offers pertinent channels and resources for one-to-one counselling at every stage of the graduate’s career path. 

For the class of 2019: 


Placement Statistics 

Employment reports Harvard  Stanford 
Job offers within three months of graduation 95% 94%
Median Base Salary $148,750 $150,000
Mean Sign-on Bonus $30,000 $25,000

Major Functions Harvard  Stanford 
Consulting 22% 35%
Business Development 9% N/A
Finance 29% 31%
General Management 16% 9%
Marketing 13% 18%
Strategic Planning 6% N/A
Operations/Logistics N/A 1%
Other 4% 5%

Internship Statistics

Summer Internship Statistics  Harvard  Stanford 
Average Monthly Median Base Salary $5,633 $7,477

Internship Statistics by major functions

Major functions Harvard Stanford
Consulting 16% 37%
Finance 32% 29%
Business Development 12% N/A
General Management 9% 3%
Marketing 14% 23%
Strategic Planning 11% N/A
Human Resource N/A <1
Operations/Logistics N/A 2%
Others 5% 7%

Source: Data from Stanford and Harvard Internship report for Class 2020.Rankings: 

Both HBS and Stanford have stayed on top of the table on the rankings tabled by several authorities for many years in a row. 

Global Ranking Lists:

QS World University Rankings is an annual publication of university rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds.

QS World University Rankings Harvard  Stanford 
2020 5 1
2019 2 1
2018 1 4

US News Ranking Harvard  Stanford 
2020 3 2
2019 3 2
2018 1 4


Bloomberg (Only US) Harvard  Stanford 
2020 3 1
2019 3 1
2018 1 5

The Economist Harvard  Stanford 
2020 2 8
2019 3 5
2018 3 5

F T Ranking Harvard  Stanford 
2020 1 3
2019 2 1
2018 4 2

Harvard or Stanford, final word? 

If students pursuing an MBA were to convert either B-school, they ought to consider themselves extremely fortunate to get admission in one of the institutes.

Both B-schools have carved their niches and continue to stay on top of the table in several ranking parameters. Only a select few manage a seat in either of the prestigious institutions, a dream destination of many an MBA aspirant. 

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