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Stanford vs. Harvard – Which is better for an MBA?

Stanford vs. Harvard – Which is better for an MBA?
A 13 min read

Many believe that Harvard is the place for those who want to climb a traditional corporate ladder, whereas Stanford is the place for those who want to do a start-up. In fact, 17% of Harvard’s MBA class 2019 joined a start-up as compared to 15% at Stanford. In terms of prestige and status, both schools rank high. Thus, many people who apply to Stanford also apply to Harvard and vice versa. This article highlights various parameters to analyze Stanford vs. Harvard.



Unlike Stanford, which follows the German model of a research university, Harvard is inspired by the European university model. And that not it. There are many points of differentiation between the two. Here are the parameters to analyze Stanford vs. Harvard:

Stanford vs. Harvard: Location and class profile

Stanford and Harvard are both top universities in American, located on the West and East coast of the united states, respectively.

Stanford University is in the heart of “Silicon Valley,” home to Google, Hp, Yahoo!, and many others. It’s located between San Jose and San Francisco. The campus is about 8,180-acres with the Pacific Ocean and Santa Cruz Mountains to the west, and San Francisco bay to the east. 11,000+ students live on campus, and biking is a popular way to get around. There are free campus shuttle and car-share available too.

Harvard University is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a colorful, multicultural city just across the Charles River from Boston. Cambridge hosts two of the world’s premier educational institutions – Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, making it a center of academics and higher learning. The campus is about 5,083 acres and occupies several locations in Cambridge, such as Harvard Yard and Harvard Square (a popular area filled with bookstores, restaurants, cafes, and stores).

Class 2021 Profile Full-Time MBA



The table below represents Stanford vs. Harvard Class of 2021 profile:

Stanford vs. Harvard Stanford Harvard
Class Size 417 938
Female 47% 43%
Average GMAT 734 730
GMAT Range 600-790 590-800
Average Work experience 4.6 4.7
Average GPA 3.7 3.70
International Students 43% 37%

Harvard’s class size of 938 is quite large as compared to Stanford, which is 417 for a full-time MBA program. Similarly, the average GMAT score for Stanford (734) is slightly high as compared to Harvard (730), with an average GPA of 3.7 for both the business schools. The percentage of international students at Stanford vs. Harvard is 43% and 37%, respectively.

Know what a good GMAT score for Stanford and Harvard.

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Stanford vs. Harvard: Placement and Internship Opportunities

Both schools offer personalized/customized career plan for its students.

placement-and-internship-at stanford-and harvard

Stanford Career Management Center (CMC) provides relevant connections, educational resources, and one-on-one advising at every stage of the student’s career. There are three stages – Explore, prepare, and launch. Even after a student graduates, they can continue to have access to Harvard’s job board, programs with alumni, and career advising.

Similarly, Harvard’s career and professional development center provide personalized career resources to help students make an impact over the course of their life. Through the HBS MBA program, the career center holds various activities, events, and coaching. Also, Harvard provides four free career coaching sessions each year for life to its students.

Placement Statistics – Employment reports

95% of HBS MBA students and 94% of Stanford MBA students received offers for full-time employment within three months of graduation. The median base salary for Stanford vs. Harvard is $150,000 and $148,750, respectively, with a median signing bonus of $25,000 for Stanford and $30,000 for Harvard.

The majority of Stanford graduates in 2019 are working in the Consultancy function (35%), followed by Finance (31%), and Marketing/Sales (18%). On the other hand, a higher number of Harvard 2019 graduates 2 ended up in Finance (29%), followed by Consulting (22%), and General Management (16%).

The table below represents the placement statistic for Stanford vs. Harvard:

Employment reports – Placement Statistics – class of2019
Stanford vs. Harvard Stanford Harvard
Job offers within three months of graduation 94% 95%
Median Base Salary $150,000 $148,750
Mean Sign-on Bonus $25,000 $30,000
Placement Statistics by major Functions
Consulting 35% 22%
Business Development N/A 9%
Finance 31% 29%
General Management 9% 16%
Marketing 18% 13%
Strategic Planning N/A 6%
Operations/Logistics 1% N/A
Other 5% 4%

Note: Data from Stanford and Harvard Employment report 2019.

Learn more about Stanford and Harvard Class Profile, Admissions, Placement report, and Notable Alumni.


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Internship Statistics

The average monthly salary for Stanford vs. Harvard Summer internship is $ 7,477 and $5,633, respectively, for the Class of 2020.

37% of Stanford MBA interns are in the Consultancy function, followed by Finance (29%) and Marketing (23%), whereas 32% of Harvard interns are in the finance function, followed by Consultancy (16%), and Marketing (14%).

Have a look at the Summer Internship Statistics Class of 2020 for Stanford vs. Harvard:

Summer Internship Statistics for Class 2020
Stanford vs. Harvard Stanford Harvard
Average Monthly Median Base Salary $7,477 $5,633
Internship Statistics by major Functions
Consulting 37% 16%
Finance 29% 32%
Business Development N/A 12%
General Management 3% 9%
Marketing 23% 14%
Strategic Planning N/A 11%
Human Resource <1 N/A
Operations/Logistics 2% N/A
Others 7% 5%

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

Stanford vs. Harvard: Rankings


Stanford has an advantage when it comes to ranking. Both schools have few points of difference on various ranking lists. For example, QS World University ranks Stanford #1 and Harvard #5 for the best business schools in 2020.

If you see historically, Stanford has increased its ranking each year for every ranking list mentioned in the table below. In US News ranking for best business school (MBA), Stanford has moved from fourth to the second rank, from 2018 to 2020, respectively. Similarly, Blomberg BusinessWeek MBA ranking shows that Stanford has moved from fifth to the first position between 2017 – 2019.

The only ranking list where Harvard beats Stanford is The Economist. For 2019, Harvard ranks #2, whereas Stanford is in 8th position. It’s interesting to see that both schools have maintained their ranks and have always made it to the top 10 business schools ranking list.

According to the Bloomberg 2019 ranking, Stanford ranks #1 versus rank of #3 for Harvard. Also, from the table below, we can say that Harvard has increased its ranking on The Economist and FT, i.e., from 3rd to 2nd position and from 4th to 2nd position, respectively.

The global ranking list for Stanford vs. Harvard from the year 2017 – 2019:

Stanford vs. Harvard – Global Ranking Lists
Year Stanford Harvard
QS World University Ranking
2020 1 5
2019 1 2
2018 4 1
US News Ranking
2020 2 3
2019 2 3
2018 4 1
Bloomberg (Only US)
2019 1 3
2018 1 3
2017 5 1
The Economist
2019 8 2
2018 5 3
2017 5 3
FT Ranking
2019 1 2
2018 1 5
2017 2 4


Stanford vs. Harvard: MBA Program Focus

Both schools have a two-year residential MBA program that focuses on general management. According to US News, Stanford ranks number two in management, while Harvard ranks number one.

Both the schools are battling towards becoming number one in entrepreneurship with Stanford ranking at #2 and Harvard at #4.

More than 60 different courses related to innovation and entrepreneurship are offered to Stanford GSB students, whereas, at Harvard, one in four electives has an entrepreneurship focus. Harvard has approximately thirty-nine faculty members who teach entrepreneurship verses, 15 faculty members, at Stanford.

According to Harvard’s website, there are 32 courses on entrepreneurship management, with 50% of HBS grads creating at least one venture. Also, 17% of the HBS MBA batch 2019 joined a start-up. On the other hand, 15% of Stanford’s batch 2019 is starting a new venture.

Both schools rank #6 in marketing, but Finance at Harvard ranks #7, after Stanford. Harvard gets an edge over Stanford in Non-profit specialty. For Non-profit, Stanford ranks #4 and Harvard ranks #2. On the other hand, Stanford beats Harvard in Production/ Operations specialty with Stanford at #3 and Harvard ranking at #11, according to US News.

Stanford vs. Harvard: MBA Program and Curriculum

As compared to other business schools like Booth, Kellogg, NYU, etc., Stanford and Harvard students cannot waive their classes. Therefore if a student can prove a certain level of proficiency, he/she cannot test out of classes making the curriculum at Stanford and Harvard is not fully flexible.

mba- program-and-curriculum-stanford-vs-harvard

Each student must take up the same classes, which can be beneficial as it creates a common language and discussion among the classmates.

Moreover, Stanford offers various personalized experiences than Harvard, where students can tailor their MBA experience through social innovation opportunities, leadership experiences, communication programs, and many more.

Both schools offer a joint degree program where credit from a single course may count towards both the degrees. Stanford joint degree programs include MA in Education/MBA, MS in Electrical Engineering/MBA, and MS in Environment and Resources/MBA. In contrast, Harvard offers joint degree from Harvard law school, dental medicine, engineering, arts, and science, etc.

Stanford GSB Full-Time MBA

Stanford MBA program is a two-year residential course. The first-year curriculum focuses on building a student’s general management knowledge and gain global exposure. It consists of core courses with potential room for one to two electives, where students can solve complex managerial issues with a series of classes.

Some of the core courses include ethics in management, finance, leadership labs, optimization and simulation modeling, macroeconomics, marketing, human resource management, and many more.

The second-year at Stanford offers the students to tailor their experience through electives, dual degrees, seminars, and courses at other Stanford schools. As per Stanford’s curriculum website, students in the second year will likely be taking all electives. The courses offered can help students to broaden their perspective and experience, strengthen their areas of development, and ensure a well-rounded general management education.

Some of the Elective topics include accounting, finance, leadership, political economics, strategic management, operations, human resource, and many more.

Stanford also offers compressed courses where the student takes a series of two-week classes to build in-depth knowledge in specific business topics. Students can also take Stanford courses outside Stanford GSB and apply 12 class units towards their MBA program. The areas where students can pursue particular experience and knowledge are – arts, health care, public policy, manufacturing, energy, design, and many more.

Want to get into Stanford? Read our article on How to get into the Stanford MBA program.

Harvard Business School Full-Time MBA

Harvard MBA program is a two-year course which includes a range of exciting courses, where the goal is to give students a firm grasp of broad-based fundamentals. There are two semesters – fall and spring.

The year begins with leadership activities and small team projects where all students pursue the same course of study. The required curriculum includes courses in Finance, leadership, and organizational behavior (LEAD), marketing, technology, interpersonal skills, FIELD Global Immersion, strategy, and many more.

The second-year at Harvard focuses on the selection of elective courses that will help in building the concepts developed in the required curriculum.

Students are required to take up to five courses per semester in any combination from the pool of over 100 courses. Harvard also offers cross-registration for courses in other select graduates’ program – MIT, Harvard graduate school, and the Fletcher school of law and diplomacy.

During the end of the MBA program, students also have an opportunity to participate in the Immersive Field Course (IFC), where the majority of content consists of an on-the-ground assignment.

Want to get into Harvard? Read our article where we provide 7 steps to get into the Harvard MBA Program.

Stanford vs. Harvard: Teaching Method, Experiential Learning, and Global Opportunities

Harvard teaching method is more focused on the Case method and field method (FIELD), whereas Stanford employs a mixture of lectures and case methods.

Been a pioneer in the case method, Harvard explains how this method puts students in the role of the decision-maker on their website. They describe it as a dynamic process of exchanging perspectives, building on each other’s ideas, and countering and defending points, where students become adept at analyzing issues, making decisions, and exercising judgment.

Harvard faculty produces approximately 350 new cases per year and over 80% of cases throughout the world. Class participation is also one of the significant components of the HBS learning model, and 50% of a student’s grade in many courses is based on the quality of class participation. Students participate in more than 500 case discussions during their time in HBS.

The Field Immersion Experience for leadership development (FIELD) is a year-long course that gives first-year students meaningful and numerous opportunities to act as leaders and translate their ideas into practice.

Apart from this, Harvard also has the Section Experience where students get assigned to a specific section (a group of 90 diverse students) with which they will complete the required curriculum.

On the other hand, Students at Stanford learn by participating in group projects, simulations, and role-playing scenarios in addition to the case method. It also hosts seminars that involve a group of 10 students reporting and discussing what they have learned about the topic based on their research.

Stanford also offers a Social entrepreneurship and Impact fund program for experiential learning. For the former, students work with Stanford coaches, faculty, and expert advisors to develop their social venture idea and learn how to turn it into reality after graduation. For the latter, students work to identify organizations that face challenges and helps them to gain familiarity with day-to-day activities.

Global Opportunities

Stanford focuses on building a global mindset by offering global management immersion experience, seminars, study trips, exchange programs, and self-directed experiences (creating your own global internship). All Stanford MBA students have to participate in it. On the other hand, Harvard offers Immersive Field Courses (IFC), which are field-based electives for second-year MBA students to apply their learning in countries around the world. In the last nine years, HBS MBA students have participated in 41 IFC courses and traveled to 15 countries.

Stanford vs. Harvard: Admissions Process and Cost of Attendance


Both schools follow a similar admissions process where the candidate submits an online application form, after which shortlisted candidates go for an interview. Harvard has an additional step required after the interview, where within 24 hours of the HBS interview, candidates submit a written reflection online.

The online application for both schools requires two letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, GMAT/GRE scores, essay, resume, personal information, and application fee.

Here are some tips for writing Stanford and Harvard MBA Essay Questions 2020.

The application fee for Stanford is $275, and Harvard is $250. Also, the total estimated cost of attendance for Stanford is $115,917 and $110,740 for Harvard.

The table presents the cost of attendance for Stanford vs. Harvard:

Cost of Attendance
Stanford vs. Harvard Cost Stanford Harvard
Tuition $73,062 $73,440
Living Allowance 32,712 15,904
Books and Supplies 1,671 N/A
Materials and program fee 1,191 2,550
Transportation 1,017 N/A
Medical Insurance 5,592 3,700
Health Fee 672 1,206
Room and utilities N/A 13,940
Total $115,917 $110,740

Note: Stanford Cost of Attendance is for the first-year students in the academic year (13 Sep 2019 – 12 Jun 2020), whereas Harvard cost of attendance is for a 9-months academic year for a single person.

Learn more about the total MBA cost and Tips to make your MBA pocket-friendly in 2020.

Application Deadline for Stanford vs. Harvard

Application deadline for Stanford vs. Harvard
Number of Rounds Stanford Harvard
Round 1 12 Sep 2019 04 Sep 2019
Round 2 09 Jan 2020 06 Jan 2020
Round 3 08 April 2020 N/A
Decision Released
Round 1 12 Dec 2019 06 Jan 2020
Round 2 02 April 2020 31 Mar 2020
Round 3 21 May 2020 N/A

Note: Data from Stanford and Harvard official site

Check out the last date to apply to top business schools in 2019 -2020.

Stanford vs. Harvard: Alumni Network


Harvard alumni network is bigger than Stanford’s. Harvard claims to have more than 47,000 MBAs, whereas Stanford claims to have more than 30,000 MBAs alumni. Also, 40,000 HBS alumni have mentioned in their directory listing that they are available and willing to help students by assisting with job searches and career advice. Similarly, Stanford GSB also provides numerous opportunities for alumni to connect with the school’s students through mentorship programs.

Alumni events at Harvard are both social (dinners, happy hours, sporting events, etc.) and professional (seminars, discussions, etc.). Similarly, Stanford sponsors one alumni dinner per quarter with a cap at 20 attendees to foster better interaction between alumni and students.

Bloomberg survey 2019, where MBA grads rate the power of their alumni network, Stanford GSB  was ranked #1 with a score of 100/100. Harvard Alumni ratings are not far behind with a score of 98/100, rank #2.

Thus, the alumni network at both schools is strong, and you can’t go wrong by being part of either the Stanford or Harvard Alumni network.

Stanford vs. Harvard: Scholarship Programs

To help students fund their MBA, Stanford offers a combination of student loans and fellowship awards to U.S. Citizens/ Permanent residents and international students. The average fellowship is approximately $35,000 per year or $70,000 in total awards.

Stanford calculates an expected student contribution (a portion of student’s income and assets to fund their MBA) based on their financial situation. A combination of loans and fellowships then covers the gap between the expected student contribution and the cost of attendance.

On the other hand, Harvard also offers financial aid throughout a student’s time starting with Tuition assistance, to Summer Fellowships, to Career support and Exploration:

    • Tuition Assistance: Need-based Scholarships, student loans, and fellowships to meet the cost of attending school
    • Summer Fellowships: Financial support for summer internship opportunities between first and second year
    • Career Support and Exploration: Financial assistance such as loan reduction and repayment for students after graduation

Over the past two years, the average need-based scholarship awarded to HBS students is $80K.

Learn about various MBA scholarships available for Indian and International Students.

Stanford vs. Harvard: Facilities

When it comes to facilities, both schools are at par. The Knight management center at Stanford, which opened in 2011, consists of eight environmentally-friendly buildings and three quadrangular courtyards. It has 11 tiered classrooms that have three screens and cameras for computer presentations. Apart from that, the Business Library at Stanford is open for all members of the Stanford community.

Harvard’s MBA campus consists of several buildings that are close to most other Harvard schools with shopping and dining options. Harvard MBA campus has 19 classrooms that are fully equipped to provide faculty presentation requirements.

There are various amenities available for students at Stanford GSB and Harvard Business school. Stanford amenities include cafes, meeting places, studios, and many more, which is quite similar to Harvard.

Do you aspire to get an admit into Stanford or Harvard MBA program? Take the first step towards your dream university by starting your GMAT Preparation with our free trial today and get access to quality online content on GMAT.

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