QUIZ: Are You Smart Enough To Get Into Stanford Business School?

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Stanford Business School is one of the most selective in the nation.Do you have what it takes to get accepted?

In an interview with PoetsAndQuants.com, Derrick Bolton, Stanford’s head of admissions, says just how competitive the process is. The 390 member class of 2011 was chosen from a pool of 7,546 applicants.  That’s 18 applicants for every seat. 

Do you have what it takes to snag one of the 390 slots? If you come up short on even one of these questions, you’ll probably get the axe.

Stanford accepts the most incoming students from which field?

A. Private Equity

B. Consulting

C. Law Firms


Answer A: Private equity

Private equity and finance professionals broadly make up the majority of Stanford's incoming class. Former private equity professionals make up 24%, consulting is 20%, and there are 260 to 270 companies represented in the class of 390 students.

'It's a pretty broad mix. There are very few companies that send us more than a handful of students,' says Bolton.

NGOs have decent acceptance numbers too. 'There is the Clinton Global Initiative, where you have significant numbers, and then of course, Teach for America and all the international variants of that,' he says.

You open up the envelope that reveals your long-awaited GMAT scores. You need what score to match the 2011 Stanford MBA class average?

A. 683

B. 710

C. 726

D. 789

Answer C: 726

The average GMAT score for the class of 2011 is 726 out of 800, the highest of any school in the world by seven points.

Harvard trails that average in second place.

True or false: Stanford accepts younger applicants than most other MBA programs.

A. True

B. False

Answer B: False, Stanford accepts students of all ages equally

Which is more important to Stanford: Total GMAT scores or section scores?

A. Total score

B. Section scores

Answer B: Section scores are more important

Says Bolton, 'We don't look at total scores. We look at quant and verbal, and we look at those in context with academic record and professional experience. There will be different levels of importance with different candidates.'

The lowest GMAT score ever accepted at Stanford falls under which range?

A. 500-550

B. 551-599

C. 600-650

D. 651-700

Answer A: Scores between 500-550 are the lowest ever accepted

According to Bolton, the lowest score ever accepted was between 530 or 540, and possibly even as low as 520.

A student with a GMAT score of 580 was admitted to Stanford's program this year.

How many essays are you required to write for Stanford?

A. 1

B. 2

C. 3

D. 4

Answer C: 3

Three essays are required for the 2013 class applications.

The final essay is comprised of two questions, but there are three main essays to write in total.

When writing your Stanford essays, you SHOULD:

A. Write a minimum of 1,800 words

B. Google previously accepted essays for inspiration

C. Write about something authentic over something interesting

D. Spend a ton of time packaging your essays

Answer C: You should write about something authentic over something interesting

On Harvard's site, the administration lists three essay tips: Be authentic, think cardinal (i.e. why Stanford), and get to the point.

'They shouldn't write things that they think we want to hear,' says Bolton. 'They shouldn't write things that are untrue, or things that are overly packaged.'

There is actually a maximum of 1800 words you can write spread out over all three essays. They recommend splitting up the three essays like so:

  • Essay 1: 750 words
  • Essay 2: 450 words
  • Essay 3: 300 words each

What is more important to Stanford: An applicant's recommendations or their essays?

A. Recommendations

B. Essays

Answer A: Recommendations trump essays

'Students think that we put more emphasis on the essays than we actually do,' Bolton tells Stanford Business Reporter.

'If you asked me 'Could I make a decision on an application without essays?' I would say 'Absolutely', but 'Could I make a decision without recommendations?' 'No way.' To me the recommendations are more important than the essays, but the essays get more attention.'

Stanford does NOT want this type of student :

A. An individual oozing with self confidence

B. Someone who is honest and caring

C. People with success as a goal

D. People with success as a by-product

Answer C: People with success as a goal are not attractive to Stanford

Bolton tells Bloomberg Businessweek, 'There's a huge difference between success as a by-product and success as a goal; when we look for students, we're actively looking for students who have been successful as a by-product of pursuing their passions and interests as opposed to a person who's just pursuing success after success as a goal in itself.'

Bolton says they look for applicants with the 'self confidence to tell his or her own story in an honest and compelling way.'

He also says that the culture of Stanford is other-oriented, and they look for students to fit that mould. 'People really do look out for each other. Students look out for classmates to ensure that classmates are succeeding academically and professionally.'

Which of the following is NOT an essay question the class of 2013 needs to write:

A. What matters most to you, and why?

B. What are your career aspirations? What do you need to learn at Stanford to achieve them?

C. Answer two of four suggested questions in the application. Say how you did it, the outcome, and the response.

D. Discuss a time you recently took on a leadership role, how you overcame challenges, and what the impact was.

Answer D: You do not need to write about a recent leadership role, the challenges, and the outcome

The three essay questions Stanford requires are:

Essay 1: What matters most to you, and why?

Essay 2: What are your career aspirations? What do you need to learn at Stanford to achieve them?

Essay 3: Answer two of the four 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 when you built or developed a team whose performance exceeded expectations.
  • Option B: Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organisation.
  • Option C: Tell us about a time when you generated support from others for an idea or initiative.
  • Option D: Tell us about a time when you went beyond what was defined, established, or expected.

Magically, you score a Stanford interview. Who is most likely to conduct it?

A. Staff

B. A current student

C. An alumni

D. Derrick Bolton

Answer C: An alumni will most likely conduct your interview

Although Bolton reads all of the interview feedback, most interviews -- 80 to 90% -- are done by alumni. The rest are done by staff.

Bolton says he only gets to meet a few candidates -- about five each year. All of the interviews are invite only, too.

True or false: Your Stanford interview is more likely to get you into the program than to keep you out.

A. True

B. False

Answer B: False, it is more likely to keep you out

Sorry, but if you botch your interview, you are pretty much done-zo. When asked if he overrides bad interviews, Bolton says, 'Not often. It's much easier for an interview to keep you out than to keep you in.'

The good news: Most people think they do worse than they actually do.

'You would be floored at how many calls we get from people who say, 'My interview went so poorly. Can I have a second interview?' And I am sitting here looking at the feedback and it is glowing,' says Bolton.

True or False: During your interview, even if you want to get an MBA to switch careers, you should not admit it.

A. True

B. False

Answer B: False, it is fine to state a career switch as a reason for applying

Bolton says the majority of this year's incoming class (70-80%) are career switchers and that it's not a turn off to Stanford if you state this as a reason for applying.

Bolton claims this is not a sign that you're less focused, like many applicants fear. 'They are too worried about what the admissions office is thinking, They are not worried about actually answering the questions or thinking about the process for what it brings to them.'

You nailed your interview, but there's still one final hoop to jump through. All final decisions on an applicant are made by:

A. A meeting of collective staff

B. A meeting of collective alumni

C. The dean

D. Derrick Bolton

Answer D: Derrick Bolton

Bolton really is the gatekeeper of Stanford; he says he makes all final decisions.

'They all eventually come to me, not because I'm better at selection. It's because I have a broader context on the pool. I just think again especially with a small class, I think it helps that one person has a full overview of the entire class.'

Of course, the dean plays a major role as well. 'Admission is a faculty purview that they have delegated to me. Garth reviews (applicant) files in every round. He'll go deep on about two dozen files a year, but I'll review as many as 200 with him.'

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