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Stanford MBA Program

Stanford MBA Admission Blog Archives


Myth Busters Archives

24 August 2007

No preferred amount of work experience for the Stanford MBA Program

One of the many myths floating around is that you need to have a certain number of years of work experience before you become eligible for admission to business school. This may be true for some schools but NOT for the Stanford MBA Program.

As we say over and over, we believe that you know best when the time is right for business school. When you feel ready, apply. Whatever your career stage, use your application to make a case for how you will contribute, grow, and learn at Stanford.

Many applicants tell us that the right time for them is after three or so years of working. But what if you feel ready for the Stanford MBA Program after working for a decade or longer? Regardless of the myths you've heard this can be the perfect time in your career to apply. (Little known fact: the Stanford MBA Program competes vigorously with the Stanford Sloan Master's Program for talented mid-career candidates.)

You think you're ready to make an impact right after college? Well, go ahead and apply! College seniors, we have a lot of information for you on our website

Have you heard of any other myths? Share them with our audience


12 September 2007

Just because applicants with less work experience are welcome doesn't mean applicants with more experience are unwelcome.

Thanks for your feedback and questions! Here's a great one for our Myth Buster Category:

Ahmed from Cairo asks: Many MBA Admission blogs are saying that Stanford MBA Adcom is not interested in applicants above 27 years old.

Allison Davis, Director of Operations, MBA Admissions Office, reponds: Not true! (I hope you took the opportunity to ask Derrick about this at his info session in Cairo earlier this week.)

This myth came about because we started reaching out to candidates earlier in their careers after realizing that many were waiting longer to apply because they thought schools wouldn't consider them seriously without 4+ years of work experience.

And even though candidates kept telling us they felt ready to apply after working just one or two years they tended to wait because the advice they got from co-workers, friends, and advisors was that more years in the workforce made them more competitive for admission. Again, this is not true.

Reaching out to candidates earlier in their careers also gave us the opportunity to attract more women to the GSB. While women apply to other professional schools in record numbers (everyone knows you don't need any work experience to get into law or medical school), many don't consider business school until after they have established their careers; a time when the idea of getting an MBA seriously competes with taking time out for children.

In addition, we found that some excellent candidates (both male and female) were so successful in their careers that the opportunity costs of coming to business school were too high with the result that they didn't apply. Yet they might have considered--and benefitted from--an MBA earlier in their careers.

I hope this explains why our efforts to reach candidates earlier in their careers created this myth. As Derrick Bolton frequently states: "Just because applicants with less work experience are welcome doesn't mean applicants with more work experience are unwelcome."

The most important advice we can give you is that since you know best when the time is right for you to enter our MBA Program, apply when YOU are ready!

With best wishes,
Allison Davis

Editor's Note: Back when Stanford GSB Dean Bob Joss entered business school, many of his fellow students came straight from college or had less than two years of work experience.

Looking at GSB alums such as Phil Knight (MBA 1962; founder of Nike), Jeffrey Bewkes (MBA 1977; chairman of Time Warner), and Ann Livermore (MBA 1982; executive vice president at Hewlett-Packard), you can see that this practice made sense.

For a great article about why it makes sense to come to Stanford with little or no work experience, read Dean Joss' article in the Stanford Business Magazine.

16 September 2007

Talent knows no borders

Today's question comes from a prospective candidate in Africa:

Sa'ad from Nigeria asks: I'm thinking seriously about applying to Stanford. Are prospective students from Africa with undergraduate degrees from non-US schools at a disadvantage?

Answer: Being from Africa (or any other continent) or having an undergraduate degree from a non-US school does not at all put you at a disadvantage. Our students have very diverse backgrounds which is, in fact, something we actively seek.

Let me illustrate this with a few statistics: The MBA Class of 2008 includes students from 48 different nations; members of this class went to 162 different colleges and universities around the globe (84 US schools and 78 international schools).

In addition to classmates from every continent, you will also find lots of support among the GSB student-run clubs, many of which focus on specific geographic areas including Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, Latin America, and even Texas.

Let me also quote Eric Abrams, Director of Outreach: "The Stanford GSB strives to build an intellectually diverse student body. We enroll talented leaders--and talent knows no borders."

I hope this answered your question,

24 September 2007

If you didn't hear it from us, it may not be true

A few days ago I received this email and wanted to share it with you because it is a great example of what can happen when you rely on hearsay*.

"I'm concerned to hear from people that adcom is interested only in what I am doing right now rather than what I have accomplished in the past. I struggled hard to achieve a gold medal in the national games when I was 14. Do these achievements lose value with age? Some people even suggested to make just a passing mention of my medal in the essays. But the journey was incredibly tough and my values come from that journey."

I'm so glad the writer of this email contacted us directly so we could tell her that what she heard was wrong.

I'm pretty sure the source of confusion was the fact that for Essay C we ask that applicants rely on experiences that occurred during the last 3 years. However, this is not true for Essays A and B.

In fact, her passionate email would translate well into Essay A "What matters most to you and why".....but now imagine the same essay where she follows the advice of her friends and gives the medal and the experiences leading up to winning it only a passing mention...

Many people claim they know our admission requirements and are only too willing to share. However, even friends who are currently enrolled at the GSB may not be able to answer nuanced questions or be familiar with the latest essay questions.

Everything you need to know in order to put together a compelling application can be found on the Stanford MBA Program website . If you need additional information please feel free to contact us directly. We'll be happy to answer your questions.

Researching the schools you're interested in can be time consuming but unfortunately there are no shortcuts. As illustrated above, you run the risk of putting yourself at a significant disadvantage by relying on hearsay.


* For you international visitors to the blog, I thought I'd explain what's meant by "hearsay" means a mixture of truths and untruths; word of mouth; gossip; or rumor

6 October 2007

I've heard that visiting campus will give me an advantage in the admission process

Alicia from Brazil asks: I'm currently in Chicago on a short term assignment and was hoping to come to Stanford for a class visit and to check out the campus. If I can't squeeze this trip into my schedule before I return to Brazil will it affect my chances of getting admitted?

No worries Alicia. Attending any of our on-campus or off-campus events is not an admission requirement and we don't track who's come to visit and who hasn't.

If you have the opportunity to visit it might help you in deciding whether to apply. However, a visit is not necessary to demonstrate your interest in Stanford.

Thanks for your question!

30 November 2007

Is it 1200 or 800? Tell me!!

We've gotten lots of questions from you about exactly how many interviews we conduct.

Since 2002, we have extended between ~950 and ~1200 interview invitations annually. For the 2007 intake, we interviewed ~1,050 candidates. The total varies based on both the number of applications we receive and the quality of those applications.

We've provided a range of 800-1200 because I typically begin the year thinking that we should only interview about 800 (but fail miserably to do so, as you can tell from the previous paragraph). Since you typically use last year's figures to gauge this year's chances, I felt it would be misleading to say 1,100 or 1,200 when there was a chance we'd finish the year at only 800. Hence the range.

Why ~800? There's no magic to that number except that at ~800 interviews, we'd be able to offer admission to ~60% of candidates interviewed. When I talk to our students and alumni, they say it just feels better to know that you are more-likely-than-not to be admitted after the interview. So that's been my aim for the past couple of years. Your applications are so phenomenal, however, that we want to meet far more than 800 of you! And your applications always will determine the ultimate number of interview invitations.

Let me reiterate that the information in my 1 November 2007 post is accurate: we will send many interview invitations in December and even into January. If you haven't received an interview invitation yet, please don't worry. There's plenty of time.

Think of it this way: the period between 22 October 2007 (when applications were due) and 24 January 2008 (when decisions are due) comprises nearly 14 weeks. Subtract two weeks for the interviews to occur and you have 12 weeks. We're just finishing week six of that 12-week period and will be reading files well into 2008. As we read files we will continue to extend interview invitations. Some days we might invite only two or three people to interview, while other days we might invite 20 or 30. No matter when you receive your invitation, it means the same thing: we consider you a very competitive applicant.


20 December 2007

Tips for writing Essay B

Reading applications has been very exciting and I'm looking forward to Round 2!

First of all, reading applications is a thrill. You are sharing with us your dreams and aspirations and they are an honor to read. With particular regard to what you aspire to be, I would like to share some thoughts on Essay B, which asks: What are your aspirations? How will your education at Stanford help you achieve them?

While the questions appear straightforward, they seem to cause some angst and a bit of confusion amongst applicants. Essentially we want to know what your hopes and dreams are for the future, and then how an MBA at Stanford will play a role in helping you achieve these. In other words, what do you want to be when you grow up and how can the GSB help you make that a reality?

There are three specific points on which I want to focus, all of which fall under the prevailing theme of "there is no right answer."

1. Be authentic. Your answer's authenticity will be evident. We don't judge what you aspire to do. What we want to know is that you've thought about this and how Stanford could play a role in your life.

2. Think Cardinal. Each of you has a unique set of achievements and goals, and these inform your desire to attend Stanford in different ways. Be sure to present a thoughtful account of why you are interested in Stanford and what role the GSB will play in preparing you for the future.

3. Get to the point. Please don't feel you need to repeat or recap information already present in other parts of the application. Since you don't have much space, using a page to reiterate accomplishments from your resume is not recommended.

Remember, your answer is the right answer!

With best wishes,
Erin Kellerhals

26 March 2009

Apply Now for Round 3

All know who you are. You've been to our website, started an application, maybe even drafted an essay or two. All the while, you've been wondering, "Should I or shouldn't I?" "Is now the right time?" "Do I stand a chance of getting in?"

The media hype says that business school applications soar when the economy is bad and, as such, there won't be any spots left for third round applicants. This simply isn't true. And we worry that some great people may delay applying because of these misperceptions. Historically, we've found that applications follow demographic cycles more than economic cycles.

We assure you that we admit outstanding individuals in all three rounds--this year is no exception. While it is true that the final round typically is smaller than the first two, we do admit excellent candidates in Round 3--including our current Director of MBA Admissions.

So the real question to ask yourself is when do you want to enroll? If the answer is September 2009, then you should apply now in Round 3. If you're admitted, great. If not, then you're in a better position for September 2010 having already begun the self-reflection process for your first-round application.

There is still time to put together a thoughtful and thorough application by the Round 3 deadline of 8 April 2009. So if you've started, take that final step. The bottom line is we can't admit you if you don't apply.

21 September 2012

Worry that it's there, but not about where...

Recently, I held two webinars for Round 1 applicants to answer your last-minute questions. Many of your questions had to do with small, logistical details like..."Where do I put my CFA?"…"How do I abbreviate an award that won't fit?" …"Should I put my 40-hour weekend job in the part-time or full-time employment section?"

We're glad you’re paying attention to the instructions and trying to represent yourself carefully and correctly. Please be assured, however, that your admission decision will not hinge on whether you put information in one box or another. We read everything you submit. If you're not sure where to put something, just do what makes sense. Feel free to include a brief explanation in the Additional Information section of your application.

And, yes, don't forget to run spell check. :-)

19 November 2012

Interview Myths Debunked

MYTH 1: The interview has a lot of weight so if I blow the interview, I have blown my chances of being admitted.
THE TRUTH: There is no specific weight assigned to the interview; the interview is one part of a comprehensive process. A positive interview does not guarantee admission, while a less than favorable interview does not, by itself, preclude admission. The written application, including the essays and letters of reference, is a critical part of the evaluation process. The interview is a key source of supplemental information.

MYTH 2: I received my interview invitation early in the round so it must mean I have a better chance of getting admitted.
THE TRUTH: The timing of your interview invitation reflects only the order in which your application was reviewed (and the order in which your application was reviewed doesn't mean anything, honest!). Interview invitations are extended from about a week or so after the round's deadline until about a week before the round's notification date, because it takes the Admissions Committee that entire period to review all applications thoroughly.

MYTH 3: I will be interviewed only if there is an alumni interviewer in my local area.
THE TRUTH: Please rest assured that we will work with you to match you with an interviewer. If there is none in your area, we may ask if you'd like to fly to another location or consider a "virtual" interview.

Thanks for reading! Visit our website to learn more about our admission process and upcoming application deadlines.

26 November 2012

Recommendation Myths Debunked

MYTH 1: If I work in a family business, am self-employed, or can't tell my boss that I'm applying, I will be at a disadvantage since I cannot get a recommendation from a current direct supervisor.
THE TRUTH: Rest assured that you are not the only applicant in this situation. You may not be disclosing to your employer that you are applying to business school. You may have started a new job recently, and your supervisor does not really know you that well. Perhaps you are self-employed, run your own company, or work in a family business where your direct supervisor is a relative (not a good choice for a recommendation! :-)) If you're in one of these situations, you just need to be a little more creative in terms of where you get your recommendation. You could ask anyone who is in a position to evaluate your work: a previous supervisor, a client, or a member of your board of directors.

MYTH 2: It is okay to submit more than 3 recommendations. In fact, more is better!
THE TRUTH: We discourage you from sending additional letters. More is not better. In fact, it can have the opposite of the intended effect as it adds an additional burden to our staff who read literally thousands and thousands of pages over the application season. When we receive additional letters of reference, we do add them to your application file, but there's no guarantee that they will be read.

MYTH 3: It is better to get my recommendations from three different sources to highlight different aspects of my professional and personal background.
THE TRUTH: It's your decision how to present yourself in your application, what to highlight and what to focus on. And, this goes for your choice of recommenders as well. Some applicants get all their references from work; others include references from outside of work. Some get all their references from their current employers; others include previous employers. There is no one right way. The mix of recommendations does not affect your chances of admission. When choosing a recommender, our best advice is to (1) choose someone who knows you really well and can provide the detail, examples, and specifics that support their assertions; and (2) choose someone who is truly enthused to write a recommendation for you and will spend sufficient time writing a thoughtful letter.

MYTH 4: Recommendations must be written in English.
THE TRUTH: Recommendations must be submitted in English, but we do not expect the English to be perfect in recommendations written by non-native speakers. We focus on the content of the letter, not the writing style, so we will ignore minor syntax or grammar errors or awkward phrasing. However, if you and your recommenders think that their English is not sufficient to convey complex ideas, it may be to your advantage to have them write in their native language and then get it translated into English either by a friend or colleague of the recommender, or from a paid service. The translation does not need to be from a paid service unless that is the only option available to the recommender. The translation is the responsibility of the recommender; the translator cannot be the applicant or a friend or family member of the applicant. Your recommender would then upload both the original language and the English translation into the recommendation form, and must also supply us with the name and contact information of the translator in case we have additional follow-up questions.

Thanks for reading! Visit our website to learn more about our admission process and upcoming application deadlines.

3 December 2012

Even More Admissions Myths Debunked

MYTH 1: If I worked full-time during or before college, I can count those months as "full-time work experience."
THE TRUTH: We value all work experience, including jobs or military service you've had before graduating college. We ask that in the box for “months of full-time work experience," you include only the months of full-time work experience SINCE you graduated from your undergraduate university, calculating the number of months from your college graduation until September 1, 2013. This is simply for data reporting purposes. You'll see that statistic in our class profile so we want the data to be consistent across the entire applicant pool. It has NOTHING to do with how we evaluate applications. If you pursued a full-time career prior to graduating college, we would be eager to hear about your personal journey and the choices you've made.

Since the application form doesn't fit every person's situation, we ask that applicants who have worked full-time before graduating college report that in the Part-Time Employment section and indicate 40 hours in the "hours/week" box. We read everything and will connect the dots that you were working before or throughout college. Also, the resume we ask you to submit will show us your career path.

MYTH 2: After I submit my application, I will receive regular updates on my status throughout the application process.
THE TRUTH: Unfortunately, we do not have the staff to update each applicant's status for every step in the process. When you submit your application via Hobson's ApplyYourself, you will receive an immediate message thanking you for your submission. Your application status in Hobson's ApplyYourself shows as "Submitted." Approximately two weeks after the application deadline, all applications are updated to "Your application is currently under review." This line will appear under the "Submission Status: Submitted" line. (Note that all applications are reviewed even if they are missing documents like recommendations. We will evaluate your application and make a decision based on the application documents that you submitted.) You will be contacted via email by our office if you are invited to interview; your application status will remain "Under Review." On the decision notification date, you will receive an email that the decision on your application has been posted. You will be directed to log into your Hobson's ApplyYourself account, where you will see your decision letter.

MYTH 3: It's critical to visit campus before I apply. If I can't schedule a visit before the application deadline, I'd better wait to apply in the next application round.
THE TRUTH: Visiting campus does not affect your chances of admission whatsoever. It may be of value to you as part of your research on which schools to apply to; that's up to you. Keep in mind that many of our applicants come from outside the U.S. so we couldn't expect everyone to visit. If you have only one chance to visit, come after you've been admitted for Admit Weekend, where you'll meet students, alumni, faculty, and your future classmates.

Thanks for reading! Visit our website to learn more about our admission process and upcoming application deadlines.