Harvard Business School (HBS) and the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GBS) are among the most sought-after MBA programs creating a competitive landscape for aspiring students, with 6% and 9% admission rates for the class of 2022, respectively.
As an expert helping highly ambitious candidates with top 20 MBA applications, I have witnessed that prospective students often approach choosing between the two programs solely based on rank rather than fully understanding each program’s strengths.
While both schools offer general MBAs, they are different in many regards, and as an applicant comparing the two, you may want to keep these three key elements in mind.
Harvard vs Stanford values & culture
Understanding your values and their connection to those of the school is integral to selecting the best fit and finding an environment that fosters personal and professional growth.
Values are typically the foundation that sets schools apart, and, as a result, it attracts a unique set of students who create a distinctive culture.
HBS values leaders with an understanding that making a difference in the world only happens in a community of ‘engaged citizens.’ HBS offers many opportunities to engage through clubs, and associations, and students participate in a variety of activities that foster community.
Given that students immerse in the HBS MBA experience with their cohort for the entire first-year core, this creates bonds that naturally foster relationships and opportunities to lead and impact the community. HBS uses nuanced language in describing their values, inferring that the ‘engaged citizen’ is part of a collective, supporting and bettering the community.
By contrast, while community is essential to GSB as well, they seek 'innovative, principled, and insightful leaders who change the world.' This is a community of doers with a propensity for changing the status quo through stewardship and collaboration.
The small and customizable MBA experience at GSB has created a community of optimists who believe in endless possibilities and are fueled by the idea of challenging the status quo through innovation, which brings about large-scale change. There is a creativity that is culturally more present here than at HBS.
Harvard vs Stanford teaching methods
Regardless of your target, you must evaluate your learning style and select an MBA program that best matches yours. HBS is one of two top-ranked MBA programs known for its case method, and MBA candidates read and discuss 500 cases during the two-year program.
The case method offers an opportunity to understand the complexity of making decisions with limited information and learn from diverse perspectives to make the best decision. If the case method does not represent your ideal learning style, HBS may not be for you.
If you are someone who likes the diversity of various learning styles, then Stanford’s flexible teaching method may give you the variety you need. Stanford offers professors the freedom to design a teaching methodology they believe optimizes learning.
As such, professors experiment with learning methodologies specific to the subject matter. For example, Professor Lattin structures his sales class lessons through a simulation model where a small team of MBA students design a solution to a real-world problem.
Different from the case method, the team’s decisions are evaluated in the discussion following the simulation exercise. If you are someone who likes that creative side of learning, then Stanford’s may be the right program for you.
Harvard vs Stanford career prospects
Career outcomes are an essential element of an MBA. While you will see a more significant number of HBS MBA graduates accepting offers in finance, consulting, and tech, these are popular fields for most programs. Therefore, you should dive deeper into what you gain in the program and how you can apply those lessons in your career.
Aside from the three sectors above, HBS has a strong reputation in general management. After all, they require all incoming MBA students to use their program’s first year to complete the core requirements. Given that HBS wants MBA candidates to graduate with a strong foundation in management, there are plenty of opportunities in other sectors to succeed regardless of your career aspirations.
GSB is synonymous with tech, with 28% of the class taking positions in the tech sector. As such, and given its geographic location, it comes as no surprise that the second most popular sector among MBA graduates is Private Equity/Venture Capital, with 24% of the class taking a role in this sector.
Successful students definitely see value in the school’s reputation in tech and its proximity to the innovations in and around Silicon Valley. If you are someone seeking creativity and innovation, then Stanford may be the right program for you.
The process of selecting the right program is multifaceted. Choosing the right program will nurture your learning and provide opportunities for you to build your skills and strengthen your network. Spending significant time with the three key elements outlined will help pave the ground for a successful career.
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