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December 1, 2019

Which is Better: Harvard Business School or the Stanford Graduate School of Business?


What is better for you Stanford or Harvard Business School?

Elite business schools are not the same. Just as the driving experience of a Porsche 911 Turbo sports car is very different from a Ferrari F1 racer, the culture, curriculum and student body profile of Harvard Business School (HBS) is very different from the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB). In the end, which program is best for you? Well…..it’s all about fit?

HBS and GSB are not looking for the best students or the best test-takers. They are look for students with the best potential to be great leaders, classmates and collaborators. They seek students that meet the mission of the school, and have the highest potential to succeed.

The Data

Harvard Business School Stanford Graduate School of Business
Enrolled 948 407
GMAT (mid 50%) 570-800 620-790
Common Undergrad Major Finance/Econ Engineering/Math/Humanities


Internationally, Harvard Business School is King, carries the most currency and has the highest name recognition. Domestically, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School is ranked number one by US News. However, Stanford (GSB) may have a slight lead over Harvard in terms of selectivity, especially on the west coast. Both HBS and GSB have great reputations for creating corporate chief executives.

By virtue of its smaller class, approximately half the size of HBS, Stanford is more selective with an acceptance rate of under 6%, about half of Harvard.

The Myth

It is often understood that HBS is “Cold & Cutthroat,” students wearing Brooks Brothers attire. Whereas GBS is “California Chill,” where t-shirts abound.

The Culture

HBS is thought to be more rigorous, with twice as many students as GSB, not surprising with so many students it can be competitive. But, honestly, collaboration along with high impact leadership and the highly prized case-study method are key features at Harvard. Let’s not forget the infamous “cold call” interrogation to start most lectures, an intimidating feature indeed.

GSB is more laid back and cool. The warm Southern California climate not surprisingly brings out a more pleasant personality than the frigid New England winters of HBS in Boston, Massachusetts. Priorities for the Silicon Valley business school include Collaborative Team Leadership, Global Awareness, and of course Intellectual Vitality, where a classroom topic or discussion at dinner can turn into a research proposal or honors thesis. Students at Stanford wear their extreme passion everywhere they go, ultimately channeling it into class, projects, companies and industries. Stanford, unlike Harvard, highlights student’s soft skills & their intercultural differences. At Stanford, they believe in Socrates’ well-known mantra, “know thyself.” GSB, in contrast to HBS, wants students to be open with their feelings and be aware of their weaknesses.

Largest Network

HBS, as a byproduct of their very large class, has many more alumni, making business connections nationally and around the global second to none.

Classroom Experience

HBS utilizes the case-study method nearly universally. The curriculum is rigid, rigorous and highly competitive despite the collaborative mantra. GSB’s curriculum is flexible & customizable, employing a mix of teaching methods.

Placement after graduation:


GSB graduates often go into the Technology sector after graduation and become entrepreneurs, in many cases startups. HBS graduates trend toward Wall Street in Finance and the world of consulting. Do you need help on this path? Contact Ivy Bound now for guidance.