Harvard and Stanford are consistently ranked among the leading business schools in the world and so it is no wonder that they are so competitive. Many prospective students who are considering doing an MBA or at a high class institution will consider both Harvard and Stanford. In many ways it is easy to see similarities. For example, both have an identical average leaving salary (of $125,000). However, there are also many nuanced differences that it is important to consider. You are likely to have particular professional and personal goals and one institution might just tip the balance in favour of these. So, what is each institution looking for and what are they like in practice?
HBS – Harvard looks for potential future CEOs. They want people to be able to inspire, to motivate and to convince others to get things done. They look for more alternative leadership styles.
Stanford – Stanford mainly looks for students who can engage in rigorous research based learning and who will also get involved in community service of some kind. Stanford is considered the most selective of all business schools in the United States.
What about the curriculum?
HBS – There is absolutely no flexibility when it comes to the first year curriculum. A group of 90 students will take all of their classes together. There are no available electives until the second year. The key unit in the first year is the FIELD unit (Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development) which provides small group learning in the field, as it suggests in the name.
Stanford – Stanford’s curriculum is fully personalised from the outset. Goals are set and a plan as to how each student can achieve these goals. The emphasis is on gaining global experience. Stanford is also all about interdisciplinary education and encourages its students to take electives from other schools.
How does teaching differ?
HBS – The HBS faculty perfected the ‘case method’ which is when students are placed in the role of decision maker and they have to confront real issues that are faced by companies and big organisations each and every day. They require the students to have good judgement and to deliberate between themselves, encouraging collaboration. Participation in class is therefore fundamental to the success of each student. Harvard is famous for ‘cold calling’ students and picking on them to open discussions. This can come at any time.
Stanford – whilst Stanford also puts emphasis on participation, the stress is also on individual research and work in your own time. This is seen as fundamental to driving in an inner work ethic.
What about the size of class?
HBS – Harvard has big class sizes, of between 900 and 1000 students. It is highly competitive.
Stanford – Stanford is much smaller, with only about 400 students in each year. At Stanford, due to the smaller number of students, the emphasis can be place more on getting students out to experience real business environments.
What do students do afterwards?
HBS – Around 30% go into finance, 25% in to consulting, 20% into technology, 6% to healthcare, 4% to government and non profits and the rest to other sectors.
Stanford – around 31% into technology and finance, 15% into consulting, 6% to healthcare but a much larger percentage – around 16% go into entrepreneurship and start their own companies. Stanford come away with an ever so slightly higher earning wage (around $133,000 compared to $130,000).
So, there you have it. You can see that there are actually some major differences between these two schools. One will fit your character and outlook better than the other. It’s just about locating what those needs are and following through with them. Good luck!