You’re probably well aware that HBS gets more applications than any other business school in the world. They’ve gotten around 9,000 applications annually for many years now.
Why then is Stanford’s acceptance rate so much lower? Traditionally Stanford has accepted somewhere in the neighborhood of 6% of their applicants. Six percent? That’s an infintesimal figure. Harvard is usually around 12%. But Harvard doesn’t get double the number of apps as Stanford. Stanford gets in the neighborhood of 6600 to 7500-ish apps.
The obvious answer is that there’s twice as many seats available at Harvard Business School than there are at the GSB. More supply to go with the greater demand.
Another metric to look at is applications per seat. Harvard usually gets about 10 apps per place in the class. Stanford? They get 17. WOW.
Harvard is certainly a popular school. With over 9,000 incoming apps each year, that’s proof that they’re an esteemed business school that everyone wants to go to.
But when you look at it through the apps-per-place lens, Stanford whomps Harvard.
When the GSB opened their beautiful new bschool building in 2011, there was some speculation that the new digs meant they’d be expanding their class. They were quick to squash that rumor. They’re very happy with the size of their class. Don’t expect them to be growing it anytime soon.
This number of apps per available spot metric may help you get a better appreciation for how hard it is to get in to Stanford.