Head-to-head: Stanford GSB Vs. Berkeley Haas
Updated: Jan 30
It’s hard to think of comparing Stanford GSB, an M7 school, to anything except its east-coast rival HBS. But Haas’s meteoric rise in the 2023 FT rankings, putting it at number 7 vs. Stanford’s 4, means that the schools are becoming real competitors.
This brings to mind two good reasons to consider Haas: first, Haas has something to prove, like a disruptive startup competing against the old guard. Second, if its upward trajectory continues, Haas will soon be nudging HSW in the rankings. So, while Haas is undoubtedly a good investment now, it could be an even better one for the future.
Stanford GSB’s major draw, aside from its elite M7 status, is its proximity to Silicon Valley. This gives it an edge for tech-based networking, internships, and placements. Berkeley Haas is the next big player in the same region and offers similar benefits.
Primarily, both schools focus deeply on collaboration over competition, and attract a motivated, self-aware student crowd of high caliber.
So, if you’re interested in proximity to Silicon Valley, it’s worth it to check out what Haas can offer. I visited both to get some insider info on the campus, culture, and what their students love about them. Check out our school visits.
Proximity to Silicon Valley
Stanford GSB claims a prime location in Palo Alto, right in the heart of Silicon Valley. Haas is located only 30 miles away in Berkeley.
In terms of culture, there is more “life” happening in Berkeley (and San Francisco just across the bridge) than in Palo Alto. Anecdotally, going out for post-lecture meals and drinks with classmates and lecturers is a real option in Berkeley, whereas most spots in Palo Alto shut at around 9pm.
The relative closeness of both to the Valley shows in each school’s project opportunities that involve local companies, industry leaders giving guest lectures, company visits, and of course tech-based internships.
Traditionally, for those interested in Venture Capital, the brand prestige of the MBA program matters significantly. Haas does not specifically mention placement into Venture Capital or Entrepreneurship, but Stanford’s brand recognition gives it an edge for these career pathways. Entrepreneurs may find that VCs who attended Stanford prefer to fund business founders who went to their alma mater. However, Haas has a strong record when it comes to traditional industries such as Finance and Consulting.
Non-Tech note: the West Coast of the US is also a great location for candidates interested in international trade with both Asia and South America, so it’s important to consider these schools’ non-tech strengths. Tech accounts for only 30% (approx.) of post-MBA career pathways at either school.
Stanford GSB and Berkeley Haas are both top 10 MBA programs. So, they have roughly similar requirements in terms of work experience, GPA, and the GMAT/GRE.
GMAT score: Both have an average GMAT score of approximately 730, although Stanford’s GMAT range is wider at 600-790.
GPA: Both schools have high average GPAs at 3.65 for Haas and 3.8 for GSB.
Class size: Haas has 247 students enrolled for the Class of 2024, while Stanford has 424. The real difference is Stanford’s incredibly low acceptance rate of 6.9% versus Haas’s nearly-double 17% acceptance rate. Ultimately this comes down to the fact that Stanford receives almost twice as many applications than Haas. In fact, Stanford takes the crown for the lowest acceptance rate out of all MBA programs.
Average Class Profile
Years of Work Experience
Curricula and Teaching
Haas divides class time between case studies, projects, standard lectures, and experiential learning. Its new core curriculum prioritizes data analysis, diversity, and communication skills, and electives make up 60% of what you’ll study during your MBA. Some electives that are increasingly popular at Haas are in the fields of inclusion, sustainability, and innovation.
For the core courses, students are divided into groups of approximately 75 to keep class sizes small. Interestingly, Berkeley considers the value of class participation. Students follow “anti-chipshot” rules in classes, where they couldn’t piggyback off one another’s ideas and could even face a lower grade if they added no value to the classroom.
Stanford GSB, on the other hand, spends its first year on developing general leadership skills and reflection activities with the idea that a great leader must be keenly self-aware. The courses do not focus as much on traditional case studies as Haas, with lecture, simulations, and experiential learning taking up about 50% of the coursework. This depends class-by-class, however, and some still make heavy use of case studies. Additionally, after the first quarter at Stanford, students do not share a curriculum but rather select courses, with the help of an adviser, to create a customized experience that challenges them individually.
Note that Stanford only offers a two-year, full-time MBA program and its relatively new MSx program. Haas offers Full-Time, Part-Time, Executive MBA, Financial Engineering, and Executive Education courses.
Stanford is a private institution with heavy endowments. They have more funds to invest in faculty and facilities than Haas, and are a bigger school; Stanford has about 100 faculty vs. Haas’s 80.
How this affects the learning experience is somewhat subjective, particularly with both schools offering two of the best MBA programs in the US. As AdComs at both schools suggest, it is worth assessing the school for fit rather than for brand alone.
Berkeley Haas’s mix of essays and short answers give candidates the opportunity to explain their motivations and values. Read our Berkeley Haas essay analysis here.
When writing your Haas MBA essays, keep their four Leadership Principles in mind: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself. Haas also places emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion, so being self-aware and engaged with the communities around you is important.
Your essays should show how you have (and continue to) portray these values in your professional and personal life. They should also show your fit with the school and that you know the school’s culture well. In other words, Haas wants students who want to be at Haas.
Stanford GSB’s classic essays, “What matters most to you and why?” and “Why Stanford?”, have not changed for several years. Get the full essay analysis, with example essays from real applicants, on MBAconsultant.com.
Stanford is looking for people willing to make bold moves. They know that this means taking calculated risks, and part of taking risks is failing. What impresses Stanford is the ability to pick oneself up and dust off. This is often not people who are just ticking another box in their flawless career. These are people who are going to be impactful and resilient leaders in business and society. Essentially, this means they are looking for the X-factor that you bring to the table, beyond the usual business school requirements.
Given the relatively small class size, diversity and representation within the cohort are very important. Lean into the features that make you stand out from the crowd over your long list of successes.
Stanford places more of its graduates in Finance (34%) than any other industry (Tech included). Haas leans more toward Consulting (25% vs. Stanford's 15%).
Stanford places students more evenly throughout the US (with particular emphasis on the Northeast at 20%), while Haas graduates often stick closer to the West Coast of the US (a stunning 75%, but the weather is better out there).
Stanford GSB’s reputation precedes it. It is commonly placed among the Top 5 MBA programs in the world and is part of the exclusive M7 club. That said, admissions at Stanford are extremely competitive, as seen from its acceptance rate.
Haas is a new entry into the FT Top 10 rankings, but its performance has been consistently strong over the past few years. With its focus on sustainability, diversity, cooperation, and entrepreneurship, Haas provides an excellent option as an MBA program with many of the same advantages as Stanford GSB, but with a bigger alumni network and higher acceptance rates.
Furthermore, both offer excellent proximity to and placement within the Tech industry as well as in other more traditional fields.
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