Enjoy Accepted’s ultimate guide to the M7 MBA programs: the whos, the whats, the wheres, the hows, and the whys – it’s all here. The information and advice that you’ll read below have helped thousands of Accepted clients achieve their business school aspirations, and can help you too.
What are the M7 business schools?
- Harvard Business School
- Stanford Graduate School of Business
- MIT Sloan School of Management
- Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management
- University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business
- Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
- Columbia Business School
Talk about diversity! Seven distinct, vivid cultures – each with its own history, values, characteristics, opportunities, and challenges.
Sure, there are many commonalities among the M7 schools: all are highly competitive, all feature deep academic resources, all are supported by committed and involved alumni, all attract top-tier recruiters (even in down business cycles). Yet the most important commonality is their individual uniqueness! Their strong and determined “individualism” literally reflects their leadership in the MBA realm. They rise to their prominent position because they are the leaders in their domain, graduate business education. So, they reasonably expect you – their students and prospective students – to have correspondingly high ambitions, whether your domain be finance, healthcare, energy, social entrepreneurship, or something else.
While these M7 programs all value diversity, together they also represent diversity.
What makes the M7s so magnificent?
Of course, there are other elite MBA programs. These 7 have a history together that continues – their deans connected with each other years ago and formed a group to regularly meet and share information. Eventually, these meetings grew beyond just the deans to include others within their admissions offices, creating a consistent flow of information. Meetings and discussions address a range of issues, including best practices for components of the admissions process and responses to current events that directly impact MBA admissions.
A deeper look at the M7s
Harvard Business School
“There is not a day I regret going to HBS. The classes I am taking this year have been incredibly valuable, being taught by practitioners who have been incredibly successful in their careers. The case method is also incredibly unique. You are learning from peers who have collective experiences no individual could have themselves – from the military, Tesla, big corporations with different missions and visions, and all are invaluable to my learning experience.” — Tess Michaels, second-year student at Harvard Business School, on Admissions Straight Talk
Immersion could be the keyword for the Harvard Business School experience. The cornerstone of the program is the case-study academic approach: students read the case and then intensively analyze it both before and in class. The aim is to train students in real-world, complex decision-making. By continuously engaging with classmates from different functions and industries/sectors in these case discussions, students radically expand their perspectives, thought processes, and knowledge. This immersive experience is heightened and enhanced by the smarts, passion, and ambition of HBS students. Outside of class, these high-achieving, high-energy students participate together in many clubs and volunteer activities. The two years just fly by, and suddenly you’re graduating, when it seems like you’ve just started at HBS, thanks to the nonstop immersion and engagement.
Average GMAT score: 728
Average GPA: 3.70
Acceptance Rate: 11.5%
What HBS is looking for in applicants:
Given the case approach, HBS seeks students who will carry their weight and contribute fully in the classroom – people who have something to say and the ability to communicate it. Further, they must be able to listen, respond thoughtfully, and adapt to new ideas as the dialogue progresses. Beyond the requisite high accomplishment, people who enthusiastically and capably engage.
Stanford Graduate School of Business
“Stanford wants people of impact. Show the Stanford GSB that you are that kind of person. All the essays should lead Stanford to that conclusion.”
— Linda Abraham, CEO of Accepted, in her Stanford Application Essay Tips
Transformation, nothing less – that’s what Stanford is about. With its Silicon Valley connection and “mythology” (as one student puts it on the website), innovation, change, and entrepreneurship shape the Stanford program. Its small, elite cohort goes on an exploratory journey together, and many emerge in a different place than they expected starting out. This journey integrates the personal and the professional – in Stanford’s multifaceted pedagogical approach, building business and leadership skills is tied to understanding and defining your mission, your vision.
Beyond the MBA classroom, students learn from and engage with numerous guest speakers who represent the cutting edge in their fields and are encouraged to access Stanford’s various other top-notch programs, including law, medicine, engineering, humanities, and sciences.
During the program, Stanford students form a robust, mutually supportive network for testing out ideas, boundaries, and one’s own assumptions and inclinations.
Stanford GSB Average GMAT score: 734
Stanford GSB Average GPA: 3.70
Stanford GSB Acceptance Rate: 6.9%
What Stanford GSB is looking for in applicants:
Given the above encapsulation of the program, Stanford wants people who will be excellent “fellow travelers.” People who have – and bring to the program – a point of view, a unique perspective. Risk-takers. Change agents. At the same time, they deliberately remain a “work in progress” – always open to new information, ideas, situations, and willing to change accordingly. They relish exploration and collaboration.
“If you are looking to put the finishing touches on your essay, we recommend you have two people review – someone who knows you really well and can tell you if it sounds like you, and someone who you trust but maybe doesn’t know you as well to get a sense of what the essay does sound like, and judge whether or not it’s the way you want it to be.” — Dawna Levenson, Assistant Dean, on Admissions Straight Talk
“We welcome wicked problems.” That quote from the MIT MBA website captures what’s special about the MIT Sloan MBA. The MIT cohort learns how to develop robust solutions that can weather uncertainty, ambiguity, and change. And they take pleasure in that learning. Sure, the adcom wants leaders, of a sort – “anti-leaders” – people who become leaders organically by drawing others along the journey to solve a wicked problem.
The MIT MBA roots its approach in two concepts that intertwine: invention, entailing creativity and agility, and data-driven analysis, entailing rigor and objectivity. These concepts align with the broader MIT university. Just as a robust process involves iteration, this program supports its pedagogy with ongoing experiential learning opportunities – practice – to reinforce and deepen the learning and ensure the students grasp topics in a real-world context.
In essence, the MIT MBA program graduates people who are able to see around corners and are prepared to make constructive use of whatever they encounter. They will probably lead others in the process, but that’s a result of their zeal and/or vision to tackle a compelling problem.
MIT Sloan Average GMAT score: 727
MIT Sloan Average GPA: 3.58
MIT Sloan Acceptance Rate: 14.6%
What MIT Sloan is looking for in applicants:
Can you be guided by the data? MIT seeks students who are open to going where the data leads, even if it contradicts their preferences or assumptions. MIT also seeks people who possess both vision and practical skills. Who are creative and analytic. That doesn’t mean they expect (or want) these qualities 50/50. But, if, say you veer toward creative and visionary, you should still show a record of concrete impact and achievement.
Needless to say, in such a program, curiosity and collaboration are also sought.
We want students to do self-reflection on why they want this degree. We want students to explore the pivot moment (when they decided they wanted to do this) and unpack the talent and treasure they can bring to the MBA. Spend the time and really think about the top three things you will get out of the program.
Blair Mannix, Director of Admissions, on Admissions Straight Talk
The Wharton MBA program is big – almost 900 enrolled students, multiple opportunities for joint degrees and certificates (from law and veterinary medicine to the Lauder program and Harvard Kennedy School), 18 majors, innumerable electives including courses across the 11 other campus schools, and clubs too many to count in several broad categories: professional, athletics, social and special interest, community service, and international and cultural. YET – Wharton does not sacrifice quality for quantity. Each of those many majors is deep and rigorous. Moreover, its tiered structure of 5-6-person Learning Teams at the core selected to be diverse in multiple dimensions, surrounded by Clusters of 70 or so, encircled by Cohorts of about 200, ensures some consistency and drives dynamism throughout the learning process.
Especially with the Learning Teams and Cohorts, what you learn from teammates and classmates will help you to and take full advantage of the program’s vast resources – and in turn, you can share what you discover about the program with them – your “2 cents” about a class or a major or a club might open a magical door for someone who otherwise would not have encountered it among the abundance of opportunities.
While bigness and abundance characterize this program, Wharton has devised the perfect learning structure that personalizes and optimizes it for students.
Wharton Average GMAT score: 732
Wharton Average GPA: 3.61
Wharton Acceptance Rate: 23.1%
What Wharton is looking for in applicants:
Wharton wants applicants who, along with being high performers, are actively engaged in activities and/or interests that contribute somehow – it doesn’t necessarily have to be community service, but some clear and consistent engagement outside work that positively impacts others. Finally, given Wharton’s extensive opportunities and resources, it is essential that applicants show they are resourceful – Wharton does not want its abundance squandered.
Kellogg School of Management
“Kellogg values people who are going to be engaged and “all in” with their experience…Bottom line, we look at engagement, initiative, and collaboration. High impact, low ego – people who elevate everyone in the room.” — Kate Smith, Assistant Dean of Admissions, on Admissions Straight Talk
Teamwork and management remain hallmarks of the Kellogg MBA program – teamwork is a means to the ends of learning content and skills, growing as a leader and manager, preparing for your goals, and contributing to the Kellogg community.
Kellogg’s renowned strength in management underpins the academic program with two management-focused majors, “Management Science” and “Managing Organizations,” along with numerous other traditional functional majors.
Complementing these pillars of business training, Kellogg has innovated by offering also “Pathways,” which are cross-functional sets of courses that address timely topics, including, to mention a few new ones, “Technology Management,” “Energy and Sustainability,” and “Asset Management.”
Students can mix-and-match majors and pathways, benefiting from the accumulated wisdom of the scholars and experts who devise them.
Kellogg has innovated in another area as well: it is one of the first US MBA programs to offer a one-year program (for people with some academic business foundation). Not least, Kellogg is renowned for its abundant global opportunities, which are taken by almost half of the students.
Kellogg Average GMAT score: 730
Kellogg Average GPA: 3.64
Kellogg Acceptance Rate: 27.0%
What Kellogg is looking for in applicants:
Kellogg greatly values work experience that shows exemplary people skills: leadership, teamwork, collaboration, communication and that also presents a record of impactful accomplishment. As Kellogg’s student body is particularly strong in philanthropic activity, including this element is a way to show fit with the program.
“[Booth is] looking for students who demonstrate self-awareness and direction. They want to read your application and see, based on what you’ve done, that you’re going to make a mark on the world.” — Linda Abraham, CEO of Accepted, in her Chicago Booth Application Essay Tips
Academic and intellectual rigor balanced by curricular flexibility – this intriguing balancing act is the valuable gift of the Chicago Booth MBA program. Intellectual culture is paramount at Booth – a reflection of the identity of the broader university to which it belongs.
In the Booth MBA program, ideas are important – having them, sharing them, challenging them, testing them – and acting on them when the time is right. Booth has unrivaled depth among MBA programs in quantitative and analytic rigor. This is a fantastic asset both for students who want to refine existing strengths in these areas and, also, for students seeking a rock-solid foundation in them.
Booth’s flexibility means students tailor their own learning program to their needs, which puts the onus on students to understand what they need. Although students need not take a major, many Booth students do, in fact often pursuing a few, and Booth has compiled a fascinating array of majors that includes both standard items like “Accounting” and “Marketing Strategy” and less common ones like “Behavioral Science” and “Econometrics and Statistics.”
Chicago Booth Average GMAT score: 730
Chicago Booth Average GPA: 3.58
Chicago Booth Acceptance Rate: 24.2%
What Booth is looking for in applicants:
Because of the program’s flexibility, Booth looks for people who have the self-knowledge, critical thinking skills, and resourcefulness to make the most out of it and use it productively. And because the program values ideas, it looks for applicants who will go beyond practical career training to explore new topics, areas, disciplines, and who will challenge themselves intellectually.
Columbia Business School
“To me [what interests me about you as an applicant is] what kind of leader will you prove to be with the people you are around right now. Do you make the people you are around right now better and how do you do that?” — Michael Robinson, Director of Admissions, in an AMA Session with Accepted
Its New York City home is integral to Columbia’s MBA program and the program’s identity. Right on its website landing page, the first lines cite the benefit of being “at the very center of business.” Thanks to this location, along with its renowned full-time faculty, Columbia attracts adjuncts and speakers who are thought leaders in many areas of business and beyond, because so many either reside in/near NYC or visit frequently. Because Columbia’s ongoing interaction with the city makes it such a dynamic program, it builds student community from the start through the cluster program – clusters comprise 60-75 diverse students who take all first-year classes together.
As for academics, CBS’s depth in finance is unique: along with a “Financed” major, it offers majors in “Private Equity” and “Value Investing.” Other highly acclaimed specializations are “Social Enterprise” and “Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management” – the latter strengthened by the plethora of major pharma companies within a couple hours’ drive. The NYC location also reinforces and amplifies the “Entrepreneurship” resources, given the city’s strong tech and fintech ecosystem.
CBS Average GMAT Score: 732
CBS Average GPA: 3.60
CBS Acceptance Rate: 16.4%
What Columbia Business School is looking for in applicants:
Beyond strong professional and academic track records, Columbia wants people who have a plan – for taking advantage of the CBS resources, for engaging with the surrounding city and its endless opportunities, and for pursuing their defined goals. Because it’s easy to fade into the background in the immensity of NYC and the dynamism of Columbia University, CBS also wants students who can and do forge bonds with peers.
A final word about the M7s
Given their distinctive personalities, deep and comprehensive resources, and continuous adaptation to rapid economic, social, and technological change, these 7 MBA programs continue to lead in the MBA space. As different as they are, many applicants can find their needs met by several if not all of them – each program will provide a positive life-changing experience in its own unique way.
Exploring these programs in-depth is a perfect way to kick off your MBA process, as you will be inspired to create and deliver your absolute best application presentation.
The Accepted team has guided hundreds of applicants to acceptance at the M7s.
Accepted’s advisors are ready to walk you through the application process, from helping you figure out which schools you have a chance of getting accepted to (you may be pleasantly surprised!) to guiding you through every step of the application process to ensure that you submit a magnificent, acceptance-worthy application. Learn more about Accepted’s MBA Admissions Services here.
Cindy has helped MBA, EMBA, law school, and med school applicants achieve their academic admissions goals for 15+ years as an Accepted consultant. She has become a pioneer in the niche of EMBA application consulting, and has worked 1-on-1 with applicants who have received acceptances to the top MBA/EMBA programs like MIT Sloan EMBA/Fellows, Berkeley-Columbia, Chicago Booth, Columbia, Duke Fuqua Cross Continental, IE, IMD, London Business School, Northwestern Kellogg, NYU Stern, Stanford GSB, Stanford MSx, Michigan Ross, and Wharton among others.