Talk about diversity! The M7 business schools represent seven distinct, vivid cultures – each with its own history, values, characteristics, opportunities, and challenges.
Of course, there are many commonalities among the M7 schools, as well: all are highly competitive, offer robust academic resources, are supported by committed and involved alumni, and attract top-tier recruiters (even in down business cycles). Yet the most important commonality is their individual uniqueness! Their strong and distinctive personalities both reflect and drive their leadership in the MBA realm. They have risen to their prominent position because they are the leaders in their domain: graduate business education. So, they reasonably expect their students and applicants to have correspondingly high ambitions, whether their domain is finance, healthcare, energy, social entrepreneurship, or something else. Although the M7 programs all value diversity, together, they also represent diversity.
The M7 business schools
- Harvard Business School
- Stanford Graduate School of Business
- MIT Sloan School of Management
- The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
- Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management
- University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business
- Columbia Business School
What makes the M7s so great?
There are other elite MBA programs, of course, but the M7 schools have an ongoing, shared history – their deans connected with each other years ago and formed a group that meets regularly and shares information. Over time, these meetings have grown to also include others within their admissions offices, creating a consistent flow of information across multiple levels. The meetings address a range of issues, including best practices for components of the admissions process and responses to current events that directly affect MBA admissions.
A deeper look at the M7s
Harvard Business School
Immersion could be the keyword for the Harvard Business School (HBS) experience. The program’s cornerstone is the case-study approach, intertwined with experiential learning: students read a case and then intensively analyze it both before and in class. The aim is to train students in complex, real-world decision-making. Students then have numerous opportunities to sharpen this training through practical application. By continuously engaging with classmates from different functions, industries/sectors, and geographic regions in these case discussions, students radically expand their perspectives, thought processes, and knowledge. This immersive experience is enhanced by the smarts, passion, and ambition of HBS students. Outside of class, these high-achieving, high-energy students participate in many club and volunteer activities. The two years of the MBA program fly by, thanks to the nonstop immersion and engagement.
Median GMAT score: 730
Average GPA: 3.70
Acceptance Rate: 14.4%
What is HBS looking for in applicants?
Given its case method approach, HBS seeks students and future leaders who will carry their weight and contribute fully in the classroom – people who have something to say and the ability to communicate it. Further, students must be able to listen, respond thoughtfully, and adapt to new ideas as the dialogue progresses. Beyond the requisite high accomplishment, HBS seeks people who enthusiastically and capably engage.
More HBS Resources:
- Harvard Business School MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines
- Entrepreneurship at HBS: How Stride Will Help You Fund Your Future, podcast Episode 341
- Seven Important Tips for Your HBS Post-Interview Reflection
Stanford Graduate School of Business
Nothing less than transformation – that’s what the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) is about – both yours and the kind you bring to the organizations and communities you touch. Stanford’s Silicon Valley DNA, highly customizable program, and emphasis on innovation, change, and entrepreneurship shape its MBA experience. Its small, elite cohort goes on an exploratory journey together, and many students emerge in a different place than they expected to when they started 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 one’s mission and vision. Beyond the MBA classroom, students learn from and engage with numerous guest speakers who represent the cutting edge in their fields, and students are encouraged to access Stanford’s various other top-notch programs, including law, medicine, engineering, humanities, and sciences. During the program, students form a robust, mutually supportive network for testing ideas, boundaries, and their own assumptions and inclinations.
Average GMAT score: 737
Average GPA: 3.76
Acceptance Rate: 8.6%
What is Stanford GSB looking for in applicants?
Stanford wants people who will be excellent “fellow travelers,” people who have – and will bring to the program – a unique point of view. The school values risk-takers and change agents. At the same time, these individuals deliberately remain a “work in progress” – always open to new information, ideas, and situations and willing to shift gears accordingly. They relish exploration and collaboration.
More Stanford GSB resources:
- Stanford GSB MBA Application Essay Tips and Deadlines, Class Profile
- What These Seasoned Startup Founders Have Done Since Earning Their Stanford MBAs, podcast Episode 382
- A Stanford MBA Discusses Coffee Chats, podcast Episode 437
- Stanford MBA Grows His Amazing Tech Startup, podcast Episode 369
- Five Tips for Applying for Stanford’s Knight-Hennessy Scholarship
MIT Sloan School of Management
What’s special about the MIT Sloan MBA program is its zeal for tackling big, slippery, multifaceted problems. The school’s cohorts learn how to develop robust solutions that can weather uncertainty, ambiguity, and change – and students relish the challenge. The adcom appreciates people who lead organically by drawing others along the journey to solve complex problems. The MIT MBA roots its approach in two concepts that intertwine: invention, which entails creativity and agility, and data-driven analysis, which entails rigor and objectivity. These concepts align with those of MIT more broadly. Just as a robust process involves iteration, this program supports its pedagogy with ongoing experiential learning opportunities – in other words, practice – to reinforce and deepen the learning and ensure that students grasp topics and hone skills in a real-world context. In essence, Sloan MBA graduates are able to see around corners and make constructive use of whatever they encounter. They will lead others in the process, as a result of their passion and vision to tackle compelling problems.
Median GMAT score: 724
Median GPA: 3.59
Acceptance Rate: 14.8%
What is MIT Sloan looking for in applicants?
MIT Sloan seeks students who are open to following where the data lead, even if doing so contradicts their personal preferences or assumptions. The school also seeks people who possess both vision and practical skills, who are creative and analytical. That doesn’t mean an applicant must embody these qualities 50/50, but if, for example, a candidate is primarily creative and visionary, they also need to show a record of concrete impact and achievement. Needless to say, curiosity and a collaborative mind-set are also sought.
More MIT Sloan Resources:
- MIT Sloan MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines, Class Profile
- How to Get Accepted to MIT Sloan MBA, podcast Episode 498
The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
The Wharton MBA program is big, with almost 900 students per class, multiple opportunities for joint degrees and certificates (from law and veterinary medicine to the Lauder program and Harvard Kennedy School), 21 majors, innumerable electives (including courses across the many other campus schools), and clubs in several broad categories: professional, athletic, social and special interest, community service, geographic, and cultural. Yet Wharton does not sacrifice quality for quantity. Its many majors are deep and rigorous. Moreover, its structure – dividing each class into four clusters, each of which is further divided into cohorts of approximately 70 students, and then into diverse five- or six-person Learning Teams – ensures broad exposure and drives dynamism throughout the learning process. What students learn from their teammates and classmates will help them take full advantage of the program’s vast resources – and in turn, you can share thei your expertise, perspective, and learning with their peersm. A student’sYour “two cents” about a class, major, or club might open a magical door for a classmatesomeone who otherwise would not have encountered it among the plethora of opportunities. While bigness and abundance characterize this program, Wharton has devised a learning structure that personalizes and optimizes it for students.
Average GMAT score: 733
Average GPA: 3.6
Acceptance Rate: N/A
What is Wharton looking for in applicants?
Wharton wants applicants who, along with being high performers, are actively engaged in activities and/or interests that contribute somehow – this doesn’t necessarily have to be community service, but some clear and consistent engagement outside work that positively affects others. Finally, given Wharton’s extensive opportunities and resources, it is essential that applicants show that they are resourceful – Wharton does not want its abundance squandered.
More Wharton Resources:
- Wharton MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines, Class Profile and Class Profile
- Nine Tips for Team Interviews
- What’s New at Penn’s The Wharton School. And How to Get In, podcast Episode 545
- A Bain Consultant-Turned Wharton MBA Starts Her Own Business, podcast Episode 329
- How This Wharton MBA Created Her Women’s Workwear Brand
Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management
Management has long been and remains the hallmark of the Kellogg MBA program – a comprehensive discipline standing on the pillars of leadership and global perspective. The premise is that given today’s rapid change and high volatility, strong management capabilities are needed more than ever. Moreover, they can be applied across industries and sectors. Kellogg’s renowned management resources include two management-focused majors, “Management Science” and “Managing Organizations,” along with numerous other traditional majors. To complement these pillars of business training, Kellogg offers innovative “pathways,” which are cross-functional sets of courses that address timely topics, including “Growth and Scaling,” “Data Analytics,” and “Social Impact.” 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 top-tier U.S. MBA programs to offer a one-year option (for people with some academic business foundation). Not least, Kellogg is renowned for its abundant global opportunities, in which almost one-half of its students participate.
Average GMAT score: 730
Average GPA: 3.7
Acceptance Rate: 31.4%
What is Kellogg looking for in applicants?
Kellogg greatly values work experience that shows an applicant’s exemplary people skills – leadership, teamwork, collaboration, and communication – and presents a record of meaningful accomplishment. Because Kellogg’s student body is particularly strong in philanthropic activity, including this element in one’s application is a good way to show fit with the program.
More Kellogg Resources:
- Kellogg MBA Essay Tips, Deadlines and Class Profile
- From Biomedical Research to Kellogg MBA: A Non-Traditional Business School Journey
University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business
Academic and intellectual rigor combined with curricular flexibility – this intriguing balancing act is the offering of the Chicago Booth MBA program. Intellectual culture is paramount at Booth, reflecting the character 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 quantitative depth and analytic rigor among MBA programs. This is a fantastic asset both for students who want to refine their strengths in these areas and for students seeking a rock-solid foundation in them. The school’s flexibility means that students can tailor their learning program to their needs, which puts the onus on students to understand what they need. Although Booth students do not have to select a major, many do, and in fact, some students even pursue multiple majors. Booth offers a wide array of options that includes both standard choices, such as “Accounting” and “Marketing Strategy,” and less-common ones, such as “Behavioral Science” and “Econometrics and Statistics.”
Average GMAT score: 729
Average GPA: 3.56
Acceptance Rate: 30.1%
What is Booth looking for in applicants?
Booth looks for people who have the self-knowledge, critical thinking skills, and resourcefulness to make the most of its flexibility and strengths and to use them productively. And because Booth values ideas, it seeks applicants who will go beyond practical career training to explore new topics, areas, and disciplines and who will challenge themselves intellectually.
More Chicago Booth Resources:
- Finding and Articulating Fit with the Booth MBA
- Booth MBA Application Essay Tips and Deadlines
- A Chicago Booth MBA Shares His Journey to B-School and Important Tips for Applicants
Columbia Business School
Integral to Columbia’s MBA program and identity is its New York City (NYC) home. The Columbia Business School (CBS) website refers to this location as a top asset of the program. To CBS, this location equals access. To complement the program’s renowned full-time faculty, CBS attracts adjunct professors and speakers who are thought leaders in many areas of business and beyond, because so many either reside in/near NYC or visit frequently. Within this vibrant setting, CBS builds the student community from the start by breaking each class down into diverse clusters of 60-75 students who take all first-year classes together. CBS’s depth in finance is unique, and the school offers special programs for 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 of campus. The NYC location also reinforces and amplifies the program’s entrepreneurship resources, given the city’s strong tech and fintech ecosystem.
Average GMAT Score: 732
Average GPA: NA
Acceptance Rate: NA
What is CBS looking for in applicants?
Beyond strong professional and academic track records, Columbia wants people who have a plan for taking advantage of the school’s 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 amid the immensity of NYC and the dynamism of Columbia University, CBS also wants students who can and will forge bonds with peers.
More CBS Resources:
- Columbia Business School MBA Essay Tips and Deadlines, Class Profile
- How to Get an MBA at Columbia Business School, podcast Episode 528
- An MBA’s Perspective on Columbia Business School, podcast Episode 373
A final word about the M7s
Given these seven schools’ distinctive personalities, deep and comprehensive resources, and continuous adaptation to rapid economic, social, and technological change, they continue to lead in the MBA space. As different as the programs are, many applicants can find their needs met by several, if not all, of them – each one provides a positive life-changing experience in its own unique way. Exploring these schools in depth is the perfect way to kick off your MBA process, because you will be inspired to create and deliver your absolute best application.
The Accepted team has guided hundreds of applicants to acceptance at the M7s. Getting into an M7 school takes a special combination of an outstanding application, an extraordinary essay, and an incredible interview. Sign up for a free 30-minute consultation to learn more about our services and to discuss your specific applicant profile. Schedule today!
*Acceptance rates source: U.S. News & World Report MBA rankings
After a successful career in business publishing, Cindy Tokumitsu has worked for more than 20 years with Accepted. Every year, Cindy’s clients have been accepted to top MBA, law, and med programs. She is a pioneer in the niche of EMBA application consulting. Want an admissions expert to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!