Answer by Alfonso C. Betancort:
Charles River, Cambridge – Boston, Ma
A good starting point is the so called "Cost Summary" that the schools publish as a "Guideline" – MBA at Harvard Business School and Cost Summary and at Stanford Graduate School of Business. But don't forget that the info related to room and utilities (if your are living off campus, which is the norm as in most campuses incoming freshmen and sophomores are given priority to be placed in a dormitory and then go the rest of undergrads, only after all of them have been placed if anything is left goes to a grad. students, so don't bet your life on finding a dorm), board, other living expenses and miscellaneous are a mere "estimate", and business schools do apply marketing 101 underestimating them to appear more "affordable". 🙂
If you are considering Harvard and unless you want to experience how cold is a winter in west Greater Boston without heating, and I really mean west, way outside of Cambridge, plan that to live near the campus (10 min. car drive, no toll ways) you will need to increase Harvard's room and utilities "estimate" around 20% to 30%.
Hey, you could get lucky and fetch a townhouse in a residential area (near Watertown or Newton), the kind that the owners only enjoy during the summer because they are a retired couple and actually "live" in Miami. Then your lease will be for two 9 month periods with a 3 month hiatus, and you can leave all your stuff in the house while away for the summer (big savings in rent and in headaches). More than leasing the property they are looking to keep the house "warm" while they are away, so you get a moderate rent and a great fully furnished property with the only caveat keeping the townhouse as it was handed to you. If anything doesn't function you just call the owners and they'll arrange and pay the repairs, your only mission is to call in the event of any anomaly and avoiding turning off all the utilities, heat and stuff in the middle of winter to avoid freezing every pipe in the house. If you get a couple of nice housemates to share the rent, you'll probably get by with Harvard's estimate.
The trick is that you'll have to get lucky to get one of those townhouses, they are usually passed down from a graduating student like if it was part of his heir to someone he already knows and has recommend to the owners.
For board, personal and miscellaneous you will want to increase their estimate in at least: a) 30% for people with less social life, typically students in their 40s, b) 50% with upper quartile average social life, typically students in their late 20s and 30s, and c) up to 70% if you plan to study, carry an active social life and travel on breaks, students typically in the early to mid 20s but extends to any age cohort as there isn't yet an age limit to enjoy life.
I don't have direct experience on Stanford but I suppose it should be similar, although the I would think living in the Valley or the Bay must pricey (due to the excess demand), so I would bet that their under "estimates" are short by 30%-40%. I would guess rentals for $2,200 monthly on a 21 month lease (I'm guessing you would want a place where you and your stuff can crash during summer break) could be even a bit on the low end of the market for these areas, but then just you will only need to find a nice housemate to share the burden.
The board, personal and miscellaneous, I think should be adjusted by the same percentages as Harvard, since the stated "estimate" for all the rest is $19,857 per year (quite more generous than Harvard) by my calculations the reality should go from a mere $25.814 per year (average daly expenditure of $96), maybe you'll need to develop your abilities as a long range biker, to a maximum of $33,756 per year, that would allow you an average daily expenditure $96 (remember you also have to eat, pay parking tickets, gas, no just drink beer all day long) during weekdays, $132 during weekends, and have enough to make every year two trips lasting seven days for $1.500 ($500 airfare & $143 daily lodging), and an extra 3 day escapade of $750 ($300 airfare & ¢150 daily lodging), leaving a balance of $1.500 for buying a nice lightweight a bicycle in installments and ordering a Copenhagen wheel for it, paying the telecom bill, buying the new iPhone or saving for the graduation party.