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Applying to Stanford


Stanford is one of the most competitive schools in the country, known for its engineering department and sunny weather! In this post, I’ll walk you through the application process. Let’s start with some statistics about Stanford’s last application cycle to get a sense of what we’re up against:

With over 47,000 applications and just over 2,000 admitted, Stanford has an acceptance rate of about 4.3%. You can see it’s also a pretty diverse class, with students from across the country and the world. Stanford also has an incredibly generous financial aid program, so don’t let cost stop you from applying! Although the sticker tuition price is $72,500, the average cost for families making under $65,000 is $4,638/year and for families making between $125,000 and $155,000 it’s $26,551/year. Next are some important deadlines:

As you can see, there are two deadlines: one for restrictive early action (REA) and one for regular decision (RD). It’s up to you which cycle you apply for — if Stanford is your #1 choice, you feel like a competitive applicant, and you’re able to finish your application by the deadline, REA can be a great way to get accepted early and have a stress-free senior year. (It’s important to note that if you apply to Stanford REA, you cannot apply early to any other private college, although you can apply early to public universities). On the other hand, if you’re less certain about Stanford and your competitiveness, and you could use the extra time polishing your application and bumping up your GPA, you should consider applying RD. Now that we have a sense of the deadlines, what are the application requirements?

Stanford accepts the Common Application, which simplifies the application process significantly. In addition, you’ll need to submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, test scores, and an application fee (you may qualify for a waiver). Let’s take a quick look over the Stanford specific essay prompts on the Common Application:


  • One Coalition App or Common App main essay (300–600 words)
  • Three Supplemental essays (100–250 words each)
  • Eleven short-answer questions (10–150 words each)
  • Supplemental essay #1: The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning. (100–250 words)
  • Supplemental essay #2: Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate — and us — know you better. (100 to 250 words)
  • Supplemental essay #3: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100–250 words)

We’ll talk more about these prompts in detail in a future blog post. In general though, make sure that each of your essays reveal something about yourself that the rest of your application did not — remember, you are trying to convince the admissions officer that you would fit right in as a student at Stanford! And be sure to start early on these essays so you can do some extensive editing (preferably start brainstorming now!)

What standardized tests does Stanford require?

Be sure to take whichever test you feel most confident with out of the SAT/ACT (if you’re not sure, many students elect to take both!) Similarly, it’s advised to take 2 SAT subject tests in your strongest subjects — students often take 1 Math subject test and 1 science subject test. Next let’s take a look at Stanford’s advice for letters of recommendation:

As per Stanford’s suggestion, you should request letters from grade 11 or 12 teachers since they are most likely to remember you, and you can submit an optional extra letter (perhaps from an athletic coach, or a research advisor). Be sure to ask for these letters early from teachers you have a strong relationship with, and provide them with relevant information about yourself (such as your intended major, why you want to go to Stanford, your extracurricular activities etc.)

Finally, let’s talk about the interview! First of all, don’t panic if you don’t get one — sometimes there simply aren’t many alumni in your area. If you do get an invitation for an interview though, get excited! As Stanford puts it, the interview is a “two-way exchange allows you to learn more about Stanford, and the Admission Office to learn more about you.” Be respectful and timely, and most importantly be yourself! Do your homework and come prepared with some thoughtful questions about Stanford for the interviewer. Finally, a thank you note or email afterwards can go a long ways.

These are the basics of the admissions process! It may seem like a lot but if you get a headstart and have a clear picture of the what the process looks like, you’ll set yourself up for success. Good luck!

By Danielle Mitalipov

Data Source: Stanford University Website

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