If you want to get into Stanford University, you have to be among the best of the best. Only 5.7 percent of applicants in 2013 were accepted, and many rejected candidates were near the top of their classes. A wave of a magic wand won’t get you in -- you need to work hard in a full complement of core classes and supplement that with sincere participation in a limited number of activities.

Laying a Foundation

Stanford University does not require students to submit Advanced Placement test scores, and it doesn’t take into account the number of AP and International Baccalaureate classes you’ve taken. Instead, Stanford wants to make sure you flourished in the most challenging courses available. The school has no required high school curriculum, but it looks favorably on students with a strong record of success across all core subjects. Stanford recommends four years each of English and math, and three years each of social studies, science and the same foreign language. Critical writing skills are also crucial to gaining admittance.

College Facts and Stats about Stanford University

Making the Grade

Grades don’t tell the whole story, but most students accepted were at the top of their high school classes. Of the freshmen admitted in 2013, 74 percent had a 4.0 grade point average or better on a 4.0 scale. Another 23 percent had a GPA between 3.7 and 3.99, and only 3 percent had a GPA below 3.7. Among admitted freshmen, 96 percent were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, 24 percent achieved a perfect score on the SAT critical reading test, 25 percent got a perfect score on the math test and 20 percent got a perfect score on the writing test. So if you want to get into Stanford, keep studying!

Love What You Do

Stanford University wants students who love learning and want to dedicate themselves to broadening their intellectual horizons. They’re curious, community-minded and will contribute to classroom debate. They’ve already taken some initiative to further their dreams, and they want Stanford to help them take the next step. Your list of clubs and extracurricular activities and your essay are places where you can communicate these thoughts and experiences to the admissions committee. Stanford looks for deep commitment in a few non-curricular activities as opposed to limited participation in a broad range of activities.

Dotting the I's

Don’t overlook typos and misspellings on your application. It seems obvious, but that’s what kept one senior from getting accepted to Dartmouth University despite a 3.9 GPA, five senior-year Advanced Placement courses and a high school award for having the most personal growth in his class. According to "The Wall Street Journal," the student's mother and father pored over his application and essay, but neglected to read a page that he filled out on his own and gave to his guidance counselor to submit. On it, he wrote that he had taken “chemestry” and “literatre" courses.

Don't Give Up

Even if you don’t think you have the grades or the course load to get into Stanford, there’s no harm in applying. One 16-year-old student from Colorado wanted desperately to enroll at Stanford, but the counselor whom his family hired for $2,800 told him not to apply because of his grades. He applied anyway, got on the wait list and then got accepted. He told his story to "The Wall Street Journal," which recommends having a backup plan but giving schools like Stanford a shot. The worst that can happen is getting rejected.

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