Prestigious Stanford University, located in the high-tech San Francisco Bay Area, consistently ranks among the top research schools in the country and the world. An offer of admission would give you and your proud parents bragging rights. However, rank and reputation are not the best factors to stress when writing admission essays. Stanford scholars suggest that rank and prestige are less important than the right fit between a school and a student. Finding the right fit is about selecting a school based on personal preferences and priorities such as strength of academic programs, financial aid availability, student life opportunities and geographic location, for instance. Students are likely to be successful wherever they attend college if they work hard, get to know faculty and engage in student life.

If you are bright, creative, curious and academically ready for a world-class education, you may wish to pursue admission to Stanford. Even though Stanford is highly selective, do not be dissuaded from trying if you are an excellent student and Stanford is your dream school. To defy the odds of being admitted, offer evidence that you are the perfect addition to the incoming class based on a match between what you value and what Stanford offers.

College Facts and Stats about Stanford University

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Admission requirements to Stanford hinge on a promise of greatness. You need to stand out in some remarkable way to dazzle Stanford University admissions. Holistic factors considered include top grades, high test scores, extraordinary accomplishments, intellectual curiosity and a fervent desire to better yourself and the world.

Stanford University Requirements

Stanford University admissions looks for diverse students from around the world who fundamentally share the school’s core values, such as a love for learning, discovering, innovating and growing. From its founding in 1885, Stanford bucked tradition by admitting women, welcoming all religious denominations and striving to produce graduates with practical skills to better society. Stanford remains a leader in disruption of the status quo, making Stanford the school of choice for visionary students with high ambitions. Honesty and integrity are character requirements. The Honor Code has been in place since 1921. Cheating, plagiarizing and similar acts of academic misconduct lead to suspension from the university and a failing grade in the course.

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Competition is fierce for getting into elite schools like Stanford and Harvard, with acceptance rates hovering around 5 percent. However, such schools also compete with one another for promising students with high potential who may eventually win a Nobel Prize if given the right opportunities. Stanford has the skill and experience to spot superstars among the heap of applications received annually. You do not need to be a trust fund heir or donate a building to be admitted to an elite university like Stanford. For instance, 17.5 percent of fall 2018 incoming undergraduate students selected from 47,451 applicants competing for 2,071 spots were first-generation college students, including those from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Stanford Admission Requirements

There are no minimum GPA requirements or test score thresholds that must be met to be considered for admission. However, the typical student at Stanford is a high achiever who excels on standardized tests. For instance, 75 percent of freshmen enrolled in fall 2018 had a composite ACT score of 32 or better, and 75 percent earned SAT math scores of 700 or higher.

Stanford University admissions examines each applicant’s transcripts to assess the overall difficulty of classes taken, such as the number of Advanced Placement classes. As a premier research institution near Silicon Valley, Stanford expects all majors to have quantitative abilities and critical thinking skills. Stanford does not require a particular plan of college preparatory study and takes a more holistic approach to judging academic readiness.

If you are in high school, challenge yourself and take advantage of the opportunities available for students who are intrinsically motivated and gifted. Graduating high school students who do well at Stanford typically completed four years of writing-intensive English and literature courses; four years of math; at least three years of essay writing in history and social science classes; four or more years of science with lab, including biology, chemistry and physics; and at least three years of a foreign language.

Stanford University requirements also entail an evaluation of experiences outside the classroom that reflect level of motivation, intellectual curiosity and personality. It is not necessary to stress yourself out by competing in sports or joining lots of clubs. In fact, Stanford does not require students to participate in any set number or type of extracurricular activities. Immerse yourself in areas of interest that will allow you to grow and shine in striving to meet Stanford admission requirements. Teacher recommendations are required to provide insight about the student’s disposition, character, leadership ability, intellectual vitality, academic potential and eagerness to learn. Students offered admission must submit verification of a high school diploma or equivalency to enroll in classes.

Stanford Application Requirements

You may apply to Stanford University using the Common Application or the Coalition Application websites. Both are linked to the Stanford University admissions page. If Stanford University is your first-pick school, you may want to submit an early decision application, due November 1 for admission to fall term of the following year. Regular admission applications must be submitted by January 2. Early decision applications do not receive preferential consideration, but you will not have to wait as long for an answer. Early deadlines also apply for students wishing to submit an optional arts portfolio to demonstrate unusual artistic ability.

Further, you must write an essay to help Stanford get to know you as a person. The online application will give you a few prompts to guide your writing. For instance, you might write a 600-word essay describing a turning point in your life or an accomplishment that deepened your sense of self. In addition, you will be directed to write between 100 and 250 words on essay topics provided to you, such as ideas that genuinely excite you. The essays are intended to show what matters to you and what captivates your imagination. An effective essay is authentic, original and engaging. Focus on what makes you a unique, interesting person and why you are more deserving of admission than thousands of other students seeking admission. Stanford takes into consideration difficult life circumstances and obstacles with which the student dealt to finish high school with high honors, so you may want to include stories of obstacles overcome.

Next, pay the nonrefundable $90 fee or request an application fee waiver if you are eligible. You must take the SAT (without writing essay) or the ACT. Self-report your scores on the Stanford admission application or arrange to have scores sent directly. Official scores are not needed until students are admitted. Studying and retaking the tests can be helpful because Stanford super scores test results, meaning only your highest scores are used to gauge ability.

Stanford application requirements also include a school report form and counselor recommendation, two letters of recommendations from teachers and official transcripts. Admission requirements can change from year to year, so check online or visit your high school guidance counselor to find out what SAT score is required by Stanford after 2019, if any.

Stanford Tuition and Fees

Stanford strives for affordability through generous financial aid offers to students who qualify. Admitted students seldom pay the full cost of attending Stanford, estimated at around $72,000 a year for first-year undergraduates, including one-time fees.

2018-2019 Stanford Student Budget Example:

  • Tuition:  $50,703
  •         Room and Board:  $15,763
  •         Health Fee:  $651
  •         Books and School Supplies:  $1,455
  •         Personal Expenses:  $3,015
  •         One-time Orientation Fee:  $525
  •         One-time Document Processing Fee:  $25

Consider submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Financial Aid. Stanford tuition is covered by grants and scholarships for students whose families earn less than $125,000. Parents earning less than $65,000 are exempt from any parent contribution toward college costs, assuming their assets are average for this income bracket. Home equity and retirement savings do not count as family assets. Students must contribute to their education through savings and part-time jobs.

About the Author

Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of student whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.