How To Get Into Stanford University


Are you interested in enrolling in a Stanford University program? As it’s consistently ranked in the top 10 universities in the US, you can expect it to receive a lot of applications.

Well, most of those applications don’t go any further, so it’s best to set yourself up for success. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to take your application to the next level.

Let’s talk about how to get into one of the most prestigious schools in the US, Stanford University.

What Is Stanford University’s Acceptance Rate?

As the university is often called the “Ivy of the West Coast” or the “West Coast Ivy League”, you can imagine that its acceptance rate is fairly low. Well, out of a pool of 55,471 applicants in 2021, only 2,190 received an acceptance letter.

Essentially, that means that their official acceptance rate last year was just over 5%. However, one can imagine there were many other well-qualified candidates interested in attending that didn’t apply because they didn’t think they would enter.

Without offering a hypothetical projection, we will merely suggest that many students may want to attend Stanford, but only a handful will attend. However, if you know what the admissions team is looking for, you may be able to boost your odds.

What Does Stanford Want From Applicants?

If Stanford has such a low acceptance rate, then they obviously have high standards for their students. So, what exactly are they looking for? Well, here are the most important factors.

A High GPA

On average, the GPA for a high school student applying to Stanford is a 3.96. However, more than two-thirds of the newest class in the university graduated high school with a 4.0 with the lowest third graduating between 3.75 and 3.99.

Only around 3% of current Stanford students graduated high school with a GPA below 3.75. If your GPA was below 3.75, you will either need a lot more on your application or you will need to start strongly at a different school prior to applying.

SAT/ACT Scores

The median SAT score for a Stanford student is between 1420 and 1550 along with a 31 to 35 for the ACT. The vast majority of Stanford University test scores fall between 1400 and 1600 on their SAT or between 30 and 36 on the ACT.

High-Class Ranking

Believe it or not, 96% of Stanford students ranked in the top 10% of their graduating class. This is a metric that Stanford’s admissions team considers to be “very important”.

If you went to a smaller school with a graduating class of under one hundred students, the university expects applicants to rank higher than if they went to a school with over a thousand students.

Professional College Essay

Essays are an essential part of a college application, and Stanford takes them seriously. If you are well-written, then this is your time to shine.

Usually, applicants are required to write three separate essays of between 100 and 250 words. These are short essays on a specific topic, so you have to be clear, concise, and demonstrate why you belong at Stanford University.

Challenging Courses

Course rigor will play a role in your admissions. Essentially, the more AP classes or honors classes you’ve taken, the better. A prestigious school like Stanford wants to see students who have clearly demonstrated their willingness to challenge themselves and still succeed.

Quality Letters of Recommendation

Of course, admissions teams need to look through your letter(s) of recommendation to see what previous teachers, mentors, or supervisors have to say about you. The more letters you have and the higher quality they are, the better your chances will be.

For example, if you’re applying to a biology program and you have a letter of recommendation from the science department head at your school, this will certainly help your application.

Alternatively, if you are applying for a political science program and you have a signed letter from a political organization, campaign manager, or historical society for which you volunteered, this will also help.

The Right Extracurricular Activities

Whether it’s volunteer work or membership in an Honor Society, there are extracurricular activities that could help with your application. This is especially true if these activities are applicable to your desired program.

Other Factors

Mentioned above are the most important factors for the admissions team. These are the ones they deem “very important” in their decision-making. However, there are less significant factors that could help make a close decision final, including:

  • First-generation student
  • College interview
  • Relation to alumni
  • Geographic residence
  • Racial/ethnic status
  • Volunteer work or work experience 

That’s about it. The admissions team does not take into account any religious affiliations, state residence, or level of interest in their decision-making process.

How to Get Into Stanford University

Of course, there is no guarantee you will get into Stanford, even with stellar grades and a perfect record. It will be left entirely up to the admissions team at the University.

However, there are ways for you to improve your chances of acceptance. Let’s talk about that.

Improve Your GPA

The first and most obvious tip is to improve your GPA before applying. If you’re wrapping up your senior year of high school, then this may not be feasible for you.

However, if you are a sophomore or a junior and your GPA dipped during a couple of quarters, you still have time to make up for it. Ideally, you want to get your GPA above 3.96 before filing your application.

If that’s feasible for you, then stop at no cost. If there’s one aspect of your application that will stop the admissions team from even considering you, it’s a low GPA.

Remember, class rigor is also important, so if you still have time, try to register for AP classes. If your GPA is above 3.96, then you should have no trouble doing so.

Although, you may not have time to fix your GPA or choose higher-level classes. In that case, we recommend taking a year at a different school if you are not accepted into Stanford and using that time wisely to boost your chances.

Graduating from Stanford with three years instead of four will not affect the value of your degree, so if there’s a program you really want to attend, don’t give up!

Take Time Out of School

Assuming you’re still in high school, you likely have plenty of time to focus on boosting your application outside of school. Even if you need to work, find a job in the field you want to study at Stanford, as this will only help your application.

Conversely, if you can’t find paid work opportunities in your desired field, spend more of your free time volunteering within it. Nearly every field needs interested volunteers for some type of work, so look around in your area.

Also, when we’re talking about GPAs of 4.0, you need to spend time outside of school to make it happen. Taking an extra half hour to study and overlearn a topic you already know could be the difference between a perfect GPA and a subtracted point.

Remember, there’s always something you can do if you’re serious about enrollment. Study for tests, reach out for letters of recommendation, and do what you’re doing now by researching opportunities to help your prospects for admission!

Prepare for Standardized Tests

When it comes to the SAT and ACT, you have to do your absolute best. We recommend studying as far in advance as possible and to take more time out of your week every week as you approach the testing date.

Don’t forget, you can take the exam more than once. If you aren’t happy with your score, it’s okay to study harder and try again.

Even if you are happy with your score, there’s no harm in trying to do better. If you can boost your score by 100 points, you will only increase your chances of enrolling in the program you want, which will have a major impact on your future.

Not only that but scoring highly on certain standardized tests could offer you eligibility for certain scholarships and grants, which is very helpful with a $56,000 annual tuition.

Work Toward High-Level Extracurricular Achievements

Joining any extracurricular activity will help your admissions prospects, but there are some that are more valuable than others. There is a tier list to sort through to determine the right program for your needs, and you should ideally try to achieve at least one in the Tier 1 or Tier 2 list.

Tier 1 activities are extremely rare but also the most eye-catching for admissions teams. These will include winning (or placing at the top of) recognized national tournaments in an academic field.

Consequently, Tier 2 will include other significant achievements such as an all-state athletics competition, an Honors Society certificate, a leadership position in a nationally recognized club, or something similar.

If neither of these tiers is feasible for you, then Tier 3 is more common and still beneficial to your application. These demonstrate a student’s interest in extracurriculars without any major achievements. Examples would be MVP recognition in your local sports team, holding the seat of class treasurer, or a leadership role in a school club.

Work Hard on Your Essay

In all seriousness, this is your one chance to appeal to the admissions board if you don’t have an interview. If you can manage to receive an interview and you think it would be beneficial, then ask for one and do everything in your power to prepare ahead of time.

Either way, you will need to write a proper essay in college format, and you will need to stand out from thousands of other applicants. Remember, these essays are short and if everybody writes three of them, then admissions teams will have to read over 150,000 of them.

Also, it’s important to remember that, because the essays are so short, what you don’t say is every bit as important as what you do. Research, write rough drafts, edit, and perfect your essay as best as you can.

Ask for Recommendations

Finally, ask your teachers, volunteer leaders, supervisors, and extracurricular sponsors for help with recommendations. Try to get as many as you can, review them yourself, and choose which ones you use in your application carefully. 

Remember, letters of recommendation are not equal. Like your essays, the ones you use need to stand out among a large pile of similar ones, so make sure the ones you use do exactly that.

How to Apply to Stanford University

Once you’ve taken the time and put forth the effort to improve your application, then it’s time to draft one. First, you will need to go to the University’s application page and look over the requirements.

Stanford has early application deadlines, and the one for 2022 to 2023 has already passed. However, if you want to enroll in the 2023 to 2024 school year, you will need to submit your application by December 1st, 2022.

If you are applying as an international student or transfer student, then you will need to fill out a special application that you will also find on their website.

Once you know the requirements, you will then simply need to collect the paperwork and documents previously mentioned, triple-check that you have everything you need, and submit your application. This will need to include an application fee of $90 and a document fee of $250 for undergraduate students.

After submission, you will simply have to await a response. Stanford’s decision deadline is April 1st, so you should expect to hear back in March about the status of your application.

Apply Today & Start Your Future

Now that you know about applying to Stanford University, there’s no time to wait. Even if you missed the deadline, there is plenty you can do now to help your prospects for the next round.

Keep up with our blog for our latest academic news and feel free to contact us with any questions!



Source: HonorSociety.org Member Articles
How To Get Into Stanford University

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