How to Get Into Stanford: Everything You Need to Know

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Stanford University is an elite private university that is in located Stanford, California, near Silicon Valley.

Many students are drawn to Stanford for its rigorous academics, prime entrepreneurial location, and reputation as one of the best universities in the world.

This guide will use the Stanford’s Class of 2022 student profile to provide hard statistics and facts on Stanford’s acceptance rate and the academic and test scores necessary to be accepted.

Then, it will dive into subjective factors:

  • What is Stanford really looking for?
  • What kind of student truly stands out?

By the end of the guide, you will have a holistic overview of what you can do to increase your chances of getting into this top institution.

How difficult is it to get into Stanford?

In 2018, a total of 47,451 students applied to Stanford.

  • Of those, 2,071 were eventually admitted.
  • This means that Stanford’s acceptance rate was below 5% – it was 4.36%, to be exact.

Statistically, this makes Stanford one of the most difficult schools to get into. It is even more competitive than many of the Ivy League schools on the East Coast.

The data also show that Stanford has gotten more selective every single year since 2009.

  • It has steadily declined to 4.35% in 2018 from 9.5% in 2009.

Therefore, we can anticipate that its acceptance rate will be even lower in the upcoming application cycle.

What test scores and grades are necessary for Stanford?

These are the middle 50% test scores for the class of 2022:

SAT Math Section 720 – 800
SAT Evidence-Based Reading & Writing 700 – 770
ACT Composite 32 – 35

Out of the students who were accepted in 2018, 1,706 students enrolled.

This means that about 853 students from the class of 2022 received SAT Math, SAT Reading & Writing, and ACT Composite scores in the ranges shown above.

About 426 received scores below those ranges.

About 426 received scores above those ranges

  • In addition, 96% of accepted students from the class of 2022 belonged in the top ten percent of their class, while 100% belonged in the top twenty percent.
  • College Simply estimates that the average high school GPA of students who are admitted into Stanford is 4.18 on a 4.0 scale.

This means that you will need very competitive SATs and ACTs scores, as well as high school grade point averages in order to have a chance at getting into Stanford.

You should aim to achieve test scores that fall in, or very close to, the middle 50% range shown above and to primarily get As.

What should you do in high school to stand out?

The points mentioned above – achieving top academic marks and high-test scores – those are a given when it comes to getting into Stanford.

Nearly all of the students (40k+ of them) who apply to Stanford will have good or stellar scores.

  • Therefore, while your high scores should be a point of pride and are necessary for admission, they are not what will ultimately get you into Stanford.

Because of its uniquely large applicant pool, Stanford’s admission board crosses paths with a wide array of talents and achievements in every application cycle.

It will be no easy task to impress the admissions board.

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Let’s start out with what you should NOT do.

To start, we would first like to let you know what you should avoid doing in high school:

  • You should NOT sign up for every possible extracurricular activity that you think will look impressive on your resume for colleges and universities.

For example, if you aim to pursue medicine in the future, it is not necessarily wise to become a member of every health-related club at your school or to volunteer at as many clinics as possible before graduation.

  • You should NOT engage in numerous extracurricular activities for the sake of demonstrating that you may have a diversity of talents and interests.

For example, if you are passionate about music, do not think you will also need to join a sports club to show that you are capable of excelling in both.

These are two behavior patterns that many high school students engage in because they think it will increase their chances of getting accepted into competitive institutions.

  • Yet, on the contrary, universities will often use “mindless” extracurriculars as a way to filter out applications.
  • You want to avoid making your resume look like a thoughtless checklist of activities meant for getting into college.
  • Rather, your resume should reflect your most authentic, high-achieving self.

In other words, getting into Stanford requires genuine and intentional aspirations.

It requires specialization in interests over diversity of interests (unless that is what you specialize in), plus a tiny bit of flair or an element of uniqueness.

This is what you need to do to get into Stanford.

While there is no specific high school path that will ensure that you stand out in the Stanford admissions cycle, we will offer some tips that keep Stanford’s selection process criteria in mind:

  • Academic Excellence, Intellectual Vitality, Extracurricular Activities, and Personal Context.

We have already talked sufficiently about academic excellence and it is, in some ways, the most straightforward criterion.

You simply must do everything you can do well and achieve high marks in school.

We will include more about the other three (extracurricular activities, intellectual vitality, and personal context) in our advice below:

Start early.

Choose one or two special talents or deep interests that you would like to explore extensively and to dedicate your high school education and career to.

To help your decision-making process, create a list of your current talents and interests.

Write down personal pros and cons for each one of them. Narrow them down first by personal preference.

Then, consider which one you would best be able to demonstrate and excel in.

Cultivate your talents via extracurricular activities.

Whatever talents or interests you decide on, begin cultivating and refining them right away.

You should choose extracurricular activities to participate in during your freshman year that will demonstrate your commitment to and, eventually, skill at the topic.

  • Continue to delve deeper and improve your talent throughout your sophomore and junior years.
  • Your extracurricular activities are important because they are the means through which you can communicate your individual value to Stanford and what you can bring to their institution.

Having an overall “theme” for your activities shows that your choices are purposeful and holds meaning (i.e. not mindless).

Demonstrate intellectual vitality.

Aim to become the best or an “expert” in the particular activity/talent/subject that you choose.

Demonstrate intellectual vitality by exploring every possible avenue or method to learn about or practice your talents and interests.

  • Apply them in different iterations and contexts. Stanford wants to see that you take your intellectual growth into your own hands, to control and manipulate it on your own accord.
  • They want to see that you do not follow the status quo and simply wait for someone “more knowledgeable” to lecture it to you – they want to see that you are at the forefront of new knowledge.

Intellectual vitality is perhaps the most important of the Stanford criteria.

It is also the factor that can help set you apart from the rest. Why?

As we mentioned before, academic excellence is a given when it comes to Stanford and extracurricular activities are simply the means through which you communicate your successes and talents.

  • Even specialization in a subject will not guarantee admission because of Stanford’s very large (and very talented) applicant pool:
  • In a single year, there could be numerous valedictorians, numerous students who have started successful businesses, numerous students who are the best soccer players in their state, and so on who apply to the university.

But intellectual vitality is different because it is how you can express your individuality and self-initiative within your specialization.

  • For example, how did you approach educating yourself on XYZ and eventually attaining the top rank at your school?
  • How did you train differently to master your skills in soccer compared to all the other top soccer players who applied?
  • How is your start-up business more relevant or refreshing in the modern world today compared to all the successful start-up businesses founded by other applicants?

One other area you are able to let Stanford know about your uniqueness is through personal context, which is one of its other criteria:

“Just as no two Stanford students are the same, each applicant to Stanford is unique. This means that as we review each application, we pay careful attention to unique circumstances. We take into account family background, educational differences, employment and life experiences.”

You will be able to emphasize your personal contexts primarily through your application essays in the Coalition or Common App and Stanford’s supplemental essay section.

General Advice for the Stanford Supplemental Essays

Your essays are a very important part of the selection process for admission officers.

They look to it to gain a sense of who they may be admitting and to put your successes and failures, perceived or not, into context.

The essays are also the only part of your application that you are in control of as a senior; everything else, like grades or recommenders, are already determined.

We recommend that you take a look at one of our more in-depth guidelines for each general application and for Stanford’s supplemental:

  1. Common Application
  2. Coalition Application
  3. Supplemental

The Coalition and Common Apps are similar in nature and they both work to provide a more personal, holistic picture of each applicant to colleges and universities.

  • Choosing one or the other does not really impact your admission decision, but we recommend that you use the Common Application if your family’s financial situation is stable.

This application is more extensive than the Coalition App and more widely applicable to other colleges you may want to apply too.

  • If, on the other hand, you are a low-income or underrepresented student, you could use the Coalition Application, which was created in 2015 to combat inequities in college education and to “promote access and equity” to the college admissions process.

Remember, Stanford wants to know what makes you special from all the other highly driven, successful, and talented people who are vying for a spot at their institution.

They want to see one of the following: voice, unique character, or student perspective.

  • In order to facilitate this, you should choose essays that will differentiate you in some way.
  • Then, within these essays, it is essential that you be yourself.
  • Don’t write what you think the admissions board wants to hear. There’s only one of you; you are unique on your own merit.

In these essays, they are not looking for a recap of your resume or a list of achievements.

Skip these lists, as well as introductory fluff or material, and delve right into the heart of why you, your curiosities, your motivations, and your hopes for the future matter.

Once you are done, make sure you run your essays past qualified people to check and edit.

This can be a teacher, a peer, or one of our essay tutors – anyone who understands what Stanford is looking for and can offer you suggestions.

A Checklist for the Stanford Application

  1.  Coalition Application or Common Application (Due by Nov 1 for Restrictive Early Action OR January 2 for Regular Decision)
  2. $90 nonrefundable application fee or fee waiver request (Submitted with application)
  3. SAT or ACT test scores (submit by December at the latest)
  4. School Report and counselor letter of recommendation
  5. Letters of recommendation from two teachers
  6. Official transcript(s)
  7. Midyear transcript (by February 15)

Conclusion: How to Get Into Stanford

Stanford is one of the world’s top institutions, and rightfully so.

In order to earn an acceptance from Stanford, you should demonstrate intellectual vitality, an interest in your field of choice, and your own narrative within the essays.

Follow the Common App and Stanford Supplemental directions, and try to get a head start on the competition.

Best of luck. We know you can do it!

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