Stanford University Guide

The Ivy Scholars guide to Stanford University’s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.


Stanford, California


Private Research Institution

Admission Rate:



7,000(4,000 Undergrads)

Jump to Section:




Dates + Deadlines


Schools +Colleges
Core Requirements
Special Programs

Student Life

Campus + Area
Student Orgs + Athletics


Financial Aid

About Stanford

Stanford University’s 4000-acre, tree-lined campus is next door to the city of Palo Alto. Palo Alto contains a sizable portion of the campus including Stanford Shopping Center and Stanford Research Park. Located 35 miles South of San Francisco and 20 miles North of San Jose, Stanford University is in the heart of Northern California’s dynamic “Silicon Valley.

Stanford Statistics

Year Founded


4 Year Graduation Rate:


Gender Distribution

50% / 50%

Acceptance Rate:


Location Type:


Schedule System:


Student / Faculty Ratio:


Average Class Size:



Need assistance with the college admissions process?

National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #2 Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
  • #5 Best Value Schools
  • #5 Most Innovative Schools
  • #6 National Universities
  • #6 Undergraduate Research
  • #14 Best Undergraduate Teaching

Independent Rankings:

  • #2 Best Colleges per Forbes
  • #3 Best University per World University Rankings
  • #3 Best Career Placement per The Princeton Review
  • #3 Best Value Colleges per The Princeton Review
  • #15 Best Financial Aid per The Princeton Review

Stanford Admissions

Application Deadlines:
Notifcation Dates:
Restricted Early Action:

Nov. 1

Restricted Early Action:

Dec. 15

Restricted Early Action:

Jan. 2

Restricted Early Action:

Apr. 1

Transfer Deadline:

Mar. 15

Acceptance Rates:

  • Restricted Early Action: 6%
  • Regular Decision: 3%
  • Transfer: 1%

Average Applicant Pool: 49,000

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 2,050

Average Number Enrolled: 1,700

Application Systems: Common App, Coalition App

Average GPA (weighted):


SAT Scores: 25th% – 1440, 75th% – 1550

ACT Scores: 25th% – 32, 75th% – 35

*Test mandatory. Writing sections are not required.

Demonstrated Interest:

Stanford does not consider demonstrated interest.

Recommendation Letter Policies:

One counselor recommendation and two teacher recommendations with one relating to the planned field of study. One optional recommendation letter in addition to those two will be accepted.

Stanford Essay Prompts:

  • Common App Personal Statement (650 words)
  • 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. (250 words)
  • Tell us something that is meaningful to you and why? (250 words)
  • Pick one of the two prompts below
    • 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—get to know you better. (250 words)
    • Stanford’s community is an essential part of the undergraduate experience. We come from all walks of life, share our own traditions, take care of one another, and think of ourselves as family. How do you define family and what contributions have you made to yours? (250 words)

Stanford Essay Writing Tips

Special Notes:

  • The arts portfolio application deadline is October 20th for restrictive early action and December 6th for regular decision. Students who wish to major in arts, music, theatre or dance are allowed to submit a portfolio to highlight their talent.
  • Students may complete an optional interview with a Stanford alumnus.
  • While parents may write recommendation letters for homeschooled students, the school prefers they come from an outside instructor.


  • Students must use the Common or Coalition App to apply. 
  • Two letters of recommendation from academic instructors are required. One of these should be from a college-level instructor. Veterans may substitute a letter from a commanding officer. One additional optional letter may be submitted.
  • Students are encouraged to review transfer credit guidelines before applying.

Stanford Admission Strategy

Admissions Criteria: 

The following factors are considered very important by Stanford when evaluating prospective students: the admissions essays, extracurriculars, class rank, course rigor, recommendations, standardized test scores, talent, GPA, and character. In addition to these, the following factors are considered: interview, first-generation status, legacy status, race/ethnicity, geographic origin, volunteering, and work experience. From this, we can see that academic preparation and college readiness are key, along with how well prospective students fit into the campus culture Stanford is trying to build. They are looking for people who will contribute positively to the world, both at Stanford and once they leave it. Stanford has the country’s top athletics program, and while they recently cut 11 varsity sports due to the effects of Covid-19, they do still focus heavily on athlete recruitment, especially those with grades that are in their range. 

There should be a key identifiable trait among your achievements and extracurriculars to set you apart from the rest of the applicants.

What is Stanford Looking For?

Stanford ranks all applicants on a scale of 1-6 (1 highest) in three categories: academic, extracurricular, and intellectual vitality. GPA is recalculated as well. Only grades from sophomore and junior year are included, and only those from academic courses. Further +/- grades are flattened, so A- counts as an A, and B+ as a B. The average recalculated GPA is 3.94.  While students should have a more singular extracurricular passion, they should be all-around stellar academically. Consistent weak grades in one subject, especially STEM courses, will greatly damage an applicant’s chances. Stanford receives enough applicants that it can afford to be choosy; thus strong academics all-around are necessary. Legacy students have a significant advantage when applying to Stanford, gaining admittance at nearly 3 times the rate of non-legacy students. While that does still leave them with an acceptance rate of just over 10%, this is a major boost, and shows Stanford’s emphasis on preserving its culture, which many universities believe legacy admissions helps with. The essays are important, and Stanford uses both the main question and the supplemental essays to judge a student’s character, authenticity, and potential to contribute to the campus community. Stanford often admits candidates who are most compelling over those who are merely highly qualified. The story told by your essays is incredibly important here. Stanford has recently begun a new diversity initiative, aimed at increasing representation in their student body. This will provide a slight boost to first generation or underrepresented populations who are applying.

Stanford Strategy:

Stanford is among the most competitive schools in the country, and this enables it to be incredibly selective when admitting students. This also means they don’t consider demonstrated interest; their yield is very high, and due to how selectiv they are they (rightly) assume every admitted student wants to attend.  Academics are the first component. While these cannot be your sole focus, your test scores and grades are the first thing which can disqualify you from actual admissions consideration. If you are below the 50th percentile for test scores, spend some time studying before retesting. While this shouldn’t eat all of your time for marginal gains, this is the first bar to clear. Make sure you have a clear stand-out passion, and that it is clearly demonstrated for Stanford. There should be a key identifiable trait among your achievements and extracurriculars to set you apart from the rest of the applicants.  While Stanford does not consider Demonstrated Interest, they do allow for an optional alumni interview. You should sign up for one of these if possible, as it gives another impression of you as a person to the admissions officers. As a student’s character is a key part of the considerations, the interview is a good way to demonstrate your character and passion.

Get access to our complete essay strategy for Stanford University!

Enter your information below and submit for access to the guide.

Stanford Academics

4 or 5

Required to earn credit from AP tests


Majors Offered


Credits Required to Graduate


Core Requirements:

Courses of Study: 

    • 46 Majors Offered
    • Option to double major
    • Popular majors include Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services; Engineering; Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies; Social Sciences; and Physical Sciences 

AP Credit Policies:

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

    • Stanford does not use Latin honors (summa cum laude, magna cum laude, cum laude), but does award Distinction (based on GPA) to graduating seniors.
    • Stanford has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, a nationwide honor society that recognizes students for the excellence and breadth of their academic undergraduate accomplishments.
    • Departmental Honors are offered for most majors. They require an honors thesis: a substantial project where you identify your own research topic, carry out the research, and write up your results.
    • Several programs allow students from any major to participate in an interdisciplinary honors program.

Several programs allow students from any major to participate in an interdisciplinary honors program.

Research Availability:

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

  • Stanford doesn’t have an undergraduate business major or minor option. Many students wishing to study business major in Economics, but this is not required. The school has an advising program for students who are interested in pursuing business. 
  • Planning for Business School
  • The Stanford Pre-Business Association is a student organization for those who are interested in pursuing a career in business.

Pre-Med Options:

  • Stanford does not offer a pre-Med major. However, there is Pre-Health Advising available for students to get advice about coursework planning, long-term objectives, and options for gaining experience in the field.

Pre-Law Options:

  • There is no specific option for Pre-Law advising, although college advisors are knowledgeable about Law schools and can offer guidance.
  • Students interested in law are encouraged to go to SLS events. During the school year, Stanford Law School offers hundreds of programs featuring leaders in the field of law who give presentations on current legal topics on a weekly basis. Undergraduates are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities to mingle with leaders in the field, law professors, law students, and current lawyers and learn about current topics.

Computer Science Options: 

  • The School of Engineering runs the Computer Science department. They offer both a major and a minor in CS.
  • The department has built-in opportunities for undergraduate research.
  • The department collects resources to help students find summer internship opportunities and full-time employment.

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Programs for High Schoolers:

Student Life at Standford




Fraternities and Sororities


student run groups in the arts

School Motto: The Wind of Freedom Blows

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: Since its founding, Stanford has sought and embraced new ways of fulfilling the university’s mission of research, education, and service. In our world today, rapid change is transforming the human experience and posing fundamental questions for humanity. The need to understand this rapidly changing world and to develop solutions for societal challenges has never felt more urgent.
  • Values: Ethic, Integrity, Inclusion, Human Welfare
  • Additional Information
  • Student Testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Grad Reports)

There are a plethora of different housing options that are differentiated along various criteria, including language and culture, academic theme, and imagined learning environments.

Residential Housing System:

  • Stanford’s Residential College System guarantees campus housing to entering freshmen for all four years, and all first-year students are required to live on campus.
  • There are a plethora of different housing options that are differentiated along various criteria, including language and culture, academic theme, and imagined learning environments.

Housing Statistics:


of Freshmen live on campus.


Stay on-campus for their entire stay.

Campus & Surrounding Area:  

  • Palo Alto is the city in which the university is embedded. Right next to the University is the Stanford Shopping Center which includes a European-style “street market,” Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom’s, and a host of specialty shops and restaurants.
  • To the West of the University’s main campus are the Santa Cruz Mountains and Pacific Ocean, and to the East lies San Francisco Bay. Known as “The Peninsula,” the area is rich in natural beauty, culture, and entertainment. 
  • The Cantor Center features a bevy of works of art from Renaissance paintings to African masks to the world’s largest collection of Rodin’s renowned bronze sculptures.
  • Hoover Tower is a famous landmark that offers a superb view of the campus and surrounding area.
  • Memorial Church is an architectural wonder that is recognized as one of the most historically significant landmarks of Stanford campus. Memorial Church is the site of numerous campus events, from choir concerts and lectures to religious and spiritual services.
  • The “House of Champions” is a lavish museum devoted to Stanford’s athletic history.
  • Safety Information (Stanford, College Factual)



  • Full Moon on the Quad: According to Stanford – “Stanford’s most historic tradition, Full Moon on the Quad began as an occasion for well-intentioned seniors to welcome freshmen girls to the Farm. Since then, the event has become a night of body paint, drunk make-out sessions, and light-hearted debauchery.”
  • Fountain Hopping: According to Stanford – “Nothing screams Stanford more than a frolic from one pretty fountain to the next. If you don’t manage to fountain hop at least once in your four years here, you don’t receive your degree (just kidding, but come on).”
  • Band Run: According to Stanford: “Most freshmen’s introduction to the quirky, wonderful place that is Leland Stanford Junior University is Band Run, an event led by the Band. In body paint and rally gear, the Band takes these young upstarts on a late night jaunt around campus, ending at the metaphorical center of their Stanford lives: the Quad.
  • Exotic Erotic: According to Stanford – “680’s annual clothing-option extravaganza is the only campus-wide party that requires ID certification AND admission stickers, but even then, the only way you’re guaranteed entry is if you live there.”
  • Other Student Traditions

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek Life: 


Stanford Financials

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $78,218
  • Tuition: $57,473
  • Fees: $1,995
  • Room & Board: $17,255
  • Books: $1290
  • Personal Expenses: $2,205

Financial Aid:

The Stanford financial aid program is need-based, meaning that all aid eligibility is determined by your family’s financial circumstances. While the student and their parents have the primary responsibility for paying for college, financial aid can bridge the gap between the total costs and your ability to pay. The average amount of money received from Scholarships and Grants from all sources received by need-based aid recipients in the current freshman class is $58,494. This includes $52,030 average scholarship from Stanford as well as grant funds received from federal, state, and private resources.

Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information


Fun Facts

  • Leland Stanford, governor and senator of California, founded the university in 1885 in memory of his son, Leland Stanford Jr, who died of typhoid. Within weeks of his death, Leland Stanford and his wife decided that, because they no longer could do anything for their own child, “the children of California shall be our children.”
  • In the 2008 Beijing Olympic games Stanford (based on athletes competing in the games that went to Stanford) would have tied with Japan for 11th place in terms of gold medals won.
  • Stanford has a lavish cactus garden created by the founders of the university and many of the very same cacti that they planted in 1885 still survive to this day.
  • Amanda Brown, author of the book that the movie “Legally Blonde” is based on, based the book off of her experiences at Stanford Law.
  • Stanford was one of the very first universities in the world to be coed at its inception.
  • The notorious “Stanford Prison Experiment” was conducted on campus by then psychology professor Philip Zombardo. 
  • The Stanford Research Institute was the site of one of 4 original ARPAnet nodes.

Our experts make Houston students into Ivy League applicants.

Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!