How My Essays Got Me Into Stanford

Carlie Tenenbaum
Carlie Tenenbaum

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On paper, I was an average Stanford applicant; good grades, good test scores, leadership in extracurriculars, community service, strong letters of rec. That’s what we all have. That’s what they expect. So how do they choose the 1,600 unique, talented, personable, well-rounded freshmen that call the Farm home each fall? In my case, my essays got me into Stanford.

Let’s talk essays.

Essays, the one chance you have to be yourself, to talk about “what matters to you and why”; to be funny, be passionate and come alive. Your essays are where admissions officers see not just a qualified applicant but a promising young intellectual. Someone who will take their Stanford education out into the world, changing the lives of those around them.

For me, this was an opportunity to display my world-famous, self-deprecating, dry, sarcastic humor. I wrote a piece detailing the utter catastrophe that was the time I was my high school mascot for a game. It was a lighthearted bit centering on insane sweating and a crushing need for water, but gave Stanford a chance to see a different side of me–an outgoing, goofy, unpolished, human side.

This is the part of your application your admissions counselors remember.

When they go to bat for the students they think deserve acceptance, they don’t recite your stats, they tell your story.

College acceptances are an investment. They’re a sign of trust and respect, that this university believes you will take their education, their brand, and become a positive contributor to society.

Writing essays that are “you” helps them get a better sense of who they’re investing in. For me that was a talkative, shameless, eager, aspiring politician from a sports-loving San Diego family. Stanford knew what it was getting, and took its chances–I am forever grateful it did!

Note from Empowerly:

If you’re interested in help with your essays, read this guide! Our counselors can help you take your writing to the next level. As an Empowerly student, you review other essays that got into Stanford and receive our best support.

Questions? Let us know!