Inside Look at Stanford University

Empowerly Team
Empowerly Team

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

On your first visit to Stanford University, it can feel a bit like paradise. Not only does Stanford’s reputation for outstanding academics precede itself; the university’s sunshine and palm trees give it an appeal unique from its equally elite Ivy League counterparts. To learn more, let’s take an inside look at Stanford.


Stanford is a highly competitive university. The school held an acceptance rate of 4.65% (in 2017). Although best known for its STEM programs and close connection to Silicon Valley, it is strong across academic disciplines.

Interdisciplinary studies

Applicants don’t have to apply to a specific college or major within the university; Stanford encourages students to explore their interests before committing to a major. A wide range of courses fulfills the eight different Ways requirements. These are meant to help students gain the “breadth” aspect of liberal education by guaranteeing exposure to different ways of “thinking” and “doing.” Additional General Education requirements ensure that students improve their writing and rhetoric abilities, solidify foreign language skills, and learn how to approach questions from multiple perspectives.


Students don’t even have to declare their majors until the end of sophomore year. They are free to take most classes across the different colleges within the university regardless of major. There are no pre-professional majors (e.g. Pre-Law, Pre-Med). and it’s much more common to have a minor than a double or secondary major. The most popular major at Stanford is Computer Science, which makes sense given its close connection to the tech industry in Silicon Valley, and all of the other top 5 undergraduate majors are also in STEM. So-called “fuzzy” classes in the social sciences and humanities tend to be smaller, which provides even greater opportunities for students to work closely with faculty members.


Class schedule

The quarter system at Stanford allows students to take a wider variety of classes than they could with a traditional semester system. Each quarter lasts for 2.5 months, and most students take courses in Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters. This system contributes to a fast pace of student life, as midterms often start soon after the beginning of the quarter and end a couple weeks before final exams.

Housing and location

Stanford guarantees on-campus housing for undergraduates throughout their first four years at the university, and most students take advantage of this because housing in the Bay Area is so limited and expensive. The university is located in the South Bay about an hour south of San Francisco, and the campus is nearly 13 square miles. This creates a bit of a “bubble,” in which students tend to spend most of their time on campus. There are constantly events happening on campus, with a vast number of opportunities for students to participate in different groups and programs. Many students also study abroad for at least one quarter with Stanford’s Bing Overseas Study Program.

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