Every year, thousands of college applicants dream of getting into Stanford University. With its proximity to Silicon Valley, top academic programs, and global name recognition, it’s no wonder many students seek out a degree from Stanford. One barrier to that goal? Stanford University’s record low acceptance rate.
According to U.S. News and World Report, Stanford’s acceptance rate is averaging around 4%, making it the second hardest school to get into in the U.S. after Harvard University.
What is Stanford Looking For?
Ultimately, Stanford is looking to admit applicants who excel at academics, are intellectually curious, and will contribute to their campus community. There are other factors that we’ll explore below, but getting these points right will boost your acceptance chances to Stanford.
To get started, here are a few things you can do to meet Stanford’s expectations and increase your chances:
Maintain a Top Academic Record
It may seem simple, but it needs to be said that a weak academic record is one of the easiest ways to disqualify your application from Stanford. Aim to maintain a top academic record with A grades and high scores.
What exactly does a successful applicant’s academic record look like? During the 2022 admission cycle, Stanford reported median scores of 1540 out of 1600 on the SAT and 35 out of 36 on the ACT. Over 70% of accepted applicants had a perfect 4.0 GPA, with an average GPA of 3.95.
With these scores in mind, the first thing you should do to gain leverage against the low Stanford acceptance rate is to focus on your academic performance. Keeping your GPA up and scoring high on the SAT or ACT are two key elements in your Stanford application prep.
Develop Expertise in Extracurriculars
While academic excellence is required for admission to Stanford, high grades aren’t enough on their own to get you in. At least, not if that’s the only thing you have to offer.
Stanford is looking for well-rounded students who have mastered skills and passions outside of the classroom as well.
Interested in law? Join your school’s mock trial team. Want to express your artistic side? Connect with an artists’ group in the community and start building your portfolio.
Whatever extracurriculars you choose, make sure they are activities that are of true interest to you. Stanford wants to see not only that you express an interest in something, but that you are devoted to its pursuit.
Ace the Stanford Essay
The essay portion of your application package is the perfect opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Here is where you can let your personality shine while providing the admissions committee with biographical information that might not be evident in other application sections. Of course, you’ll want to highlight information about yourself that is advantageous from an acceptance standpoint.
Are you a first-generation college student? Do you speak a foreign language? Did you start a business at a young age? Have you overcome adversity to get where you are? Did you have a unique childhood experience? Use the essay to highlight for Stanford exactly what you’ll bring to the community.
And of course, make extra sure it’s grammatically correct and absent of any spelling mistakes.
Practice for the Stanford interview
If you’re applying to Stanford, there’s a possibility you’ll get invited to the Stanford interview. While optional, Stanford is known to call early and regular decision applicants who live in one of their interview areas to meet trained alumni.
This is an incredible opportunity to impress a Stanford alum and gain their recommendation. Acing the Stanford interview questions could mean the difference between acceptance and rejection.
For these reasons, you’ll want to be prepared in case you get the call. Make sure you know how to explain what led you to apply to Stanford, clearly and succinctly. Be prepared to talk about your academic interests and extracurricular achievements and what you’d bring to the Stanford community. Don’t forget to ask questions—an engaged and interested applicant who impresses during the Stanford interview could earn a shining alumni review.
Stanford interview tip: write it down
One example of how you could prepare is to create a resume for yourself and use it as a guide during the interview. Include previous work, volunteer, or extracurricular experiences on your resume, as well as academic performance and future goals and plans.
It can be difficult to remember some of these biographical details about yourself when under the pressure of the interview. Having it all written down for you to pull from during the interview will ensure you don’t leave out any details that will be helpful to your acceptance chances.
What are the Stanford interview questions?
According to Stanford, applicants should approach the Stanford interview like a casual conversation. As a result, there is no standard set of Stanford interview questions—each interview is different.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for it. Due to the nature of what Stanford is looking for in prospective candidates, the Stanford interview questions, while variable, tend to veer toward similar topics. In general, it’s recommended that you prepare to answer questions regarding:
- Your academic interests
- Your extracurricular activities and achievements
- Your leadership experience
- Your goals and aspirations
- What you could contribute to the Stanford community
Before you go, here are some examples of questions you could ask the interviewer:
- How did Stanford help you achieve your goals?
- What did you enjoy most about Stanford’s campus culture?
- How do you maintain your connection to Stanford and your classmates?
- Is there something you wish you’d known before attending Stanford?
Other factors Stanford considers when reviewing your application
Like most universities, Stanford’s admissions team is looking at your application package holistically. They weigh a variety of factors when deciding who to admit. In addition to a strong academic record, high test scores, and a vibrant extracurricular life, they will also consider:
- The rigor of the courses you took in high school
- Class rank
- Character and personal qualities
- Talent and ability
- Future goals and plans
- Personal history and experiences
Maximize your chances against the Stanford acceptance rate
If you’re applying to Stanford University and want to maximize your chances of getting in—despite the record-low acceptance rate—focus on what you can control. Maintain a high GPA, take rigorous courses, study for standardized tests, explore your interests outside of school, and submit thoughtful application essays. Alongside strong recommendations, a demonstrated commitment to contributing to the Stanford community, and various individual factors, these elements combine to make a strong Stanford application.