Admitted Essay for Stanford University: Essay Review

Admitted Essay Reviews
October 1, 2020
Not Every College Essay Is Going To Be Academic-Based...

Some colleges, like the prestigious Stanford University, want to know how students enjoy spending their time outside of the classroom. Educators know that students shouldn’t spend all their time studying, and having plenty of non-school-related activities will directly influence their productivity and success with their schoolwork.

To see this healthy balance between challenging classes and extracurricular activities, some colleges ask their applicants to elaborate on some of their favorite experiences outside of the classroom. This Stanford Essay Review outlines the best way to draw a connecting line between your progress in your academic goals and your favorite extracurricular activities.

An Admitted Essay For Stanford University

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. (100 to 250 words)

“I started playing guitar when I was three. Then I asked for a drum set, and after that, a bass. Finally, I asked for a piano—but a vibraphone was different. When I was asked to play the vibraphone two weeks before the concert, I emphatically proclaimed that I would do it. I was thrilled about the opportunity to learn a new instrument without prior knowledge; it was an exciting challenge.

Every bit of free time I had, I spent practicing. I practiced on actual vibraphones, imaginary vibraphones, pianos, and every surface that I could use as an imitation because a vibraphone is not easily transportable. Every note meant something to me: a new method, interpretation, or technique. I felt like an author who learned new words or a researcher who discovered a new technology. In the dress rehearsal, I finally played the piece correctly. Unfortunately, I broke my collarbone before the concert so I never had my vibraphone debut.

While I did want to do well in the concert, I truly enjoyed the process of learning to play a new instrument. When I learn something new it is like I am given a new instrument; every instrument comes with new ways to interpret music. There are so many ways to explore each instrument and what it is capable of. Instruments are everlasting conduits for expression. In the same way, new ideas never cease to promote further learning. Learning is an exciting process, made up of many instruments to explore.”

Our Expert Review

This student did a great job at immediately answering the question. The earlier in the essay a student can answer the question, the better. He connected his favorite hobby to his academic experience by explaining that learning new instruments fuels his love for learning in general. In a succinct sentence, he immediately sums up the whole point of the prompt: how his favorite activities help him with his progress with his academics. He loves to play instruments and he loves to learn. Both points are covered in one statement.

By pointing out that he knows how to play multiple instruments he also shows off a range of talent and adaptability, and that he isn’t afraid to try new things. Lastly, including the small detail that he never made his vibraphone debut shows that he learns new instruments simply because he enjoys learning.

However, while this student did an excellent job at fully answering the prompt in a creative way, there is still some room for adjustment. Some of his creative liberties in the last paragraph kept him from being clear and direct. The essay would be stronger if he chose a slightly more direct route when explaining why and how he knows how to play so many instruments.

He makes the initial connection between learning instruments and learning in general, but there was room for a more in-depth application through specifics: adapting under pressure, learning new material quickly, and the important lesson that learning is a life-long experience. These are all opportunities to showcase qualities that college admission officers are looking for in their applicants, and the writer only scratched the surface of how his experience with instruments directly affects his passion for learning in an academic setting.

Overall, he came across as inquisitive and determined, which is great, but our experts would’ve also loved to feel some enthusiasm or excitement about his new discovery.

How To Apply This Advice To Your Own College Essays


Look at your high school career and narrow down the activities where you gave the most energy. Maybe you served on the school council for a long time, and you're skilled in leadership, delegation, and administrative tasks. Or, maybe you're a team captain for a sports team or first chair in your school’s orchestra.

Look at any evidence that may point to your unique skill set, and own it! No two students are the same, so once you discover your talents, don’t be afraid to showcase it in your college essays. Don’t forget the essay prompt, either; try to pinpoint an activity that directly influences how well you perform in an academic setting.

When writing your own college essays, ask these questions:

  • Where have I spent most of my time outside of school?
  • Is there any evidence like awards or accolades that point to my unique skill set?
  • Am I truly passionate about any activities to the point where I could write an enthusiastic essay about it?
  • Does this activity help me stay focused and motivated with my schoolwork?


Once you find the set of talents and skills that are unique to you, you can begin to draw connections from those activities to your work at school. Ask yourself what kind of challenges your chosen activity created, and figure out how you learned to adapt. The most direct way to connect your activities to your academics is by discovering the qualities that your activity demands, and transferring those over to the academic setting.

In our example essay, the student discovered that he enjoyed learning new instruments and that it directly affected his love for learning in general. Maybe you enjoy making art and being creative, and that release from thinking critically is a necessary break so you can work harder in your classes. On the other hand, maybe you found that playing a team sport helped you grow in your critical thinking skills and your ability to adjust to stressful situations.

By asking these kinds of questions, you’ll also find the right words to convey the qualities that college admission officers look for like leadership, adaptability, creativity, and curiosity.

When writing your own college essays, ask these questions:

  • What do I find challenging about the activities I participate in outside of school?
  • What have I learned or how have I grown from these experiences?
  • How has this growth affected my growth in academics?


After you initially discover how your non-school related activities affect your academics, you’re now free to ask “Why?” The student who wrote our example essay might have begun to ask why, but he didn’t include any specifics in his final draft, which is what would’ve taken his essay from “great” to “excellent.”

Overall, always ask “Why?” until you’ve narrowed down the specific reasons behind the connection between your outside school involvement and your experiences in the classroom. Provide specific examples, and be clear and direct; it will be much more interesting to read than generalities.

When writing your own college essays, ask these questions:

  • Why did my academics improve (or worsen) after joining a certain club or activity group?
  • Can I pinpoint any specific examples that highlight this?


Lastly, college admission officers want to read enthusiastic essays. While the student who wrote our example essay sounded impressive, his excitement didn’t leap off the page. He still wrote an acceptable college essay that helped him gain admission, but his essay would have been stronger if he tried to show some positivity.

Have another person read your essay to give you a better idea of the tone behind your words.

When writing your own college essays, ask these questions:

  • How can I showcase my passion or excitement for this activity?
  • Does the essay sound like I’m trying to come across impressive or intimidating?

Connecting Academics And Activities

Overall, as long as you ask yourself some questions and enjoy the process of writing your college essay, you’ll be on the fast track to submitting an admission-worthy essay. When it comes to writing an essay that isn’t explicitly based on your academics, you’ll want to pinpoint the activities you participated in that directly influenced your performance in the classroom. Look for specifics, and don’t hesitate to ask yourself questions to help you deliver more clear and direct ideas.

As always, WeAdmit’s professional counselors are available for questions, too. Regardless of your college essay prompt, our counselors can help you choose a topic, and make necessary edits to ensure that you’re delivering the best essay that you can.



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