What Does it Take to Get Into Stanford?

Strategies by School
September 10, 2019
Without A Doubt, Stanford University Holds A Dear Place In Many Students’ Hearts...

With an illustrious history and prestigious reputation that rivals even Harvard, Stanford is among the giants of the college world. Since its opening in 1891, the university has cultivated an intellectually rich and thriving environment that nurtures exploration, innovation, and greatness.

“So...what does the average student at Stanford look like, and how did they get in?”

Your mind may conjure up images of charismatic geniuses in spectacles and black turtlenecks but, in fact, many of the students are just like you: ’normal’ everyday young adults with endless curiosity, potential, and passion for whatever is most meaningful to them. Dispel your belief that you have to confine yourself to a specific ‘image’ in order to be admitted to Stanford—you need to capitalize on what is most unique and authentic about yourself.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution or guaranteed formula to get into Stanford; however, there are several steps, processes, and habits that will significantly increase your chances of being admitted. In this guide, we’ll break down what those aspects are and how to identify and emphasize what is ‘special’ about you.

What You’ll Find In This College Guide

Stanford's Ideal Student


The majority of students admitted into Stanford were within the top 5-10% of their high schools in terms of GPA and academic performance. Your scores can’t just be good—they need to be great in order to secure a chance in the Stanford admissions process. Each year, the amount of high-performing applicants increases greatly, resulting in little leg-room for students who don’t meet a certain standard when it comes to their GPA and SAT/ACT scores.

Here are the average statistics for the 2022 Freshman Class:

  • GPA: 3.95
  • SAT: 1495
  • ACT: 34
Note: For the class of 2022, the average SAT score for the Math Section ranged from 720-800 and the average score for the Reading and Writing Section ranged from 700-770. This should allow you to gauge your own scores in comparison to the most recently reported class of accepted freshmen.

If your scores are within this range, then you’re in a good place! As we mentioned earlier, this doesn’t necessarily mean you will be accepted; however, you’re well on your way to the possibility of being admitted. If your scores aren’t quite at this mark but are close, don’t be deterred from applying—your essays will be critical in boosting your chances.

Above all, an excellent and consistent academic background demonstrates diligence, adaptability, and critical thinking—traits that tell Stanford you are capable of succeeding at their campus.

Here are a few other key traits that highlight what Stanford is looking for in a student...


In its mission statement, Stanford emphasizes a few core values that are essential to its inner-workings as well as to its continual advancement. These values apply to university policies and are, more importantly, reflected in the school’s community of faculty, staff, and students. Here’s a look at what they are, and how you can embody them best in your application.


Think about what you’re passionate about and how it relates to the world around you: how does that interest engage, help, and move others? Stanford seeks those who have the purpose to serve and support people—ponder the experiences in which you can discuss your desire to help and do something beyond yourself.

Note: Start small! You don’t need to have invented an advanced gadget or discovered a miracle cure—think of ways you’ve supported and aided those in need of help; whether that be family, friends, team members of a school club, etc; and craft a compelling narrative that allows admissions officers to glimpse into the significance of your actions.


When was the last time you took initiative to change something? When was the last time you failed, and how did you pick yourself back up? Stanford values zeal, a spirit that is not complacent with mediocrity.


There’s so much more to an issue than what is presented on the surface. Don’t be afraid to ask: Why? How? When? Where? Be reflective and dive into the various angles that can arise from questioning, and think more critically about problems that matter to you.


This one is very important and ties into our point on boldness—what steps have you taken to actualize your goals and dreams? While it’s easier to think out loud about potential plans and projects for the future, it’s a difficult feat to actually put those words into action. If you can point to concrete examples of how you’ve executed original ideas (in the form of events, statistics, team-building, etc.), you are showing Stanford that you can take imagination and transform it into reality.


Stanford aims to support and guide students who are driven and who exemplify action and forward-thinking. Here’s a look into just a few of the university’s top academic programs, all of which are intent on equipping their students with the tools, resources, and knowledge to succeed in their fields:


From this section, your can see that an ideal applicant for Stanford University is someone who excels in academia and who has demonstrated consistent engagement with their goals and passions, and with the  communities most important to them.

Now that we’ve identified these key ideas and numbers, let’s move onto the admissions requirements.

What You Need To Get Accepted Into Stanford

According to Stanford’s most updated applicant profile, over 47,000 students applied for the 2022 class. However, only 2,071 of those students were accepted—amounting to a very low 4.3%. By discussing these numbers with you, we want to emphasize how truly difficult it is for any student to be admitted.

With this in mind, let’s break down the components of the application to ensure you have everything ready before the November 1st (Restrictive Early Action) or January 2nd (Regular Decision) deadline.


You will be submitting your application materials through either the Common Application or Coalition Application, depending on your preference. After selecting Stanford as an option, you will be instructed on how to submit your scores, transcripts, essays, and more.


Both the Common App and the Coalition App require a fee, though you can request a fee waiver from your counselor if applicable. Reference this article for more information on how to navigate fee waivers!


You are responsible for self-reporting your score(s) on the application. Official scores are not required for the application process and are only needed if you are accepted.


Please discuss this with your counselor well ahead of the deadline in order to give them ample time to provide you a letter of recommendation and school report.


You will need to acquire and provide an official transcript that details each class and the grade received for your high school record. You will also need to provide a mid-year transcript by February 15th for review. This ensures that you are keeping up with your academics, so don’t give up senior year!


Reach out to two teachers who understand you and your work best. Establish consistent communication before, during, and after they have written and submitted your letters of recommendation and be sure to sincerely thank them!


To complete your application, you will be required to write one long-response essay and three short-response essays. There are several prompts provided for the long-response portion, so select the one you can relate to the best. All in all, these questions are key for you to express yourself authentically and to define yourself beyond your GPA and SAT/ACT scores.

Note: Unlike most colleges, Stanford does not have an option for you to select a preferred major or academic program in your application, so it is important you mention your intellectual interests and possible career ideas in your essay.

"Do I Have A Chance?"

If at this point you find yourself optimistically nodding along to the average scores, university values, and application requirements, then you should have a good chance of getting into Stanford (even more so if your scores exceed the ones reported above)!

To cushion your well-grounded academic background and thus create an even stronger application, focus on creating compelling answers to the essay questions as well as developing deeper connections with your counselors and teachers. Letters of recommendation are an understated but crucial parts of your application as they allow admissions officers to understand you through the lens of respected members of your academic environment.

Stanford's Campus Life

Our conversation has mostly been centered on determining if your academic background and values align with those at Stanford, but college is more than grades, scores, and written knowledge.

Let’s look into what breathes life into the school—its student population, and what they’re up to outside the lecture hall:


Many college newcomers are wide-eyed and curious about fraternities and sororities. In online forums, Stanford alumni have noted that the university’s Greek life is not as chaotic compared to more high-profile ‘party schools’. Nonetheless, many freshmen are active in Greek life when it comes time to ‘rush’ (recruit) in the spring.

Note: Rushing for Greek life at Stanford occurs in the spring—not in the fall like many other colleges—because there is more of an emphasis on transition and adjustment for new students in the fall.


According to current students and alumni the dining hall food at Stanford is very good and features a wide range of options! Freshmen select a meal plan that allots them a certain number of meals a week, since most first-year students are not used to cooking or preparing food on their own. However, when it comes to eating outside the dining hall, there are not as many local affordable or varied options to eat.


Joining a few clubs or groups in your first year of college is a great step towards meeting like-minded peers and mentors that may come to be your most meaningful communities and families at Stanford.

There are the more traditional, academic-focused clubs like the Undergraduate Psychology Association as well as the quirkier ones like Akasma Bellydance. Depending on your own interests, you should have no problem finding organization to join, and you can even create one yourself!


Stanford boasts an impressive reputation when it comes to athletics and sports. Known as the Cardinals, the university became the U.S. all-time leader in team championships for the 2017-2018 school year. In addition, the school has been awarded 142 Total National Championships as well as 117 Total NCAA Championships.

Some of the notable sports played include: basketball, fencing, gymnastics, rowing, and many more.


The university is well-known for its expansive campus (big enough to be granted its own zip code!), and many students primarily get around on bikes or through walking.


As we mentioned earlier, there is not an extremely large social or partying life at Stanford. This isn’t to say that exciting social events and gatherings don’t exist—by staying connected with your fellow peers, you should have no trouble finding fun ways to bond.  Importantly, current students and alumni emphasize that the campus is still very welcoming and friendly, but that there is ultimately a greater focus on maintaining one’s studies over having an extremely active social life.


Each college has its own urban legends, stories, and strange but hilarious traditions. For Stanford, there is one that is particularly vocal—the primal scream tradition.

Each ‘dead’ week (the week before final exams), students are allowed to scream and yell at the top of their lungs every night at 12 am in order to relieve stress accumulated over studying for their examinations. While most schools enforce a 24-hour quiet policy during finals preparations, Stanford encourages you to quite literally ‘let it out’ and decompress before having to return to your studies.

From Application To Career: What You'll Experience At Stanford

Hopefully, our previous section fed your excitement for Stanford and allowed you to peek into a bit of what the university has to offer. Now, let’s look at the journey you’ll embark on at the college, from the application process to attendance, and even beyond your undergraduate years.


We’re sure you’re aware, but your academic background is the first factor admissions officers will consider when assessing whether or not you will be a good fit for the school.

Strive for the best possible GPA and SAT/ACT scores that you can achieve, and don’t be afraid to consult with others for help when it comes to these components. Aside from this, the writing you will complete for your application is extremely important and is your chance to tell admissions why you are special and why you are deserving of studying at Stanford.


In a nutshell, be yourself and don’t be boring.

Students in your position often think they have to use the most impressive vocabulary or express the most profound ideas possible in order to impress the admissions team. However, this is often their downfall as they risk the possibility of coming across as pretentious or cliche.

Typically, the essay questions are centered on broad topics that ask you to reflect on impactful life experiences or perspectives that have shaped who you are today. Don’t be afraid to be imperfect or ‘weird—it’s okay to expose your vulnerabilities, because these can lead to insightful, introspective stories that capture admissions officers’ interest. Here is an example of how you can take your writing outside preconceived formulas to best convey the ‘spark’ inside yourself.


At Stanford, you will be surrounded by the most intelligent and vibrant students and professors from all over the globe. You will study engaging ideas and challenging curriculum, participate in clubs that you’ve never even heard of before, attend campus events that enlighten and inform you, and discover a bit more about yourself each and every year.

Your time at Stanford will be a few of your most defining years, so take advantage of as many resources and opportunities as you can at this university—you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.


At the start of college, you don’t need to have it all figured out when it comes to your career. However, it can be reassuring to see the success of former students, so here’s a look into what the Stanford Class of 2017 has achieved since graduation.

Some of the top employers of Stanford students include:

  • Facebook
  • Apple
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Morgan Stanley
  • SpaceX
  • TeachForAmerica

Students have entered and contributed to a large assortment of fields, including:

  • Business
  • Finance
  • Consulting
  • Retail
  • Information Technology
  • Public Policy and Service
  • International Affairs
  • Healthcare
  • Biotech
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy
  • and more!

The starting salary for Stanford graduates is relatively high and fluctuates depending on the major. For example: a BA in Engineering can have you starting out at $90k-100k, a BA in Economics at $142k, and a BA in Human Biology at $72k. On average, the starting pay rounds out to $69k.

All in all, great minds flourish at Stanford and generally have very stable prospects for the future. Some notable figures who have attended the university include literary giant John Steinbeck and former president Herbert Hoover.  

Your Future At Stanford

Getting into Stanford is like taking a gamble—no one can truly guarantee that they will be admitted. However, with the information we’ve detailed throughout this article, you should have a better understanding of what Stanford is looking for in a student so you can more efficiently tailor your application and writing to those standards.

The most important and difficult aspect of this process is honing in on what differentiates you from the crowd of equally-enthusiastic students vying for admission. This is not an overnight discovery but rather an accumulation of consistent effort over time, a long journey that you shouldn’t have to brave alone.

At WeAdmit, we offer you valuable assistance, guidance, and mentorship backed by research and experience in order to turn your ideas into results.

Most of all, we understand your confusion, because we’ve seen it all! If you dream of attending Stanford, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know as you work on polishing and perfecting your application and essays!

At The End Of The Day, You’ll Be That Much Closer To Attending The College Of Your Dreams!



Need more Information?

Gain all the information you need by getting in touch with our admissions team or booking a free 30-minute counseling session.