The Ivy Coach Daily

August 8, 2023

2023-2024 Stanford Supplemental Essay Prompts

A panoramic of Stanford University, with red-roofed buildings beyond a lawn.
Stanford has released its essays for applicants to the Class of 2028 (photo credit: King of Hearts).

Stanford University has published its 2023-2024 admissions essays for applicants to its Class of 2028. In all, Stanford asks this year’s applicants to answer five short essay prompts of 50-words each in addition to three longer essay prompts of 250-words each. In addition to The Common Application‘s Personal Statement, all of the short supplemental answers and more extended supplemental essays are required of applicants to the Stanford Class of 2028.

2023-2024 Stanford Essay Topics and Questions

Short Answer Questions

Stanford’s five short answers, which can be answered in up to 50 words, are listed below. This year, Stanford does not ask a short Why Stanford prompt.

1. What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?

The prompt is a longtime staple of the Stanford supplement. Don’t choose climate change. Don’t choose race relations. Stanford receives too many such responses. Applicants should instead dare to teach Stanford’s admissions officers something they don’t already know in their answer.

2. How did you spend your last two summers?

A student must demonstrate their hook in this answer. If a student traveled the world last summer, they’d be wise not to write about it. Instead, they should focus on what they did locally that meaningfully connects to the singular hook they hope to bring to the Stanford campus.

3. What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?

This prompt is a chance for an applicant to enlighten admissions officers about an event they don’t know about. As such, writing about witnessing the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech would not qualify. Dare to teach admissions officers something new here, too!

4. Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family.

Applicants should detail an activity here that relates to their hook — just like their summer activities. But since each answer should be a puzzle piece that complements rather than repeats information that’s already been shared with Stanford admissions officers, applicants should make sure not to repeat an activity they wrote about in their answer to how they spent the last two summers.

5. List five things that are important to you.

Stanford wants a list here. But that doesn’t mean an applicant can’t pepper in an explanation or two — within the 50-word limit, of course!

Longer Essay Prompts

Stanford applicants must answer the three essays below in 100-250 words:

1. 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.

This essay is also making yet another appearance in the Stanford supplement. It’s Stanford’s most well-known essay. Too often, applicants show a silly side to themselves in their answers to the roommate prompt that they didn’t showcase in other areas of their application. And that’s a mistake. Students must almost demonstrate intellectual curiosity — whether the prompt directly asks them as much or not.

2. Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate—and us—get to know you better.

This essay is also making yet another appearance in the Stanford supplement. It’s Stanford’s most well-known essay. Too often, applicants show a silly side to themselves in their answers to the roommate prompt that they didn’t showcase in other areas of their application. And that’s a mistake. Students must almost demonstrate intellectual curiosity — whether the prompt directly asks them as much or not.

As such, Stanford’s admissions officers want to hear what you will discuss in late-night conversations with your roommate. They want to hear about some things you will do together on Stanford’s campus. They want to see what impact an applicant will make on the student body — through the prism of their roommate experience.

3. Please describe what aspects of your life experiences, interests and character would help you make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University.

This essay prompt is somewhat of a hybrid: part tell us more about yourself and part Why Stanford. The life experiences component of this prompt is likely Stanford’s response to the Supreme Court’s outlawing of Affirmative Action. Chief Justice John Roberts left an opening for applicants to write about their backgrounds, including their race: “Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.” Herein lies that opening.

And while this is not a Why Stanford essay, to address the second part of the question, it would be wise for students to include a few specifics about how they hope to contribute to Stanford’s campus through their life experience, interests, or character, and, no, that does not mean peppering in class names or name-dropping professors who may or may not even be at Stanford next year. Instead, they should endeavor to capture enduring specifics about the university — from programs and institutes to activities and traditions.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Stanford Essays

If you’re interested in giving yourself the best chance of earning admission to Stanford by submitting the most compelling essays possible, fill out Ivy Coach’s consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our college admissions counseling services for Stanford applicants.

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