College Intel

Stanford University Admissions

A church featuring a mural sits beyond rounded arches at Stanford University.
For the Class of 2026, Stanford University’s admission rate was below 4% (photo credit: Jawed).

What do Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat all have in common? Aside from being multi-billion dollar businesses, they were all founded by Stanford students. Entrepreneurship is a core tenet of Stanford’s culture. After all, this culture was responsible for the creation of Silicon Valley, not the other way around. Students from around the world are drawn to the R1 research university not only for its stellar academic reputation and educational resources but for this unparalleled focus on start-ups, research, and innovation. Stanford alumni find good company among the likes of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, actress Issa Rae, and Nike founder Phil Knight.

Situated on 8,000 acres of land in the San Francisco Bay, Stanford University has not only the money (their endowment of $36.5 billion rivals that of Harvard and Yale) but the space to provide its 7,700 undergraduates and 9,400 postgraduates with a variety of institutes, centers, laboratories, and social organizations to cultivate the some of the world’s brightest young minds. Campus proper is distinctive from other elite universities of its caliber for its warm-toned Spanish-style architecture and sprawling, lush landscaping. Between the bustle of nearby Palo Alto, environmental attractions such as the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, and technological wonders such as the world’s longest particle accelerator, undergraduates will never be at a loss for sights to see on one of the world’s largest college campuses.

Stanford offers degrees to undergraduates from three different schools: Engineering, Sustainability, and Humanities and Sciences. These schools all have a 6 to 1 student to faculty ratio, writing, rhetoric, and foreign language requirements, and diversified study abroad opportunities. The academic calendar begins in late September, following a quarter system as opposed to a semester system, and ends in late June. This anomalous system reflects Stanford’s historical efforts to forge a college experience distinct from the stuffiness of elite east coast institutions, which is perhaps why in 2014 Slate dubbed Stanford “the Harvard of the 21st century.”

Established in 1891, Stanford was initially modeled after Cornell, drawing inspiration from its secular, coeducational practices and departure from tradition. The university was named in honor of the deceased son of philanthropists Leland and Jane Stanford. After Leland’s death, Jane spearheaded the growth of the newborn university, which encountered many hurdles during its formative years, including the devastating San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 that destroyed much of campus. Through the 20th century, Stanford developed a reputation for technological achievement (it’s literally where the original design for the Internet was invented!). Faculty member William Shockley, co-inventor of the silicon transistor, was dubbed the “father of Silicon Valley,” and his legacy has lived on in the extensive industry that has arisen in the Bay area with Stanford as its hub.

Today, Stanford students find themselves immersed in an active and varied social life on campus, with the option to participate in Greek life, cultural affinity residences, and cooperative living arrangements. A healthy set of traditions abound, such as annual matchmaking events, a Halloween party at the Stanford Mausoleum, “fountain hopping” among the 25 fountains on campus, and, of course, the “Big Game” between Stanford and UC Berkeley’s football teams, the annual culmination of one of the oldest college rivalries in the United States.  

Getting into such a renowned institution is not easy. For the Class of 2026, Stanford received a mind-blowing 56,400 applications but only admitted 2,075, for a scant acceptance rate of 3.6%. According to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, the selection process is “holistic,” and while the “primary criterion” is academic excellence, they, of course, also place a large emphasis on extracurricular commitments. In fact, they say that “an exceptional depth of experience in one or two activities may demonstrate your passion more than minimal participation in five or six clubs.” Ivy Coach is here to help you demonstrate this “depth of experience” in your application.


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