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How To Get Into Stanford: Crafting A Successful Application

03 JUN 2022

Top high school scholars worldwide compete for a coveted spot at Stanford University. With a history of record-low acceptance rates, it's challenging to get into Stanford. While competition is intense, it's not impossible. Do you think you have what it takes to get into Stanford? Find out how to stand out from the competition.


Stanford Overview

Stanford University (Leland Stanford Junior University) is a private research university located in Stanford, California, just 35 miles south of San Francisco and 20 miles north of San Jose. Situated on 8,180 acres, Stanford is one of the largest campuses in the United States, with nearly 17,000 students, 18 interdisciplinary research institutes, and seven schools on a single campus. Stanford has a reputation for producing entrepreneurial students who create, invent, develop and champion globally significant initiatives.

Founded in 1885 by California senator Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane, Stanford's mission is "to promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization."

From its humble beginnings to the present day, Stanford is a university open to students and teachers from all walks of life. Brilliant minds from every gender, culture, religion, race, and age collaborate at this prestigious university, sharing ideas, building businesses, and becoming influential world-changers.

Stanford’s Ranking in 2022

US News & World Report ranked Stanford University 6th in their Best Colleges 2022 edition. Stanford tied for 3rd with the University of Cambridge in the 2022 QS World University Rankings.

Notable Stanford Rankings

  • #1 in Computer Science (tie)
  • #2 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs (tie) - At schools whose highest degree is a doctorate
  • #6 in National Universities (tie)
  • #6 in Best Colleges for Veterans
  • #7 in Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects
  • #7 in Service Learning (tie)
  • #7 in Most Innovative Schools
  • #8 in Co-ops/Internships
  • #9 in Best Value Schools
  • #9 in Writing in the Disciplines
  • #12 in Senior Capstone (tie)
  • #13 in Best Undergraduate Teaching (tie)

A purposeful university promotes excellence not as an end in itself, but as a means to promote its mission, which is to benefit society.

- Marc Tessier-Lavigne Stanford President

A Day in the Life: Stanford Student

How Hard Is It To Get Into Stanford?

Stanford is one of the hardest schools to gain acceptance. The university typically accepts less than 5% of applicants and admitted just 3.95% for the Class of 2025. Additionally, the Stanford Daily reported that the university will remain test-optional through the Class of 2027 (potentially longer), likely contributing to record-high application numbers and record-low acceptance rates.

Stanford Acceptance Rates for Class of 2025

The Class of 2025 had the lowest acceptance rate in Stanford's history at 3.95%. The Class of 2026 numbers are not out, but acceptance numbers will likely be low again based on previous years' statistics.

Stanford Admissions Statistics
Total ApplicantsAccepted StudentsAcceptance Rate
Class of 202555,4712,1903.95%
Class of 202445,2272,3495.19%
Class of 202347,4982,0624.34%
Class of 202247,4512,0714.36%
Class of 202144,0732,0854.73%
5 Year Average47,9442,151~4.5%

What Kind Of Student Is Stanford Looking For?

With this past year's record-low 3.95% acceptance rate, it's clear gaining admission to Stanford is increasingly more difficult. However, there are a few things you can start doing now to increase your chances of getting in!

When Stanford's admissions officers review applications, they look for the following qualities, characteristics, and unique circumstances.

Academic Excellence

Academic excellence is the primary criterion for admission. While there is no minimum GPA or specific test score required to gain admission to Stanford, admissions teams look at high school transcripts to see if you are successful in challenging academic classes and prepared for college success.

It would be best if you aimed for a minimum GPA of 4.0. According to Stanford’s Common Data Set for 2021/22, 75.1% of admitted students had a GPA of 4.0.

Intellectual Vitality

Admissions teams want to see that you're excited about the world and expanding your knowledge and experiences. They evaluate your essay and letters of recommendation, looking for genuine interest in specific ventures, curiosity about the world, and enthusiasm and energy for personal and professional growth. Whether in the classroom, on the field, performing on stage, or as part of a community organization, intellectual curiosity and initiative are two main characteristics of students who get into Stanford.

Depth of Experience in Extracurricular Activities

Stanford admissions prefers you demonstrate your passions in just a few activities rather than participating in many activities with minimal depth. These activities can be on-campus but don't have to be directly related to school! Jobs and family responsibilities also help them see your commitment to an activity and how you will potentially contribute to their campus and off-campus communities.

Unique Circumstances

The Stanford admissions team knows students come from unique backgrounds and situations. They review applications with this in mind, considering your family responsibilities, educational path, background, and other exceptional circumstances. They want to see how you excelled in your unique environment and took advantage of everything your school and community offered. 

Stanford reviews applications holistically. You should integrate your qualities, characteristics, and unique circumstances into your application. Build your story, embrace your interests, and be passionate about your future goals. Authenticity and honesty will help you stand out from the rest of the applicants.

How Crimson student Fresh got into Stanford!

College acceptance calculator

Stanford Application Requirements

While Stanford is a highly competitive and highly academic college, it's also a place where you are encouraged to express your unique interests and goals. Each section of the application showcases your academic achievements, personal interests, and future plans. Stanford admissions want to learn how you will make the most of your time at Stanford.

We look forward to learning about you through your application to Stanford. We encourage you to spend time reflecting on who you are and what is meaningful to you. In your essays, be true to yourself and allow your genuine voice to come through. We approach the admission process with sincere respect for you, and we will give your application serious consideration

- Stanford Admissions

What application system does Stanford use?

Stanford accepts the following applications:

Additionally, Stanford is a QuestBridge partner, offering high achieving, low-income students access and opportunities to the university.

All applications contain personal essay prompts. Stanford also requires you to answer the Stanford Questions accessible in the application once you add Stanford University to your list of colleges. You must submit essays and answers online through one of these applications.

Stanford doesn't require you to pick a major in the application, although it's encouraged to indicate a career interest. Your application to Stanford is for the university, not a specific major.

Application Sections

The Stanford application asks you to provide the following:

  • Coalition Application or Common Application
  • $90 non-refundable application fee or fee waiver request
  • ACT or SAT scores
  • School Report and counselor letter of recommendation
  • Official transcript(s) or academic results
  • Letters of recommendation from two teachers
  • Midyear transcript (by February 15)
  • Optional Arts Portfolio

Us Application Ebook Banner

Stanford GPA Requirement

GPA Requirements

Stanford doesn't officially have a minimum GPA or a specific test score range that you must meet to gain admission. But that doesn't mean grades aren't important. When the admissions team reviews transcripts, they look at grades, how you challenged yourself in your choice of classes, and if you utilized your high school's resources.

To maximise your chances of acceptance into Stanford, it would be best if you aimed for a minimum GPA of 4.0. According to Stanford’s Common Data Set for 2021/22, 75.1% of admitted students had a GPA of 4.0.

A strong GPA is important, but if your grades were not as high as most Stanford applicants, high test scores, phenomenal letters of recommendation, and out-of-the-box extracurricular activities could make up for this deficit. Alternatively, if you would like to improve your GPA, considering online tutoring alongside your regular schooling can maximise your chances of acceptance into Stanford!

GPA Score Range of Freshman Students At Stanford 2021/22
GPAPercent of Students
4.075.1%
3.75 - 3.9919%
3.50 - 3.742.5%
3.25 - 3.491.6%
3.00 - 3.241.4%
2.50 - 2.990.3%
<2.490%

Stanford SAT/ACT Requirements

SAT ACT Requirements

Stanford announced first-year and transfer applicants through the Class of 2027 (and potentially later classes) will not be required to report standardized test scores. This decision was based on the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, which include limited access to testing centers.

Since Stanford's admissions team reviews each applicant holistically, they thoroughly review each piece of the application. You can self-report your test scores if you choose, but you will not be at a disadvantage if you do not report scores.

Only 12.6% of students admitted into Stanford’s Class of 2025 submitted their SAT scores, and 8.7% submitted their ACT scores.

Average SAT Score For Stanford

While Stanford doesn't specify an SAT range, most applicants score between 1470-1560 on their SATs. See the table below for a breakdown of accepted students SAT scores.

SAT Score Ranges of Stanford Students
Assessment25th Percentile75th Percentile
SAT Composite1,4701,560
SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing720770
SAT Math750800

Stanford Common Data Set 2021/22

Average ACT Scores For Stanford

Stanford doesn't specify an ACT range, but most applicants score between 30 and 36 on their ACT. See the table below for a breakdown of accepted students’ ACT scores.

ACT Score Ranges of Stanford Students
Assessment25th Percentile75th Percentile
ACT Composite3435
ACT Math3235
ACT English3536
ACT Writing3133

Stanford Common Data Set 2021/22

Stanford Essay Requirements

Application Essay requirements

You must complete a personal essay through the Common Application or Coalition Application. In addition to this essay, you must answer the Stanford Supplemental Essay Questions. These questions are available on either application as soon as you add Stanford to your list of colleges. You can answer The Stanford Questions directly on either the Coalition or Common Application.

How to write the perfect personal statement

Stanford Supplemental Essay

In addition to the Common App Essay prompts, Stanford has a few Supplemental Essay Questions you will need to submit as well. You will need to answer all of the questions below.

Short Answer Questions

There is a 50 word limit for each question

  • What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?
  • How did you spend your last two summers?
  • What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?
  • Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family.
  • Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford.
Short Essay Questions

There is a 100-word minimum and a 250-word maximum for each essay.

  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.
  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.
  3. Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Acing the Stanford Supplemental Essays for specific approaches to answering the Stanford supplemental essay questions.

Stanford Application Extracurriculars

Extracurricular activities for university application

Stanford admission prefers you dive deep into 1-3 extracurricular activities. Stanford admissions teams want to see depth and commitment to an activity, whether the activity is on campus, volunteering, community-related, or even a part-time job. Family commitments can also count as extracurriculars because they demonstrate your dedication to your family. Stanford admissions look at extracurriculars to determine how you will contribute to the campus community.

Here are just a few examples of extracurricular activities that demonstrate commitment and passion. While not an exhaustive list, this is an excellent place to start.

  • Lead a sports team
  • Volunteer with a local organization/give back to the community
  • Organize a fundraiser
  • Start a new company
  • Write and publish a book
  • Spend a summer helping underprivileged children or volunteer at a summer camp

Choose extracurricular activities you care about and ones that help make your community a better place.

How to Build an Extracurricular Profile for US Uni's

Applying to Stanford As An International Student

Stanford believes international students are an integral part of the university's community because they offer experiences and insights that help diversify and build deep campus culture. 

Many admissions team members have specialized experience evaluating international students based on their cultural and regional differences. They evaluate international students based on their curriculum and the resources available in their home country.

English Language Proficiency Exam Requirements

All Stanford students must be fluent in English. Although it's not a requirement, Stanford typically receives English proficiency exam results from applicants whose native language is not English. The university has no test preference, but the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System Academic (IELTS Academic), and the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) are great options. 

For more information about applying to Stanford as an international student, visit their "International Applicants" page. 

Stanford Application Deadlines

Stanford offers two application programs: Restrictive Early Action and Regular Decision.

Stanford Early Action & Regular Action Application Deadline
Restrictive Early ActionRegular Decision
Apply by November 1stApply by January 5th

3 Proven Tips On How To Increase Your Chances Of Getting Into Stanford

1. Apply Early

Take advantage of Restrictive Early Action and apply to Stanford early. Statistically speaking, if you apply early, you have a higher chance of acceptance at Stanford. While Restrictive Early Action applications are non-binding (you are under no obligation to attend), they ask you to sign a form stating you are not applying to any other early admissions programs.

2. Be the Best of the Best at One Thing

While it might be tempting to join every club and participate in multiple sports, Stanford isn’t looking for a “jack of all trades.” Stanford would rather admit a student who’s “the best” in one area. Whether publishing a book, starting a business, helping the underprivileged find hope, or conducting a research project, the school wants to see your dedication to something bigger than yourself. Depth in a unique interest sets you apart from the rest of the highly-qualified candidates. It also shows that you have the grit and determination to succeed in the future. Develop your skills and knowledge in one area and be the best!

3. Demonstrate introspection in your essays

Your personal essay and the Stanford Questions are the only places in your application where you can allow your personality to shine. These answers are subjective and specific, and they help admissions officers learn more about you and how you might positively impact the Stanford campus community. Your answers should have smooth transitions, be grammatically sound, and show how you have grown. Make your answers very specific to Stanford, so they know you’ve spent time researching everything about the school.

How Crimson Can Help Your Stanford Application Stand Out

Crimson’s elite team of strategists graduated from some of the top universities in the world, including Stanford! Many have experience as professors, administration, and even admissions officers at the world’s leading colleges and universities.

Our top strategists want you to succeed, and they come alongside you on your admissions journey. Our strategists can help you choose advanced placement courses, narrow down your extracurriculars, guide your application process, and help you decide how many colleges you should apply to.

Mason is one of Crimson’s top strategists, and here are four of his top tips for making your Stanford application stand out.

  1. Build your profile to a high level of accomplishment in whatever area you excel at, especially showing yourself as a leader in your field.
  2. Focus on giving back to the community through high-impact activities.
  3. Strive for 10’s across the board: A 10 is the highest possible level of accomplishment. Do your best to level up as much as possible in your high school career.
  4. Take the time to research Stanford before answering the supplemental Stanford Questions. SHOW rather than tell why you’re a good fit for Stanford and how you’ll contribute to the campus community.

Crimson offers a wide range of educational support services that will help you tailor your education and application so it aligns with Stanford’s mission and requirements. From online tutoring and extracurricular mentoring to essay review and even postgraduate admissions, Crimson can help you get into Stanford. Our admissions support team walks with you through the application process.

Book a free consultation with Crimson Education

Increase Your Chances Of Getting Into Stanford With Crimson Pathfinder

Applying to Stanford and other top universities takes time, planning, effort, and patience. It’s easy to overlook a step or miss a deadline.

Crimson recently released Pathfinder - a comprehensive in-app tool that helps you stay on track but helps you quantify the value of activities you do in preparation to apply to US universities.

Contained within the Crimson app, Pathfinder is a master list of everything you can do during school to increase your chances of admission to top US universities. Pathfinder includes over 280 goals, each with an assigned point value based on how much admissions officers will value that achievement.

Pathfinder ensures you stay on track between now and when you apply to a university. It accurately predicts your admission results (based on your achievements). Combined with guidance from your personalized strategist, you’ll become a master of your US university applications!

Introduction to Crimson Pathfinder

Is Stanford Right For You?

Stanford is an excellent school with countless academic and professional resources. But it’s not for everyone. Don’t apply to Stanford because of its elite name or its rankings. Stanford admissions can tell if you’re passionate about the school or only applying because of the name. Choose Stanford because it speaks to you like no other school and offers the courses and programs you need to succeed in your future career.

Stanford is full of open-minded, positive, optimistic, and intelligent people. If you’re career-oriented, creative, driven, and someone who loves to work in a diverse environment with some of the leading minds in the world, you should apply to Stanford!

But, remember, only a small percentage of applicants get into Stanford. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get accepted. Some of the world’s most brilliant and talented students do not get into this elite school. Consider a school in the Ivy League or one of the top schools in the University of California system.

Make sure you have a solid list of safety, target, and reach schools that fit your academic and career objectives. If you choose to apply to Stanford again, focus on improving the weaker aspects of your application so your application is stronger than the next time!

Final Thoughts

Your reasons for choosing Stanford are as unique as the school. The admissions team is excited to learn about you through your application, so it’s important to reflect on your reasons for choosing Stanford, what you hope to gain from your experience at the school, and how you’ll contribute to the campus community.

Stanford aims to enroll students with diverse backgrounds, interests, and talents. If you’re hard-working, open-minded, and passionate about your interests, Stanford might be the perfect place for you.

While Stanford is tough to get into, you don’t have to go through the admissions process alone. Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admissions support company specializing in helping students gain entry to some of the world’s most competitive universities. Crimson Students are 4x more likely to be admitted to top universities like Stanford. Learn more through our Admissions Support program.

What Makes Crimson Different

Frequently Asked Questions About Stanford

Is it hard to get into Stanford?

It is hard to get into Stanford. More students are applying each year, and with an admissions rate at an all-time low of 3.95%, it takes exceptional credentials to gain admission.

Is Stanford expensive?

Stanford University’s tuition is $55,473. For the 2021-2022 academic year, room and board is approximately $17,860. Stanford is more expensive than the national average cost of tuition ($41,281).

What is the retention rate for first-year students at Stanford?

Stanford has one of the country's best freshman retention rates, with 99% of first-year students returning for their second year. The national first-year average retention rate is just 69%.

What is the average salary for a Stanford graduate?

The US Department of Education College Scorecard reports that the median salary for a Stanford graduate after ten years of working is $97,798.

Big Questions Ep. 29: Stanford

Start Your Journey To Stanford Today!

Crimson students are up to 4x more likely to gain admission into Stanford! Book a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you get there!