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How to Get Into Stanford: Breaking Down Stanford Admission Requirements in 2024

Applying to college is overwhelming no matter what schools are on your list, but you might find yourself sweating a little bit more than your classmates if you decide to apply to a selective school like Stanford University. However, putting your application together doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems!

In this guide, I will tell you everything you need to know about current admission requirements for Stanford and offer up some tips along the way to help you increase your chances of getting in by preparing the best application possible.

How Selective Is Stanford?

Though it’s not an Ivy League school, Stanford University is still notoriously selective. In fact, it ranks as the fifth most selective university in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report, placing above most Ivy League schools. You can clearly see that selectivity demonstrated in the admission rate for the Class of 2027. The rate comes in at just 3.9%, meaning that, of the 53,733 students who applied, only 2,099 received offers. 

To put that number in perspective, even a moderately selective school like University of Michigan admitted 18% of applying students to the Class of 2027, with 15,714 out of 87,605 receiving offers. Although less students apply to Stanford compared to a school like University of Michigan, that doesn’t raise applicants’ chances of acceptance. You have to have an outstanding application if you want to have a chance at admission.

Stanford Admission Requirements

Like other schools, Stanford aims to embody a holistic application review process. This means that they take each piece of your application into account when coming to a final decision. Rather than focusing on grades or extracurriculars, the admissions committee strives to understand you as a whole person so they can determine whether or not you would be a good fit for the community.

That all sounds a little abstract, so let’s get into exactly what a holistic application looks like.

Application Requirements

When applying to Stanford, you must submit through the Common Application. As its name implies, this simple tool allows you to create one “common application” that can be used at all of the member colleges, including Stanford. 

You will have to answer a set of specific questions created by Stanford in addition to filling out the rest of the Common App. There will be several short questions limited to 50 word responses, followed by 3 short essays. The essays have a 100 word minimum and 250 word maximum. The prompts are as follows:

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

To apply, you must submit a $90 non-refundable application fee or request a fee waiver. You can request a waiver directly through the Common App according to the guidelines.

Stanford has several important dates and deadlines to keep in mind as you put together your application timeline:

  • Restrictive Early Action Deadline: November 1.
  • Regular Decision Deadline: January 5.
  • Restrictive Early Action Response Date: Mid-December.
  • Regular Decision Response Date: Early April.
  • Student Decision Date: May 1.

Stanford’s Restrictive Early Action program is non-binding, but students who choose to apply this way cannot apply to any other private college or university’s early action programs. The same applies to any public universities’ binding early action programs. You can apply to all other regular decision programs and decide not to attend even if you receive an offer from Stanford.

Standardized Test Scores

Stanford is currently in the process of transitioning back to reinstating its standardized testing requirement. The school will remain test-optional for students applying up to the Fall 2025 entry term. After that, all applying students will be required to submit ACT or SAT scores as part of their applications.

If you’re applying soon and are on the fence about whether or not to send your scores, it would be wise to submit them if you can. While Stanford has stated that the admissions committee has accepted students who have submitted them and students who haven’t, submitting high test scores is never a bad thing. In fact, your scores can help you stand out in what will no doubt be an extremely talented pool of applicants.

Transcripts, School Forms, and Recommendations

You will submit several transcripts throughout the Stanford application process. Your mid-year transcript, which shows your grades up through the end of the first semester of your senior year, will be due by February 15. Admitted students’ final transcripts with their graduation dates will then be due July 1. Take note that you must also send in transcripts for any online or college classes and that all transcripts must be sent by a school official.

Your high school counselor will also send in a School Report form and a Counselor Recommendation form directly through the Common App.

In addition to the Counselor Recommendation, you should ask two teachers who know you well to write letters of recommendation for you. Stanford recommends choosing grade 11 or 12 teachers of English, Math, Science, Foreign Language, History, or Social Studies. You can select a grade 10 teacher if their class was more advanced, like an Honors or AP course.

You may submit one additional letter of recommendation if there is another person who can provide new insights about you that your other teachers and counselor could not give.

Optional Arts Portfolio

Students who have outstanding talents in the arts can choose to submit an optional arts portfolio showcasing their work in one of the following areas: Art Practice, Dance, Music, or Theater and Performance Studies. Keep in mind that the submission deadlines for these portfolios are much earlier than the application deadlines:

  • Restrictive Early Action Portfolio Deadline: October 20.
  • Regular Decision Portfolio Deadline: December 10.

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Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Written by Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Prep Expert Founder & CEO

Shark Tank Winner, Perfect SAT Scorer, Dermatologist, & #1 Bestselling Author
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