How to Get Into Stanford: All You Need to Know

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

How to Get Into Stanford: All You Need to Know

While Stanford may not technically be part of the Ivy League, the school’s academic caliber—not to mention its competitive acceptance rate—rivals that of Harvard and Yale. Many students are eager to gain a spot at the top-tier university, which has a wide array of renowned programs including engineering and environmental science.

Although earning admission at Stanford University is challenging, there are a few steps applicants can take to set themselves up for success. Keep reading to learn more about how you can set yourself apart for all of the right reasons.

How to Get Into Stanford University: Table of Contents

  1. When to Apply to Stanford University
  2. How Hard Is It to Get Into Stanford: Early Prep 
  3. How to Actually Get Into Stanford: The Application
  4. Class Profile 
  5. What Makes Stanford University Unique?

When to Apply to Stanford University

If you’re looking to gain admission to Stanford University, it’s important to understand what the application timeline looks like. Most applicants apply to Stanford during their senior year of high school, but those that gain admission will begin preparing years before. Other students may choose to apply to transfer to Stanford University after completing a few semesters at another college. Finally, some applicants will apply to the university for graduate programs, such as an MBA degree, law school, or medical school. 

Stanford Deadlines

For first-year, freshmen applicants, there are two different admissions timelines to choose from: regular decision and restrictive early action. The timelines for each are as follows:

Restricted Early ActionRegular
Application with Arts PortfolioOctober 15December 5
Materials for Arts PortfolioOctober 20December 10
Standard Application DeadlineNovember 1January 5
Last Acceptable SAT Test DateOctoberDecember
Last Acceptable ACT Test DateSeptember December
Notification of Missing DocumentsMid-NovemberMid-February
Decision Released ByDecember 15April 1
Student Reply DateMay 2May 2


The admissions timeline varies for transfer applicants. Here are the key dates to prioritize: 

Application with or without optional Arts Portfolio DeadlineMarch 15
Materials for Arts Portfolio DeadlineMarch 20
Last Acceptable SAT Test DateDecember
Last Acceptable ACT Test DateFebruary
Notification of Missing DocumentsApril
Decision Released ByMay 15
Student Reply DateJune 1


Early, Rolling and Regular Decision

As students enter high school, they may start hearing about different application processes, such as early action vs rolling admission. While much of the application process will look similar regardless of your timeline, it’s important to understand the distinct differences between early, rolling, and regular decision admissions. 

There are two different forms of early admissions: early action and early decision. The key differentiator between the two is that early decision is binding, meaning a student must enroll in the college they applied early decision to if they are accepted, while early action is not binding. There is also restrictive early action, which Stanford University offers, which stipulates that students cannot apply to any other private college through an early admissions program. Generally speaking, most early decision and early action deadlines occur around the beginning of November, with decisions released approximately one month after. 

In contrast, rolling admissions do not follow a strict deadline. At most schools that offer this option, applications are accepted from September through May, although it is best to submit your application as early as possible, since RA schools will continue to accept students until they reach their enrollment capacity. Stanford University does not offer rolling admissions. 

Finally, there are regular round admissions. Students who apply via the regular round generally need to submit their applications by early January and they learn of their results in April. Stanford University does offer a regular round admissions option.

Waitlisted Applications

Given how competitive it is to get into Stanford University, it’s not surprising that the college generally waitlists a portion of its applicants. The waitlist is comprised of exceptionally strong and distinguished applicants; the college just simply doesn’t have enough room to admit every single qualified student that applies. Students who are waitlisted will learn of this outcome when decisions are released, and they will have the option to choose whether they wish to remain on the waitlist or not. It’s important to note that admissions waitlists are not ranked; instead, applicants will be admitted off of the waitlist to fill institutional needs and ensure the upcoming class is balanced. 

If students apply via restrictive early action, there is not a waitlist outcome, but there is something known as deferral, which means students will need to wait until regular round decisions are released to learn if they will be admitted or not. Many students want to know what to do if they have been deferred. Much like waitlists, the first step is to determine whether or not Stanford University is still your first choice college. If so, it’s important to find out what materials the school needs from you (such as an updated transcript) and send them out as soon as possible.

How Hard Is It to Get Into Stanford: Early Prep

Stanford University is one of the most prestigious colleges in the country. Every year, thousands of applicants apply and only a small percentage of these students gain a seat in Stanford’s upcoming class. While Stanford’s application process is notoriously competitive, students can increase their chances of admission by preparing well in advance and doing their research to become experts on the school. 

Build Your Profile

Like many colleges, Stanford University uses a holistic review process to evaluate applicants. That means that each piece of an application is part of an integrated and comprehensive whole. The primary criteria for admission is academic excellence, meaning Stanford is looking for students who challenge themselves, demonstrate intellectual curiosity, and are committed to expanding their horizons. According to the university’s website, a student’s high school transcript is the most important credential for evaluating an applicant’s academic record. 

In addition to academic excellence, the school names extracurricular activities as another important component of its admissions process. Their website notes, “an exceptional depth of experience in one or two activities may demonstrate your passion more than minimal participation in five or six clubs. You may also hold down a job or have family responsibilities. These are as important as any other extracurricular activity.”

Visit the Campus and a Class

If you’re eager to attend Stanford University, visiting the campus is a smart move. Registering for a campus tour is a powerful way to demonstrate your interest in attending the college, which is something admissions officers consider during their application reviews. If possible, see if you can sit in on a class to get a taste of the lecture experience. 

Connect With a Student

In addition to touring the campus, it can be helpful to get a student’s perspective on their experience at Stanford University. If you have any friends or acquaintances that are currently enrolled, don’t hesitate to reach out to get your burning questions answered. 

Learn About Any Student Experiences

When you’re touring Stanford, your tour guide will most likely be a current student. If you have the opportunity to ask your guide a few questions, use this as another opportunity to learn more about the student experience, straight from the source. Prepare a few questions in advance so you have a starting point for your conversation. 

How Do You Actually Get Into Stanford: The Application

Unfortunately, there’s no secret formula for how to get into Stanford University. However, there are a few qualities that admissions officers look for when reviewing applications. Here’s how you can set yourself apart:

GPA Requirements

Stanford University doesn’t have a required GPA that students must meet to apply. However, the university emphasizes that academic excellence is the factor that carries the most weight during their admissions process. Most students who gain admission to Stanford have GPAs that hover around 4.0. In addition to striving for near-perfect grades, it’s important to challenge yourself by taking advanced level courses if they are available to you at your school. 

SAT and ACT Scores

Much like GPAs, there’s no minimum SAT or ACT score that students must reach to apply to Stanford. However, for ACT scores, 90% of those admitted scored between 30 and 36, and for SAT scores, the majority scored between 700 and 800 on each section of the exam. When it comes to acing the SAT or ACT, the best thing students can do is begin preparing many months before their testing date and take several practice exams. 

Personal Statement

The personal statement is an opportunity to demonstrate not only your writing skills but also who you are and the qualities that set you apart. Students will have the chance to choose from a handful of different essay prompts, and will write an essay that is between 250 and 650 words long. Instead of worrying about what you “should” sound like, it’s best to focus on letting your authentic voice and unique personality shine through. 


In addition to the Common App essay prompts, Stanford University asks applicants to answer three supplemental essay questions to learn more about a student’s interests and the role they would play on campus. Each response must be between 100 and 250 words. In each response, make sure your passion for attending the college shines through by referencing specific details like classes you wish to take and professors that you would be excited to study with. 

Letters of Recommendation

Stanford University asks for two letters of recommendation from teachers as well as a counselor letter. Teacher recommendations should highlight your love of learning and the impact you have on the classroom, while a statement from your counselor can speak to your character and how your interact with the community at large. Since most teachers and counselors will get an influx of requests for letters of recommendation, aim to ask your instructors by the start of your senior year so they have plenty of time to compile their responses. Don’t forget to share a copy of your resume and a few talking points that outline achievements you wish to highlight to help them get started.

Admission Interviews

Stanford applicants also have the opportunity to participate in optional interviews with recent alumni. These interviews are informational, rather than evaluative, and they allow students to demonstrate their interest in attending the college. Make sure to practice responding to various interview prompts and come prepared with your own list of questions that you would like to field to the Stanford alum that you end up speaking with. 

Contribution to the Stanford Community

Like many colleges, Stanford University admissions officers are eager to admit applicants who will make a lasting impact on the Stanford community. Throughout every component of your application process, including supplemental essays and admissions interviews, make sure to highlight your goals and the role you would hope to play once admitted to Stanford University. Don’t shy away from specific details; it’s best to call out clubs you’d wish to join, classes you’re excited to take, and research opportunities that you would be enthusiastic to take part in. 

Class Profile 

Acceptance rate 3.95%
Class size1757
Diversity % range12% international students
Undergraduate majorsComputer Science, Economics, Human Biology

As you’re learning about how to get into Stanford University, don’t forget to review their class profile. Class profiles give applicants a window into what the admissions outcomes at a specific college look like. Every school includes slightly different information in their class profile, but almost all highlight their most recent acceptance rate, their class size, how diverse their incoming class is, and some of the majors that the college is best known for. This information can help students get a picture of the college and assess their chances of admission. 

What Makes Stanford University Unique?

First and foremost, Stanford University is known for its renowned academic programs. The school has more than 65 majors, ranging from computer science to aeronautics and astronautics to urban studies. 

Additionally, Stanford has a breadth of clubs and extracurricular activities for students to get involved in. Noteworthy activities include taking part in The Ram’s Head Theatrical Society, the university’s oldest and largest theatrical society, which dates back to 1911. Another popular group is the Stanford Mendicants, an a cappella group formed in 1963.

Students who are passionate about sports will also feel at home at Stanford since the university has produced more Olympic athletes than any other US college. Famous alumni include John McEnroe, Tiger Woods, and Julie Foundy. For students who are looking for a more recreational level of athletics, Stanford also offers an array of intramural and open rec options, including volleyball, soccer, softball, badminton, and pickleball.

There’s no shortage of landmarks and libraries for students to explore. Stanford has more than 24 libraries in total as well as must-see museums like the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts. There is also the Rodin Sculpture Garden, the Anderson Collection at Stanford University, and the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, all of which are on Stanford University’s campus.

Whether you’re passionate about the arts or an aspiring engineer, Stanford is the right fit for students who are driven, ambitious, and committed to giving their passions their all. As their website suggests, the students who will thrive at Stanford’s campus are those that are intellectually curious, committed to deepening their expertise in the fields they are passionate about, and determined to make a lasting impact on their community. 

Admission Consulting

Every student (and their families) can benefit from college admissions counseling, especially if they’re interested in gaining admission to a top-tier college like Stanford University. Working with an admissions counselor gives students the opportunity to receive personalized guidance throughout every step of the application process, including compiling a balanced college list and making the most of campus tours. 

While working with a college admissions counselor is an invaluable experience, it’s important to assess whether you’re ready to give the admissions process your all. To make the most of college counseling, students need to be engaged in the process and excited about their academic future. It’s also important to select a college admissions counselor who is accredited, qualified, and has ample admissions experience. Make sure to do your research so you can pick an admissions counselor who brings out the best in the students they work with.

It’s needless to say that getting into Stanford can be tough since it’s one of the top schools worldwide, but IvyWise’s admission experts are here to make it happen. Take the first step towards getting into your dream school and set an initial consultation.

Related Topics

12th Grade, College Students, Summer Planning

Get the IvyWise Newsletter

 简体中文 »
close wechat qr code