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Stanford University Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide 2023-24

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

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If Stanford is one of your top-choice schools, you may be wondering how you can make your application stand out. Your responses to Stanford’s supplemental essay questions are a significant way to set yourself apart from other applicants. However, these essay prompts require you to be both concise and creative, which is not an easy task. Keep reading to learn more about Stanford’s supplemental essays for the 2023-24 admissions cycle and how to craft them.   

How Much Do Stanford Essays Matter?

Writing a compelling essay as part of the Common Application is one way for the Stanford admissions committee to get to know you. However, the additional prompts that Stanford University requires going a bit deeper to find out more about who you are, what you hope to get out of the undergraduate experience, and what contributions you can make specifically to the Stanford community. As the Stanford admissions office states, “These questions help us get to know you as a friend, future roommate, and classmate.”

Do the Stanford essays matter that much? Think about it this way — other applicants may have comparable grades and test scores, so you need to have something in your application that makes you stand out. Submitting compelling and authentic college essays helps you do just that. However, you need to ensure you do your research and truly know what Stanford University is like, so you can be specific and detailed in your responses.

How Many Supplementals Does Stanford Require?

Stanford has a total of eight supplements, which include three short essay questions of 100-250 words each and five short questions with a limit of 50 words each. You are required to complete all eight of them to be considered for admission.

If you’re wondering how to get into Stanford, focus on crafting responses to these essay questions that demonstrate your intellectual drive, personal growth, and interest in attending the university. Successful essays will give the admissions committee a fuller picture of you beyond your academic performance and activities list.

What Are the Stanford Supplemental Essays and How to Craft Them

According to Mike, IvyWise Master College Admissions Counselor and former Assistant Director of Admissions at Stanford, “If you look at the Stanford supplement questions, I think it gives you an idea of what they value.” This includes your impact in academics, how you will fit into the community, and the unique perspective you can contribute.  

Your responses to each prompt should be unique and reveal something new about yourself that isn’t found elsewhere in your application — in other words, avoid repetition. Take each response seriously, but feel free to have fun with them, too. Your personality should shine through in each essay, so if you’re normally a funny person, feel free to add some humor. If you’re typically more sentimental, don’t be afraid to make your responses heartfelt.

Stanford’s essay topics are subject to change every year. Here are the prompts from the 2023-24 admissions cycle.

Prompt #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. (100-250 words)

This question is designed to help the admissions office understand the depth of your intellectual curiosity and your motivation for learning. When answering this question, focus on one subject or experience that inspires you to learn more and how you act on that inspiration. Keep it brief, but ensure the narrative structure demonstrates how well you will contribute to the academic environment at Stanford. Of course, each student’s response to this question will be unique, but this example may help you think about ways to craft your essay.

The concept of renewable energy has always fascinated me. Last summer, I had the opportunity to intern at a local solar energy startup. Witnessing the real-world impact of sustainable technology ignited my fervor for learning.

Working alongside passionate engineers, I saw firsthand how solar panels transformed sunlight into a viable energy source. It was like witnessing magic unfold before my eyes. The intricate engineering, coupled with the commitment to a greener future, profoundly enhanced my understanding of energy systems.

What truly excited me was the potential for innovation in this field. The idea that we’re on the cusp of breakthroughs that could redefine how we power our world is both awe-inspiring and humbling. It’s not just about reducing our carbon footprint; it’s about revolutionizing the way we interact with our environment.

This experience propelled me to explore renewable energy even further. I researched advancements in solar technology, attended webinars, and even initiated a sustainability club at my high school. The prospect of contributing to a more sustainable future has become my driving force.

Joining the Stanford community, with its reputation for curiosity and drive, would be a dream come true. I envision collaborating with like-minded individuals in the Atmosphere/Energy program, pushing the boundaries of sustainable technology, and ultimately, leaving a lasting impact on our planet’s future.

Prompt #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 know you better. (100-250 words)

This prompt is meant to be creative and should read like you’re writing a letter or an email to a friend instead of the admissions committee. This is a great opportunity to really show off your personality and even be humorous. Just avoid the temptation to use vernacular language — grammatical correctness is still important! The following is a great example of how you might respond to this prompt.   

Dear Future Roommate,

I can’t wait to share this new chapter at Stanford with you! There’s something you should know about me: I’m a nocturnal creature. Late nights are when my creativity and focus peak. Don’t be surprised if you find me buried in books or typing away at my laptop well into the night — I tend to lose track of time! But fear not, I’m a ninja with my noise-canceling headphones, so your sleep schedule won’t be disrupted.

I’m also a bit of a plant enthusiast. You’ll likely spot a small jungle of greenery adorning our room. They’re like my leafy companions, bringing life and a touch of tranquility to our space. Feel free to water them if you’d like; they appreciate all the love they can get.

When it comes to music, I have an eclectic taste. From indie rock to classical piano, there’s a little bit of everything on my playlist. I’m always up for a jam session or discovering new artists, so if you’re a music lover, too, we’ll have some great times together.

Exploring new cuisines is a passion of mine, so I’m always game for trying out local eateries or cooking up something unique. If you ever want to embark on a culinary adventure, count me in!

I’m genuinely excited about this journey at Stanford, and I can’t wait to learn more about you and the experiences you’ll bring to our shared space. Here’s to an amazing year ahead!

Warm regards,


Prompt #3

Please describe what aspects of your life experiences, interests and character would help you make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate at Stanford University. (100-250 words)

This prompt is so common that you may have a response you can use for more than one school — just make sure you tailor your responses instead of copying and pasting and don’t forget to change the name of the school! That is one of the most common mistakes we see students make in their responses! 

This prompt is a great opportunity for you to focus on specific strengths or skills you can bring to the Stanford community, whether you’re good at organizing events, managing projects, leading groups, or something else. Check out this example for inspiration:

Growing up in a multicultural household, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for diversity and inclusion. I’ve seen firsthand how different perspectives enrich our understanding of the world. This has driven me to be an advocate for inclusivity, whether by leading diversity-focused initiatives in my high school or volunteering at local community centers.

My passion for environmental sustainability has led me to engage in various eco-conscious projects. From organizing tree-planting drives to participating in beach cleanups, I am committed to addressing pressing environmental challenges. At Stanford, I intend to continue this commitment, channeling my enthusiasm into research and initiatives that promote sustainability and getting involved in Students for a Sustainable Stanford. 

My interest in computer science and technology is another facet of my character. I’ve spent countless hours coding, participating in hackathons, and developing software solutions for community problems. This technical prowess, combined with my entrepreneurial spirit, drives me to create innovative solutions that can positively impact society.

Lastly, the resilience and adaptability I honed through overcoming personal challenges equip me to thrive in a rigorous academic environment. I view setbacks as opportunities for growth and believe in perseverance in the face of adversity.

My diverse background, commitment to inclusivity, dedication to sustainability, technical proficiency, and resilience are qualities I believe will enable me to contribute uniquely to the Stanford community, fostering positive change and making a meaningful impact on campus and beyond.

Prompt #4

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 words maximum)

This is a serious question with an extremely short answer, so your response needs to pack a lot of punch. Check out this example about climate change:

Climate change looms as the most significant challenge, imperiling our planet’s future. Its far-reaching consequences affect ecosystems, food security, and vulnerable communities. Urgent global cooperation is required to mitigate its impact and safeguard our world for future generations.

Prompt #5

How did you spend your last two summers? (50 words maximum)

This is an opportunity for you to share how you contributed to your community or completed a project. The important thing is focusing on the parts of your activities list that are impactful and help the Stanford admissions committee picture how you’ll fit in on campus.

Last summer, I interned at a local environmental nonprofit, working on community-driven sustainability projects. The previous year, I attended a coding bootcamp, honing my software development skills. Both experiences fueled my passion for sustainable technology solutions and equipped me with invaluable practical knowledge.

Prompt #6

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 words maximum)

This is a fun prompt because you can choose any moment or event from any time period. However, it’s important to briefly explain your choice, like this short answer below:

I wish I could have witnessed the moon landing in 1969. The sheer audacity of humanity reaching another celestial body, the unity it inspired, and the possibilities it unlocked for future exploration make it an awe-inspiring moment in history.

Prompt #7

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family. (50 words maximum)

This is another common supplemental essay prompt. While you elaborate on your one activity, job, or responsibility, make sure to tie it into what you hope to contribute to Stanford.

Leading my school’s Model United Nations team, I fostered debate, diplomacy, and global awareness. Organizing conferences and mentoring team members taught me leadership, research, and public speaking. This experience ignited my interest in international relations, and I aspire to continue it at Stanford.

Prompt #8

List five things that are important to you. (50 words maximum)

Don’t just list five things — explain why they are important to you. Here’s an example:

  1. Family: Their unwavering love and support anchor me.
  2. Education: A gateway to personal growth and positive change.
  3. Sustainability: A commitment to protecting our planet’s future.
  4. Inclusivity: Fostering diverse perspectives and empathy.
  5. Integrity: Upholding honesty and ethics in all endeavors.

What Should You Definitely Not Include in Your Supplemental Essays?

When responding to the supplemental essay questions for Stanford, it’s important to present a positive, professional, and balanced tone. Avoid humor or language that may be offensive or inappropriate, and stay away from clichés, platitudes, or generic language that don’t provide unique insights into who you are as an individual. When writing about challenges you’ve faced, focus on solutions, personal growth, and resilience.

Use your essays to provide new insights and perspectives, not traditional answers. It’s also important to be yourself — not who you think the admissions committee wants you to be. Authenticity is key! That said, while some personal anecdotes can add depth to your essays, avoid including irrelevant personal details or stories that don’t contribute to your narrative.

Remember that the goal of supplemental essays is to provide the Stanford admissions committee with a better understanding of who you are, your values, and how you would contribute to their academic community. This is a competitive school with an acceptance rate of under 4%, so it’s important to be thoughtful, genuine, and focused when crafting your essays. Don’t forget to carefully review them for any inappropriate or irrelevant content before submission!

Need help from an expert? Consider college counseling to ensure you submit a successful application that tells your story in the most compelling way and helps you gain admission into your best-fit school.  




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