How to Get Into Stanford in 2024

Stanford University is one of the world’s leading teaching and research universities. Since its opening in 1891, Stanford has been dedicated to finding solutions to big challenges and preparing students for leadership in a complex world.

Some notable alumni include business founders Elon Musk of Tesla and Space X, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, ​​Reed Hastings of Netflix, and many more. Here is a detailed blog on how to successfully apply to the university.

Most Competitive Courses at Stanford

In no particular order, here are Stanford’s most competitive courses:

  1. Computer Science Major
  2. Economics Major
  3. Human Biology Major
  4. Management Science and Engineering Major
  5. Symbolic Systems Major
  6. Political Science Major
  7. Mechanical Engineering Major
  8. Electrical Engineering Major
  9. International Relations Major
  10. Mathematics

Meeting Stanford’s Entry Requirements

This is a complete breakdown of how to apply to Stanford as an undergraduate:

Submit Your Common Application

Stanford is a member of the Common Application, an application platform offered by more than 600 colleges and universities around the world. You have to make an application to Stanford via this platform. 

This is where you will submit your high school transcripts, activities list, test scores, academic achievements, etc.

Common Application: Short-Answer Questions & Essays

The Common Application also includes personal essays. In addition to personal essays, Stanford requires the Stanford Questions, which you can access and submit through the Common Application once you add the university to your list of colleges.

Stanford Questions

Stanford asks applicants to answer several short questions (limited to 50 words each) and write a short essay on each of the three topics below.

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

Standardised Testing

Standardised testing is one of the application requirements that can highlight academic preparedness. Stanford holistically reviews applications, meaning every component of the application is valuable. There are no minimum test scores required to be admitted to Stanford, and there is no score that guarantees admission. 

ACT or SAT scores are not required at Stanford for first-year and transfer students applying in 2023-2024 and 2024-2025. Stanford’s test-optional policy will extend to applicants applying for the Fall 2025 entry term. Applications without ACT or SAT scores will not be at a disadvantage. In previous test-optional cycles, Stanford admitted students who submitted ACT or SAT scores and also admitted students who did not.

If you choose to submit ACT/SAT test scores as part of your application, Stanford recommends that you simply self-report your highest scores in the testing section of the application. 

Submit School Report Form and Counsellor Recommendation

In the Common Application, students must invite a counsellor to complete the School Report form and Counselor Recommendation form, which includes a recommendation letter. These documents must be submitted by your high school college counsellor or another school administrator. The School Report form tells Stanford about your academic strengths in the context of the academic programs available in your school. Your high school may have a published school profile, but this profile on its own does not fulfil the School Report form requirement.

Get Recommendations from Two Teachers 

Letters of recommendation from two teachers are required, and Stanford recommends requesting letters from grade 11 or 12 teachers in English, Math, Science, World Language or History/Social Studies. You may request a letter from a grade 10 teacher if the coursework was advanced (Honours, AP, IB, for example). Letters from classroom teachers are strongly preferred. If there is another person who knows you well and can provide new insights about you, you may have one additional recommender submit a letter on your behalf. You will have to assign this person as your “Other Recommender” in the Common Application. 

Submit Your Transcripts

An official transcript (grades 9–12) is required for all students. For students pursuing an international curriculum (e.g., A-Levels, national curriculum, or IB Diploma outside the US), academic results and predictions are required if available. Your midyear transcript is due by February 15 and a final transcript, with the graduation date, is due by July 1 if you are admitted and choose to enrol. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required in order to begin classes at Stanford.

Find out more about Stanford’s recommended high school curriculums and academic preparation here. 

Submit an Optional Arts Portfolio

Students who wish to highlight their extraordinary talent in the fine or performing arts may submit an Optional Arts Portfolio in one of the following areas: Art Practice, Dance, Music, or Theater and Performance Studies.

Writing Your Personal Essays/Statements

The essays are your chance to tell Stanford about yourself in your own words. There are no right or wrong answers, and you should allow your genuine voice to come through. These questions help Stanford get to know you as a friend, future roommate and classmate.

Top tips for Stanford essays include:

  1. Engage in books and scholarly work, especially from Stanford, that will help you explore your intellectual curiosity in your essays
  2. Use anecdotes to tell a story about what sparked your interest and what has sustained that spark  
  3. Start your essays with your strengths immediately. Because faculty will be reading many statements, it’s important to start off with your strengths and not waste word count.

Here are some more tips and resources to help you successfully write your answers:

Attending Your Interview

The optional interview provides an opportunity for applicants to have meaningful conversations with Stanford alumni. This two-way exchange allows you to learn more about Stanford while the Admission Office learns more about you.

Here is some more information about these interviews:

  • Stanford extends interview invitations according to alumni availability in your high school area, not based on the strength of an application.
  • Your application will not be at a disadvantage if you are not offered an interview. If you do not receive an interview opportunity, your application will still be considered complete.
  • Applicants may not request an interview.
  • Interviews may be conducted in-person or via video chat, depending on the availability of the alumni volunteer interviewer and providing applicable public health and Stanford University guidelines permit. The Admission Office has no preference between these two options.
  • Declining an interview will not negatively impact your admission decision, and you may decline for any reason. You also do not need to share why you are declining an interview.

Here are some resources to help you ace your interview:

Apply for Scholarships & Financial Aid

Stanford is committed to providing a comprehensive needs-based financial aid programme that makes it possible for admitted students to attend. 

  • About two-thirds of their students receive some form of aid to attend Stanford
  • 58% receive scholarships from Stanford, including athletic scholarships
  • Nearly half receive need-based scholarships from Stanford and pay an average of $14,000 toward their bills after all grant aid is applied.

Stanford has a limited amount of financial aid for international students. International students needing assistance must make that indication on the admission application. Applicants who are admitted with eligibility for aid will be awarded assistance from institutional funds based on their family financial circumstances.

International students who do not request consideration for financial aid at the time they apply for admission will not be eligible to apply for aid at Stanford throughout their undergraduate years.

Stanford’s financial aid program is need-based, meaning that all aid eligibility is determined by your family’s financial circumstances. While you and your parents have the primary responsibility for paying for college, financial aid can bridge the gap between the total costs and your ability to pay.

Stanford uses a standard method to carefully review your family’s financial circumstances and establish an expected contribution from you and your parents. If Stanford determines that you can not meet the student budget based on that calculated amount, the college will award or recommend scholarships, grants or other resources to help you.

Eligibility for Stanford Scholarship funds is based not only on family income level but also on the size of the family, number of family members in college and family assets among other factors. This explains why not every applicant at a particular income level may qualify for assistance.

Prospective students and parents are encouraged to use Stanford’s Net Price Calculator to obtain an individualised estimate of eligibility for need-based financial aid from Stanford. 

Alongside financial aid, students, post-docs and recent alumni can apply for a multitude of scholarships:

Click here to view an index of scholarship opportunities 

How to Apply for Financial Aid

You can apply for financial aid via CSS using school code 4704.

If your parents are divorced, separated, or were never married, each parent will need to provide CSS Profile information separately, using individual login credentials. Stanford recommends that the student and the custodial parent complete the CSS Profile first. If you do not have contact with your noncustodial parent, you may complete a Noncustodial Parent Waiver Request form. 

International students who cannot afford the CSS Profile fee, or live in a country from which the College Board cannot process payments, may submit an International Student Application for Financial Assistance using Stanford’s secure Document Upload process.

Click here for Stanford’s official ‘Applying for Aid’ site

Top Tips

  1. Being of good character is highly important both for your Stanford application and your life. Stanford wants students who will positively contribute to the Stanford community, and having a good character is important. Having a good character can help your application, especially if it is reflected in the recommendation letters that your teachers submit. If you are interviewed, being polite and showing a good character can also leave a better impression on your interviewer.
  2. Spend time to develop your passions. Stanford ranks extracurricular activities, talents and abilities, and character or personal qualities as very important for admissions. When applying to Stanford, showcase your passion. (If you have time before applying, you can try developing a passion project). Students should connect their passions outside of school in very intentional ways that consider their personal context. Having intentional activities or initiatives outside of school will go a long way to show Stanford who you are. 
  3. At Stanford University, intellectual curiosity is highly valued because it is a key driver of innovation and creativity. It’s important you express/exemplify this quality as much as possible in your application. Intellectually curious students are more likely to think outside the box, challenge existing ideas and conventions, and generate new and innovative solutions to complex problems. These qualities are important for success in a rapidly changing and complex world.
  4. Don’t spend your time trying to guess what the right answer is or what the faculty member expects. Some faculty want students with some experience and some don’t, some want students with no background in the topic, whilst most faculty look for a combination of students with different interests and experience levels. They make decisions based on the pool of students and the faculty member’s sense of what will make a good group as well as individual students.
  5. It’s important that you build a connection with Stanford. You can do this by: 
  • Attending information sessions, webinars, or virtual tours offered by Stanford to gain firsthand knowledge about the university 
  • Reaching out to current students or alumni to learn more about their experiences and seek advice
  • Attending open days and virtual days 
  • Researching what societies and sports Stanford offers so that you can plan (and demonstrate) intentions to get involved
  • Reaching out to people by calling/emailing your department (or during the open days or via LinkedIn) to network and ask questions. If this goes well, you might even have some names that you can note down in your application, or should you need any help.


What is Stanford’s acceptance rate?

Approximately 3.7%.

Is Stanford a good university?

Yes, Stanford has one of the largest campuses in the US and is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Its alumni include 21 Nobel laureates, 30 living billionaires, 17 astronauts, and former US president, Hoover Herbert

Is Stanford a Russell Group / Ivy League university?

Stanford does not belong to the Ivy League but it is the most elite university on the West Coast, ranking between #3 and #5 globally.

Does Stanford give contextual offers?

No, but Stanford reviews applications holistically, taking into account your context and unique factors that have shaped your education thus far.

What are the application requirements for Stanford University?
Applicants must submit a completed Common Application or Coalition Application, high school transcripts, two teacher recommendations, a school report, standardized test scores (optional for the 2022-2025 application cycles), and essays. An application fee or fee waiver is also required.

Does Stanford require SAT or ACT scores?
Stanford has adopted a test-optional policy for the 2022-2025 application cycles. Applicants may choose whether to submit SAT or ACT scores. If submitted, the scores will be considered; if not, no penalty will be given.

What is the deadline for applying to Stanford University?
Stanford offers two application plans: Restrictive Early Action and Regular Decision. The Restrictive Early Action deadline is typically November 1, and the Regular Decision deadline is January 2.

What kind of financial aid does Stanford offer?
Stanford offers need-based financial aid to both domestic and international students. The university meets 100% of admitted students’ demonstrated financial need. Stanford does not offer merit scholarships.

How can international students apply to Stanford?
International students follow the same application process as domestic students but must also provide proof of English proficiency, typically through TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test scores, unless they meet specific criteria exempting them from this requirement.

What majors and minors are available at Stanford?
Stanford offers a wide range of undergraduate majors and minors across seven schools: Humanities and Sciences, Engineering, Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, Education, Business, Law, and Medicine. Popular majors include Computer Science, Engineering, Biology, and Economics.

Can transfer students apply to Stanford?
Yes, Stanford accepts transfer applications. Transfer candidates need to have completed at least one year of college but no more than two years. The application requirements are similar to those for first-year applicants but also include college transcripts and a report from a college official.

How selective is the admissions process at Stanford?

Stanford is known for its highly selective admissions process, with one of the lowest acceptance rates among U.S. universities. The university evaluates applications based on academic excellence, extracurricular involvement, intellectual vitality, and personal context.

What extracurricular activities does Stanford value in its applicants?

Stanford values a diverse range of extracurricular activities that demonstrate leadership, commitment, and passion. Whether it’s sports, music, volunteer work, or entrepreneurship, showing deep engagement and achievement in activities outside of academic pursuits is important.

Does Stanford require interviews as part of the admissions process?

Stanford does not require interviews for all applicants. However, some applicants may be contacted by an alumni volunteer for an optional interview, which can provide an opportunity to discuss their interests and experiences in more depth.

What type of housing is available for undergraduates at Stanford?

Stanford guarantees four years of on-campus housing for undergraduates and offers a variety of housing options including residence halls, co-ops, theme houses, and Greek housing. Freshmen are typically placed in all-frosh or four-class residence halls.

How does Stanford support first-generation college students?

Stanford provides robust support for first-generation and/or low-income (FLI) students through its FLI Office. This includes academic advising, mentorship programs, community-building events, and financial assistance to ensure that FLI students can fully participate in the Stanford experience.


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