Institution Profile: Stanford University

Jul 2024

7 Minute Read

Tagged as: Applying to Elite Universities, Choosing a School/Program

A general overview of Stanford, admissions stats, trivia, and admissions requirements

Stanford University, officially named Leland Stanford Junior University (did you know that?) consistently ranks as one of the top universities in the world.

Located between San Jose and San Francisco, California, the small student-to-faculty ratio also makes Stanford one of the most sought-after universities in the country, as well as one of the most selective. The land on which Stanford stands today was once an 8000-acre horse farm, and was named for the family who founded it.

Here are some quick facts about Stanford:


  • Average freshman retention: 96%
  • Average graduation rate (2021): 94.4%

Highly-rated undergraduate programs:

  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Human Biology
  • Economics
  • International Relations

Notable graduate programs:

  • Stanford Business School
  • Stanford School of Medicine Biosciences

High school summer programs available?:


Notable Alumni:

  • Sandra Day O’Connor, former U.S. Supreme Court judge
  • Issa Rae, American actress, writer, & producer
  • Richard Sherman, former cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks

Academic Life:

At any point during their first or second year, students will select a major from one of over 100 programs. At any point during this time, students may change their major. In fact, "trying on" majors is something that Stanford encourages, as it is vital to them that students find the program that fits them best. After they decide what they want to study, students meet with their major advisor and decide on which classes they need to finish their degree.

Each first-year student will belong to one of three schools:

  • School of Engineering
  • School of Humanities and Sciences
  • School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences

Two notable facts about Stanford academics:

  1. Although Stanford is known for its innovation in science and engineering, the university’s arts and culture is vibrant. The Cantor Arts Center regularly hosts exhibitions by renowned and upcoming artists and historians. Their music department is also one of the most diverse of its kind, boasting such ensembles as Chinese opera and Klezmer bands.
  2. The Haas Center for Public Service connects students to service and volunteer opportunities around the world. However, the Haas Center is unique in that it also offers courses that incorporate urgent human and community needs into for-credit classes. These courses, which are called Cardinal Courses,

    "[engage] students in projects and partnerships in the community that address social or environmental challenges… Courses are offered by a wide range of academic departments each quarter to give Stanford students an opportunity to provide direct service to local schools, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. Other courses allow students already engaged in service to enhance the effectiveness of their work." (Stanford University)

Student Life:

Out of Stanford University’s nearly 630 student organizations, over 100 are dedicated to public service, and 88 to the arts. Varsity and club sports are also popular, as are the more everyday programs hosted by the wellness center, BeWell @ Stanford. Religious life and diversity are also robust on campus. Stanford Memorial Church, built by Jane Stanford in memory of her husband, Leland, is the focal point of many photographs of the campus.

Admissions Statistics:

  • 55,471 applicants
  • 3.95% admitted

Application Requirements:

  • Coalition Application OR Common Application
  • $90 application fee OR fee waiver request (counselor verification required)
  • SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing
  • School report, including a counselor letter of recommendation
  • Official transcript(s)
  • Recommendation letters from two teachers
  • Mid-year (most recent) transcript

Note: In light of the ongoing challenges posed to students by COVID-19, Stanford has gone test-optional for the 2022-23 application cycle.

Application Deadlines:

  • October 15 (Restrictive Early Action with arts portfolio)
  • November 1 (Standard Restrictive Early Action)
  • December 1 (Regular Decision with arts portfolio)
  • January 5 (Standard Regular Decision)

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