Stanford is located in Stanford, California and has a more modern feel than many of the oldest US institutions. Stanford is a national and world leader in all major subject groups with 81 Nobel Laureates and 27 Turing Award Laureates. Probably the best university in the world for facilitating entrepreneurship, Stanford was instrumental in establishing Silicon Valley and maintains close ties to it today. Its graduate schools in Law and Business rank among the top in the world, and unlike many other prestigious US universities, who are member of the Ivy League or other old sports leagues Stanford is consistently a major player in NCAA sport, with the most team championships in history and 270 Olympic medallists among its alumni. Stanford is quickly becoming the most competitive university in the world in terms of admissions (more competitive than Harvard). With success rate of just 4.4% there are a lot of things you need to get right. The good news is that with the right strategy, it is entirely possible:
Stanford had just short of 23 applications per each place last year. With many candidates getting the full score on the standardised testing, you need to do much more than just get a good SAT score. Essentially, Stanford is seeking out future leaders in whatever field that is. If you can demonstrate a successful record of outstanding past achievement, then you are a serious contender. Successful current students at Stanford have set up their own charitable organisations, produced popular mobile apps, and made a significant difference throughout their communities. While this sounds difficult to achieve, with due time and preparation it is entirely possible. The key here is to pick one or two areas to focus and to really go for them.
2) Sit the SAT/ACT exams
Stanford requires everyone to have completed the SAT Reasoning exam (or the ACT as an alternative). The score for the SAT to aim for is 750+ and the score for the ACT to aim for is 33+. Stanford also requires each candidate to complete the SAT Subject Tests. Here, you pick 3 subjects out of a list of 20 or so and then sit 3 separate papers. If you start preparation two years before applying you can't get it wrong. A good free online tool is Khan Academy where anyone can practice the SAT for free.
3) Create a CommonApp profile
Majority of applications to Stanford are submitted via a portal known as the CommonApp. You can find it here. The portal requires you to provide detailed background information such as your name, age, and school details. You will also need to produce a number of admission essays. The questions to these essays are released on 1st of August of the year when you submit your application. It is recommended to start drafting them in August so that you are ahead of everybody else and have more time to sort out other parts of your application.
4) Submit the App by 1st November
Stanford has 2 application deadlines: Restrictive Early Action (1st November) and Regular Decision (1st January). Hard data shows that applicants have an advantage applying in the Restrictive Early Action round. We therefore recommend that you apply by 1st November to ensure that your application gets the best possible chance of being picked by Stanford admissions officers. That said remember that submitting a complete application during the Regular Round is much better than submitting a rushed application for the early round! If you are submitting an Arts Portfolio to support your application then the deadline is two weeks earlier than the round you are applying for - 15th October for the Restrictive Early Action and 15th December for the Regular Decision.
5) Continue to provide updates
Once you have submitted your application, it is imperative that you continue to provide the Admissions' Office with regular substantial updates regarding your progression as a candidate. Given the sheer number of people applying to Stanford University, the decision to admit a candidate is not always straightforward. Therefore, it is important to demonstrate that you are a candidate who continues to push themselves all the way up until the last day of the decision-making process. This way, you show that you are not someone who will just rest on their laurels. If they are down to two candidates for a place, they are more likely to award the offer to someone who has been providing updates (assuming everything else is the same). Examples of updates could include news regarding your charitable work or updates on any extra academic work that you have been pursuing.
How to apply to Stanford University?
1) Start very early. If you are leaving the preparation to a mere one year in advance, you are doing it wrong. Most admitted candidates will spend a minimum of two years working on their overall profile and the application. It is not uncommon for successful admitted candidates to start 3 or even 4 years in advance which means starting at the age of just 14.
2) Register and complete the SAT Reasoning (or the ACT) and SAT Subject Tests. If you are applying from a country where English is not an official language, you may also have to sit TOEFL - the English language exam. Both SAT exams are not straightforward and take time to master. A perfect score helps but won't get you in on its own. Remember that if you are doing the SAT, you should always include the optional written component. Similarly, while Stanford only asks for 2 SAT Subject Tests, many admitted candidates will have completed 3 or even more.
3) Register and complete the CommonApp. This is a centralised portal through which you can apply to all of your US university choices, including Stanford. CommonApp requires you to complete a number of essays and it is best to start early. Essay questions are released each year on the 1st of August. The deadline for Restrictive Early Action is 1st November (15th October if you are submitting an Arts Portfolio).
4) Once you have applied, be sure to continue communicating with the Admissions' Office and to provide them with regular updates.
Jeremy, a current student at Stanford says: "Stanford is a hectic place. You are always busy and you keep bumping into incredibly smart, motivated people. I love it here!"
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