How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essays: Examples + Guide 2022/2023

what to write for stanford essay

How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essays TABLE OF CONTENTS

If you’re applying to Stanford, you’ve got some work ahead of you. What do I mean?

While most colleges will have anywhere from 1-4 supplemental essay prompts you’ll write in addition to the Common App essay , Stanford asks for eight supplemental essay prompts (see below). On top of that, Stanford has the lowest acceptance rate of any college in the US at 4.3% (and probably lower if you take athletes and legacy students into account).

So you’ll want to make the most of these supplemental essay opportunities. To this end, I put together a guide that covers each of the Stanford supplemental essay prompts and how to answer them.

Before you dive into the prompts, you can get an extensive, by-the-numbers look at Stanford’s offerings in its Common Data Set , and for deeper insights into how the university wants to grow and evolve, read its strategic plan .

What are Stanford’s supplemental essay prompts?

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

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

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

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

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 words)

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. (250 words)

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. (250 words)

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (250 words)

How to Write Each Supplemental Essay Prompt for Stanford University

How to write the stanford supplemental essay #1.

My advice: Get specific. Don’t go super broad with this (i.e. “racism” or “ignorance,” as these can be tough tackle in 50 words). Instead, try for a more specific, nuanced version of something that feels really important to you. 

Here’s a nice example essay for this prompt: 

I see many of my peers engaged in overly dogmatic discussions. I mourn the loss of discourse based on learned experience and individual perspective and how that seems to be creating social aggression. On a larger scale, I’m worried we are moving toward a homogenous society ruled by tyranny. 

How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essay #2 + Example

This is pretty straightforward. You can use bullet points and sentence fragments.

Many students choose to pack in as much as they can, which can work. But if you decide to do that, make sure to put in 1-2 things that show you also have a life. Because you do. Right? :)

Here’s an example: 

2017: Attended FBLA Nationals in California. Researched Artificial Intelligence. 2018: Worked as coding teacher with self-developed Java curriculum. Built automated chicken-pen-door for grandparents’ farm. Created applications ranging from GPA Calculators to Foosball Tournament Software. Both Summers: Interned at tech startup. Worked as Olympiad Math teacher for Combinatorics and Number Theory. 

Here’s another example:

2015: Playing select basketball, rehabbing ACL injury, researching East Asian culture, studying positive psychology, consolidating my creative writing research, posting writing critiques to discussion forums, pen-palling foreign friends 2016: All of the above plus learning chess, starting nonprofit, writing Instagram poetry, drafting my novel, two-weeks in Japan, brainstorming volunteering projects for NHS

And one more example:

Founded the Texas MCS Camp—created a two-week curriculum (and taught courses) covering topics from combinatorics to game theory Montecito Music Festival—organized outreach concerts to assisted-living communities Debate—researched possible joint U.S.-China research venture to explore hydrothermal vents Aaaaand travel—saw the Tour de France finish at L’Arc de Triomphe!

How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essay #3 + Example

Think moment for this one. Some students try to go too broad/big with this (i.e. World War II or The Renaissance--what, like, all of it?). Instead, pick a really specific moment and say why you wish you were there. 

Pro-tip: Don’t say “Big Bang” or anything related to dropping the atomic bomb, unless you’re going to surprise us with your explanation (AKA your “so what?”), as these tend to be pretty common choices for students.

Also, you can have some fun with this. Here’s a great example:  

I want to watch George Washington go shopping. I have an obsession with presidential trivia, and the ivory-gummed general is far and away my favorite. Great leaders aren’t necessarily defined by their moments under pressure; sometimes tiny decisions are most telling--like knickers or pantaloons?

Here’s another nice example response to this prompt: 

I wish I was in the studio the day Norman Rockwell finished “Triple Self-Portrait.” I would love to have gotten a chance to ask him about capturing America at a specific time in history and what he thought it might look like in the future.   

How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essay #4 + Example

This is a classic extracurricular essay, but in 50 words. You’ll find a really in-depth step-by-step guide at this link , with specific advice for the 150-word format (plus some really great examples) towards the end. I recommend using that post to guide you as you’re writing.

But if you want to see the short version, here’s what to do:

Go to your Common App activities list and pick 2-3 possible topics. 

Then, go through the Best Extracurricular Activity Brainstorm I’ve Ever Seen (AKA BEABIES exercise), either mentally or by filling out the chart. This will help you decide which topic might yield the most content for your essay.  If you’re unsure, maybe do a simple outline for two different topics. 

Write a draft! To guide you, each of those columns could provide a sentence or two of your first draft that you can later tweak and add some style to.

Pro-tip: Be careful about writing about an activity that you’ve already shared a lot about elsewhere on your application. If you’ve already written about your most important extracurricular activity in your main Common App personal statement or any of the other Stanford supplemental essays, write about your 2nd or 3rd most important activity. 

This essay is your chance to say “Hey, there’s this other cool thing I’ve spent some time doing that I haven’t told you guys about yet!”  

Falafels. Construction Work. Wave-Particle Duality. These describe my train ride for two hours every Saturday to attend the Columbia Science Honors Program. One side of my brain ponders the inception of subway route-optimization while the other side empathizes with the little kid tugging on his mom’s jacket for more candy.

How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essay #5 + Example

Treat this like a one-item “ Why us” essay . 

If you haven’t read it, here’s my full step-by-step guide on how to write the ‘Why this college?’ essay.

The quick version for how to write this essay: Skip to the Cornell essay and consider how any one of the four things he’s mentioned would be a beautiful thing to pick to write for a 50-word essay. Pick something that’s unique to Stanford, and is also maybe academic or related to an extracurricular activity that might help you stand out (i.e. The Stanford Storytelling project, for example, if you’re interested in podcasting).

Oh, and probably don’t mention Stanford’s roundabouts or jumping in fountains. These have been written about many, many times, and don’t say much about why you’d make a great fit for the school.

I am most excited to attend classes with professors who are already heroes of mine. I am a TED Talk nerd, so getting to study Biological Engineering with Manu Prakash, of “A 50-cent Microscope That Folds Like Origami” fame would be awe-inspiring. 

How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essay #6 + Example

Get really specific with what the idea is. (In my experience, a very particular idea tends to work better than an experience.) 

If possible, clarify what the idea is in the first 50 words (some students wait too long to clarify and the essay feels vague as a result, as we’re not sure what to focus on).

Consider using this another opportunity to share a part of yourself you have yet to share.

Connect the idea, as abstract as it may be, back to something personal. Many students keep the essay focused outwardly (on ideas) and as a result the essay feels abstract and swimmy . (Yes, that’s a technical term.)

If you need some inspiration, check out this Excel document with almost every single TEDTalk ever given.

What’s more probable: dying from a shark attack, or dying from falling airplane parts? Surprisingly, the answer is falling airplane parts. But why does our intuition point us towards shark attacks?    The answer lies in the availability heuristic, or the WYSIATI (“what you see is all there is”) rule, which describes how our minds evaluate decisions based on how easily we can think of examples to support both sides. From Jaws to YouTube surfer videos, we have all likely heard of a horrific shark attack, and by WYSIATI, the ease with which we conjure up that memory leads us to assign greater probability. Learning about WYSIATI evolved the way I communicate my ideas. When I first started debate, I over-focused on comparing statistics at the expense of clearly communicating larger arguments. WYSIATI taught me that a more effective approach involves weaving in memorable images like that of a horrific shark attack.  This past summer, when debating whether labeling environmental activists as “eco-terrorists” is justified, my opponents cited dozens of crimes associated with activists from 1995-2002. With my knowledge of WYSIATI, I looked past the numbers and searched for more memorable, image-based examples and discovered that most of the so-called terrorist acts were actually “pie-ings”: environmental groups throwing pies to protest. So, instead of responding with only numbers, I declared that “the only thing that could make pie-ings terrorist acts is if the activists didn’t know how to make a good key lime pie!”  Much clearer. And perhaps, a little bit funnier.

Nice, right?

How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essay #7 + Example

I actually have an entire separate blog post on this.

Check it out here.

Here’s a nice example essay for the Stanford roommate essay: 

3:13AM  Hiya roomie! Please forgive the email at this late hour—my energy levels are directly proportional to how late it gets.  I figured I’d introduce myself before we meet at NSO. Here are some cool (I hope) things about me:  First off, true to my mountainous heritage, I’m quite outdoorsy, having spent many weekends trekking around state parks. I can’t wait to explore these uncharted waters—wanna join me on a trip later this week to SLAC?  I should warn you beforehand: I explore at an unusually zippy pace and tend to perk up at minor disturbances. That’s because a bluebird day in my state can change into a roaring thunderstorm within just a few minutes, turning Fourteener hikers into lightning rods, so I’ve learned to always be on the lookout.  Oh, and no matter what I’m doing, there’s always music in the background. You’ll notice that I have profound kinetic responses to melodies, which come in the form of flailing my arms during the climactic moments of symphonies. I guess music really does move me!  What kind of songs do you like? I love to recreate radio music with my violin—feel free to reques t a song anytime, and I promise I’ll give it my best effort! Lastly, I must share that there are things I will miss as I leave home. Most of all, I will miss biking with my sister around the neighborhood. So, hopefully you won’t mind my daily family FaceTimes after each day’s festivities! See you soon! :) 

How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essay #8 + Example

Here’s your chance to show your heart. Maybe it’s a value you hold dear (see example below), or something you’ve not yet gone deep on elsewhere in your application. But make sure you say really specifically what the Thing is that’s meaningful to you. I’ll often see students keep the Thing vague (as with the “intellectual idea” essay above) and I feel foggy as I read it.

You can pinpoint the thing at the beginning, middle, or end, but my favorite essays are ones that I can come away from and say, “Oh, X is meaningful to this student.” 

 As a child, I was a Monopoly Champion. After all, I did as I was taught—use every tactic possible to bankrupt my opponents into surrender.  Granted, Monopoly is a game whose ostensible purpose is to create and hold monopolies, but I have realized through my experiences in the Texas mathematical community that life is a bit more complex. A significant issue for mathematical competitions is asymmetric access to study resources. Schools do not share study materials so that they can preserve their competitive edge. This behavior carries serious implications including student discouragement. After another school swept regionals when I was in sixth grade, many of my peers, seeing the shiny study booklets in the hands of the winning team, quit the activity. Asymmetrical access to resources turns the original goal of fostering interest in mathematics on its head by discouraging students, ultimately having toxic effects for the community. Since ninth grade, I have worked to combat this problem by co-founding the San Antonio Math Club, a non-profit organization that works to provide equal access to resources by holding free monthly meetings where students from all over the state can get together and discuss challenging problems.  Don’t get me wrong—I love to win. But I believe that some players can’t begin with $8000 while other players begin with $1500, and through endeavors like the San Antonio Math Club, I strive to maintain the sustainability of the game so that everyone will play again without fear of bankruptcy.  Because to me, equity matters.


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College Essays


Are you hoping to be one of the less than 4% of students admitted to Stanford this year? If so, you'll need to write some amazing essays as part of your application.

In this article, we'll outline the different types of essays you need to write for your Stanford University application and teach you how to write an essay that will help you stand out from the thousands of other applicants. We'll also go over the five short answer questions that are part of the Stanford supplement.

So let's get started!

What Are the Stanford Essays?

Stanford requires that you complete a total of four essays as a part of your application for admission.

You'll need to answer one  prompt provided by the Common Application or Coalition Application , depending on which one you use to submit your Stanford application through. You can find more information about the Common Application essays here , and more info about the Coalition essay prompts here .

You'll also need to respond to three Stanford-specific short essay questions .

The Stanford essay prompts offer you plenty of opportunities to show off your qualifications as an applicant and wow the admissions committee.

what to write for stanford essay

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2022-2023 Stanford Essay Prompts

You'll need to respond to three Stanford Questions for your Stanford supplement essays. You'll submit the Stanford supplement essays online with your Coalition or Common app.

You need to respond to all three of the Stanford essay prompts for your application. Each one of the Stanford essays has a 100-word minimum and a 250-word maximum.

Here are the 2022-2023 Stanford essay prompts:

#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—know you better.

#3 : Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why?

Stanford Essays Analyzed

In this section, we'll be looking at each of the three Stanford supplement essays in depth. Remember, every applicant must answer every one of the Stanford essay prompts, so you don't get to choose which essay you would like to write. You have to answer all three of the Stanford essay prompts well in order for your application to stand out.

Let's take a look at each of the three Stanford short essay questions and see how to write something meaningful for each.

Stanford Essay 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 word min, 250 word max)

This Stanford essay prompt is very broad. The structure of the prompt indicates that the committee is interested in learning about your curiosity inside and outside of the classroom, so don't feel like you have to limit the lessons you talk about to ones that occur at school.

The most important thing to remember here is to be specific. The committee doesn't want you to wax poetic about the virtues of remaining eternally curious; they want to see how a real-life example has affected you.

For instance, instead of talking about how a trip to a foreign country opened your eyes to different cultures, pick a specific moment from your visit that really hammered home the importance of curiosity. Go into detail about how that one experience affected you. Being specific is more powerful than speaking in generalized platitudes.

Similarly, you want to write about something that you're genuinely passionate and excited about. After all, it says so right in the prompt! Pick a topic that you truly love, such as a historical fiction book that you read that inspired you to learn about a new era in history or the science fiction movie that sparked curiosity about how time works in space.

Don't feel limited to your potential major. Stanford doesn't require that you pick and stick with a specific major for your application, so you don't have to write about a moment here that relates to your predicted course of study. In fact, picking a learning experience in a different field will better show that you're curious and open to new ideas.


Stanford Essay 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 word min, 250 word max) 

Stanford's roommate essay question is notorious. While the other two of the three Stanford essays may change from year-to-year, the Stanford roommate essay is always on the application.

First, remember that this essay is written to your future roommate, who will be one of your peers. You can adopt a more informal, fun tone with this essay, because the prompt indicates that it's going to someone who is your age.

The Stanford roommate essay is your opportunity to show a different side of your personality than the admissions committee will see on the rest of your application. This essay is your chance to show yourself as a well-rounded person who has a variety of different interests and talents.

Don't repeat information that the committee can find elsewhere on your application. Take the time to share fun, personal details about yourself.

For instance, do you make awesome, screen-accurate cosplays or have a collection of rock crystals from caving expeditions? Think about what you love to do in your spare time.

Be specific—the committee wants to get a real picture of you as a person. Don't just say that you love to play video games, say exactly which video games you love and why.

The roommate essay is also a great time to show off your community—the friends, family, teammates, etc. who make up your current life. You can talk about the deep bonds you have and how they have affected you. Showing your relationships to others gives the committee a better idea of how you will fit in on Stanford's campus.

All in all, the Stanford roommate essay is a great opportunity to have some fun and show off some different aspects of your personality. Let yourself shine!

Stanford Essay Prompt 3

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why? (100 word min, 250 word max) 

While all three of the Stanford essay prompts are fairly broad, the third Stanford essay prompt is by far the broadest. You can write about anything that's meaningful to you here— the prompt doesn't specify that you have to talk about something academic or personal.

Sometimes, broad prompts can be more intimidating than prompts that have a very narrow focus. The trick here is to (again) pick something specific and stick to it.

Don't, for instance, say that world peace is meaningful to you because it won't sound sincere. You should talk about something that is uniquely important to you, not the other thousands of students that are applying to Stanford.

Pick something that is really meaningful to you. You could talk about your relationship with your grandmother and how she taught you how to cook or a specific musical album that reminds you of an important experience in your life. You might talk about a club or after-school activity that has broadened your horizons or an academic award you won after an extreme challenge.

Whatever topic you choose, your essay should feel sincere. Don't write what you think the committee wants to hear. They'll be more impressed by a meaningful experience that rings true than one that seems artificial or implausible.


Stanford Short Answer Questions Analyzed

Along with your essays, you'll also need to answer five short questions. You'll only have 50 words to answer each you'll need to make it count!

Question 1: The Social Challenge Question

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?

There are two ways you can answer this question. First, you can choose a significant social challenge that matters to you. For instance, perhaps your parents are essential workers, and the COVID pandemic revealed the unfair labor practices that exist in the US to you. Labor issues are a major social issue both in the US and abroad, and because you're impacted by it, you'll be able to put together a very compelling and powerful answer.

The other approach you can take to this question is linking it to your academic interests. Perhaps you want to major in mechanical engineering. One huge social issue is access to clean drinking water. In your response, you can explain the issue and then talk about how it inspired you to become a mechanical engineer. Maybe you want to develop better water decontamination systems! That would be a great response to this question.

The big thing to remember is you need to include a why in your answer. Why do you think this challenge is significant? And how are you planning to help solve this problem? Make sure you include these answers in your response!

Question 2: The Summer Question

How did you spend your last two summers?

This is a pretty straightforward question. Make a list of everything you did the past two summers, then parse it down so that you're including the most important aspects. For example, say you volunteered at a summer camp for the past two summers, but you also helped your family with chores and volunteered with a political campaign. Our recommendation would be to leave the chores out and focus on the bigger, more notable aspects of your summer vacation.

But maybe you had to work over the summers. Or perhaps you weren't able to take on extracurriculars because your parents needed your help caring for your younger siblings. Don't worry: those are great answers here, too. Your response doesn't have to be flashy —you don't have to have spent two summers participating in scientific research!

The important thing is to include a why in your answer . Why did you spend your summer vacations this way? And what do your choices say about your values? For instance, if you helped care for your younger siblings, you can explain that family is important to you, and that's part of why you're driven to get a college education. Counselors are trying to get a sense of who you are and what you care about!

Question 3: The Historical Moment Question

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?

Think back to your history classes. Is there a historical moment you're fascinated with? This is a good time to share it with the admissions committee! Maybe you love legal history, so you would have loved to have attended Ruth Bader Ginsburg's swearing in ceremony. Or perhaps you're more interested in medicine, so you'd have loved to witness Wilhelm Röntgen discover x-rays.

Our best advice for answering this question is to be specific and original. Stay away from popular and obvious answers, like "the signing of the Declaration of Independence" or "Lincoln's Gettysburg address." Pick something more unique so that you stand out from other applicants. Once you've picked your historical moment, explain why you'd want to witness it!

Question 4: The Extracurriculars and Responsibilities Question

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family.

The key word in this question is "one." The admissions counselors don't want to read a list of your responsibilities. They want you to talk about one of them and then explain why you participate and/or why it's important to you.

For this question, avoid discussing something that's already evident from the rest of your admissions packet. For instance, if you've already listed band as an extracurricular and talked about it in one of your essays, you don't really need to talk about it here. Give the admissions counselors new information about yourself that they wouldn't be able to learn from other parts of your application.

For instance, maybe you help your dad out with his lawn care business in the summers. That would be a great thing to discuss here, especially if you haven't had a chance to talk about this elsewhere in your application. You could use this opportunity to discuss how helping your family out is important to you, and you also appreciated getting to know the people in your community while cutting their grass.

Whatever activity you choose, be sure to do more than just explain what that activity entails . Go into detail about what it means to you. Why do you participate in that activity? How has it impacted you as a person? You'll have to keep it brief, but these kinds of personal details are what Stanford admissions counselors are looking for.

Question 5: The Stanford Question

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford.

Answering this question starts with research. What is one—again, just one —thing you can't wait to learn, experience, or participate in as a Stanford student? You'll need to spend some time on the Stanford website looking into the different opportunities available to students.

First things first: limit your answer to academics or academic-leaning extracurricular activities. Yes, Palo Alto is beautiful. And yes, Stanford has a fun football program. But admissions counselors want to see that you're going to be a thoughtful, involved member of the Stanford community. So while these things are true and fun, this question is your chance to explain how you're going to get involved on the Stanford campus ...and maybe even give back, too.

Also, the best answers to this question are going to be specific. Instead of saying that you can't wait to participate in clubs, pick one (like the Food and Agribusiness Club) and discuss why it's so exciting to you. The more specific you are, the more you'll show admissions counselors that you're super serious about being a Stanford student.


How to Write a Great Stanford Essay

Regardless of which Stanford essay prompt you're responding to, you should keep in mind the following tips for how to write a great Stanford essay.

#1: Use Your Own Voice

The point of a college essay is for the admissions committee to have the chance to get to know you beyond your test scores, grades, and honors. Your admissions essays are your opportunity to make yourself come alive for the essay readers and to present yourself as a fully fleshed out person.

You should, then, make sure that the person you're presenting in your college essays is yourself. Don't try to emulate what you think the committee wants to hear or try to act like someone you're not.

If you lie or exaggerate, your essay will come across as insincere, which will diminish its effectiveness. Stick to telling real stories about the person you really are, not who you think Stanford wants you to be.

#2: Avoid Cliches and Overused Phrases

When writing your Stanford essays, try to avoid using cliches or overused quotes or phrases.

These include quotations that have been quoted to death and phrases or idioms that are overused in daily life. The college admissions committee has probably seen numerous essays that state, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Strive for originality.

Similarly, avoid using cliches , which take away from the strength and sincerity of your work.

#3: Check Your Work

It should almost go without saying, but you want to make sure your Stanford essays are the strongest example of your work possible. Before you turn in your Stanford application, make sure to edit and proofread your essays.

Your work should be free of spelling and grammar errors. Make sure to run your essays through a spelling and grammar check before you submit.

It's a good idea to have someone else read your Stanford essays, too. You can seek a second opinion on your work from a parent, teacher, or friend. Ask them whether your work represents you as a student and person. Have them check and make sure you haven't missed any small writing errors. Having a second opinion will help your work be the best it possibly can be.

What's Next?

If you want to be one of the 6% of students accepted to Stanford, you'll have to have a great GPA. Check out our guide on how to get good grades in high school for some tips and strategies!

Confused or intimidated about the college admissions process? Check out our complete guide on how to apply to college.

If you want to stand out from the crowd as an applicant, you'll need a solid resume of extracurricular activities . Learn more about your extracurricular options and why they matter.

what to write for stanford essay

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Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.

Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now :

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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.

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Stanford University 2022-23 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Stanford university 2022-23 application essay question explanations.

The Requirements: 3 essays of 100-250 words; 5 short answers of 50 words Supplemental Essay Type(s):  Why ,  Community ,  Oddball

Unshockingly, given that Stanford is the most difficult university to get into in the country, this supplement is a doozie. It puts both your writing and creativity to the test in a myriad ways. One of the most important things to remember about this supplement, as with all supplements that lob a host of essays and short answer questions at you, is that each response is an opportunity to reveal something new about yourself to admissions. Think about the tidbits you have to offer up as you pull together your package and make sure you distribute them across the supplement. Try as hard as you can not to be repetitive. And, as much as you can, have fun with these. If you embrace the challenge laid out in front of you, your answers will be instilled with that positive spirit as well. Trust us.

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 to 250 words) 

How hungry for knowledge are you? That’s what Stanford really wants to know. Focus on a subject that stokes your curiosity, a specific concept that has infiltrated your browser history, or an experience that has burned itself into your brain. What homework assignments are you clamoring to complete first? Which topics want to make you open up a new book, google the definition of word you’re not familiar with or hit play on a podcast? Who challenges you to think of issues in new ways? Now consider what about the subject, activity, or experience itself is inspiring your pursuit of knowledge. Are you driven by the pursuit of the truth and nothing but the truth? Maybe more abstract and creative arenas are more interesting to you. Regardless of what floats your boat, Stanford University is aiming to bring self-motivated, deep thinkers into their student body. Admissions officers want to know that you’ll be eager to contribute to lively class discussion and maybe conduct research in your latter years on campus. Show them that you’ll be a valuable addition to any classroom setting.

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 to 250 words) 

This, at its essence, is a creative writing exercise. All this time colleges have been asking you to write in a casual but professional voice — until now. Pretend you’re writing an email to a friend. Open your browser window and actually draft in a new message box if it helps you adjust your voice. You are now writing to your peer, not admissions. What might someone you are about to live with want to know about you? And, more importantly, what quirky personal information do you want to convey to admissions that might not be appropriate to reveal in response to a stuffier prompt? Are you a closet botanist who will be bringing 30 plants to your dorm room? Have you been practicing how to make your grandma’s special rice in a dorm room hot pot? This is a great place to inject a little humor in your application — if that’s your style. It is also a great opportunity for you to showcase what it would be like to be friends with you (without the use of emojis and with the addition of perfect grammar).

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100 to 250 words) 

This is one of those open-ended questions that can be answered in so many ways, it’s almost maddening. It does come at the end of the application, however, which will help you narrow down the subjects that are not up for contention — namely, anything you have written about already. Dig through your brainstorms for any subjects about which you feel passionately that you’ve left untouched thus far. Consider options across a wide spectrum. Which people are important to you? Which memories? Which objects? Which experiences? What general concepts? Do your white river rapids excursions with your family fill your life with excitement and joy? Does volunteering at the local soup kitchen infuse your life with love and gratitude? Does your religion dictate the way you live your life and make decisions? Again, your job here is to tell Admissions something about yourself that they wouldn’t already know.

Short Answers

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today (50 word limit).

Fifty words is not a lot of words. This is going to be a recurring thought as you begin to tackle the Stanford app. How do you explain society’s most significant challenge in just fifty words? You boil it down to its essence and rely on the topic to speak volumes. Think about what nags at you on a daily basis. How would you like to improve the world? Where might we be going down the wrong path? What you choose to write about will give admissions an idea of what you truly care about and how you see the world. Are you concerned that as a species we will never achieve true gender equality? Does climate change keep you up at night? What activities have you participated in or books have you read to educate yourself about this issue? Maybe you even have a solution to offer up. Show admissions that you can turn passion into action.

How did you spend your last two summers? (50 word limit)

Fifty words is not a lot of words. For this response, that means you will likely have to add and prune, add again and prune again. Feel free to take a straightforward approach to this question. Stanford really wants to know what you did last summer (and the summer before)! Just make sure to include the unexpected commitments that will not appear anywhere else on the application, like your babysitting job, your road trip with your family, or your backyard photography habit. Anything you can do to add a layer of understanding to admissions picture of you will help.

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 word limit)

Fifty words is not a lot of words. So this answer is really about creating an effective summary of the event in question, and concisely explaining the motivation behind your selection. This is another question in which your selection of topic tells a story. Maybe you want to witness the creation of Gutenberg’s printing press or the swearing in of the first African American president. Whatever you do, try to avoid subjects other students will likely flock to. MLK’s “I Had A Dream” speech is incredible, but it might not make for the best topic here — unless, of course, you have a highly personal story that connects to that moment that you can summarize in 50 words or less. (There are always exceptions to the rules!)

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

Like so many other universities, Stanford wants to get a feel for your commitments outside the classroom as well as in. Think about your application as a whole, reading through all of the Stanford prompts before you dig in,  and figure out what you can detail here that hasn’t or will not be addressed in other essays. Also make sure the activity, experience, job, or responsibility you highlight is something you are clearly invested in. Don’t choose to elaborate on a fundraiser to which you contribute five hours of your time, twice a year. This is a good place to feature a work experience if you have one, as that is something that often feels less standard than an internship or activity in which many other students participate. For example, tell admissions about the summer you spent working at a hot dog stand and how it taught you about responsibility, organization, and portable fans. That said, even if you write about a national club or organization that other students may feature, the trick to nailing this essay is personalization. Why is this the activity or experience you have chosen to highlight? How were you a contributor and how will it impact your ability to be a contributor on campus? How has participation made you a more compassionate, assertive, or responsible person overall? And how will this experience impact your future? You don’t have a lot of space here, so make sure you focus on personal and powerful details that other people could not replicate.

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 word limit)

This is “Why Stanford” in its most distilled form. Your answer should be personal and, if possible, unexpected. This is not the place to detail your love of the campus or dining hall. Stanford already knows it has “world-class” professors. Are you looking forward to participating in a certain school tradition because it aligns with your interests? Maybe you can’t wait to start a chapter of a charity you created on campus. Or maybe there is a professor in your department who has done research you admire — are you dying to work alongside that person? Get specific. Let Stanford know what resources you will take advantage of that other might not think of.

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Stanford Essays Examples

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Stanford Essays Examples – Introduction

Located in sunny California, Stanford is a top choice school for many students. In this guide, we’ll look at the Stanford supplemental essays. Then, we’ll review some Stanford essays examples and discuss how they can help you write your own Stanford essay.

Stanford is ranked as one of the best colleges in the US , and for good reason. Students are in control of their learning, whether that means exploring STEM research opportunities or double majoring thanks to Stanford’s quarter system .

It’s no surprise that with Stanford’s popularity, it is a hard school to get into. According to US News, the Stanford acceptance rate is just 4%. The Stanford acceptance rate also ranks Stanford among the most selective schools, so receiving a Stanford acceptance letter is no small feat. 

As you begin the Stanford application process, it can be helpful to review Stanford essays that worked. Then, you can apply the tools from these Stanford essays examples to your own writing.

Our guide to the Stanford essays examples will include:

How many essays does Stanford require?

stanford essay examples

There are eight required Stanford supplemental essays for 2022-23 applicants .

While eight Stanford essays may seem like a lot, remember that not all the Stanford essays are full-length essays, like the two-to-five-page essays you write for class or the 650-word personal statement you will write for the Common Application. Your Stanford essays help the admissions team get to know you. 

Before we dive into some Stanford supplemental essays examples, let’s think about the Stanford essay prompts. Unlike other schools that only require applicants to write one or two supplemental essays , Stanford requires students to answer multiple short answer and short essay prompts.

Put simply, your Stanford essays help the admissions team learn about you on your own terms.  Just wait until you read our Stanford roommate essay examples – how many college applications ask you to write a letter to your future roommate?

There are two types of Stanford essays: short answer and short essay. 

Stanford short answer.

Short answer Stanford essays can only be 50 words max , so they are only a few sentences long. As you’ll see in our Stanford supplemental essays examples, 50 words is not a lot of space. When answering the short answer Stanford essays, you’ll need to learn how to use your words carefully to make a clear and memorable impact on your reader.

Before you’ve read some Stanford essays examples, you may think these types of Stanford essays don’t allow students much room to express their thoughts and ideas. Later, when we look at Stanford essays that worked, you’ll see just how creative you can be when answering the short answer Stanford essays.

Stanford Short Essay

The short essays are slightly longer. These Stanford essays are between 100 and 250 words long , so you can expect these Stanford essays prompts to be more comprehensive than the short answer prompts. As you read our why Stanford essay examples, note that they fall into this category. Instead of being quick snapshots, the Stanford essays that worked will have more of a narrative , taking the reader through a beginning, middle, and end.

No matter if you are responding to the short essay or short answer Stanford essays, make sure you answer the prompts completely. As the admissions team reviews your Stanford essays, they’ll quickly notice whether you successfully answer the prompt . That means if there is a “what” and “why” section of the prompt, your Stanford essay should thoroughly address both.

By now, you’re probably ready to get into some Stanford essays that worked. First, let’s take a look at the prompts behind our Stanford supplemental essays examples.

What are the Stanford essay prompts?

Next up is the Stanford essay prompts. As previously mentioned, Stanford supplemental essays are two lengths: up to 50 words or 100-250 words. 

Since the Stanford essays are so short, you might think they matter less. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Stanford is a prestigious and selective school. So, Stanford Admissions will expect your most thoughtful and well-executed responses to their questions.

Currently, there are three Stanford short essays (100-250 words) and five short answer Stanford essay prompts (50 words max). These prompts are subject to change each year, so make sure you’ve done your research and found the most up-to-date prompts on Stanford’s application and essays page for first-year applicants and transfer applicants .

Note that some of the Stanford essay examples in this guide are from previous admissions cycles. This means that your Stanford application may ask you to complete a slightly different prompt than you’ll see in our Stanford essays examples. While some of the examples included in this guide may not reflect the current Stanford essay prompts, they can still help you complete your Stanford application.

The short answer Stanford supplemental essay prompts (50 words max) include:

The longer Stanford supplemental essay prompts (100-250 words) include:

Before we dive into the Stanford essays examples we’ve provided below, let’s start thinking about what it takes to write a great Stanford essay.

How do I write a good Stanford essay?

Just like there is no easy answer to how to get into Stanford, there is no easy answer to how to write a good Stanford essay. Our Stanford supplemental essays examples are all as different and unique as the students that wrote them. You’ll especially notice this once we start looking at Stanford essays that worked (like our what matters to you and why Stanford essay examples). While these Stanford essay examples all respond to the same prompt, each is unique.

That being said, when you look at different Stanford essays examples, you’ll start to notice they have some things in common. All of our Stanford essays examples clearly and concisely answer all aspects of the prompt. They do so in an engaging and specific voice that reflects some element of the writer’s character. This may include their creativity, humor, intellect, or values.

Overall, good Stanford essays examples will reflect positively on who a student is and why they’d be a good fit for Stanford. Part of Stanford’s vision is making a difference, so don’t be afraid to keep that in mind when reviewing our Stanford essays examples.

Stanford Essay Examples

Now, let’s jump into our Stanford supplemental essays examples. Rather than showing you a random collection of Stanford essays, we are focusing on Stanford essays that worked. Each of these Stanford essay examples is well executed . Each of these Stanford essay examples takes a strong approach to the prompts and shows a clear sense of identity and perspective.

First, we’ll take a look at some short answer Stanford supplemental essays examples. Then, we’ll move on to the longer Stanford essay examples, including our Stanford roommate essay examples and our what matters to you and why Stanford essay examples. 

Stanford Essays Examples- Short Answers

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today (50 words), stanford essay examples #1:.

The deterioration of political and personal empathy. There’s been an aggressive devaluing of inclusive mindsets and common ground rules—the kind of solidarity of purpose necessary to accommodate divergent viewpoints, respect evidence, share burdens, and tackle national/international emergencies like climate change and immigration. We are fumbling—in backwards tribalism—while the world burns.

Stanford Essay Examples #2:

Where’s Waldo books. 

By searching for Waldo, we subconsciously teach children that certain people aren’t meant to belong–they are meant to be hunted. Our brains may be hardwired to notice people who are different, but we are instructed to treat those people differently. 

Searching for Waldo must be consciously unlearned. 

Stanford Essay Examples #3:

Ignorance poses a paradoxical issue: we can’t solve a problem that we don’t know exists.

For fifteen years, I heard gentrification and thought humanitarian. The Oxford English Dictionary had even taught me that gentrification means “positive change.” How can such atrocities become noticed when our perceptions are so skewed?

Stanford Essay Examples #4:

Greed. The root of all evil. To make momentous strides towards improving societal conditions, people and corporations must put aside their greed. Unfortunately, greed – the deep, dark desire for power and money – is the dominant force at work in many aspects of society, making it society’s most significant challenge.

These Stanford essays examples are powerful. Each of these Stanford essays examples is also unique. In each response, the writer uses the prompt to showcase their core values and beliefs. 

You might be surprised how much these Stanford essay examples are able to contain in just 50 words. While this prompt does not contain two separate parts asking “what” and “why,” the above Stanford essays that worked answered both parts anyway. All four Stanford essay examples start by clearly naming the challenge (“deterioration of political and personal empathy,” “Where’s Waldo books,” “ignorance,” and “greed”), then explaining why it is a challenge or what this challenge keeps us from.

Next, let’s look at more Stanford essays that worked for other short answer prompts.

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

Stanford essays that worked #1.

Learned to drive; internship in Silicon Valley (learned to live alone and cook for myself!); a government Honors program; wrote articles for a publication; lobbied at the Capitol; attended a young writers’ program; read a whole lot.

Stanford Essays that Worked #2

My goal: Adventure

2015: Moved from North Carolina to Texas (mission trip to Birmingham, Alabama in between), vacationed in Orlando.

2016: Pre-college math program in Boston, engineering program at another university, Ann Arbor, mission trip to Laredo, Texas, vacation to northern California including the lovely Palo Alto.

These two Stanford essay examples are snapshots that capture your life outside of school . Both of these Stanford essay examples choose to forego typical sentence structures for a more abbreviated, list-type presentation. This can give you room to include more experiences from your summers.

While these two Stanford essays examples are good, these Stanford essays examples aren’t the end-all be-all for this type of prompt. To improve your response, you might sneak in a “why” element to your answer. 

You might not wish to just list what activities you did over the summer , as this may repeat the kind of information found in an extracurricular or resume portion of your application. So, try to touch on what you learned or how you grew from these activities.

The second of our Stanford essay examples does this well by framing up their experiences into a unified goal: adventure. We then learn more about this student by the fact that adventure to them means exploring STEM topics and giving back to their church community. 

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

Stanford essay examples #1.

Valentina Tereshkova’s 1963 spaceflight. Tereshkova’s skill, grit, and persistence carried her from working in a textile factory, through grueling tests and training, to becoming the first woman to fly solo in space. Her accomplishment remains symbolic of women’s empowerment and the expanded progress that’s possible with equity in STEM opportunities.

Stanford Essay Examples #2

In 2001, Egyptian authorities raided a gay nightclub, arresting 55 men. The prosecutors tried them under fujur laws—initially passed by Egyptian nationalists to counter British ‘immorality’ during colonization. 

Watching the prosecution construct homosexuality as un-Egyptian would illustrate the extent anti-Western sentiment drove homophobia and how similar anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric remains today. 

Stanford Essay Examples #3

Most definitely Paganini’s legendary one-stringed performance; one-by-one, his violin strings snapped mid-performance until he was left with only the G-string. Being Paganini, he simply continued to play flawlessly all on that single string!

Stanford Essay Examples #4

Change does not happen without courage. I wish I could have witnessed the courage it took for the four A&T students sit in at the Woolworth’s counter in my hometown. I want to see the light overcoming darkness that created a change to last forever.

These Stanford essays examples show what each writer cares about. They also illustrate how these students connect with the world around them. In each of the above Stanford essays examples, the reader learns more about what the writers are passionate about as well as what they value: perseverance, courage, justice, and beauty.

While these are not exactly why Stanford essay examples, they do showcase what kind of revolutionary or impactful work you might dream of accomplishing with your Stanford education. Never underestimate the opportunity to layer meaning into your essays. Each of these Stanford supplemental essays examples use an external event to show something about an individual student. 

What five words best describe you? (5 words)

Stanford essays #1.

Speak up. Take action. Together.

Stanford Essays #2

Peter Parker meets Atticus Finch

Stanford Essays #3

The light of the world

Although these are the shortest of the Stanford essays examples, they are perhaps the most difficult to write. Summing yourself up in five words is no easy task. Each of these Stanford essays examples takes a different approach, whether that is a few small sentences, a cross of characters, or a poetic line.

When the choice is yours, what do you read, listen to, or watch? (50 words)

Read: The New York Times, Vox, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Quora. Favorite authors include Siddhartha Mukherjee, Atul Gawande, Dushka Zapata, and Zora Neale Hurston. 

Listen: This American Life, The Daily, Radiolab, Invisibilia, U.S. and French pop. 

Watch: The Good Place, Brooklyn 99, YouTube science, baking, and fingerstyle guitar videos.

Read—an unhealthy number of self-help books, re-reading Just Kids by Patti Smith, every one of Audre Lorde’s books… 

Listen to—Danez Smith’s slam poetry (my personal favorite? Dinosaurs in the Hood), Still Woozy, Invisibilia… 

Watch—all the television I was forbidden from watching when I was twelve, POSE, ContraPoints, YouTubers criticizing ContraPoints… 

Read: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, The Wendigo, How To Write an Autobiographical Novel, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, weekly newsletter

Listen: Shostakovich, Lauv, Atlas, 20-hour-rain soundtrack on Spotify 

Watch: Avatar, Forrest Gump, Schindler’s List, Hachi (if in the mood to cry), any Marvel movie!

These Stanford essays examples showcase each writer’s interests and influences. They highlight intellectual media where appropriate, but they also remain honest. As you write your own Stanford essays, remember to stay authentic. 

Name your favorite books, authors, films, and/or artists. (50 words)

Stanford essay that worked.

I love literature and art that helps me explore my roots and learn to love myself. These works and authors include:​The Color Purple, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, ​Maya Angelou, Day of Tears, ​Hope for the Flowers, and Langston Hughes.

This essay is very similar to the Stanford essays examples above. It gives the reader a sense of this student’s interests and shows what they might engage with on Stanford’s campus. 

What newspapers, magazines, and/or websites do you enjoy? (50 words)

Stanford essays that worked.

I enjoy newspapers and magazines that enable me to learn something everyday. I like National Geographic because it lets me learn more about science. Once it even inspired me to do a self directed project on albatrosses. I also enjoy The Economist as it gives me a well rounded view of today’s politics and economics.

This essay is another of the “content” Stanford essays examples. This prompt, however, asks students to articulate the sites and sources where they turn to find content. 

Unlike our other Stanford supplemental essays examples, this example limits itself to two sources. Generally, we wouldn’t recommend essentially repeating the prompt, as this essay does in its first sentence. Instead, jump right into your details and specifics, and utilize that extra space to tie in something more valuable.

What were your favorite events (e.g., performances, exhibits, competitions, conferences, etc.) in recent years? (50 words)

“December 24th, 9pm, Eastern Standard time.” Rent began. I was sitting in between my best friends. We were losing circulation in our hands from holding on too tight and washing off our make-up with our tears. I felt an immense sense of harmony with the play and it was fantastic.

This is another variation of the above Stanford essays examples. This prompt, however, focuses on events. The narrative quality drops you right into the moment, which says so much about how this writer felt about the performance by showing an action rather than only explaining with words.

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. ( 50 words )

I live by my motto: “Dare!” in all instances of Truth or Dare.

Apparently, so do the students who brave Secret Snowflake. It spotlights what I love most, Truth or Dare minus the truth. Will I attempt to break the jalapeno eating record? Hop into The Claw in sub-zero temperatures? 

One of the reasons this “why Stanford essay example” works so well is its specificity. The level of detail included in this “why Stanford essay example” shows that this writer has done research into what Stanford has to offer. This highlights their enthusiasm and dedication to Stanford over another top college. 

If you aren’t able to take an in-person tour to visit the campus, there are plenty of ways to learn more about Stanford and its campus culture. We have countless webinars to help you get a sense of what life at Stanford is like. Check out our virtual college tour , Stanford University panel , and our How to get into Stanford: My Admissions Journey series to learn more about Stanford.

Imagine you had an extra hour in the day — how would you spend that time? (50 words)

I’d split my hour two ways, investing time in my own wellbeing and in others. Half I’d spend baking treats for friends, which would double as a personal gift, since I find baking—like running—relaxing and restorative. The second half I’d spend answering Quora questions—something I’ve been meaning to pay forward.

At eight, I dreamed of becoming a YouTuber, documenting life in rectangular video. Each year, this dream drew further from reach.

With extra time, I’d retrieve what time stole. Creating comedic skits or simply talking about my day, I’d pursue what I value most—making others laugh and capturing beautiful moments.

These Stanford essays examples show how some prompts are more open-ended than others. There’s an infinite number of possibilities you could explore with more time. However, both of these Stanford essays examples discuss something the writer values. Making others laugh, and giving to others—these are traits of people who will likely want to build community with their peers on campus.

Stanford Supplemental Essay Examples – Short Essays

stanford essay examples

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. (250 words)

Stanford essays examples:.

From my earliest days, I have been a storyteller. I have imagined futuristic worlds where climate change has turned plants carnivorous, or where simulation technology has allowed us to learn history by experiencing it. But of all of these worlds that I write into stories, there is one in particular that captivates me:

“Which face should I get? I’m debating between these two, but I think I like the nasal bridge on this one more.”

In this futuristic world, people shop for faces that can be affixed with a head transplant. The people simply browse through a catalog and choose from the available options in the way we might shop for wedding cakes. Following the transplant procedure, one’s previous head is added to the catalog for purchase by the next buyer. 

The idea seems completely bizarre.

That is, until we begin to more carefully consider the present. On Earth, beauty sways society, leading to the emergence of cosmetic surgery as one of the fastest-growing industries. Here, rapid scientific advancement trumps every earthly limitation, and scientists have recently completed the first successful head transplant on a monkey. 

These considerations coalescing, my bizarre idea suddenly comes to life. What is to say that, in 100 years or so, we won’t break the barriers of cosmetic limitations and wear a head that we weren’t born with? The idea terrifies me, but perhaps that is why I am so drawn to it: Science eliminates limitations. It is already eliminating the “fiction” in my “science fiction.”

Many of our other Stanford essays examples explicitly answer the prompt in the opening line. This essay, however, begins by revealing a broader truth about the writer: that they are a storyteller. This is something they embody throughout their essay, allowing the reader to imagine what the writer was like as a child before plunging them into a futuristic idea of their own.

They then connect this with the real-world science that connects to this broader idea. This grounds their interest and imagination with something going on in our world. By the end of the first of our short Stanford supplemental essays examples, we understand that this individual has passions across multiple disciplines. This essay merges science and literature to create a vivid picture of who the writer is and how they’d contribute to Stanford’s campus. 

Stanford students possess an intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development. (250 words)

“Indefinita eres.” Latin for “you are limitless.” I believe that we are all limitless. That with passion, hard work, and resilience almost any dream can be accomplished. And I have a lot of dreams.

My entire life, except for the two years I wanted to be Hannah Montana, I have strived to help others. My dream is to be a leader in bioengineering, shaping and contributing to the forefront of bioengineering research, in order to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Through my endless passion for math, science, and engineering, combined with my resilience and collaborative abilities, I know I will be able to accomplish this.

I have countless other dreams and aspirations as well. I started Latin in 6th grade and I was terrible at it. I decided I would become a “Latin master” to lay a foundation for Spanish fluency in college. I studied hard for four years and by my sophomore year I was extremely honored to earn a silver medal in the Latin III National Latin Exam. I want to run a half marathon (after my sprint triathlon, of course). Through dedication and discipline I have worked from barely being able to run to morning 7 mile runs and will be at 13.1 by April 2nd for the Big D half marathon.

Like other Stanford supplemental essays examples, this piece showcases how much information and personality you can fit into a single essay. This writer chose to focus on an idea versus an experience, which allowed them to talk about multiple moments of growth and perseverance and their variety of passions.

Great Stanford supplemental essays examples will make the most of any prompt. So long as you answer the prompt completely, don’t be afraid to pull together different moments of your life. Just make sure you have a through line to keep everything focused and connected!

Stanford Roommate Essay Examples

what to write for stanford essay

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. (250 words)

Stanford roommate essay examples #1.

In the spirit of inaugurating the life-long relationship I hope we’ll build this year, let me tell you a little about myself.

Hi, I’m Tom. I’m the second child of a comically over-optimistic refugee mother (my Vietnamese name translates, literally, to “celestial being”) and a proud Kentuckian with a deep passion for student-driven advocacy. I have two parents, two stepparents, a nineteen-year-old sister (a junior in Product Design, here, at Stanford), a three-year-old half-sister, two cats, one dog, and a complicated life that spans two households. So, I’m used to sharing space and managing shifting schedules.

I’ve also always been the “Mom” friend. To me, the little things—a chocolate chip cookie when I know a friend has a rough day ahead, words of encouragement before a big presentation, or staying up late to explain a tough physics problem—mean the most. I’ll be there when you need me—be it studying for tests or navigating personal challenges.

I recycle incessantly and am known to snatch cans out of the trash, wash them, and relocate them to neighboring blue bins. I keep a regular sleep schedule, rarely going to bed past midnight or waking up later than 8:30. I’m averse to gyms, opting instead to go for runs in the morning or follow along to a YouTube workout in the afternoon. 

I’m passionate, but also even-keeled. I think life is best taken in stride—worrying has never gotten me anywhere, but flexibility has taken me everywhere. I look forward to an awesome year!

Stanford Roommate Essay Examples #2

Dear Roomie, 

Some disclaimers before we room together: 

1. If I arrive before you, don’t be alarmed by the tissue boxes everywhere. My parents made the conscious decision to expand our cat population despite (or because of) my allergies, and my four cats probably ambushed my suitcase while I was packing. So don’t be surprised if I invite you to one-too-many games of Exploding Kittens. It’s me projecting my fantasies, so please indulge me.

2. Whenever you open a Google Doc around me, change the font to Georgia or Cambria (my personal favorites). If you’re a seasoned Arial user, you’re likely mindlessly going along with what everyone else is doing—I get it. But Arial is objectively a bad font; the only acceptable time to use Arial is if you’re being passive aggressive… and even then, just use comic sans… (Criticizing people’s font choices is only half my personality, I promise.) 

3. You’ll see me embarrassing myself around campus by flailing on the dance floor, doing improv, or in drag, and I hope to see the same from you. I want to get excited about everything you’re passionate about– interests I’ve probably never even thought about before. 

When I’m armed with a bottle of Zyrtec, being my roommate isn’t all bad. I’ll bring copious amounts of Peach Snapple bottles, probably enough to last the semester. You can take as many bottles as you want, so long as you leave me the Snapple “Facts”…. I’m an avid collector. 

Stanford Roommate Essay Examples #3

Hey Roomie! Yesterday was insane. I still can’t quite get over the energy in that stadium after that final play. I guess Berkeley couldn’t take back the axe to cut down these Trees!

I’m writing you this since I have an 8:30 Syntax and Morphology with Dr. Gribanov. I know, it’s early, but that class is honestly worth waking up for. Last Friday, he spent the entire period rambling about why regardless and irregardless are the same thing, but responsible and irresponsible aren’t. Just a fun little thought to start your day.

I’m also writing you this as a quick apology. I won’t be back from Mock Trial until late evening, and then I’ll be practicing for Stanford Symphony auditions. So, if you hear cacophonous noises in your sleep, it’s most likely me. Plus, it’s Mahler Symphony No. 1, so you might not sleep much anyway. Kidding.

These next few days are jam-packed, but I’m craving some much-needed bonding time! I have a proposal: how does a jam session this Friday at Terman Fountain sound? I’ll bring the guitar and plenty of oldies sheet music, you just gotta bring a snack and the desire to sing! I’ve sold a few people already. Join us?

Well, I’m headed to breakfast now. Text me if you want me to grab you anything.

Stanford Roommate Essay Examples #4

Dear Roomie,

Tupac Shakur is not dead. You might believe that he is, because yes, his body is buried somewhere. But many of his messages are still very much alive. So future roomie, if we are going to be as close as I hope (and if you see me rapping “Life Goes On” in my Star Wars pajamas), you should know this about me:

As a biracial person, I have felt extremely troubled for the past few years regarding the social inequalities and injustices in our society. 2PAC says in his song “Changes,” “I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black.” He says “I see no changes.”

I want to change this. I want Tupac’s spirit to behold a United States in which everyone has equal access to education and to healthcare. A U.S. where no one is discriminated against based on their race, gender, sexuality, or religion. I have already begun working towards equality, through educational outreach and political volunteerism. I will continue this at Stanford, through participating in peaceful protests and spreading awareness of the issues at hand. This might mean you’ll notice me coming and going a lot or going on frustrated rants about the ignorance and injustices in our society and our world. However, I hope you’re a person who will not only understand my perspective but be willing to march towards equality with me.

I am so excited for this year and the many years to come!

As noted in our Stanford Essays Guide , the Stanford roommate essay shows up nearly every year. These Stanford roommate essay examples show how fun a prompt like this can be to answer. Each of our Stanford roommate essay examples takes a slightly different approach. Some students write from the perspective of already attending Stanford; others opt for a list of important need-to-know facts.

The Stanford roommate essay examples show how open-ended this prompt actually is. If, after reading our Stanford roommate essay examples, you feel like you have no idea what to write about, know that there is no perfect recipe for responding to this prompt. Each of our Stanford roommate essay examples has a unique quality and flair.

A good rule of thumb you can take from our Stanford roommate essay examples is to remember who your audience is. Some essays touch on classic roommate topics, like sleep schedules, activities, and sharing snacks. However, the writer only includes these facts as a means of showing who they are. 

What Matters to You and Why Stanford Essay Examples

what matters to you and why stanford essay examples

What matters to you, and why? (250 words)

‘what matters to you and why’ stanford essay examples:.

“You’re stupid!!” exclaimed James. “Well you’re ugly!” shouted Ethan. We were sitting around the dinner table and my brothers, as usual, were bickering. After about two minutes of this, my dad broke into song. He sang, in a mostly on pitch falsetto, “what the world needs now, is love sweet love.” My brothers, my mom and I all rolled our eyes, but of course we kept singing. Then we sang “All you need is love” and “I’ll be there.” After years of this constant playlist, during laundry, dinners, and hikes, I realized what truly matters to me: love.

Love is what makes my life worth living. Whether it be love of my family, of my friends, of my activities, or of my future it makes me excited to get up and start my day. The sense of harmony I feel when dancing in the car with my family, or painting with my friends, or working with my team on our solar car is indescribably fulfilling. Through playing ukelele and singing with my family to working diligently in a lab to create a process that will alleviate the pain of another person, I will have the love that is of utmost importance to me. I will fill my life and the lives of others with love and harmony.

The last of our Stanford supplemental essays examples shows just how honest and vulnerable you can be in your essays. This essay does a great job of showing rather than telling. It gives us a great example of what love looks like to this student and how love continues to be the most important thing in their life.

How to write Stanford Supplemental Essays: 5 Tips!

1. start early.

If you’re worried about getting your Stanford essays up to par with these Stanford essays examples, don’t leave them to the last second. Begin by familiarizing yourself with the Stanford prompts and reviewing our Stanford supplemental essays examples. This can be the first step in your writing process. Next, start brainstorming topics and ideas you can start incorporating into your drafts.

2. Keep an idea journal

Now that you’ve reviewed different Stanford supplemental essay examples and have read Stanford essays that worked, it’s time to get brainstorming. Try writing down the main topics of each Stanford essay prompt, like “roommates,” “important experiences,” or “content I like.” Have a place where you can write down all your ideas as soon as they come to you. That way, when it comes time to start drafting your Stanford essays, you’ll have plenty of ideas.

3. Think outside the box

If you’re having trouble coming up with an answer to one of the Stanford essay prompts, don’t worry. Remember our “what matters to you and why Stanford essay examples?” These questions are at the core of what Stanford admissions is looking for. You’ll include traces of them in every Stanford essay you write regardless of which prompt you answer.

4. Consider what Stanford Admissions will take away from your Stanford essays

For instance, think about the Stanford roommate essay examples. While the prompt asked students to direct their attention to their future roommate. Remember your reader will be coming in with the perspective of an admissions officer, not your potential future roommate. While this may seem like the space to offer up fun, random facts about yourself and your interests, consider how the characteristics you choose to highlight build upon other aspects of your application and Stanford essays.

5. Draft, edit, rewrite, edit, and edit again

These Stanford supplemental essays examples weren’t written overnight. You can’t expect to produce Stanford essays as engaging and effective as our Stanford essay examples unless you put in enough time and effort. Remember, our Stanford essays examples are final drafts. Make sure you get your first draft down on paper as soon as you can so you have plenty of time to edit, proofread, and finalize your essays.

Stanford Essay Examples- Final Thoughts

what to write for stanford essay

Applying to Stanford can feel overwhelming, especially given the low Stanford acceptance rate. If Stanford is your dream school , you should do all you can to ensure your Stanford essays shine.  

If you’re looking for answers on how to get into Stanford, think carefully about every aspect of the Stanford application. Knowing the requirements for the Stanford application will be much more helpful than worrying about the Stanford acceptance rate.

Focus on what you can control

So, focus on the parts of the Stanford admissions process you can control, like your responses to the Stanford essay prompts. Understanding the prompts, then looking at Stanford essays that worked, can give you a sense of what Stanford admissions looks for when reviewing applications. Then, you can take the lessons and learnings from Stanford essay examples and incorporate them into your own essays.

Take a look at our how to get into Stanford guide for more tips on the Stanford application process. We discuss how Stanford Admissions reviews applications, the Stanford acceptance rate, the interview process, and more strategies on how to get into Stanford.

As you begin working on your Stanford essays, feel free to look back on these Stanford essays examples. Rather than using them as a shining example you need to model your own Stanford essay after, think about why they worked, the impact they had on you, and how you can incorporate those techniques into your own essay. So remember, get started early, and good luck.

what to write for stanford essay

This article was written by Stefanie Tedards. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how can support you in the college application process.

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First-Year Applicants

You apply to Stanford by submitting the Common Application . When you apply to Stanford, you apply to the university as a whole, not to a particular major, department or school. We encourage you to indicate prospective majors and career interests in the application, but please know you are not bound by these selections in any way.

The Common Application includes essay prompts for your personal essay. In addition to the personal essay, we also require the Stanford Questions, which you can access and submit through the Common Application once you add Stanford University to your list of colleges.

The essays are your chance to tell us 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 us get to know you as a friend, future roommate and classmate.

Stanford Questions

We ask applicants to answer several short questions (limit 50 words each) and to 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.

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Stanford Supplemental Essay Examples for

With tips for writing a compelling essay.

Stanford Supplemental Essay Examples

Looking at Stanford supplemental essay examples is a great way to prepare for your own  college supplemental essays . Even if you are not planning on attending  Stanford University , you will find that reviewing different college essays will help you learn how to tackle various types of essay prompts so that you can learn to write a better essay. If you are applying to Stanford or any other prestigious university, like the  Ivy League Schools , you will need a compelling essay to improve your chances of admission.

Every year, universities like Stanford get thousands of applications from students with good grades and strong extracurriculars, and only a few of them get admitted. In fact, last year, Stanford had an acceptance rate that was just under 4%. If you want to stand out and be part of those few students who get an offer of admission, you will need to write a college essay that stands out.

Reviewing different  college essay examples  can help you do that. So take a look at the X outstanding Stanford supplemental college essay examples that we share in this blog. We also share a few tips to help you ace your college essays and tackle tricky topics like the notorious Stanford roommate essay. 

Note : If you want us to help you with your applications, interviews and/or standardized tests, book a free strategy call . If you are a university, business, or student organization representative and want to partner with us, visit our partnerships page .

Article Contents 6 min read

Stanford supplemental essay example # 1.

Prompt: 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)

My mother loves to tell me that I was born in a garden. It's not exactly true. Her water broke in our backyard garden, and she didn't feel the need to hurry to the hospital. It's my grandmother who came home from work and found her in the middle of the garden that finally convinced her that her tomatoes could wait while I - the baby she needed to give birth to - could not.

She blames those few minutes for my obsession with agriculture, but I believe it stems from watching her care for her garden. I remember watching her plant seeds as a child and being amazed when actual food started growing out of the ground within a few weeks.

I started helping her out in her garden when I was a child, and we volunteered together for the local community garden. As I grew up, I became more curious about agriculture. I started asking questions in school and researching independently to learn more. It led me to the national agriculture  summer program for high school students , where I got to learn more about the technical aspects of food production and distribution.

That experience reaffirmed the decision that I have made to learn about agricultural economics and sustainability. I am genuinely excited to learn what we can do to improve the current processes in order to make things better for future generations. I believe that Stanford's sustainability program is the best place for me to do that.  (248 words)

Prompt: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100 – 250 words)

"Not thanking is Witchcraft, Annie. You have to thank people for their effort". Those are my grandmother's words. She often reminds me that the profoundly traditional Shawna people of Zimbabwe, where she and my parents were raised, believe that not thanking is witchcraft more often than I can remember. 

As a child, I loved my grandmother but thought she was very annoying. She speaks very little English, and my Shawna is not very good, so sometimes it's hard to understand her. She also loves to tell me stories about the village she grew up in, which I have never seen and will likely never see because, according to her, the foreigners have built shopping malls where it was. 

I started appreciating my grandmother when I began learning about oral history in class. It occurred to me that although I was born and raised in the US, I am a Zimbabwean American and most of my connection to my culture comes from her. She always made it a point to cook traditional foods like Sadza for my siblings and me, speak to us in Shawna even when she knew how to say it in English, and teach us about our culture. 

My relationship with her and the stories she shares with us have allowed me to connect with my heritage, and they prompted my interest in African history and cultures. So I'd like to wrap up this short essay by thanking her for teaching me and thanking you for considering my application.  (250 words)

Wondering how to get into a top college with a low GPA? Check this out:

Prompt: 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. (100 – 250 words)

Dear future roommate, 

The first thing you need to know about me is that almost every song is "my jam". You will probably start rolling your eyes every time I say, "ouh, that's my song" by the end of our first week together. Don't worry; I won't take it personally. I will also try not to sing or hum loudly, but I know this will be a serious challenge, so if I get carried away and disturb you when you're studying or just having some quiet time, let me know, and I will stop. 

I hope you're a music lover too so we can listen to some great records together. Yes, you read that right. I said records because I have an old-school record player and a great collection of vinyls that has a bit of everything, including Kendrick Lamar, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Frank Sinatra.

If music is not your thing, then I'm sure we'll find something else to bond over. I also enjoy reading, shopping, and defending the superiority of DC comics over marvel. I also enjoy trying new things, so I hope you'll be open to introducing me to one of your hobbies. I'm willing to try anything that doesn't involve horses. I know that they are cute and majestic, but one of them scarred me for life, and I am kind of scared of them now. 

I look forward to telling you the whole story one day soon and learning about you. 

(249 words)

Tips for tackling the Stanford roommate essay

Many students find the Stanford roommate essay especially difficult to write because it is so broad and a bit more personal than most college essays. When tackling this prompt, you should remember that even though the admissions committee will be reading this essay, it needs to be written as if it were addressed to a peer. By asking you to write to your college roommate, they have given you a writing assignment, and you need to follow instructions. So your tone should be a bit less formal but still courteous. It would also be best to avoid focusing on academia in this essay.

This particular prompt gives you a chance to humanize your application so take advantage of that. Many students approach this essay the same way they do the " tell me about yourself" interview question , but this is not the same thing. This essay should focus more on providing the admissions committee with an authentic portrayal of your character and personality. You can't share everything in 250 words, so we recommend making a list of everything you'd want to share with an actual future roommate and then narrowing it down to the three or four things that are most meaningful to you.

Check out this video for more college essay tips:

Contrary to popular belief in my home, I cannot wait to meet you! 

There are thirteen people in my house on most days. That includes my parents, eight siblings, grandmother, and two cousins. Most of them assumed that I would have opted to live on my own so that I could have some peace and quiet. I can see why they'd think that, but the truth is that while I enjoy doing many things on my own- like curling up on the couch with a good book and some ginger tea or drawing- I also enjoy being around people. 

One of the reasons I am excited about college is that I get a chance to try new things and meet new people. I like to explore and learn about different cultures, so I hope you'll feel comfortable telling me about where you're from and teaching me about your culture. I am Senegalese-American, and I hope that I'll get a chance to introduce you to some Senegalese food because it is delicious, and I think everyone should try it at least once. 

I don't cook very often, but I love food, so I look forward to checking out all the different restaurants on and near campus. I love to spend Saturday nights on the couch with good company, great takeout, and a good movie. If that sounds like a fun night to you, then I think we will get along just fine. 


(246 words)

Conclusion & Writing tips

Your supplemental college essays can significantly impact the admissions committee's decision, so it is important that you do everything you can to write an essay that will not only be attention-grabbing but will also add value to your overall application. This is especially important if you are hoping to  get into college with a low GPA.   So, here are a few tips to help you write a more compelling essay. 

Many promising students don't know  how to write a college essay . If you are one of them, or if you feel that you need some additional guidance as you write your essay, then you should reach out to a  college essay advisor  for support. Or, if you've already started working on your essay, it may be a good idea to reach out to a  college essay review service . These services are offered by admission professionals who will be able to identify issues in your essay that the untrained eye may not be able to. "}]'>

Last year, only 3.9% of the students who applied to Stanford were offered admission, so it is fair to say that it is a highly competitive school. You will need an outstanding application to get in. 

Many assume that Stanford is an Ivy League School, but it is actually not. It is, however, one of the most prestigious universities in the United States and the entire world.

Do not underestimate the importance of your college essays. Every year, Stanford gets applications from thousands of students with high GPAs and impressive extracurriculars. Your essays give the school a chance to find out what else you bring to the table.

These essays are relatively short. You’re between 100-250 words.

One of Stanford's oldest and most well-known supplemental essay prompts asks students to write a letter to their future roommates. It is one of the essays that students often find challenging.

Your roommate essay needs to be about you! This essay is supposed to tell the admission committee what you are like as a person, what interests you, and what you can contribute to the Stanford campus. So, talk about your hobbies, habits, and interests outside of academia.

You can improve the overall quality of your essays by having a strong opening, using specific examples, showing instead of telling, and ensuring that your essay is error-free. If you're not sure how to do this, reach out to a college essay advisor for some assistance. 

We recommend starting your essay with a "hook" or something catchy like an anecdote, a gripping or funny fun fact about you so that you can grab the reader's attention from the very beginning.

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what to write for stanford essay

12 Best Stanford Supplemental Essays That Worked 2023

Stanford University Essay Examples

Your essays are one of the best ways you can stand out in Stanford's competitive admissions process.

In this article, I'm going to share with you 12 answers to Stanford's notorious writing supplement from an admitted student.

Stanford University Admissions FAQs

Many students are interested in applying to Stanford, even though admission may seem like a long-shot.

But you may surprise yourself, and for many students it's the only time in their life they'll apply.

Here are some common questions students and parents have about Stanford's admissions:

What is Stanford University's acceptance rate?

This past year, Stanford had a record 55,471 applications and admitted 2,190 students. That gives Stanford an overall admit rate of 3.95%.

Or in other words, less than 1 in 25 students are admitted.

Just having good stats is not enough to get into schools like Stanford.

Which makes your essays are a critical opportunity for you to show why you should be accepted.

Stanford University Acceptance Scattergram

But for any school that has competitive admissions like Stanford, that only means your essays are more heavily weighed.

Each year thousands of students apply with stats that are good enough to get in. And your essays are one important factor admissions officers use.

What is Stanford's application deadline for this year?

Stanford offers two admissions deadlines for 2022-23: restrictive early action and regular decision.

For this year, Stanford's deadlines are:

How many essays does Stanford require?

This year, Stanford University requires applying students to answer five Short Questions and write three Short Essays. If you're applying with the Common App, you'll also need a strong personal statement essay .

Stanford is notorious for its lengthy and creative writing supplement. The questions are known to be thought-provoking, which is done on purpose.

Stanford admissions officers want to dig into your thought process, and learn how you think.

What are the Stanford supplemental essay prompts for 2022-23?

For 2023, the Stanford writing supplement consists of eight questions total:

Short Questions

Stanford requires applicants to answer five short answer questions of between 3 and 50 words each.

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (3-50 words)

How did you spend your last two summers? (3-50 words)

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (3-50 words)

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family. (3-50 words)

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (3-50 words)

Short Essays

Stanford's short essays are three required essays of between 100 and 250 words each.

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)

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. (100-250 words)

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100-250 words)

Stanford's unique prompts give you a lot of freedom in how you choose to respond.

But being so open-ended can also make it difficult to get started.

Because of that, it can be helpful to see how other students wrote answers to Stanford's prompts in recent years.

12 Stanford University Essays That Worked

For getting your best shot at Stanford, you'll need to write authentic and interesting essays.

My advice: Have fun with the prompts when coming up with ideas. But write about them with care and diligence. Above all, be authentic.

Check out how these admitted Stanford students wrote their essay and short answer responses.

I've also included a great Common App essay from an admitted student.

1. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 words max)


Why This Essay Works:

What They Might Change:

2. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: How did you spend your last two summers? (50 words max)

[Date] : Working with the head of IT at Golden Gate Parks and Rec to renovate the social media program and redesign the website. (

[Date] : Studying at Stanford High School Summer College, building a family in two months.

Essays That Worked Database

Get access to our huge essay database and learn the secrets of what really works.

3. Stanford University Short Question

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

The Trinity test, the first detonation of the atomic bomb. For one, an opportunity to meet my role models: Oppenheimer, Feynman, Fermi, etc. But also, to witness the 4 millisecond shift to an era of humanity that could eradicate itself. “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

College Search Tool

4. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 words max)

Representing an ideal.

Stanford is a gathering place of people working towards a common ideal; one of engagement, passion, intellectual vitality, and devotion to progress. This is what I stand for, so I want to help Stanford represent it.

(Also those cream cheese croissants from CoHo.)

23 College Essay Tips To Help You Stand Out

5. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: What five words best describe you? (5 words max)

I don’t conform to arbitrary boundaries.

6. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: Imagine you had an extra hour in the day — how would you spend that time? (50 words max)

One extra hour is thirty minutes extra of daylight.

The US has 28 GW of installed solar capacity. With the extra daylight, there will be a 4% increase in national capacity, an entire GW added. This small increase alone powers 700,000 homes. I’m spending the time investing in photovoltaics!

7. Stanford University "Genuinely Excited About Learning" Short Essay

Prompt: 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)

It’s in the mail.

I rip open the package.

It feels sleek along my fingertips. Three volumes. Gorgeous red binding with stunning silver lettering. THE Feynman LECTURES ON PHYSICS The NEW MILLENIUM Edition

I had heard about them previously, but a Quora thread on “essential physics texts” convinced me to invest in them. I thought I was buying a textbook, but I was buying a new way of life. That night, while I laid in bed, Feynman changed my entire perspective of the universe. In the first lecture.

Not only was he a Nobel prize winning physicist with a unique approach to the subject, but his pedagogical capabilities were perfectly suited to my personality. When Feynman teaches, he does not just teach physics, he teaches how to think and understand. He helped me recognize that my passion wasn’t for physics, it was for a passion for learning and understanding.

Spoken directly from the source: “I don't know anything, but I do know that everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough.”

Reading the Lectures rouses within me the most intense feeling of elation I have ever experienced. When I open the Lectures, any bad mood is erased, any haze in my mind is cleared away, and I become the person I strive to be.

Now, I always have at least one of the Lectures on me. At festivals, in backpacks, in carryons, if I am there, so are the Lectures.

8. Stanford University "Letter to Roommate" Short Essay

Prompt: 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)

Dear roommate,

Don’t be alarmed if you glance over at my laptop late at night displaying a plague doctor examining a watermelon with a stethoscope, meticulously listening for a heartbeat.

I apologise for waking you, but before requesting a room change, allow me to explain. This twisted scene is innocently my favorite video on YouTube. I have ASMR, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is a euphoric, calming sensation triggered by visual and auditory stimuli like whispering and fine movements, which I use to aid my insomnia. This plague doctor, played by youtuber Ephemeral Rift, has movements as he inspects the watermelon that are as calming to me as a mother’s lullabies are to a child.

I know we will both have our strong, unique personalities with our individual quirks like this. However, I guarantee we have a fundamental similarity which lead us to becoming Stanford students.

We have passion for learning. Even if two people are polar-opposite personalities, they can become family if they have this.

That said, I have a feeling we won’t be polar opposites. I love jamming on my guitar, going out to parties, playing video games, messing around with soccer, and a hodgepodge of other hobbies. I’m sure we’ll have some common ground to start off but either way there will be plenty of time to grow together!

P.S. I am a whiteboard fiend. I hope that’s okay.

Hundreds of the Best College Essay Examples

9. Stanford University "Meaningful To You" Short Essay

Prompt: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100-250 words)

A meaningful discussion can be found deep in the jungle of YouTube, during an obscure “CBS This Morning” interview with Bill Murray.

“What do you want, that you don’t have?” - Charlie Rose

Bill Murray - “I’d like to be here all the time, and just see what I could get done, what I could do if I really, you know, didn’t cloud myself... if I were able to... to not get distracted. To not change channels in my mind and body, to be my own channel.”

Death is scary but my slimy, monolithic, Lovecraftian fear is unengagement. I only have a brief time to experience life and I know I will find the most fulfillment in “[seeing] what I could get done.” When I feel that signature fuzzy, tired feeling in my head, I am reminded of my old night terrors; I would be awake yet unable to interact with my surroundings.

In sophomore year, when I discovered my passion for physics, I found a powerful way to stay engaged. Developing a passion fundamentally requires me, as Murray puts it, “to be my own channel.” Problem solving, understanding difficult concepts, having intense discussions all demand your mind to be present and I am more than happy to oblige.

Intellectual vitality is not my application buzzword, it is my lifestyle.

10. Stanford University Short Essay

Prompt: Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 words max)

One month into AP Physics C Mr. Shapiro's cancer came out of remission. With no teacher for the rest of the semester, I offered to give a few lectures. The first try was a huge success and I was hooked on teaching.

Following my newfound addiction, I started Lowell Physics Club (LPC). Our first lecture attracted 50 students, with 40 returning the next week!

A victim of grandeur, I designed an environment more than a club. It had to be innovative, attractive, and have a tangible payoff. We tutor students in physics, connect those looking for fun projects, prepare students for the F=ma Olympiad, and sometimes I give lectures which expand rather than repeat. This year two students qualified.

Mr. Shapiro returned this semester and continued teaching. I can now relax in the back of the room listening to his engaging lectures, occasionally giving one of my own.

11. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: When the choice is yours, what do you read, listen to, or watch? (50 words max)

From my bookshelf, Youtube subscriptions, Netflix history, and Spotify.

The Feynman Lectures, MF Doom, Ephemeral Rift, Tank and The Bangas, The Eric Andre Show, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hubbard and Hubbard’s Differential Equations and Vector Calculus, Thích Nhất Hạnh, Kamasi Washington, 3Blue1Brown, Al Green, Band of Gypsys, Oxford Press - Very Short Introductions

12. Stanford University Common App Essay

Common App Prompt #7: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. (250-650 words)

For my entire life, I have had the itch: the itch to understand.

As a kid I was obsessed with a universe I knew nothing about. In elementary school, my favorite book was an introduction to fulcrums for kids. Like the Pythagoreans who had marveled at the perfect ratios of musical notes, I was enamored with the mathematical symmetries of fulcrums. The book inflamed my itch but I had no means to scratch it.

I was raised a San Francisco Hippie by musicians and artists. I learned to sing the blues before I knew the words I used. Without guidance from any scientific role models, I never learned what it meant to do science, let alone differentiate science from science-fiction. As a kid, it was obvious to me a flying car was equally as plausible as a man on the moon. When my parents told me my design for a helium filled broomstick would not fly , they could not explain why, they just knew it wouldn’t. My curiosity went unrewarded and I learned to silence my scientific mind to avoid the torture of my inability to scratch the itch.

Then, in Sophomore year , I met Kikki. Before Kikki, “passion” was an intangible vocab term I had memorized. Ever since she lost her best friend to cancer in middle school, she had been using her pain to fuel her passion for fighting cancer. When you spoke to her about oncology , her eyes lit up, she bounced like a child, her voice raised an octave. She emanated raw, overwhelming passion.

I wanted it. I was enviously watching another person scratch an itch I couldn’t.

I was so desperate to feel the way Kikki did that I faked feeling passionate ; AP Physics 1 with Mr. Prothro had sparked my old Pythagorean wonder in mathematics so I latched on to physics as my new passion and whenever I talked about it, I made my eyes light up, made myself bounce like a child, purposefully raised my voice an octave.

Slowly, my passion emerged from pretense and envy into reality.

Without prompting, my eyes would light up, my heart would swell, and my mind would clear. One night, I was so exhilarated to start that night's problem set that I jumped out of my seat. I forgot to sit back down. I spent that night bent over at my desk, occasionally straightening out, walking around and visualising problems in my head. Five whiteboards now cover my walls and every night, I do my homework standing up.

Once learning became my passion, my life changed. Old concepts gained new beauty, the blues became a powerful medium of expression. Mathematics became a language rather than a subject. I rocketed from the kid who cried in class while learning about negative numbers to one of two juniors in an 800-person class to skip directly into AP Physics C and AP Calculus BC. I founded [School] Physics Club, which became one of the largest clubs in the school. Over the summer at Stanford, I earned perfect marks in Ordinary Differential Equations, Energy Resources, an Introduction to MATLAB, and an environmental seminar, all the while completing the Summer Environment and Water Studies Intensive. Now in my senior year, I am earning my AS in Mathematics and Physics at the City College of San Francisco.

As I enter college, the applicability of my field of physics offers me a broad array of high-impact careers. Given that by 2050, 17% of Bangladesh's land will be underwater displacing twenty million people , I have settled on energy resources engineering.

All of this is natural progression from one development - I learned to scratch my itch.

Do you want to get into Stanford in 2022? If so, writing great application essays is one of your most critical parts of applying.

With selective schools like Stanford, your essays matter even more.

Hopefully these 12 Stanford short answers and essays have helped inspire you.

From these essay examples, you can learn what it takes to write some stellar Stanford supplements:

If you enjoyed these essays, you'll also like reading UCLA essays and USC essays .

Let me know, what did you think of these Stanford essays?

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what to write for stanford essay

How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essays 2022–2023

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With a professorship roster including 19 Nobel laureates, a wealth of nearly 900 student organizations, and a gorgeous campus in the heart of California’s Bay Area, Stanford University is an easy pick for many students’ dream school of choice. Its acceptance rate, however – 4.4% for the class of 2023 – is a more daunting statistic to swallow. Don’t get discouraged! We’re here to help you take your best shot at making your dream school a reality, starting by teaching you how to write the Stanford supplemental essays.

Stanford University campus

What makes your application’s essay section so important?

Students admitted to Stanford report an average unweighted GPA of 3.95 , an average SAT score of 1510 , and an average ACT of 33 . In other words, at universities like Stanford, top-notch academics are the norm rather than the exception. You’ll need to count on more than just your GPA and standardized test scores to stand out – which is where your essays come in.

Stanford asks you to respond to 5 short-answer and 3 long-answer prompts for a total of 8 essays, double the amount most other universities require. While this may mean you have twice the writing to do, it also means you have twice the opportunity to show admissions officials your unique strengths as an applicant. With that in mind, let’s have a look at Stanford’s 8 supplemental essay prompts for the 2022-2023 application cycle.

Stanford’s 2022–2023 Prompts

Short response (50 words).

Essay Prompts (100–250 words)

what to write for stanford essay

General Tips

For the 5 short-answer prompts, you’ll only have 50 words to convey a meaningful response. Avoid restating the question and trim unnecessary connector words to make the most of your word count. You can also improve concision by replacing conjunctions and clunky transition phrases with colons, semicolons, and em dashes. 

The first example below is an instance of choppy, overly verbose writing.

Ex. 1 : “I think that the most significant challenge that society faces today is improper urban planning. Improper urban planning can result in a surprising number of issues, including noise pollution, increased fossil fuel output, and overcrowding.”

The second example cleans it up using the tips we’ve just discussed.

Ex. 2: “Improper urban planning may sound like a niche issue, but it encompasses a surprising number of society’s challenges – from noise pollution, to fossil fuel output, to overcrowding.”

You have more wiggle room with the long essay prompts – 100-250 words – but you should still strive for concision to improve your essay’s flow. Unnecessary fluff and run-on sentences will confuse your reader no matter the length of the essay.

Wherever possible, write your essays on topics you haven’t discussed elsewhere in your application. If an admissions official sees your math team in your activities transcript, and then reads three short responses about the same math team, they may not see you as a well-rounded applicant. Instead, try to vary your essay topics and take advantage of any opportunities to discuss an activity or interest that isn’t reflected in your transcript.

Finally, before we move to a prompt-by-prompt breakdown of the Stanford supplemental essays, here are two tips to keep in mind for both your short-responses and long-answer essays.

One, detail is key. Instead of telling admissions officials that your 10th-grade swim team was important to you, tell admissions officials about the swim meet where you came last in freestyle, motivating you to practice for months and earn first place at the next meet. Especially in your long-answer essays, detailed anecdotes are an excellent way to craft an engaging narrative.

Two, write essays that tell admissions officials about you . This may seem like obvious advice, but some of Stanford’s prompts ask about topics that don’t relate to you directly. Even so, you still need to connect these topics to your own perspective. Instead of reciting to Stanford admissions officials impressive statistics about their own school, tell them why it excites you that Stanford has nearly 900 student organizations. Instead of flatly describing the challenges climate change poses to society, tell your reader how these specific challenges have impacted your own life and what you’ve done to help solve them.

With these higher-level tips out of the way, let’s move on to a prompt-by-prompt breakdown of the Stanford supplemental essays.

Stanford’s Short Responses

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

A good response to this short-answer prompt will clearly identify one significant challenge society faces, with unique insight into its problems and potential solutions. Remember, detail is key – even if you pick a broader topic, you can still explore that topic in a way that sets your response apart from other students.

Let’s say the challenge you’ve chosen is economic inequality. Rather than stating in vague terms that poverty is an issue, you might propose building more homeless-friendly public architecture to combat the dangers poverty poses – and if you connect your response to the public architecture you see in your own community, even better. By going into detail on a specific issue, proposing a solution, and connecting it to your own experience, you’ve shown admissions officials you’re a conscientious and observant student who can bring those qualities to their campus community in turn.

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

For this prompt, try to focus on concise anecdotes and skills you’ve learned rather than just listing your summer activities – the last thing you want to do is turn this short response into a repeat of your activities transcript. If you worked a fast food job, you might talk about how you learned to keep up with a fast-paced environment, or mention the fire-forged bond you made with a coworker who worked with you during rush hour. Try to keep some of these anecdotes under a sentence in length to stay mindful of your word count and make room for other activities.

Ex. “I learned customer service skills through my job at Target and tested out college-level coursework with an online Chemistry 101 class. After studying abroad in Estonia and making a real connection with my host family, I kept in touch this summer and practiced my Estonian by sending them handwritten letters.”

Another strategy you can use to avoid repeating your activities transcript is simply listing activities that aren’t on the transcript. Even if they aren’t prestigious internships or national competitions, telling admissions officials about how you took up origami or traveled to see your grandmother will give them a fuller picture of who you really are. 

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

Prompts like these can be tricky if an idea doesn’t come to mind right away. Try to choose a moment that’s widely recognizable so you don’t have to waste words giving context, but unique and relevant to your specific interests. You might wish you were in the audience for Shakespeare’s first production of Macbeth , or at a 1980’s board meeting when Shigeru Miyamoto first pitched his idea for Super Mario Bros . Remember, you have a wide range of history to work with!

Some other questions to consider: are there any historical mysteries you wish you could solve, like the disappearance of Amelia Earhart? Do you have any historical role models? When you read or watch historical fiction, what time period do you go for? Try to have fun with this prompt – a creative answer will go a long way toward making efficient use of your 50 words.

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

This prompt gives you an opportunity to dig a little deeper into a job or activity you’ve listed on your transcript. Ideally, this should be an activity you didn’t mention in Prompt #3 – as always, you want to avoid repetition wherever possible so you don’t appear single-faceted.

Try to choose an activity you’ve put a lot of time and passion into . If you’ve changed as a person through the friends you made at chess club, or your role in a political advocacy group completely changed your perspective, tell that story here! Narratives of personal growth make for effective college essays in general – admissions officials want to invite students who are open to learning and changing over time – so keep an eye out for any you’ve experienced in your past activities. Of course, the 50-word limit is still looming, so make sure you clearly identify the narrative you want to tell before distilling it into 2-3 sentences.

The last part of this prompt also gives an opportunity to discuss family responsibilities, an activity you may not have been able to get into elsewhere. Looking after your baby brother, helping your aunt renovate her new home, and cooking meals for a parent who works late may not be activities you’d put on your resume, but they’re still important activities that can help round out your background. If something immediately comes to mind, consider taking advantage of the opportunity this prompt gives you to discuss it.

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 words)

This prompt is your opportunity to show admissions officials your knowledge of Stanford’s resources and traditions. As always, try to be specific here. Simply stating that you want to take Stanford’s high-level courses doesn’t tell your reader much about how your interests match with Stanford, but if there’s one specific course you’re dying to take, enthusing about it will show admissions officials you’re interested in Stanford and have the knowledge to back it up.

Alternatively, you might focus on campus culture rather than academics. Maybe you’re really looking forward to fountain hopping, a freshman tradition where new students splash around in the many fountains across Stanford’s campus. Once again, identifying a specific ritual you’re looking forward to shows admissions officials you really know their school and want to be a part of the Stanford community. Speaking of the Stanford community…

Stanford’s Essay Prompts

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).

For this first longer essay prompt, anecdotes are your best friend . Was there a moment in class when you realized you were no longer learning to pass a test, but because you found the subject genuinely fascinating? Can you recall the first time your favorite hobby captivated your interest? If so, opening your essay in that moment will immediately draw readers in and engage them with your perspective.

From there, you can spend time showing your reader why you find your favorite subject/hobby so fascinating, and what you’ve done to pursue it. The idea here is to show admissions officials your enthusiasm for learning at its peak – if your reader can sense your excitement through the page, then you’re doing a great job with this prompt. Again, narratives of personal growth are a great way to craft an engaging essay, so try to illustrate how you actually did learn beyond just feeling excited.

Here’s an example essay to help you get a feel for this prompt, as well as the larger word limit:

“There’s no such thing as talent, only hard work.” Coming from anyone else, these words would’ve sounded cheap – but as I looked over my older sister’s shoulder at the sketches she was etching in her notepad, I was breathtaken. I couldn’t believe those life-like characters – the expressive work of a professional comic artist – were something I could learn to do with hard work. From that moment, I resolved to draw one sketch a day. I looked up online courses on anatomy, perspective, and shading, and made my own disastrous renditions of the tutorials that popped up. Some nights, even though my eyes stung from looking at the page, I refused to go to bed without completing my daily sketch. When my brother bought a drawing tablet, he immediately regretted saying I could borrow it whenever I wanted. I had a whole new skillset to learn: digital art, with all its quirks and conveniences. Slowly, I began producing work I was proud to look back on, my character sketches starting to look like they could just maybe stand on the same page as my sister’s. Now, with three sketchbooks scattered haphazardly around my desk as I type, I’m so grateful to my sister for teaching me about hard work early on. I’m happy with where I am in my artistic journey, but I know I still have heaps to learn – and I’m excited to begin that learning process all over again with the next tutorial I click.

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 challenges you to shake up the essay format with a more personal, casually formatted letter. While earlier essays showed off your interests, activities, and background, this prompt aims to find out who you really are in your day-to-day life. While your tone should still be polite – and your sentences grammatically correct – feel free to take a more playful, informal approach to this essay. What music will your roommate likely overhear blaring at max volume from your earbuds? What eccentricities should they expect from living with you? 

Your response also shows admissions officials how you might interact with other members of the Stanford community. Try to think about what kind of relationship you’d like to have with your roommate, and how that reflects more broadly with how you’d like to interact with other Stanford students. Would you want to host dorm room study sessions? Are you hoping your roommate will tell you about courses and clubs you might not otherwise have known about? Details along these lines can show admissions officials you plan to engage intellectually with other community members – but again, don’t be afraid to talk about the more casual aspects of your ideal roommate relationship.

You can also get a little more creative with your essay’s format for this prompt. A letter format may be the most obvious, but you might also try out a bulleted list of things your roommate should know, or a memo you left on your roommate’s desk before leaving for class.

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100-250 words)

This final prompt is perhaps the most open-ended, and the most telling. Your task is simply to choose something important to you – whether a core belief, a person, a life goal, or a favorite TV show – and properly convey to admissions officials why it carries that meaning. This is a pretty deep topic to explore in 250 words, so make sure to narrow your scope to one thing rather than trying to describe everything in your life that’s meaningful to you.

Again, you should try to avoid topics you’ve already explored in other essays. This could prove difficult, since you’ve already discussed society’s biggest challenge, your favorite activities, and the subject that ignites your love of learning, so here are some questions to consider: is there an object or piece of media from your childhood that still carries a lot of sentimental value to you? Is there an aspect of your cultural background or family history you haven’t been able to discuss yet? Do you have any important daily rituals?

Try to craft a narrative to go along with your meaningful topic. If it’s a belief, show your reader how you came to believe it, and make sure to include any relevant anecdotes. If it’s an item, tell the story of how you first got it and became attached to it. If it’s a person, talk about your favorite memory with that person. For an open-ended prompt like this one, staying specific with your narrative’s scope will keep your essay grounded and give its conclusion a greater impact.

If you need help polishing up your Stanford supplemental essays, check out our College Essay Review service. You can receive detailed feedback from Ivy League consultants in as little as 24 hours.

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How to Get Into Stanford Undergrad: Essays and Strategies That Worked

How hard it is to get into stanford learn the stanford acceptance rate, admissions requirements, and read successful essay examples.

what to write for stanford essay


Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: stanford admission requirements, part 3: applying to stanford early action vs. regular decision, part 4: 2022–2023 stanford supplemental essays (examples included).

Perhaps you’ve begun the endless research and campus tours that comprise so many parents’ lives as their high schoolers apply to college. If you’re the parent of a high-achieving teen, you’re likely visiting Ivy League universities. 

Have you also planned a trip to perhaps the most famous of the “Ivy Plus” schools, Stanford University , in the Bay Area of California?

While their highly ranked Ivy League peers like Harvard and Yale boast of being the oldest or among the oldest universities in the country, Stanford lays claim to being forward-looking and cutting-edge. 

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, a stone’s throw from the corporate headquarters of Apple, Google, and Facebook, Stanford students enjoy a cozy relationship with the booming tech world, often earning top internships at such companies and even going on to found their own, drawing on Stanford’s extensive network of technologists and venture capitalists. It’s been called “the billionaire factory.”

But Stanford isn’t just a training ground for the Valley. Stanford undergrads might also research in a world-famous medical center’s laboratories or attend readings with Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists. 

Your child might find her calling in the Asian American Studies or the Chicano/Latino Studies programs, where she can engage with California’s rich history of migration. She might combine an interest in technology and the canon by pursuing a minor in digital humanities.

Or, your child might be taken with the prestigious programs in economics or international relations, perhaps in Stanford’s unique interdisciplinary International Security Studies or Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law paths, while sharing a campus with Condoleezza Rice. 

The point is this: Stanford’s reputation for innovation may come from its connection to the tech world, but a creative approach to intellectual pursuits can be seen across disciplines.

If your child finds themselves walking beneath the rolling red Mediterranean-style roofs of Stanford, they’ll have much to look forward to, from a bustling residential life in the dorms and co-ops to evenings spent cheering on the nationally competitive basketball team to many days studying beneath palm trees.

Of course, getting into Stanford is no easy feat. Fortunately, our team has helped many Stanford applicants achieve results like this:

"I would like to share the amazing news with you. [name removed] just checked his Stanford portal and he got accepted to Stanford for the class of 2024. We are still shocked and it felt so unreal. Thank you so much to both of you for your support throughout his college application process." STUDENT ACCEPTED TO STANFORD UNIVERSITY

Read on to learn the Stanford University acceptance rate, admissions requirements, and strategies for crafting compelling application materials.

Stanford University ranking

Stanford is always near the top of all major university rankings, breathing down Harvard’s neck.

U.S. News and World Report: 3 (tie)

Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education: 2

Where is Stanford?

Stanford is technically located in Stanford, CA, but most people call its home Palo Alto. Just north of Mountain View (home to Google) and Cupertino (home to Apple), Palo Alto is clean, safe, and home to many posh restaurants, yoga studios, and boutiques.

Stanford setting

Palo Alto’s suburban population is around 69,000 people, but because towns bleed into one another in the Bay Area, that 69,000 can feel quite big. Palo Alto fills up during the day with workers commuting to tech companies.

Much of Palo Alto’s University Avenue offerings are expensive and beyond the standard student budget, but Palo Alto connects via Caltrain to San Francisco, where students might grab a cheap, delicious burrito or check out museums and theater. With some effort on public transit or with a car, students can also make their way to San Jose, or to Berkeley or Oakland, for more exploration.

Stanford student population

Undergraduate students: 7,645

Graduate and professional students: 9,292

Stanford acceptance rate

Below are admissions statistics for the class of 2025:

Applications: 55,471

Acceptances: 2,190

Matriculants: 2,126 (includes 369 students who deferred from 2020 entrance)

Acceptance rate: 3.95%

Stanford has stopped reporting its early acceptance rates in an effort to keep from discouraging potential applicants.

(Suggested reading: Ivy League Acceptance Rates )

Stanford tuition and scholarships

Stanford’s 2022–2023 cost of attendance (i.e., tuition, room, board, and fees) is $82,162.

The average need-based financial aid award for freshman students is $62,557. Stanford covers 100 percent of demonstrated need, and families earning $75,000 per year or less typically are not expected to contribute to their child’s cost of education.

Who gets into Stanford?

To assist you in assessing your child’s odds of getting into Stanford, we’ve provided academic and demographic information related to successful Stanford applicants:

96% of students ranked in the top 10% of their high school class.

Stanford average GPA: 3.96

Stanford average ACT score:

25th percentile: 32

75th percentile: 35

Stanford average SAT Evidence Based Reading and Writing score:

25th percentile: 720

7th percentile: 770

Stanford average SAT Math score:

25th percentile: 750

75th percentile: 800

International students: 13%

Public school attendees: 60%

First-generation college students: 18%

23% white, 25% Asian, 18% Latine/Latinx, and 8% African American

Over 90% of our students get into one or more of their top 3 schools

Get our free 110-page guide for strategies to become the kind of applicant that selective colleges love to admit: How to Get Into America’s Elite Colleges: The Ultimate Guide

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Thank you! Your guide is on its way. In the meantime, please let us know how we can help you crack the the college admissions code . You can also learn more about our 1-on-1 college admissions support here .

Stanford academic requirements

Stanford doesn’t expect its freshmen to have completed a set amount of coursework before matriculating, but most successful applicants have four years of English and math, and three or more years of science/lab science, social studies/history, and a foreign language. 

Like many of its peer schools, Stanford’s is a holistic admissions process. Committees will not simply count up your child’s AP or IB courses , or the hours spent in extracurricular activities . 

Rather, Stanford hopes to see your child regularly challenge themselves academically, taking advantage of the intellectual resources available to them at their school — which might mean taking eight APs, or two and a community college class.

Stanford application requirements

In addition to all that, here’s what else your child will need in order to apply. Stanford accepts the Common Application and the Coalition application.

Common App Essay

Optional in 2022–2023: ACT or SAT test scores

Optional: IB, AP, or AICE test results

2 letters of recommendation

School report and counselor letter of recommendation

School transcripts and midyear transcript

Optional arts portfolio for highly accomplished students in art practice, dance, music, or theater and performance (note that arts applicants have a separate deadline to meet)

Students can apply to Stanford via restrictive early action , submitting all material by November 1st to receive a decision by December 15th.

Your child can also apply to Stanford regular decision. The Stanford regular decision deadline is January 5th with decisions being released on April 1st.

Should my child apply to Stanford early?

If Stanford is your child’s top choice or close to their top choice and they don’t need or want to apply to another university through restrictive early action or binding early decision, then applying early to Stanford might be a good choice. 

Remember that, though we don’t have access to Stanford’s comparative early/regular decision data, most schools that practice restrictive early action tend to have higher acceptance rates during the early round than in the late round. 

This is not because those schools are practicing preferential admissions for early applicants, but rather because those applicants applying early tend to be highly qualified and well-prepared, hence their ability to apply before November 1st.

(Suggested reading: Early Action vs. Early Decision: Pros and Cons and What Your Child Should Do )

Part 4: 2022-2023 Stanford supplemental essays (examples included)

(Note: While this section covers Stanford’s admissions essays specifically, we encourage you to view additional successful college essay examples .)

In addition to the Common App essay, Stanford applicants will answer a series of short answer questions as well as write several supplemental essays . Below, we’ll go through each question and provide guidance on how to answer it, as well as show you an example answer that works.  

Stanford short answer questions

Stanford asks applicants to answer the following five short answer questions, using up to 50 words per question:

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?

How did you spend your last two summers?

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family.

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford.

All of these short answer prompts are a chance for your child to show off some aspect of themselves that might have otherwise been stifled by the rest of the application process. That really is how they should think of it: what about me —not about my resume or my transcript, but about me —have I not had the chance to display yet?

Here are a few examples of mini-essays that work well for these prompts, which are not unlike Yale’s short answers. They’re pulled from the following students, who are composites of the many applicants we’ve worked with in nearly 20 years in the admissions advising world.

Jane grew up in semi-rural Oregon and will be the second person in her family to attend college, after her sister. She’s interested in medicine.

Olga has Eastern European parents who settled in Paris and raised her trilingual before sending her to an East Coast boarding school. At Stanford, she’d love to pursue one of the international relations programs.

Marcus’s father is a pastor in Baltimore. He’s considered ministry himself, but is also drawn to technology and architecture.

Deepak was born and raised in Cupertino, California. He’s worked on his school paper and been a star on the speech and debate team. He has no idea what he’d like to major in.

Learn how to write outstanding supplemental college essays

Get our free 110-page guide to help you with every single one: How to Get Into America’s Elite Colleges: The Ultimate Guide

Here’s how some of these students tackled the short answers.

Question 1: What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 words)

Olga wrote:

We are at risk of eliminating heterodoxical discourse. As our attention spans get shorter and our appetite for information greater, we have less tolerance for substantive public discussion. I think about this every month as I lay out our newspaper’s opinion page. ‘Are we missing something here?’ I ask myself.

What works about this answer?

Olga gives her “challenge” a name. (Hers is a bit of a mouthful, but it’s tempered by the clear language surrounding it.) By naming the issue—the elimination of heterodoxical discourse—she signals to the Stanford admissions committee that she has read and thought enough about the issue to encapsulate it.

Olga also brings the “challenge” back to her personal story. The newspaper is a minor extracurricular for her. But by swinging back to the room where she sits once a month thinking about public opinion, she assures us that there’s a reason she thinks about this issue.

Olga’s approach is better than simply writing, “The climate is changing” or “Nuclear weapons are bad”—both of which might in fact be larger issues than Olga’s choice but which she has less personal, direct experience with.

Remember: this prompt is not an invitation to write a policy paper in 50 words. It’s a chance for your child to talk about something that feels urgent to them, intellectually, spiritually, politically, etc. 

Question 2: How did you spend your last two summers? (50 words)

Jane wrote:

What if the world were made of blueberries? How far away are stars? How much force does a slug exert on a scrunchie? I answered these burning questions at Oregon State with other female scientists (aka The Hidden Figures), the only people who ask as many questions as I do.

I have spent the last two summers at several programs oriented around global issues, including a Model UN camp, an International Relations Conference at Yale, and a course in International Law at Stanford. I have also returned home to Paris to spend time with family.

Jane and Olga took differing approaches to the question. Jane used it as an opportunity to write a mini essay on why she loves her OSU science camp so much, while Olga wanted to make sure she communicated a diversity and breadth of activities. Either approach is fine!

If your child is doing it Jane’s way, they should commit, and choose one activity that truly feels like it’s defined those past two summers. It doesn’t mean it’s the only thing they did, but it’s a chance for them to surface it. Jane takes something the admissions committees might think they understand and colors it in a lot more.

If your child is doing it Olga’s way, they shouldn’t simply list out the activities they did. Note that Olga maintained control over her list of activities by clearly articulating the throughline that held them all together: she pursued programs that had to do with her interests in global affairs.

Question 3: What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 words)

Deepak wrote:

I wish I could have been in the room on August 6, 1991, the day the World Wide Web first quietly flickered to life. Our entire reality as we know it was born that day, and only a few people alive then grasped the magnitude of the possible change.

What’s successful about Deepak’s response?

Deepak doesn’t just say he wishes he’d seen the beginning of the Internet. He imagines a specific event: the moment of the Web “flicker[ing] to life.” He puts us in a scene and in a story.

Note that Deepak has never expressed an interest in technology or becoming a computer programmer in his application. He doesn’t need to tie this question to his future plans, though doing so if he did become a technologist later would be wise. 

Question 4: Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family. (50 words)

Marcus wrote:

My father’s church doesn’t always have pews or a pulpit. Growing up, when a congregant needed my father’s counsel, he’d often bring me along. During private meetings, I’d sit with a book on our community member’s sofa. My life is still marked by the marriages, passings, and births of our congregation.

My debate team is like a laboratory for ideas. You can dissect a policy paper the way you’d dissect a frog in formaldehyde, or you can test the chemical bonds between two components of the argument. If you fiddle with the argument, does the chemistry of your point change?

Marcus answered the question from the “family responsibilities” side while Deepak tackled it from the “extracurricular activities side.” Here’s what they each did well: 

Marcus’s answer is a lovely way to offer the admissions committee more insight into his family life and some of the seemingly immaterial components of what that family life entails. In this case, Marcus has already given some background on his father’s profession because he wrote his Common App essay about his own doubts about God’s existence. 

Deepak, on the other hand, took this as an opportunity to write about an activity he thinks the Stanford admissions committee might presume they understand. Note that he doesn’t say, “You might think you know what debate is.”

Both Marcus and Deepak do a wonderful job of offering specific images—young Marcus sitting in a congregant’s home, waiting while his father gives counsel; a frog in formaldehyde. An image does a lot in a small space.

Question 5: Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 words)

During my Stanford summer, I often imagined myself walking through the palm trees to class—a far cry from my snowy school. But what I most look forward to is the people I’ll make those walks with—brilliant compatriots with ambitious visions for the world, and how to change it.

What works about Olga’s response?

Olga’s done an incredibly neat job of handling the famously tricky “Why us?” question. Instead of simply listing out a class or two she wants to take—which would occupy a significant chunk of the 50 permitted words—she gets at the very spirit of the question. She tells Stanford she knows there are endless qualities to admire about the institution—it’s Stanford , after all. By treating Stanford’s excellence as a given, she’s able to cut to the community the institution makes possible.

It is fine for your child to list out courses or majors they’re particularly drawn to or mention faculty whom they’d love to work with. But that takes up precious word real estate, and must be coupled with something warm and thoughtful, like Olga’s response.

Stanford supplemental essays

On top of those short answers, applicants must also respond to three supplemental essay prompts located in Stanford’s Common App under the “Short Essays” section. The 2022–2023 questions, each of which must be answered in 100–250 words, are as follows:

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.

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.

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why?

We’ll walk you through how to answer Question 1 and Question 3 here. We have a separate guide to answering Question 2, the infamous Stanford roommate essay .

Question 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.

We like to call this one the “Intellectual Vitality Essay.” Through the years, we’ve seen students write about a number of types of topics in response to this prompt.

Coursework: Some students pick their favorite class or a favorite subject area and discuss what they love about it. It’s a great strategy to elaborate on something already visible in your application, as long as you’re not simply saying that you have studied Spanish for five years. More interesting is a discussion of that time you fell in love with Don Quixote , and why. 

Extracurriculars: Similarly, many students choose to elaborate on some extracurricular activity or job that means a lot to them. Deepak’s short answer on debate above is a good example of how to make this approach. Your child should never simply summarize what’s already visible or intuited from their application. They must always add a story to what’s already visible, by providing specific examples, images, anecdotes, and takeaways.

Autodidactic pursuits: If your child is a tinkerer, a maker, a self-taught coder or linguist or musician or writer, then they can use this chance to talk about something that’s not on their application at all. This is a great way to add a whole new dimension.

Personal, emotional, or otherwise internal pursuits: Is your child particularly emotionally intelligent, intuitive, or interested in personal growth? Self-improvement is another way into this topic. We’ve seen students write about learning resilience through grief or persistence through athletics. 

Two more things are worth noting about this prompt. Students can choose between an idea and an experience . 

In order to write a foolproof essay, we strongly recommend building around an experience in some form, even if it’s only a slight connection. Remember that your child is not being asked to write a paper about, say, phenomenology, even if that’s the idea that gets them psyched about learning. 

Encourage them to connect that idea to their personal biography for a sentence or a paragraph. When did they first encounter said idea? What caused the spark or the Eureka moment? Was there another person who helped introduce them to that idea? Who are they? 

Experiences contain in them characters, rooms, scenes, images, and above all, specificity. Your child’s essay is very likely to come across as vague rather than insightful and philosophical if it does not contain some link to experience.

Here’s Jane’s essay:

A lot of people mention measles in the same breath as scarlet fever or polio. It’s supposed to be obsolete. But that’s not the case in Oregon, where I’m from, and where some of my own relatives have what they feel is a healthy suspicion of vaccination. 

The summer I first went to an intensive program for female and minority STEM teenagers at Oregon State was also the summer I spent a week with some family members who are extremely skeptical of vaccinations. It was strange to leave OSU and land up at a dinner table where my uncle was decrying not only shots but also climate change and other issues the liberal science geeks I’d just spent four weeks with hold dear. 

At first, I wanted to point out how wrong my family was, but when I started to listen, I realized that they’d read a lot—they just weren’t reading the sources I’d been taught to trust, and they weren’t following scientific methods of inquiry. 

I still don’t know how to reconcile those two worlds, but I know someone has to try. I dream of being a doctor because someone has to learn about not only the science but also the society the science is meant to help, and I plan to do both.

Jane’s essay could sort of fall under the extracurricular pursuit category, and it might also fall under the internal pursuit category. But it’s so strong because it actually transcends all of the above “types.” 

She manages to interweave the personal and the intellectual clearly and compellingly while also displaying an emotional maturity—Jane doesn’t call her family members foolish, but in fact demonstrates her empathy and willingness to take on their point of view.

Here’s what else Jane does well:

She doesn’t spend too much time explaining the extracurricular activity to which her story is linked. She knows the Stanford admissions committee will have her resumé on hand, and she knows she doesn’t have to brag about, say, how selective her program was. Instead she gets right to the business of elaboration.

Her essay includes characters other than herself (her family members, and specifically her uncle; her classmates at the program). She doesn’t spend much time describing them, which is fine. What’s important is that each small detail helps ground the idea in an experience .

Jane makes her way to a clear thesis by the end of the essay, a thesis which also spins her essay forward: she wants to become a doctor in part to address misunderstandings about science. We could call her “idea” something like scientific literacy or public health education. 

Question 3: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why?

Now, this one we think of as the “Meaning Making Essay.” Here are some routes students have taken into this essay:

Coursework and extracurriculars: Just as with the Intellectual Vitality essay, your child can certainly discuss something that’s already on their application if they have a deep and passionate personal connection to it. A student who’s been playing the cello for fifteen years but who does so by rote or out of habit probably shouldn’t try to churn out an essay on music for the sake of it. But an applicant who desperately loves musical theater might write a lovely essay on the time they played Munkustrap in Cats at their summer theater program.

Family and friends: This prompt is ideal for applicants who want to discuss relationships in some form. We suggest focusing on family and friends rather than romantic relationships or breakups. It’s possible to do the latter well, but we tend to advise against it.

Moments of personal change or epiphany: While many applicants feel like they’ve used up their big Aha! moment in their Common App personal statement, we’ve found that most teenagers can pinpoint a few moments when something about their worldview changed. This may or may not have anything to do with what’s already on their resumé. Encourage your child to go back to their possible Common App topics if they feel stuck on this prompt; they might resurrect something they initially tossed aside.

Here’s what Marcus wrote:

My grandmother looked so small. She’d always been the biggest personality I knew. She had a voice that belted more than spoke and a laugh that resounded like big clanging bells. Even the way she served food or sunk into a chair was big: she was all bangs and sighs and she never, ever held her tongue. If she thought you were wrong, she’d tell you in a minute. Most of all, I loved hearing her sing absent-mindedly while she cooked or drove. 

But she looked so small near the end. I still think about her tired face and her eyes that didn’t seem to see me even though I was standing right next to her in her hospital bed.

My grandmother lived through a lot. She lost her loving husband young and raised my father and his siblings with the help of a wider network of family and friends. She didn’t get to finish school but she was always hungry for knowledge, reading and watching the news, even when it meant looking at ugly or difficult things. I wish I’d gotten more time with her. But she’ll never stop taking up space in my heart.

The death of a grandparent is one of those things many students are told not to write about. Admissions officers do see these kinds of stories frequently, so there’s a high risk of cliché. But Marcus’s choice works well here for a few reasons:

He’s specific. We’re not reading about the passing of a grandmother. We’re reading about the passing of Marcus’s grandmother. By offering up particular details about his grandmother’s voice, her habits, and how she looked near the end of her life, Marcus conveys meaning naturally. Of course his grandmother is meaningful to him—the attention he paid her is the proof.

He also chooses a mini-scene to begin the essay with. Many students have a tendency to start with something like, “My grandmother meant a lot to me. She died four years ago and I miss her every day.” This is not incorrect, and it does technically answer the prompt. But the reader doesn’t feel the intensity of this writer’s connection to the subject matter the way we can feel Marcus’s intensity. 

Some students have a tendency to write about something without ascribing it meaning. In this case, Marcus defines his grandmother’s importance to him at the very end of the essay, and he does so gently, by noting that she continues to “take up space in [his] heart.” The essay could function without that final line, but it’s stronger with it, because it confirms that Marcus read the prompt and isn’t just recycling an old essay.

Final thoughts

Stanford is a reach school for every applicant, regardless of how qualified they are. But if your child can engage fully and passionately with the Stanford application, especially its school-specific supplemental questions, they’ll become a far more compelling applicant, and may indeed find themselves roaming the sunny California campus one day. 

what to write for stanford essay

About the Author

Dr. Shirag Shemmassian is the Founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting and one of the world's foremost experts on college admissions. For nearly years, he and his team have helped thousands of students get into top programs like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT using his exclusive approach.



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