Stanford University is a private research university located in the northwest part of the Santa Clara Valley, right in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Generally considered on-par with the colleges of the Ivy League, Stanford University emphasizes undergraduate research in all disciplines.
What Stanford is Known For
Unlike many private institutions, Stanford University operates on the quarter system, so students must be prepared to zip through ten-week courses. Stanford excels in the engineering disciplines, as well as physics and materials science, humanities, environmental science and sustainability and international affairs. Many courses are multidisciplinary and challenge students to integrate learning from different fields.
Stanford University is also known for strong graduate programs, as well as its extensive research institutions including the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the Stanford Research Institution and the Center for Ocean Solutions. The Lathrop Library is known for its extensive East Asian collection, and the Cantor Arts Center is home to an outdoor Rodin sculpture garden.
Schools and Majors at Stanford
Stanford University is home to seven colleges, including the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, the School of Engineering, School of Humanities and Sciences, School of Medicine, Graduate School of Business, Graduate School of Education, and the Law School. Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences is the largest school, with more than 570 faculty members, 50 departments, and 2,400 students.
Students are encouraged to customize their major by choosing courses that relate to their future plans, and by conferring with academic advisors. Students apply to the university as a whole, not to specific programs, and aren’t allowed to formally select their major until the beginning of their junior year.
With 2,153 faculty members, Stanford has a 4-to-1 student to faculty ratio; 71% of classes have 20 or fewer students. The majors with the highest enrollment are Computer Science, Human Biology, Engineering, Biology, and Science, Technology and Society, while the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences only enrolls about 200 undergraduates. Stanford students are encouraged in participate in research, and funds thousands of undergraduate research projects each year.
Founded by Leland Stanford, a former governor and U.S. Senator from California, the Stanford campus was once the site of a horse farm, with foothills and flatland. The campus was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the same landscape architect who created Central Park. When you look at a map of Stanford University, you’ll see that the campus consists of quadrangles on an east-west axis. The oldest part of the Stanford campus is the Main Quad, which is built on a slope, and was designed by Olmstead. There are 12 buildings in the Inner Quad, while the outdoor courtyards and nearby buildings make up the Outer Quad.
Most Stanford campus buildings feature Mission-inspired architecture – the electrical engineering building and teaching center, funded by the Packard and Hewlett Foundations, respectively, are modern architecture outliers on the Stanford campus. Built in 1903, Stanford Memorial Church is at the center of campus. It has regular multi-faith services and is home to about 150 weddings take place each year. Take note of Memorial Court, which features sculptures by renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin. Known as the Burghers, the six male statues are often decorated by students as a prank.
With over 8,000 acres, Stanford has a diverse landscape that offers plenty for students. Golf lovers will feel at home here, thanks to the challenging 18-hole on-campus golf course. The campus is also home to 23 fountains, which are part of a series of Stanford traditions, and are also favorite studying spots for students. Stanford feels like an arboretum, with more than 40,000 trees on campus, and bicycling across the large campus is popular – there are an estimated 13,000 bikes on campus daily.
Stanford’s freshmen are required to live on campus and the university guarantees four years of housing to its 7,000 undergraduates. The 80 different residence halls are themed, making each one unique; themes include healthy living, sustainability, and music lovers!
Stanford University has nine dining halls, with a variety of cuisines including accommodations for special diets. Be sure you stop by the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons, where the Culinary Studio features cooking classes and demonstrations.
Clubs and Organizations at Stanford
Student life at Stanford is active; there are over 700 student groups, and about 20% of students join one of the 31 Greek organizations on campus. If you’re creative, Stanford is the perfect for connecting with new friends, as over 88 student groups are devoted to the arts.
Stanford also has a proud literary tradition with several publications, including The Stanford Daily, the student newspaper; The Dualist, the undergraduate journal of philosophy; and The Chaparral, a humor magazine.
Diversity at Stanford University
Stanford prides itself on the diversity of its students – geographic, ethnic, socioeconomic, and diversity of thought.
- About 24% of Stanford undergrads are students of color; over 18% are the first generation in their family to go to college.
- Stanford has students from 80 different countries and you’ll hear a multitude of world languages as you walk across campus.
- The university offers seven cultural centers: the Asian American Activities Center, Black Community Services Center, El Centro Chicano, LGBT Community Resource Center, Native American Cultural Center, Women’s Center and the Markaz: Resource Center for Engagement with the Cultures and Peoples of the Muslim World.
Stanford has no official mascot, but the Stanford band’s mascot is the Stanford Tree, which has been adopted as the university’s unofficial mascot. The Tree appears at football games and other athletic events alongside the Stanford band. Despite the lack of an official mascot, Stanford has plenty of school traditions for students to enjoy, including:
- During Admit Week and New Student Orientation, students “fountain hop,” jumping into fountains one after the other. On a hot day, don’t be surprised to see a student jumping in to cool off!
- The Big Game, the annual football game against the University of California-Berkeley, is a huge event at Stanford. In the week leading up to the event, students produce and perform musical follies known as Gaieties. The winner of the Big Game receives the Stanford Axe, a large axe mounted on a wooden plaque.
- The Big Game is also when students dye the campus fountains Stanford colors and impale a teddy bear on the fountain known as The Claw.
- Graduating seniors let loose at the Wacky Walk, the annual Stanford commencement tradition where students parade into the ceremony while dressed in fun, silly costumes. It’s a great way to mark the end of your time at Stanford.
- The Viennese Ball is inspired by the balls of Vienna and is a formal dance at an ornate ballroom. The location changes every year and features dancing, live music, and performances.
Stanford is only 35 miles south of San Francisco and 20 miles north of San Jose; both areas offer plenty of activity for students. Downtown Palo Alto isn’t far from campus, and has its own attractions, restaurants, and shopping for students to enjoy. Because of its location in the Silicon Valley, Stanford University students have opportunities to intern and work for tech giants as well as startups.
Freshmen aren’t allowed to bring a car to campus, however, the vast amount of transportation options make it easy to get around. Students have several forms of transportation off campus, including the Marguerite Shuttle service, Caltrain, and Zipcars on campus.
Stanford University Admission
Around 36,000 students apply to Stanford every year, and the college admits about 2,000 in order to enroll a class of 1,750. Legacy students make up about 1,000 of those applications, and legacies are admitted at a higher rate than other applicants. There’s no key to getting in, but you should certainly try to be compelling in your application and especially your essays! The vast majority – over 70% of applicants – have a 4.0 GPA (unweighted) and test scores in the top 1% nationwide. 95% of them were in the top 10% of their high school class.
Stanford University’s low acceptance rate illustrates its extreme competitiveness, but Stanford Admission officers put great emphasis on being authentic in your application. Admitted students have generally challenged themselves in the context of what’s offered in their high school by taking AP, honors, and IB courses. The university requires the ACT with Writing or SAT and they super score.
Stanford University applicants are invited to submit an arts portfolio to demonstrate their extraordinary talent, however, these portfolios aren’t mandatory, even for arts majors. The portfolios may be considered with the college application at the Office of Undergraduate Admission and the fine arts faculty’s discretion.
Is Stanford Right for Me?
Stanford University offers hour-long campus walking tours twice daily, and you can find the schedule on the Stanford Visitor Information page. Additional tours include the Science and Engineering Quad Tour, the Arts and Humanities Tour, and the Athletics and Recreation tour. Stanford’s website also provides information for a self-guided tour with maps and a podcast. If you’re unable to visit in person, the website also features three virtual tours. The Stanford Visitor Center is open 7 days a week for more information.
Magellan counselors have visited Stanford University multiple times through the years. You can scroll through all of the photos from our visits below.