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 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’s School of Education, School of Engineering, Law School, and School of Medicine are highly regarded. The university is also known for its extensive research institutions including the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the Stanford Research Institution and the Center for Ocean Solutions. Although not a research facility, Cecil H. Green Library has 4 million volumes in its collection, while the Lathrop Library is known for its extensive East Asian collection.
Schools and Majors at Stanford
There are seven schools and colleges at Stanford, 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.
Stanford has 2,153 faculty members on campus and 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 in the 2015-2016 semester, the university allocated $5.4 million for 1,074 projects.
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. At the center of campus is Memorial Church, which was built in 1903. About 150 weddings take place each year in Stanford Memorial Church, and the church also has regular multi-faith services. 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 on Stanford’s campus, thanks to the challenging 18-hole on-campus golf course. The campus is also home to 25 fountains, which are part of a series of Stanford traditions, and are also favorite studying spots for students. Stanford has more than 40,000 trees on campus and is great for exploring on foot or on a bicycle – 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 dormitory houses are themed, making each one unique; healthy living, sustainability, and music lovers are just a few of the themes.
Nine dining halls are available on campus with a variety of cuisines including accommodations for special diets. Be sure you stop by the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons, which features the Culinary Studio, with cooking classes and demonstrations. If you’re up late studying, late night dining is available at certain locations throughout the campus.
Off Campus Near Stanford
Stanford is only 35 miles south of San Francisco and 20 miles north of San Jose; both areas offer plenty of activity for students. The City of Palo Alto isn’t far from campus, and has its own attractions, restaurants, and shopping for students to enjoy.
Students have several forms of transportation off campus, including the Marguerite Shuttle service and Caltrain. Over 60 Zipcars are located on the Stanford campus, and will provide you a temporary vehicle for errands and other trips. Rideshare and van-share are also available on campus. Freshmen aren’t allowed to bring a car to campus, however, the vast amount of transportation options make it easy to get around.
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.
Inside Info about Stanford
Stanford prides itself on the diversity of its students – geographic, ethnic, socioeconomic, and diversity of thought.
- 15% of Stanford undergrads are students of color; 15% are the first generation in their family to go to college.
- Stanford has students from 80 different countries and the freshman class that entered in 2014 knows 40 different languages.
- 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.
Around 36,000 students apply to Stanford every year, and the college admits about 2,400 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.
Stanford 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.
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.
Getting into Stanford
Stanford is one of the most selective universities. There’s no key to getting in, but you should certainly try to be compelling in your application and especially your essays! 70% of students had a 4.0 GPA (unweighted) in high school, and 95% of them were in the top 10% of their high school class.
The acceptance rate for fall 2015 was 5%, while the early acceptance rate was 10.2%. Stanford accepts the Common Application or the Coalition Application but stresses it’s not about “getting in” as it is about being authentic. The university requires the ACT with Writing or SAT with Essay and superscores. Stanford also wants to see that students have challenged themselves in high school by taking AP, honors, and IB courses where they are offered.
Is Stanford Right for Me?
If you want to visit Stanford, you can go on an hour-long campus walking tour, which covers the historic parts of the Stanford campus, plus the student activities area and more. The tour is offered 7 days a week, two times a day 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. One tour even takes you through campus on a golf cart.
For those who want to visit Stanford on their own, the website 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.
Both Debbie and Evelyn have visited Stanford. You can see all of the photos from our visits in 2012 and 2015 here.