Stanford University Admissions – Introduction
Founded in 1885, Stanford University is one of the top private schools in the United States. Occupying over 8,000 acres, Stanford is one of the largest college campuses in the United States. Located in California, Stanford attracts students from across the world and offers numerous majors and minors for undergraduate students. The Stanford enrollment for undergraduate students is 7,645, with just under 18,000 students in total. The current Stanford acceptance rate is 4%, making Stanford admissions one of the most competitive in the country.
The Stanford admissions process focuses on a holistic review of each student. This guide will help you navigate the selective Stanford University admissions system and will explain the best tips for how to get into Stanford. Read on to learn the Stanford admissions requirements and strategies to help your application stand out.
What are Stanford requirements?
Stanford admissions requires students to submit applications through the Common App. To submit a Stanford application, students must pay a $90 nonrefundable application fee, however, fee waivers are available to students who qualify. According to the Stanford admissions blog, SAT and ACT test scores are optional for the 2023-2024 admission cycle. Updates to this policy will be available on the Stanford admissions webpage.
Stanford admissions requirements:
- School Report
- Counselor Letter of Recommendation
- Official transcripts
- Letters of recommendation from 2 teachers
- Midyear transcript
In addition, Stanford admissions require several short essays to be submitted through the Common App. These essays include short questions (50-word maximum) and three short essay questions (100-250-words). These essays will give the Stanford University admissions office insight into who you are, and what you are passionate about. Be sure to dedicate time and energy to your essays – you can also find Stanford admissions essay examples here.
Stanford application strategies
Stanford admissions offers students two application options: Restrictive Early Action and Regular Decision. For both application plans the Midyear transcript will need to be submitted by February 15th.
- For Restrictive Early Action, students must submit their Stanford application by November 1st
- The Regular Decision Stanford application deadline is January 5th
Test scores are currently optional for the Stanford admissions process, so it’s important to do your research before deciding to submit test scores. As Stanford admissions is so selective, the average SAT and ACT scores are very high. For the last admissions cycle, the average SAT score was 1470-1570, and the average ACT score was 34-35. So, be sure to prepare for the SAT and ACT and keep up to date on the Stanford admissions requirements.
Is it really that hard to get into Stanford?
With such a low acceptance rate, the Stanford University admissions process is one of the most selective in the United States. For the class of 2026, the Stanford admissions office received 56,378 applications and admitted just 2,075 students, resulting in a 3.68% acceptance rate.
Like many schools, Stanford admissions saw an increase in total applications submitted during the Class of 2026 admissions cycle. This resulted in a sharp decrease in the Stanford acceptance rate. In fact, it was a historic low for the university.
Stanford admissions officers will consider every part of your college application. While the low acceptance rate may be intimidating, Stanford admissions clearly states that their review is holistic. So, make sure you take full advantage of your high school’s academic and extracurricular activities, as this will help demonstrate your dedication and passions both inside and outside of the classroom.
Many students assume that if their parents did not attend college, places like Stanford are out of reach. However, 21% of Stanford’s Class of 2026 are first-generation college students. Additionally, Stanford admissions offers many resources for first-generation students.
Always a reach school
For many students, Stanford is their dream school. If you are interested in applying to Stanford, make sure your college list is balanced. While conducting your college search, look into safety and reach schools that align with your interests. While the Stanford University admissions process is definitely competitive, it’s not impossible to gain admission. Making sure all aspects of your Stanford application are strong can help you beat that low acceptance rate. To hear about one student’s Stanford admissions journey, watch our webinar.
What GPA do you need to get into Stanford?
According to the Stanford admissions blog, there is no minimum GPA needed to gain admission. However, as Stanford admissions is incredibly competitive, most admitted students have higher than average GPAs. For the most recently admitted class, the average high school GPA was 3.9. This means if you are interested in applying to Stanford, make sure your high school grades are stellar.
Stanford admissions also provides some recommendations for high school curriculums. The Stanford admissions office recommends four years of English, four years of mathematics, and three or more years of history/social studies, science, and foreign language. Work with your school counselor to make sure you’re taking advantage of your school’s course offerings. Stanford admissions officers will look to see that your transcript reflects an appropriate challenge compared to what your school has to offer.
What is the Stanford admissions process?
In order to apply to Stanford, make sure you have all your Stanford admissions requirements ready before the posted admission deadline. You will submit your application, letters of recommendation, and essays through the Common Application. Your school counselor will provide a School Profile, the counselor recommendation, and your transcript.
In addition to the Stanford University admissions application, students are able to participate in an optional Stanford alumni interview. Students who live in a designated interview area are able to sign up for an interview with a Stanford alumnus. While this interview is optional, it is a great opportunity for students to learn more about Stanford and for the Stanford admissions office to learn more about applicants. But, keep in mind, if you plan to participate in the Stanford admissions interview, be sure to prepare well.
Portfolios for Stanford Admissions
Students also have the opportunity to submit an Arts Portfolio as part of their Stanford admissions application. Students can submit an Arts Portfolio in Art Practice, Dance, Music, or Theater and Performance Studies. Consider submitting an Arts Portfolio if you have exceptional talent in any of these subject areas.
Once your application has been submitted, the Stanford admissions office will send you an email with instructions regarding your Stanford admissions portal. This portal is where you will check the status of your application and eventually receive your Stanford admissions decision.
Stanford admissions officers carefully review each application and then release admissions decisions in Mid-December for Restrictive Early Action students. Regular Decision students will have to wait until early April. All students then have until May 1st to make their Stanford enrollment decision.
How can I contact Stanford admissions?
There are many ways you can connect with Stanford admissions. You can find the phone number for the Stanford admissions office here. You can also connect with Stanford admissions officers via Twitter. The Stanford admissions Twitter is a great place to get updates on the Stanford University admissions process and application deadlines.
You should also consider visiting Stanford, either in person or virtually. Visiting Stanford is a great way to explore the campus and see what Stanford admissions has to offer. If you cannot visit in person, the Stanford admissions office hosts a number of Stanford admissions programs and special events virtually throughout the academic year. The Stanford admissions Twitter is a great place to keep track of these events and programs.
Stanford Admissions: Restrictive Early Action vs. Regular Decision
As we’ve mentioned, Stanford admissions offers two ways to submit an application: Restrictive Early Action and Regular Decision. The main difference between these two application types is the due date, as well as when your admissions decision is released.
According to the Stanford admissions blog, the Restrictive Early Action option is a non-binding application process that allows you to apply early. However, this option is considered “Restrictive” because you may not apply to any other college under their Early Action or Early Decision plan. Stanford admissions recommends applying under the Restrictive Early Action plan if Stanford is your first choice, you have a strong transcript at the start of your senior year, and you have enough time to complete a competitive application before November 1st.
Most students will apply to Stanford under the Regular Decision plan. Stanford University admissions recommends applying under the Regular Decision plan if your senior year classes are more rigorous, you are retaking standardized tests, or are working on a significant project or activity during your senior year. The Stanford admissions deadline for Regular Decision is January 5th.
With the low Stanford acceptance rate, it’s important to consider how you will apply. Typically, Early Action acceptance rates are higher than Regular Decision acceptance rates. This is because the applicant pool for Early Action is smaller than the Regular Decision pool. Therefore, if you’re confident that Stanford is your top choice, applying under the Restrictive Early Action plan may be right for you.
When do Stanford decisions come out?
Your Stanford University admissions decisions will be released according to how you apply. If you apply under the Restrictive Early Action plan, you will receive a decision in mid-December. If you apply under the Regular Decision plan, you will receive a decision by early April. For both Stanford admission plans, you will have until May 1st to make your Stanford enrollment decision.
Students who apply under the Restrictive Early Action plan will get one of three Stanford admissions decisions. Students will either be admitted to Stanford, not offered admission, or their Stanford University admissions application will be deferred to the Regular Decision plan. Stanford admissions notes that only a small percentage of Restrictive Early Action applicants will be deferred to the Regular Decision pool.
As we noted above, your Stanford admissions decision will be released through the Stanford portal. You will receive an email notification once admissions decisions are released. If you are accepted to Stanford, you will receive a college acceptance letter. Your Stanford University admissions decision will also include financial aid information. This will be important as you decide your college enrollment plans.
Stanford Admissions Requirements – Five Takeaways
With all the information on the Stanford University admissions process, here are five takeaways to consider:
Stanford Admissions Takeaways
1. The Stanford admissions process is highly competitive.
Stanford is one of the hardest schools to get into. While it’s important not to be discouraged by the low acceptance rate, knowing how selective the Stanford admissions system is can help you prepare your application. Making sure your college list is balanced, and dedicating enough time and energy to your application are both crucial if you are considering applying to Stanford. You can also review our guide on how to get into Stanford here.
2. The Stanford admissions process is holistic.
The Stanford admissions officers consider a wide variety of factors when reviewing your application. While your GPA and standardized test scores are important aspects of your application, the Stanford admissions requirements include a number of short essays, as well as letters of recommendation. These aspects of your application should paint a holistic picture of who you are and what you hope to accomplish at Stanford.
3. How you apply to Stanford matters.
If you decide to apply to Stanford under the Restrictive Early Action process, you may increase your chances of gaining admission. However, applying under the Restrictive Early Action plan may not work for your college application plan. The Stanford admissions plan you choose will depend on the other schools on your college list, as well as your overall college application strategy.
4. Stanford University admissions is not right for every student.
While Stanford is one of the highest-rated colleges in the United States, it may not be the best fit for you and your academic interests. With such a large campus and student body, some students may prefer a smaller school environment. The highly selective Stanford admissions cycle may also be difficult for students to navigate. To help determine if Stanford would be a good fit for you, you can watch our panel on Stanford.
5. Your Stanford admissions application should reflect your hard work and passions.
Overall, your Stanford admissions application will be the culmination of all your hard work in high school, as well as a representation of what you are most passionate about. If your academic interests and career passions align with Stanford’s mission and values, you should consider submitting a Stanford application. With careful planning and thoughtful application strategy, you can successfully navigate the Stanford admissions cycle.
This guide to Stanford University Admissions was written by senior advisor, Jess Klein. 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 CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.