stanford essays

Stanford Supplemental Essays 

The Stanford essays form a critical part of the application process. Like at many top schools around the country, when you apply to Stanford, you’ll complete school-specific Stanford essay prompts in addition to the Common App essay. If you’re wondering how to get into Stanford, strong Stanford supplemental essays are a good place to start. 

In this article, we’ll discuss each of the Stanford supplemental essays in detail, including the Stanford roommate essay and other Stanford essays. Additionally, we’ll review the requirements for each of the Stanford essay prompts. We’ll also provide resources with Stanford essay examples that you can use when writing your own Stanford essays. Finally, we’ll offer more tips on how to get into Stanford, including application deadlines, dates, and timelines.

Stanford Essays: Quick Facts

Stanford University Supplemental Essays Quick Facts

  • Stanford Acceptance Rate: The acceptance rate for Stanford admissions is only 4% according to U.S. News
  • Understanding the Stanford Essay Requirements: The Stanford requirements include three Stanford supplemental essays. Each of the Stanford essays must be between 100 and 250 words.
  • Applying to Stanford: Students must complete the Common Application and the Stanford requirements before the Stanford application deadline. Make sure you submit your Stanford supplemental essays along with all other application materials when applying.
  • Stanford Application Deadlines: There are two deadlines students must keep in mind for their applications. You can read more about the Stanford Restricted Early Action policy here, as it differs from Early Action and Early decision deadlines at other schools.
    • Restrictive Early Action Deadline: November 1
    • Standard Application Deadline: January 5
  • Top Stanford Essays Tip: Because you have to complete three Stanford essays, make sure you give yourself enough time to work on each of them. Even though each of the essays is only at most 250 words, shorter essays can take longer to revise and perfect.

Please note that essay requirements are subject to change each admissions cycle, and portions of this article may have been written before the final publication of the most recent guidelines. For the most up-to-date information on essay requirements, check the university’s admissions website. 

Does Stanford have supplemental essays?

Yes, students must complete three Stanford supplemental essays. Students must submit their Stanford supplemental essays in addition to the Common App essay and the other Stanford requirements. These Stanford essays help the admissions team get to know their applicants better and evaluate whether they will be a good fit for the school.

How many essays does Stanford require?

Students must submit responses to three Stanford essay prompts as part of their application. In addition to these Stanford supplemental essays, there are also several additional short answer prompts that students must complete. 

These responses are limited to 50 words maximum, so they are not quite long enough to be considered full Stanford essays. However, they are still an important part of your application, so plan to spend as much time on those responses as your responses to the Stanford essay prompts. You can find a list of these additional prompts along with tips and Stanford essays examples in our guide here.

Do Stanford essays change?

stanford essays

The Stanford essay prompts do sometimes change from year to year. One of their more well-known prompts, the Stanford roommate essay, has been part of the application for a while and likely won’t change. However, in the 2021-2022 school year, one of the Stanford essay prompts asked students to talk about a topic that was meaningful to them. Now, that question has been changed to ask students: what aspects of your life experiences, interests, and character would help you make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University?

Even though the Stanford supplemental essays may change, the purpose behind the Stanford essays remains the same. The admissions team uses the Stanford supplemental essays to get to know students on a deeper and more personal level. While grades and extracurricular activities are also important, the Stanford essays allow students to share parts of their life and experiences that the admissions office would not otherwise know. So, in each of your Stanford essays, highlight why you would be a perfect fit for Stanford!

What are the Stanford essay prompts?

The Stanford supplemental essays consist of three different Stanford essay prompts. Each prompt must be answered with an essay of between 100 and 250 words. The Stanford essay prompts for 2023-2024 are as follows and can also be found on the Stanford admissions website:

Stanford University 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—get to know you better.

3. Please describe what aspects of your life experiences, interests, and character would help you make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University.

Before you start writing your Stanford essays, we recommend taking the time to read each of the Stanford essay prompts carefully. This will help you know exactly what each prompt asks so you can craft a strong response. 

Below, we’ll break down each prompt individually and show you how you can write standout Stanford essays for each prompt. For additional tips and Stanford essay examples, check out our Stanford essays guide.

Stanford Essays #1

stanford essays

The first of the Stanford essay prompts is fairly straightforward. This prompt asks you to describe a time or experience that sparked a passion for learning. The possibilities for answering this prompt vary widely. However, the key to any great essay is specificity and focus. Remember that you only have a maximum of 250 words to write your Stanford supplemental essays, so you need to choose which of your passions to focus on. 

Start by identifying a formative moment when you developed a love for learning about your chosen subject. Then, build from that to show your intellectual curiosity. For instance, this could be a school field trip to a planetarium that inspired an ongoing love of space. The best essays begin by immediately pulling their readers into a story rather than restating the prompt or giving a general introduction.

Keep it authentic

Some students make the mistake of trying to look perfect and writing Stanford essay examples that they believe readers want to see. Being authentic and showing off your unique personality is much more important. In fact, your readers will appreciate getting to know the real you. 

This prompt asks about more than just a single defining moment. It is about why this moment was meaningful and how that moment inspired you to keep learning and growing. So, don’t be afraid to show off how much you love your topic.

Stanford Essays #2

stanford essays

Prompt #2 is the famous Stanford roommate essay. While the other Stanford essays share common elements with other essay prompts, the Stanford roommate essay is in a category of its own. In the Stanford roommate essay, students write a letter introducing themselves to their future roommate. This essay can take many forms, from a standard letter beginning with “Dear Roomie,” to a list of important characteristics, and even a “day in the life” snapshot where the writer describes what a typical Stanford day might look like for them.

Whichever format you choose for your Stanford roommate essay, remember that your audience for this essay is not just your hypothetical future roommate, but also the Stanford admissions team. So, like your other Stanford essays, your Stanford roommate essay should highlight what makes you unique. 

Approaching the Stanford roommate essay

Think about what quirks, characteristics, or personality traits you want to reveal about yourself. Then, come up with anecdotes or stories that showcase those characteristics. Instead of simply saying to your reader, “I am an avid crossword puzzle solver,” you can convey the same information in a more interesting way by saying “You’ll probably wake up most mornings and hear me mumbling random words to myself while hunched over a newspaper. Don’t worry, I promise I’ll be more social once I finish my daily crossword!”

The Stanford roommate essay can seem intimidating at first, but it can also be a fun way to show off who you are. If you have trouble coming up with ideas, don’t be afraid to ask family members or friends for help. They may be able to identify parts of your personality that would make great subjects for your Stanford roommate essay. 

Stanford Essays #3

stanford essays

After the Stanford roommate essay, the final prompt for the Stanford supplemental essays asks you to describe why you would make a “distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University.” In other words, this essay asks you to tell the admissions team how you would contribute to life at Stanford. Although this question is more straightforward than the Stanford roommate essay, you should still think carefully about your response. 

As with the other Stanford essays, there is no single right answer for how you would contribute to the Stanford community. Like other top colleges, Stanford hopes to create a diverse community of students. So, write about what excites you and let your passion for those subjects shine through. Just remember that you only have 250 words to answer the Stanford essays. So, it helps to pick out two or three key ways you would get involved at Stanford.

Getting specific

The Stanford supplemental essays are also a great place to show off the research you have done about Stanford. Your Stanford supplemental essays should indicate both why you are a good fit for Stanford and why Stanford would be the perfect fit for your interests. The more specific details you include from either an in-person or virtual visit, the stronger your essay will be. Including the names of specific professors, internships, clubs, or study abroad programs is great, but make sure to provide context and specificity. Talk about why that aspect of life at Stanford stood out to you and how it connects back to your academic and career goals.

As with your other Stanford supplemental essays, make sure not to simply repeat your extracurriculars list from earlier in your application. If you do mention these activities, talk about how you would continue to pursue that interest at Stanford. Check out lists of student organizations and/or programs and see what lines up with your passions. For example, if you have an interest in journalism, you might talk about writing articles for the Stanford Daily or contributing to the many other student-run publications on campus. The more detailed you can get about what kind of Stanford student you would be, the better.

What is Stanford looking for in essays?

stanford essays

The Stanford supplemental essays serve several purposes. First and foremost, the Stanford supplemental essays help your application readers learn who you are in a more holistic way. The Stanford essays let you introduce yourself to the admissions team and give them a complete picture of who you are. So, your Stanford essays should highlight your life and experiences. 

The second purpose of the Stanford supplemental essays is to assess your writing abilities. No matter your major, you will write papers of some kind while at Stanford. So, Stanford wants to see that you have strong written communication skills. This does not mean that you need to fill your Stanford essays with impressive vocabulary words. Rather, Stanford simply wants to see clear, well-written prose that shows evidence of revision and thoughtfulness. So, make sure you check your Stanford supplemental essays for spelling and grammar before you submit them.

To learn more about Stanford check out this video from Stanford Admissions below:

Where can I find Stanford essays that worked?

One of the most effective things you can do to write better Stanford essays is to look at Stanford essays examples from admitted students. These essays can teach you what kinds of essays get students accepted to the most competitive schools in the country. It is important to note, however, that you should never copy someone else’s essay. Instead, think of these Stanford essays examples as a source of inspiration for your own writing. 

While there are books of Stanford supplemental essays available for you to purchase, there are plenty of free resources out there to help you with the Stanford supplemental essays. At, we have a series of essay guides with tips for many different kinds of essays, including the Stanford supplemental essays. You can find the tips for the Stanford essays including full examples here and additional guidance for the Stanford supplemental essays here. You can also check out our full series about how to get into Stanford through the college page, which has all the info you need to ace your application.

What is the application deadline for Stanford?

Like at other schools, students can choose between multiple Stanford application deadlines. If you know that Stanford is your first choice school, you can apply through the Restrictive Early Action pool. This pathway allows you to apply to other colleges as well as Stanford as long as those other applications are through a Regular Decision pathway (not Early Action or Decision). 

If admitted through REA, you are not required to attend Stanford and you have until May 1st to accept or decline your offer of admission. The Stanford application deadline for Restrictive Early Action is November 1st.

Students who do not wish to apply to Stanford through the Restrictive Early Action pathway can instead apply to Stanford through the Regular Decision pathway. Students who choose this route may apply to other schools with no restrictions from Stanford. The Regular Decision application deadline is January 5th, and students receive decisions from Stanford in early April. There are separate timelines and application deadlines for financial aid, which you can find on the school’s website.

Five tips for writing outstanding Stanford essays!

stanford essays

1. Start early

Because there are so many Stanford supplemental essays and short answer questions, it helps to get started on them as early as possible. Especially if you apply through the Restrictive Early Action pathway, you should give yourself enough time to write each of the Stanford essays. You likely won’t submit your first draft of the Stanford essays, so leave plenty of time to redraft and edit. This will also give you time to put the other Stanford essays tips we’ve discussed into practice!

2. Brainstorm ideas before writing

The Stanford supplemental essays, in particular the Stanford roommate essay, require a lot of personal reflection. Because of this, we recommend that you think critically about your passions, interests, and most important personal traits. That way, you can outline what you want your Stanford essays to say about you and choose subjects that highlight those aspects of your personality. The Stanford essays are not long enough to capture every one of your unique life experiences and qualities. So, choosing a few key details will help streamline your essays.

3. Show, don’t tell

This guideline can help you strengthen not only your Stanford essays, but also your writing in general. Try to use examples from your life to highlight your key traits rather than stating them outright. For example, if you want to show that you have exceptional leadership skills and a passion for gardening, you could describe how you created a horticulture club at your school and transformed an old courtyard into a plant sanctuary. These stories help your reader see the kind of person you are. Moreover, they provide perspective into the kind of student you would be at Stanford.

4. It’s all in the details 

Make sure your Stanford essays include vivid, specific details. The more descriptive and specific your language, the better your message will come across. So, keep your Stanford essays focused. Don’t try to include too much information—instead, center each essay on a single, compelling narrative. Then, use as much descriptive language as possible!  

5. Ask for help

The Stanford essays, and particularly the Stanford roommate essay, are not easy to complete. Moreover, writing any college essay is very different from writing a paper for class. So, find someone you trust to help you revise and edit your essays. Additionally, for prompts like the Stanford roommate essay, a second reader can provide useful insights. They also may catch mistakes or see improvements that you would not have otherwise considered. Just make sure that no one writes the Stanford essays for you! Admissions officers are trained to look for essays written by parents or siblings. Additionally, the strongest Stanford essays will capture your authentic voice. 

If you’re looking for help writing your Stanford supplemental essays, our advisors can help. We’ll provide one-on-one guidance to help you make the most of your Stanford essays. Click here to schedule a meeting with our team and learn more about how to make your Stanford essays count.

This essay guide was written by senior advisor, Alex Baggott-Rowe. 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.