How to Get into Stanford; collegeadvisor.com image: a photo of Stanford campus

How to get into Stanford – General Information

Stanford University is a private research institution that has given rise to 20 living Nobel laureates. Located in Palo Alto at the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, Stanford is the most prestigious university on the West Coast. The school is home to over 6,000 undergraduate and 9,500 graduate students. Stanford was founded in 1885. U.S. News ranks Stanford #6 in National Universities. 

What we’ll cover in this How to Get Into Stanford guide:

  • Stanford GPA requirements
  • Average Stanford SAT scores and ACT scores
  • Preparing for the Stanford application deadline
  • Stanford acceptance rate
  • Stanford Early Action details
  • Acing the Stanford interview
  • Stanford supplemental essays, and more.

If you’re thinking about your “how to get into Stanford” game plan, it’s important to be comprehensive in your strategy: Stanford SAT scores or ACT results, the Stanford GPA requirements, and your Stanford supplemental essays are all vital factors. Everything needs to be top quality if you want to combat the infamously low Stanford acceptance rate. 

Because there’s so little room for error, you should start strategizing as early in your high school career as possible. By the time the Stanford application deadline rolls around, the only thing you should be thinking about is hitting submit. You want to prepare your Stanford SAT scores and ACT scores and Stanford supplemental essays way before the Stanford application deadline. 

Figuring out how to get into Stanford takes strategy. We can help. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes Stanford graduates. Want to maximize your Stanford admissions odds? Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272. 

How hard is it to get into Stanford?

You’ve started thinking about how to get into Stanford. Naturally, your first question is: just how hard is it? First, it’s important to note that Stanford is a reach school for any applicant. One look at the Stanford acceptance rate tells us this; it’s below 4%.

Since Stanford is so competitive, luck does play a role. Who reads your application, what other applications your admissions officer has read that day—these are all luck-driven factors when it comes to how to get into Stanford. So, be honest with yourself when you’re planning how to get into Stanford, and understand that there is no way to guarantee your acceptance into Stanford University. 

That said, there are ways to strengthen your Stanford application and make it stand out to admissions officers.. The strongest applications—the ones with well-written Stanford supplemental essays, strong Stanford SAT scores, and a solid Stanford interview—rise to the top of the pack. With this guide, we’ll help you improve your odds of being in that pool.

What is the average GPA for Stanford University?

GPA is an important component of how to get into Stanford. This begs the question: are there Stanford GPA requirements? Not exactly.

The Stanford GPA requirements are more of a guideline. There is no GPA that guarantees your admission into Stanford. Similarly, there is no lower threshold that guarantees you won’t get into Stanford. 

Think of the Stanford GPA requirements as a temperature check. Stanford wants to know that you have what it takes to excel in their academically rigorous classes. You can check out their academic preparation page on the Stanford website to see the high school curriculum that Stanford recommends. 

So, are there Stanford GPA requirements? No. If you are worried about having a lower GPA, know that you can explain extenuating circumstances that may have affected your grades as part of your application. Also, you should plan on focusing on other aspects of your application to make up for a lower GPA, including your Stanford SAT scores, the Stanford interview, and the Stanford supplemental essays. 

However, barring extenuating circumstances, you should aim to have as close to a 4.0 GPA as possible—this is one pillar of your “how to get into Stanford” strategy. Don’t give Stanford a reason to think twice about you based on your grades, regardless of whether the Stanford GPA requirements exist in a formal capacity. Challenge yourself throughout your high school career in order to prove that you have what it takes to succeed academically in an elite environment like Stanford. 

What does the Stanford University application look like?

One key aspect of how to get into Stanford is familiarizing yourself with the application as early as possible. When the Stanford application deadline arrives, you don’t want any last-minute surprises. 

First, note that Stanford has two important deadlines for first-year admissions:

  • November 1 – Stanford Early Action
  • January 5- Stanford Regular Decision

Stanford Early Action is a restrictive option for students who are certain Stanford is their top choice. Stanford Early Action is non-binding, so you can still attend another school even if you’re accepted to Stanford. However, it is restrictive in that you may not apply to other programs through an early application process. 

Before the Stanford application deadline, there are several components to the application that you will have to complete. Note that you can apply to Stanford using either the Coalition Application or the Common Application.

The requirements are as follows:

  • $90 application fee or fee waiver
  • Stanford SAT scores or ACT scores (ensure you have sent your results to Stanford before the Stanford application deadline)
  • School Report and counselor letter of recommendation
  • High school transcript
  • 2 letters of recommendation from teachers
  • Stanford supplemental essays

Talk to your guidance counselor and teacher recommenders well before the Stanford application deadline. This is especially important if you are considering Stanford Early Action. 

What extracurriculars do I need for Stanford?

Extracurriculars are obviously a key part of how to get into Stanford. However, many students make the mistake of trying to fit themselves into the box of “the typical Stanford student.” Unfortunately, this strategy is not how to get into Stanford. 

While Stanford SAT scores and the Stanford GPA requirements are straightforward (i.e. aim for as high scores and grades as possible), there is no perfect strategy for extracurriculars. Rather, the important thing in your activities is showing passion and initiative.

So, how does one do that? Spend your early high school years deciding what your one or two biggest interests are. Maybe it’s the environment. Maybe it’s knitting. Whatever it is, figure it out early on. Then, spend the second half of high school excelling at your passion. Take it to the extreme. If your passion is the environment,  you could start a nonprofit with the goal of saving the polar bears. If it’s knitting, you could found a knitting startup that teaches children in your area how to knit. 

Of course, these are just a few examples, but the point is: challenge yourself. Do something wild and different to contend with the low Stanford acceptance rate. This is how to stand out as an applicant while you think about how to get into Stanford.

What is the acceptance rate for Stanford University?

One of the main indicators that students turn to when they’re wondering how to get into Stanford is the Stanford acceptance rate. For this, we’ll turn to the data published for the Stanford class of 2025.

55,471 Stanford-hopefuls applied for only 2,190 spots. This means the Stanford acceptance rate was a mere 3.95%, the lowest in the school’s history. 

Unfortunately, Stanford does not differentiate between Stanford Early Action admits and regular admits in their data. Historically, the Stanford Early Action pool does see slightly higher acceptance rates. However, if Stanford Early Action is the admissions path you’re considering for your “how to get into Stanford” strategy, keep in mind that many of the most competitive applicants apply early. If you need more time to write your Stanford supplemental essays, submit your Stanford SAT scores, and prepare for your Stanford interview, consider waiting for the regular Stanford application deadline. 

The bottom line is: the Stanford acceptance rate is unforgivingly low. Stanford is a reach school, no matter the student. As you research how to get into Stanford, remember this and construct your college plan accordingly. If Stanford is your top choice, consider applying to Stanford Early Action. 

Does Stanford offer interviews?

The Stanford interview is an overlooked part of many students’ “how to get into Stanford” strategy. Many applicants see that it’s optional and assume it’s not important. But given how low the Stanford acceptance rate is, you should take every possible opportunity to stand out. 

The Stanford interview is not extended to students until after the Stanford application deadline. Your Stanford interview will be conducted by an alumnus. The Stanford interview is offered to all applicants so long as there is sufficient alumni presence in the student’s geographic region. If you were not offered a Stanford interview, this is not an indicator of your application’s success.

Accept and prepare

Once you have accepted your Stanford interview, it’s time to prepare. First, it’s important to remember that the person you’re talking to is indeed a person. As such, the interview should be a two-sided conversation. Make sure to prepare thoughtful and intelligent questions about Stanford and your interviewer’s experiences there. 

Before the Stanford interview, you should also have a strong answer prepared for when your interviewer asks you “why Stanford?” Other than that question, you should not memorize your answers in advance. Instead, have an idea of the accomplishments, stories, and traits you would like to discuss in your Stanford interview. Before the interview, try making a list of bullet points that you’d like to address during the course of your Stanford interview. 

What is Stanford looking for in essays?

The Stanford supplemental essays are arguably even more important than Stanford GPA requirements or your Stanford SAT scores. While GPAs, test scores, and advanced classes are important, the Stanford supplemental essays are the place to truly stand out as an applicant.

What are you trying to show in the Stanford supplemental essays? Two words: intellectual vitality. This is your opportunity to show that you’re passionate about learning, and more specifically, what you’re passionate about learning. Stanford values intellectual vitality highly; in the admissions process, one of the specific criteria mentioned on the Stanford website is applicants’ intellectual vitality.

Brainstorm topics

Decide which accomplishments, passions, and character traits you most want to showcase in your Stanford supplemental essays. Then, write about them in a way that displays creativity, poise, and zeal. Don’t feel constrained to academic or formal writing; active storytelling and personal voice will make your essay more successful. 

Overall, leverage the Stanford supplemental essays as a core element of your “how to get into Stanford” plan. Unlike your grades and test scores, the Stanford supplemental essays are not just a box to check off; they are a chance to shine.

Check out our guide on how to write the Stanford supplemental essays for more tips. 

How does Stanford admissions review applications?

Students often wonder what the application review process looks like. What happens after the Stanford application deadline has passed? 

Like many schools, Stanford has a team of admissions officers who are divided by geographic region. Your application is reviewed by the officer who specializes in your region. A single admissions officer may have as many as 746 applications to read through. One read-through is guaranteed for each application. If you are a legacy applicant—in other words, if a relative has attended Stanford—you are guaranteed two read-throughs. 

Stanford uses a holistic admission process. The qualities they take into consideration when reading over your application are: 

  • Academic excellence
  • Intellectual vitality
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Context

After the initial read-through, officers present their applications to a committee consisting of a dean or assistant dean and other admissions officers. The committee votes and a decision is made. This process is the same regardless of whether you have applied to Stanford Early Action or via Regular Decision. 

Will Stanford University review my social media accounts?

Students who are wondering how to get into Stanford are often concerned that their social media will factor into the application process. So, should you set all of your accounts to private and erase your online footprint?

Ultimately, given the number of applicants Stanford receives, it is very unlikely that they will bother to Google your name. 

With that said, why risk it? Even if Stanford doesn’t look you up, future employers might. Make good judgement calls regarding what you put on the internet; don’t post anything offensive or insensitive on your profile. Content like this could negatively affect you when it comes to other future opportunities, such as internships. Try to play it safe and use social media responsibly; even if Stanford probably won’t consider your digital footprint, it’s not worth the risk. 

Is Stanford a good school for me?

Stanford is a top-tier university, but does that mean it’s the right school for you? This is a perfectly valid question to consider even while you’re planning how to get into Stanford.

Stanford University is located in the heart of Silicon Valley. For this reason, it is a very tech-centric school. That does not mean students don’t pursue industries outside of technology, but tech and startups are pivotal to the culture both on campus and beyond—if this does not interest you, you may not find Stanford to be a fit.

In addition, the selectivity of the school doesn’t necessarily end with the first-year Stanford acceptance rate. Many of the clubs, opportunities, and even classes at Stanford require applications and can be very competitive. The classes and clubs themselves are also very rigorous. If you don’t want to spend the next four years in a competitive environment, perhaps Stanford wouldn’t be the best fit

However, there are lots of incredible research opportunities and world-class professors at Stanford. If you’re curious what campus life is like, you can read up about Stanford’s day-to-day activities on their website as well. If anything on the Stanford website resonates strongly with you, Stanford may be a great fit. You may even want to consider applying to Stanford Early Action. 

You can also check out our Stanford University panel for information on both the admissions process and campus culture, and take a look at our virtual Stanford tour if you want to envision yourself on campus. 

More strategies to get into Stanford:

You’ve blown the Stanford SAT scores out of the water and you meet those expected Stanford GPA requirements. Now what? Students researching how to get into Stanford reach this point and wonder: is there anything else they can do?

Getting into Stanford requires you to stand out in a crowd of thousands. That’s why in everything you do, it’s best to think about how you can go above and beyond, especially in your Stanford supplemental essays and Stanford interview. 

Before you select your recommenders, take the time to build meaningful relationships with your teachers. Put in the effort so that your recommendation letters give genuine insight into both your personality and work ethic.

When you write the Stanford supplemental essays, don’t just settle for grammatically correct compositions that address the prompts. Your essays should be well-crafted, finely-tuned narratives.

You get the point: you should pay attention to every aspect of your Stanford application to maximize your admissions odds. Put in the extra effort so that you can say you presented the absolute best version of yourself when you were planning your “how to get into Stanford” strategy. If Stanford is your number one choice, consider applying under the Stanford Early Action deadline. Otherwise, start preparing early for the regular Stanford application deadline. Good luck!


This guide was written by Becky Weinstein. If you want to know how to get into Stanford, we’ve got you covered. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes Stanford graduates. Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.