10 Stanford application mistakes to avoid at all times

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Stanford campus' front yard with lots of trees and plants

10 Stanford application mistakes to avoid at all times

When it comes to applying to a university as prestigious and competitive as Stanford University, students want to be sure that they are doing everything within their power to improve their chances of getting in. After all, the acceptance rates of schools like Stanford, Ivy League schools, and other top ten schools within the United States are just getting lower and lower. Sometimes, the difference between getting in and being rejected is just about avoiding Stanford application mistakes.

That’s why we at AdmissionSIght thought it would be a very helpful exercise to break down some of the most common mistakes that we have seen high schoolers make on applications to schools like Stanford University.

Aerial view of Stanford campus' surroundings highlighting the tower.

So, whether you are a freshman in high school just getting started on your exciting journey, or an entering senior in high school who is already preparing your applications for submission, continue reading if you want to learn about what mistakes to avoid at all costs.

Stanford University admission facts

Before we break down the top mistakes that every student should work to avoid when they are applying to a school like Stanford, we thought that it would be a really good idea to go over some of the raw numbers related to this past year’s admissions statistics at Stanford.

It is important for high school students to keep these kinds of numbers in mind when they are defining and crafting their list of dream schools. It is an important thing to remember that remaining realistic throughout the entire application process will lead to the most successful process overall.

With that being said, let’s get started.

Acceptance rate for 2021

For the graduating class of 2024, a total of 45,227 students from all around the world applied to Stanford. Of that large group, just 2,349 were accepted. That results in an acceptance rate of 4.3 percent, good for one of the lowest acceptance rates in the entire country.

Just 1,607 students ended up enrolling out of that total number of accepted students.

Here is a brief demographic overview of the class of 2024 at Stanford:


  • 56 home countries and 50 US states are represented
  • 9.9% are international citizens representing 53 countries
  • 20.2% are first generation college students

Gender breakdown

  • Women: 52%
  • Men: 48%

High School Type

  • Public: 65%
  • Private: 23%
  • International: 12%
  • Home School: <1%

Standardized test scores

For students who took the SAT, the average range for students who were accepted to Stanford was a 720 to 800 for the Math section and a 700 to 770 for the Evidence-based reading and writing section. For students that took the ACT, the range was between a total score of 31 and a total score of 35.


The average GPA for students accepted to Stanford this past application cycle was incredibly high. The weighted average grade point average was 4.18 and the unweighted average grade point average was 4.0.

Now that you have a better idea of the kinds of test scores and grade point averages that Stanford University expects out of its applicants, you probably also already have a pretty good idea of just how truly difficult it is to get into a school of this kind.

After all, students who are able to attend schools of this kind not only benefit from one of the most impressive curriculums in the world, but they also benefit from the miraculous network that the Stanford alumni base Presents.

On top of that, Stanford has one of the most beautiful campuses in America and is also very close to the powerful and impactful Silicon Valley, which is of course home to some of the most powerful businesses in the world.

Those are just some of the reasons why students want to attend this amazing school, and are just some of the reasons why it is so important to keep these common Stanford application mistakes in mind so that you can avoid them when you are crafting, fine-tuning and finally sending in your Stanford application.

Let’s get started!

Overthinking the process

This is one very basic mistake on Stanford application, but it’s really important that every student that is thinking about applying to the most prestigious and competitive schools in the United States know the basics from the very beginning.

It is important for students to keep the acceptance rates and average GPA and test scores in mind for the schools that they want to apply to, students should also feel confident that if they meet those numbers their chances should be pretty solid.

In the end, the admissions process can end up feeling like something of a mystery. So you should not try and game the system or do anything out of the ordinary to improve your chances.

A male student in yellow jacket lost in his thoughts

The best that you can do for yourself and for the process overall is supply the schools that you’re applying to with everything that they are asking for and wait for the schools to make their decisions.

Forgetting to read the specific instructions

This is also fairly basic, but it is no less important. No matter if you are applying to two schools, five schools, 8 schools, or even more, make sure that you go through every single application so that you fully understand what is expected of you as an applicant.

Some students make the improper assumption that every single application in the first school is going to be exactly the same. While that is sometimes true – in the case of the Coalition Application and Common Application – many schools also expect students to fill out supplement information.

So, before a student begins any application they should make sure to read the application from front to back and ask either their high school counselor, or their admissions consultant if they are working with one, about any questions that they may have.

After all, it would be a horrible tragedy if the only reason why a student did not end up getting accepted to a school was because they were unable to effectively complete the application.

Turning in an overly long application

This mistake to avoid can be applied to people who are applying to schools, graduate schools and even jobs in the workforce. While some people may feel inclined to try to include every single morsel of information that they think might help improve their chances of acceptance, the fact of the matter is that a longer application rarely leads to improved success.

Regardless of the extracurriculars that a student has taken pardon, or the long list of awards that they have received throughout their high school years, students who are applying to schools like Stanford – or any other college or university for that matter – should really focus on creating a concise and clear application above all.

That may force certain students to leave out information that they may think is valuable. But in the end, the most valuable thing is that a student is able to provide their argument for acceptance to a specific school. That argument should not take many separate pages and long lists of achievements to do so.

Focusing on the quantity instead of the quality of extracurricular activities

Back in the day, it used to be encouraged for high school students to take part in as many extracurricular activities as possible. The reason why that was seen as a good thing was that it meant that a student was very well-rounded.

These days, it is far more preferred as students focus specifically on a few extracurriculars that they are passionate about. On top of that, it is preferred let students invest deeply in those few groups, teams, or clubs and earn positions of leadership and impact within them.

Group of students seated around a table having a discussion

So, when it comes to a student’s application to Stanford, they should really focus on the few extracurriculars that they spent the most time doing and found the most joy in during their high school years.

That will give the admissions officers at Stanford a much better idea of what kind of a student you are compared to just listing a bunch of extracurriculars that you spent some time doing, but never fully committed to.

Waiting until the last minute

Hopefully, avoiding this issue has been something that any high school student has managed to learn during their years in high school. But if a student has managed to procrastinate throughout high school and still accomplish great things, they may feel as though they should be able to do so with the college application process as well. This would be a major mistake.

Despite that, a huge portion of the applications to even some of the best schools in the country only come in within the final 48 hours before the application deadline. Waiting until the last minute to start and send in an application is a mistake for a number of reasons.

First off, procrastinating in this way makes it much more likely that a student will overlook Stanford application mistakes and errors within their application. Beyond that, sending in an application this late may signal to the admissions officers within the admissions office at the specific school that you are not actually that interested in attending that university.

Finally, waiting until the last minute to start an application is a bad idea because it takes away the opportunity for a student to apply as an early action or early decision student. It is a well-known fact that early action or early decision students often enjoy higher acceptance rates than regular decision students. So making sure that you get started as quickly as possible it’s especially important if you have one specific university – such as Stanford – in my mind as the school that you truly want to attend.

This is probably the easiest mistake on Stanford application that anyone can avoid by just keeping track of due dates and scheduling.

Allowing parents to take the reins

The college application process is not only stressful for the high school student who was actually applying to the school. It shouldn’t be that surprising to learn that the entire process is quite stressful for the parents involved as well.

After all, every parent hopes that their student not only gets into the school that they want to attend, but also receives the best education possible so that they can set themselves up for success later down the road. For that reason, some parents end up trying to insert themselves in the process a little more than they should.

Of course, parents will ideally be able to make themselves available to help students throughout the process as they are needed. However, some parents, and some students, run the risk of allowing parents to take too much control throughout the process.

A daughter and mother having a discussion

Under no circumstances should parents be filling out applications, writing student application essays, or reaching out to schools on the students’ behalf. First off, it is important to consider that admissions officers are highly trained individuals.

They will be able to quickly identify whether or not an application essay has been written by a student or a parent. Obviously, if they believe that an essay has been written by a parent, they are incredibly unlikely to accept that student into their school.

Beyond that, it is important to remember that the school is not just accepting GPA or standardized test scores. Instead, it should be thought that the school is looking to accept young men and young women whom the school believes will be able to have a positive impact on the school during their time on campus and for the years following their graduation.

If a parent is overly involved in the application process the student’s personality will likely not be able to shine through the application itself, making it harder for admissions officers to determine whether or not that student is the right fit for that school.

Submitting applications and essays without proofreading

This ties in closely to the mistake of procrastinating until the last minute, but this is such an important mistake to avoid that we think it deserves its own section altogether.

Once a student finishes each college application and the related essays involved, they should go through every word to look for spelling and grammar errors. Remember that any error within the application at any point can have a very negative impact and the perceived value of the application as a whole. This is unsurprisingly most true when it comes to the personal essays and statements that students send in.

A person proofreading a document and marking it using a red pen.

In fact, if possible students should actually take a day or two away from a specific application before they return to it and go through it to proofread. Of course, they can also ask a friend or one of their parents to look through the application for spelling and grammar errors as well.

While some of essays within a school application may be somewhat short, students should not delude themselves into thinking that this process is informal in any way. Admissions officers want to see beautifully written application essays that successfully let them know who a student is beyond their great test scores and grade point averages. Spelling and grammar errors make that goal a whole lot harder to achieve.

Giving cookie-cutter application materials

Some high school students may think that it is a good use of their time to use cookie-cutter application materials, especially when it comes to application essays. While it may seem like a good use of time to use essay topics that can be applied to many different schools, students have to keep in mind that the application officers at Stanford that will be reading their application essays are incredibly seasoned individuals. More often than not, they will be able to tell when a student is using a repeat topic.

When it comes to the application essays, students are highly encouraged to use every application as an opportunity to self-express and self-reflect. The reason why this is so encouraged it’s because it gives the application officer the best opportunity to really learn about the student.

Provide the student an opportunity to write about what they have learned throughout high school, and it gives them the chance to explain why they want to continue learning and continue growing at a school like Stanford.

Get more Stanford admission advice

As you now know, there are a lot of different mistakes that a high school student could make when filling out their applications to college. At AdmissionSIght, we make it our number one priority to make sure that all of the students that we work with not only avoid these mistakes but also send in fantastically crafted applications.

That’s just one of the reasons why we boast an impressive 75 percent acceptance rate to schools like Stanford, Ivy League schools, and other top ten schools in the country. If you’re interested in how we help our students succeed, contact us today for a free consultation.

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