3 Success Stories from Stanford University Admits

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Aerial view of Stanford campus with trees and buildings in sight

3 Success Stories from Stanford University Admits

Stanford University is often recognized as one of the best colleges in the country. With impressive alumni such as Elon Musk, Tiger Woods, Reese Witherspoon, Mitt Romney, Peter Thiel, and John Steinbeck, it’s no wonder this university has such a strong reputation as a leading institute of higher learning.

Of course, with a long history of world-class education, Stanford has also become one of the most selective universities. To help boost your confidence, you might be looking for some “how I got into Stanford University”. Hearing from successful applicants is a great way to learn about what it takes to get accepted.

Here, we’ll take a look at a few key stats about the Stanford admissions process along with some success stories from previous students.

How hard is it to get into Stanford?

One of the first questions applicants will have when wondering what it takes to get accepted into Stanford is how hard it is to get admitted. The quickest way to determine the selectivity of any university is to divide the number of students accepted by the total number of applicants.

Stanford campus

This resulting percentage gives us the school’s acceptance rate. For the Class of 2024, a total of 45,227 people applied to Stanford. Of these applicants, only 2,349 were accepted. This means that Stanford’s admission rate is 5.19%. In other words, for every 100 students who apply, only five end up getting admitted.

As you’ve probably managed to gather, Stanford University has a reputation for being very difficult to get into. In fact, this is the first time in over a decade and a half that the admission rate for Stanford increased. You heard that right! The acceptance rate had been dropping steadily since 2004.

Even in the light of this information, an acceptance rate of just over 5% seems incredibly challenging. However, it’s important to understand the admission rate in the overall context of Stanford University’s academic offerings and position among other colleges. Despite not being a member of the Ivy League, Stanford is often considered a contender among these highly esteemed schools – and for good reasons.

When compared to the Ivies, the university’s acceptance rate is a little bit easier to digest. For example, Harvard University’s admission rate for the Class of 2024 was 4.92% – even more selective than Stanford.

Princeton is nearly just as exclusive with an acceptance rate of 5.55%. Columbia, Yale, and Brown aren’t far behind with admission rates hovering in the 6% range. So, yes, Stanford University is difficult to get accepted into. However, when placed within the context of its world-class offerings and comparable schools, the admission rate is much easier to digest.

Does applying to early action make a difference?

Stanford University, as with the vast majority of colleges, offers two timelines during which students can send in their applications. Regular decision is the conventional timeline which the vast majority of applicants stick to.

It sticks to the traditional college application timeline and is recommended for students who are actively engaged with their high school courses, standardized tests, and other responsibilities. However, there’s also an early action option that allows applicants to submit their materials earlier. This timeline requires applicants to have their application submitted by November 1st.

Students taking exam

Naturally, you’re probably wondering if there’s a point to applying early. Other than having the application done and out of the way, there aren’t any obvious advantages. Believe it or not, though, applying during the early action timeline can actually improve your chances of getting accepted to Stanford.

In fact, for the Class of 2020, the acceptance rate was a whopping 9.52% – significantly higher than the regular admission rate that typically hovers around 4-5%. If you’re willing to put in the extra work, you can nearly double your chances of getting accepted to Stanford. Better yet, Stanford’s early action isn’t binding, meaning you still can choose to defer.

What kind of students get accepted into Stanford?

While knowing Stanford’s acceptance rate is helpful, it’s also insightful to learn about the type of students that end up getting accepted into the university. Although admissions officers consider a wide range of academic and non-academic factors, we’ll only be taking a look at objective standards that are measurable.

a male college student looking at the camera

This way, you can accurately compare your performance with those of successful applicants to better judge where you currently stand and how you can improve your chances of getting into Stanford.

When it comes to standardized test scores, the middle 50% of accepted students scored between 720 and 800 on the math section of the SAT. This range was 700 to 770 for the evidence-based reading and writing portion.

For the ACT, the same middle 50% scored a range of 31 to 35. Although Stanford doesn’t officially release GPA-related information for accepted students, we’ve been able to make some estimations. On average, admitted applicants have an average GPA of 3.96 on a standard 4.0 scale.

Given this information, it’s clear that you’ll need an impressive performance on your standardized tests and nearly straight As in your high school courses in order to increase your chances of getting accepted into Stanford. Of course, it’s possible to get admitted with lower scores, but you’ll need to make up for this performance with exceptional results in other areas.

Applicant Success Stories and Tips

While there are some excellent resources for learning more about the Stanford application process and what admissions officers at the school are looking for in applicants, hearing from people who have already succeeded at your goal is uniquely inspiring. It’s motivational to hear from former applicants who have overcome the challenges you’re now facing and come out on the other end as a Stanford graduate.

View of students talking an exam.

We scoured the internet to find some informative, relatable, and eye-opening success stories from previous students. You’ll learn about what students feel admissions staff are looking for along with some factors that helped them get accepted.

Success Story #1

“It’s hard to say exactly what Stanford is looking for, but I’ve noticed that most Stanford students (especially techies and engineers) have several traits in common.

Love of learning. Every Stanford student I know loves learning for the sake of learning.That is, they want to learn stuff not to make money, not to get a good job, not to impress teachers, but because they genuinely enjoy learning new things.

Curiosity. If you don’t understand something, do you just accept it and move on? Or do you insist on finding out the answer, researching it online, and trying to teach yourself if necessary?

Risk-taking and Entrepreneurial. Have you ever attempted something which seemed impossible? Or, have you put a substantial amount of time into a personal project that had a significant chance of failing? Even if your project ultimately fails, the fact that you frequently take risks and try to do stuff that’s innovative puts you in a whole different category than most people.

Independent. Stanford students are generally independent thinkers. They read broadly and form their own opinions about politics, philosophy, and life. They aren’t bothered when their opinion differs from the majority’s. In fact, they often go out of their way to learn about the other sides’ arguments.

Passionate. What do you love to do? When I was in middle school, I wanted to know how websites and the Internet worked. So, I decided to teach myself. I learned by reading articles online, skimming chapters from programming books at Borders whenever my parents visited the store, and through trial-and-error. I got hooked. I’ve been obsessed with the Internet ever since. You should find a passion and become an expert at it.

Highly motivated. It’s not enough to “want to change the world” or “bring about world peace” or whatever other lofty goals you can come up with. You have to actually do stuff. What have you done so far? If you’re an engineer, you should build stuff – websites, games, tech demos – on your own or at school.

Athletic. You need to play sports. It’s okay if you’re not the next Michael Jordan or Steve Prefontaine. As long as you’re committed, passionate, and improving your game (or track times), then you’re a student-athlete, which means you can balance multiple commitments and manage your time well.

You can make yourself stand out by trying to develop these personality characteristics, or if you already have them, by emphasizing them in your application.”

Success Story #2

“Stanford’s admission rate is below 6% (which makes it twice as hard to get in now as when I got in), and I would guess that most students who apply to Stanford would be successful there.

It helps if you’ve done something really impressive. I remember that during new student orientation, Julie Lythcott-Haims told us that some students in our class had already interned at NASA, published books on the NYT bestsellers list, played music in Carnegie Hall, and done other cool stuff. And all of that is totally doable if you really work hard during high school and find something that you’re passionate at and good at.

What about the rest of us, though? I got good grades while taking hard classes in high school, I did a bunch of extracurriculars, and I spent dozens of hours on my admissions essays (including the short response section). So did a lot of my friends who didn’t get in.

I could toot my own horn and talk about how great I was in high school and how beautiful my application was and about how the success I’ve had since getting into Stanford is proof that admissions did their job well and that there is a method to the process of admissions, but I suspect that would be more Just-world hypothesis than anything. Really, I worked hard enough in high school to be a competitive applicant, and I got lucky when someone was reading my application.”

  • Sam King, former student at Stanford University

Success Story #3

“I was admitted to Stanford because I got lucky, and I got lucky because my preparation was met with privilege and opportunity.

I was a pretty intelligent kid who loved learning (luck). The people around me picked up on it and encouraged me (privilege). My family was tough on me about my school performance and didn’t accept anything less than my best effort. When I brought home A’s on my report cards, they asked me why I didn’t shoot for an A+ (privilege). I eventually got to the point where I cared so deeply about learning that I would push myself on my own in school without anyone’s prodding (preparation).

Teachers recognized my aptitude and gave me more challenging opportunities, pushing me into gifted/honors/AP classes and connecting me to internships and other extracurricular programs (opportunity). When I felt like teachers weren’t taking my education seriously, I complained—to them, to counselors, to principals—and demanded to be challenged (preparation). My passion for learning earned me their respect (privilege).

When I later struggled in school because of family issues, I got support from teachers and counselors who made exceptions for me and gave me opportunities to pull myself together that other students wouldn’t have been afforded (privilege).

I didn’t go to a great high school; in fact, my school was barely average on a great day. But, I managed to end up with some of the most outstanding educators who supported me every step of the way (luck). My freshman and sophomore year teachers signed me up to take the PSAT, which helped me get comfortable with the test (privilege). My family sacrificed to pay for me to take the test a couple times and drove hours to get me to events to meet admissions officers (privilege). College applications were worked into my junior year curriculum so I had the benefit of an entire year to perfect my essays with the help of my English teachers (privilege).

In my admissions essays, I wrote about how my passion for learning was what made me worthy despite not having any world-changing accomplishments on my resume. It helped that every other part of my application was consistent with the narrative I laid out in these essays (preparation). My transcript showed that I had taken the hardest classes of what was available to me and done well in them (preparation). My recommenders, two senior year teachers who cared deeply for me and wanted to see me succeed, wrote amazingly personalized stories about how I challenged them as educators and myself as a student (privilege).

My extracurriculars gave me a lot more experience with interviewing than the average high school senior, so I knew exactly how to tell my story in my admissions interview (opportunity, preparation).My application just happened to land with the right admissions officer who advocated for my acceptance (luck).

I write all this to say, I didn’t get admitted to Stanford on my own. I worked hard at learning because I was passionate about it, but that alone wasn’t enough without the privilege of having people who wanted to see me succeed and being given opportunities by them. I was given opportunities to grow and shine that other people weren’t because of my preparation, but that would’ve amounted to nothing without a little luck. The applicant pool is so qualified and deserving that any one of hundreds of people could’ve replaced me.”

Write Your Own How I Got Into Stanford Story

There’s nothing more inspiring than reading an informative “how I got into Stanford” story. But, now it’s time to create your own success story. AdmissionSight has been helping students just like you master the admissions process in order to drastically increase their chances of getting into their chosen school.

With over a decade of experience, we’ve mastered the admissions process to some of the country’s top schools, including Stanford. Our team has a proven track record of success with 75% of our students getting accepted into Ivy League schools and Top 10 universities.

a female student studying inside a library

With our services, you’ll be able to custom-tailor your application specifically for the admissions officers at Stanford. We’ll tell you what the university is looking for, how you can ensure your essay stands out, along with a host of other helpful details about the application process.

Whether you need a hand perfecting your essays, choosing the best summer programs, participating in academic competitions, or planning a solid high school curriculum, we’ve got you covered.

Feel free to contact AdmissionSight to learn more about our services and how you can increase your chances of getting into Stanford.



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