What are the Best Majors at Stanford?

August 23, 2023
By AdmissionSight
View of Stanford University oval.

What are the Best Majors at Stanford?

Stanford University, a beacon of academic excellence, offers many majors to guide you toward a fulfilling career and life. But what are the best majors at Stanford? This question is far from straightforward, as the answer depends on various factors such as your interests, career goals, and the ever-changing job market.

This article aims to dive deep into Stanford’s academic environment and the majors that offer the best return on investment.

What Makes Stanford Unique in the Academic World?

Stanford University is not just another educational institution; it’s a crucible where groundbreaking research, unparalleled innovation, and transformative education coalesce.

Situated in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford has a symbiotic relationship with this global hub of technology and entrepreneurship. This proximity doesn’t just offer students incredible internship and job opportunities; it shapes the curriculum and academic culture of the university.

When discussing the best majors at Stanford, one cannot overlook the influence of Silicon Valley in making disciplines like Computer Science, Engineering, and Business highly sought-after.

However, Stanford’s uniqueness goes beyond its geographical location and enters the realms of academic philosophy and culture.

A culture of innovation and entrepreneurship

In the hallowed halls of Stanford, you’ll find a culture that not only encourages but demands innovation and entrepreneurship. From the Stanford Technology Ventures Program to the d.school—Stanford’s Institute of Design—there are myriad platforms where students can transform an idea into a viable product or solution.

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This culture is deeply ingrained in the academic fabric, influencing even traditional disciplines like Humanities and Social Sciences. For instance, the best majors at Stanford often allow students to apply entrepreneurial thinking to solve real-world problems, be it through technological advancements or social initiatives.

This culture of innovation is a significant factor that sets Stanford majors apart, making them not just educational pathways but journeys of practical discovery.

Interdisciplinary approach to education

Stanford’s academic philosophy is rooted in an interdisciplinary approach, breaking down the traditional silos that often separate fields of study. Whether majoring in Biology, History, or Artificial Intelligence, you’ll find courses and research opportunities that intersect with other disciplines.

This approach enriches the educational experience, offering a broader perspective and comprehensive skill set. For example, one of the best majors at Stanford, Symbolic Systems, combines elements of Psychology, Linguistics, Computer Science, and Philosophy, preparing students for careers that require a multifaceted understanding of human behavior and technology.

This interdisciplinary ethos is not just a pedagogical choice; it reflects our complex, interconnected world, where problems can’t be solved through a single lens.

What Are the Most Popular Majors at Stanford?

Regarding the best majors at Stanford, popularity can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, a major’s popularity often indicates strong faculty, abundant resources, and a high student satisfaction rate.

On the other hand, it can also mean intense competition and potentially larger class sizes. Stanford’s most popular majors include Computer Science, Human Biology, and Economics, each offering a unique blend of academic rigor and practical application.

Close up of students smiling at the camera.

These majors attract a significant portion of Stanford’s student body, not just because of their relevance in today’s job market but also due to the university’s exceptional faculty and research opportunities in these fields.

As you navigate the labyrinthine process of selecting a major, understanding why these disciplines have gained such prominence can offer valuable insights into what you might expect.

Computer Science

This major delves deeply into various computer science branches, helping students master the core elements of theory, abstraction, design, and implementation to address challenges in the discipline.


Ideal for those strong in math and statistics, Stanford’s Economics major covers numerous specialized areas: Behavioral and Experimental, Finance, International and Development, Policy Analysis, Quantitative Techniques, Business Strategy, and Regulation.

Human Biology

Stanford’s Human Biology major appeals to those aspiring for life sciences careers. It ranks among the university’s top undergraduate choices, with many graduates pursuing medical degrees later.

Management Science and Engineering

Centered on engineering, business, and public policy, this significant readies students for leadership roles, emphasizing the synergistic operation of technical, economic, and societal systems grounded in rigorous research and education.

Symbolic Systems

A unique and favored major at Stanford, Symbolic Systems amalgamates insights from computer science, linguistics, math, philosophy, psychology, and statistics.

Political Science

Stanford’s Political Science major is a prime choice for those inclined toward topics like public policy and governance structures. Renowned experts in domestic and global politics teach various subjects in this department.

Cognitive Science

Popular among Stanford students, this major is for those with a penchant for natural sciences. It offers engaging courses like “Perception Basics,” “Practical Machine Learning,” and “Analysis of Data Mining.”

Mechanical Engineering

Given Stanford Engineering’s stellar reputation, Mechanical Engineering is unsurprisingly a top pick. The syllabus explores applied mechanics, biomechanical engineering, design techniques, computer simulations, and energy science.

Electrical Engineering

Electrical Engineering stands out among the premier majors at Stanford. It categorizes studies into three domains: 1) Systems of Hardware and Software, 2) Systems and Science of Information, and 3) Technology and Science of the Physical realm. Students also enjoy a range of interdisciplinary electives.

International Relations

Highly sought after, International Relations at Stanford examines the dynamics between international political entities, encompassing state actors like countries and non-state ones such as the UN, WTO, IMF, World Bank, Amnesty International, and other NGOs.

The “best” major often aligns closely with an individual’s passions, skills, and long-term goals. Stanford offers a wide array of programs, and the strength of a program also depends on the specific area within a broader field. Always research specific departmental strengths, faculty, resources, and opportunities when determining the “best” fit for your individual needs and aspirations.

How Do You Decide on Your Major?

Choosing among the plethora of majors at Stanford can be daunting for any upcoming college student. A recent survey showed 61% of college graduates would switch majors if they could return to school.

Group of students talking in a room.

However, not everyone suffers from a case of buyer’s remorse when they receive their diploma. The following is a list of the most significant considerations to make when selecting a major, as well as advice on choosing the appropriate college once you have made your selection.

Talk to Current Students and Alumni

Gain insights from those who’ve walked the path. Their experiences can offer a practical perspective on the major’s demands, opportunities, and outcomes. Alums can provide a longer-term view, shedding light on how the major benefited or influenced their career trajectories.

Consider Dual Majors or Minors

If you’re torn between multiple fields of interest, explore the feasibility of a double major or adding a minor. Stanford’s flexible curriculum often allows students to combine disciplines.

Engage in Extracurricular Activities

Join clubs, organizations, or projects related to potential majors. These experiences can provide a taste of what delving deeper into the subject might feel like.

Seek Academic Advising

Stanford offers academic advisors who can clarify major requirements, future career prospects, and the overall educational journey.

Take Introductory Classes

Enroll in introductory or general courses for majors you’re considering. This first-hand experience can be instrumental in guiding your decision.

Think Long-Term but Stay Open

While having a vision for the future is essential, remember that interests and goals can evolve. Many students change their majors after discovering new passions.

Practical Considerations

Consider the workload, graduation requirements, and potential post-graduation opportunities. While passion is vital, practical aspects, such as employability and the potential for further studies, also matter.

Trust Yourself

It’s okay to be unsure. Sometimes, deciding and diving into a major can clarify whether it’s the right choice for you. Remember, many skills are transferable, and the essence of education is learning how to think, adapt, and grow.

While your major is a significant aspect of your university experience, it’s not the sole determinant of your future. Many professionals find success in fields unrelated to their undergraduate major. The key is to remain curious, adaptable, and proactive in seeking opportunities that align with your evolving interests and goals.

What are Your Chances of Getting Into Stanford?

Understanding that Stanford University’s admissions process is exceptionally challenging is crucial. Stanford’s acceptance rate typically hovers below 5%, with the Class of 2025 witnessing a mere 3.95% acceptance.

Group of people talking in a meeting.

The Stanford Daily recently reported that the university will remain test-optional until the Class of 2027. This policy might drive the surge in applications and subsequent drop in acceptance rates.

Stanford prioritizes nine factors as “very important” in its admissions considerations: application essays, teacher and counselor recommendations, extracurricular involvements, secondary school rigor, class ranking, GPA, standardized testing scores, inherent talents or abilities, and individual character and qualities.

While none of these factors are deemed “essential,” Stanford does weigh seven other criteria. Interview performance, first-generation college student status, legacy considerations, geographical location, ethnicity and race, volunteer efforts, and paid employment history are among them.

To stand out in your application to Stanford, it’s beneficial to have a distinguishing extracurricular talent or “hook.” For context, Stanford boasts the premier athletic program in the U.S., with 36 varsity sports teams. Out of approximately 900 intercollegiate athletes, over 350 receive athletic scholarships.

If you’re an exceptional athlete actively recruited by a Stanford coach, this can significantly enhance your admission odds, especially if your academic credentials align with the university’s standards.

But athleticism isn’t the only path. Perhaps you excel in debate, suggesting potential involvement with the Stanford Debate Society. Other areas of exceptional talent could be ethnographic research, playwriting, musical proficiency, poetry, scientific endeavors, robotics, app development, or community leadership.

Stanford should be a contender in your university selection for high-achieving high school graduates with excellent standardized test scores. An additional advantage would be a unique “hook” in sports, arts, theater, STEM, or another field. This gives you a more substantial shot at gaining admission.

Suppose you need help choosing among the best majors at Stanford or help putting the finishing touches on your college applications at AdmissionSight. In that case, we have over ten years of experience guiding students through competitive admissions.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.

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