Stanford University Admission Counselors

A Guide to the Stanford Admissions Process - Essays, Interviews & Deadlines

Stanford University Admissions Counselor

What Is Stanford University Looking For?

  • Intellectual vitality
  • Passion
  • Personality

These are the key hallmarks of successful Stanford applicants.

Stanford assigns every applicant three separate ratings on a 1-6 scale (1 being the highest, 6 being the lowest):

  • Academic Rating (1 to 6)
  • Extra-curricular Rating (1 to 6)
  • Intellectual Vitality Rating (1 to 6)

Stanford GPA:

At Stanford, your GPA is recalculated based on the following formula:

  • Grades from 10th and 11th grade only (no freshman grades)
  • Academic courses only (no physical education, typing, band, orchestra)
  • Flat grading where an “A-” becomes an “A” (great if you have an “A-”) and where a “B+” becomes a “B” (bad if you have a “B+”)

Here's what an Academic Rating of 1 (highest rating) at Stanford looks like:

  • Top 1-2% of high school class
  • Most challenging courseload of AP courses
  • SAT/ACT scores in the 99th percentile
  • Glowing letters of recommendation indicating that student is best out of applicants from past several years from his or her high school

The average GPA at Stanford is 3.94. Stanford requires having essentially all A’s while enrolled in AP or IB level courses.

What is Stanford’s current acceptance rate?

3.9% in 2021-2022 admissions cycle

Solomon Admissions works with all of our students to ensure you know all the ins and outs when applying to Stanford.

What is Solomon Admissions’ success rate for Stanford?

18.6% in 2021-2022 admissions cycle

For the 2021-2022 admissions cycle, we had a 18.6% acceptance rate to Stanford University. Solomon Admissions provided an advantage factor of 4.7X for our clients. You can see more of our acceptance rates here.

Extra-curricular Rating

Extra-curricular, Stanford looks for specialists who are passionate about one or two things over students who are well-rounded. Here's what an Extra-curricular Rating of 1 (highest rating) at Stanford looks like:

  • Published author
  • Intel STS Finalist (top 40 in-country)
  • Olympic medalist
  • Soloist at Carnegie Hall
  • US Math Olympiad Qualifier (USAMO)
  • Patent-pending (without parental involvement)
  • Awards at the national level

Unlike the Ivies, Stanford has a separate rating for intellectual vitality, which measures an applicant’s love of learning for the sake of learning outside the classroom.

Many Stanford applicants who are Academic 1’s rate low on the Intellectual Vitality scale since the applicant loves competing for grades more so than learning for the sake of learning.

Intellectual Vitality Rating

Here's what an Intellectual Vitality Rating of 1 (highest rating) looks like:

  • Independent academic research outside the classroom with a college professor leading to published research in a journal
  • Superior Stanford intellectual vitality supplemental essay
  • Showing a true love of learning for the sake of learning at a high level outside of the classroom and confirmed by recommendation letters

Academic/Extra-curricular/Intellectual Vitality 1-1-1's at Stanford are rare and comprise less than 1% of the applicant pool at Stanford - they are almost always admitted as long as they write good essays.

Stanford does not use hard cutoffs to eliminate applicants.

Stanford often admits 1-3-2's over 1-2-1's. This is why the Stanford supplemental essays carry disproportionate weight relative to the Ivies - Stanford is known for admitting the most compelling applicants, not necessarily the most qualified on paper.

Approaching the Stanford Supplemental Essays

Unlike its distant East Coast cousins Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, which like to admit applicants who are finished products or sure things, Stanford actively seeks out the most compelling applicant over the finished product. As such, Stanford weighs the supplemental essays more heavily than the top Ivies.

At Solomon Admissions, we give our clients an extensive primer on how to tackle the three main Stanford supplemental essays. Here’s a brief excerpt from our recommended approach to the all-important Stanford intellectual vitality essay:

1. Stanford students possess intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development. (100 to 250 words)

The Stanford intellectual vitality essay is used to weed out countless 4.0 students who lack a true love of learning. This essay impacts the Intellectual Vitality Rating and can be seen as the never-ending dinner conversation essay (if you can’t talk endlessly about an intellectual idea that excites you, then you will struggle with this essay).

Stanford uses the intellectual vitality essay to cull perfect students who are not intellectuals and who get perfect grades and test scores for the sake of getting into Stanford and getting a high-paying job, not because they love learning.

A bad answer to this question addresses ideas that interested you because they impacted your grades in a class. Stanford actively seeks students who take ownership of their education outside of the classroom because they love learning. A great answer addresses one intellectual idea which reveals your love of learning far beyond the classroom walls for the sake of learning - one idea that can be translated to undergraduate research and academic publication at Stanford and is hopefully related to your academic major.

This is what Stanford is testing through the intellectual vitality essay:

1. Does the applicant take ownership of his or her education outside of the classroom?
2. Is the applicant the kind of student who would enrich the learning of other Stanford students?
3. Is the applicant passionate about learning? (Stanford assigns applicants a separate intellectual vitality rating based in part on this essay)

As you can see, the Stanford supplemental essays require extensive thought and time. In addition, Stanford has a personality test disguised as an extensive set of short answer questions that are designed to weed out perfect students who take themselves too seriously.

For help on the Stanford intellectual vitality, roommate, or “what matters to you and why” essays, feel free to reach out to us. The information provided here is the tip of the iceberg for acing the Stanford essays.

For more information about the Stanford University application process, reach out to us via any of the contact options below.