Our overall application review is holistic, focusing on academic excellence, intellectual vitality and personal context. In addition, we will consider your curriculum, teacher evaluations, essays and extracurricular activities.
We do not have a required high school (or college) curriculum, but we do make recommendations. We expect freshman applicants to have engaged in a rigorous curriculum and chosen from among the most demanding courses available in their secondary school. It is not necessary to take every advanced course offered; but if such courses are available to you, we expect that you have taken advantage of many of them. Our most competitive freshman applicants often have four years (grades 9-12) of English, four years of math (including calculus), four years of social studies, four years of science (including biology, chemistry and physics) and four years of a foreign language.
There is flexibility, however, in how we view an applicant's curriculum. For example, an applicant may be competitive with just three years of a foreign language through 11th grade but also with five math courses taken in the last four years. Conversely, an applicant may be competitive taking two languages all four years and just three years of social studies.
While most of our applicants have enrolled in an accredited secondary school program (or college), students from schools that may not have undergone the accreditation process as of yet, as well as those with exceptional circumstances are given equal consideration.
As we read the two required evaluations, we hope to discover specific evidence of your intellectual vitality. For this reason, we want to hear from those teachers/instructors who know the most about your performance in an academic setting. The evaluations for freshman applicants should be from teachers who taught you in the 11th or 12th grades in one of the core academic subjects (English, math, foreign language, social studies or science)—though we will certainly accept evaluations from earlier grades in unusual circumstances.
We read essays to get to know you as a person and to learn about the ideas and interests that motivate you. The strongest essays are those where the student's genuine voice stands out. Because we want to discover who you are, resist the urge to "package" yourself in order to come across in a way you think Stanford wants. Such attempts simply blur our understanding of who you are and what you can accomplish.
Learning about your extracurricular activities and nonacademic interests helps us to discover your potential contributions to the Stanford community. Students often assume our primary concern is the number of activities in which one participates. In fact, an exceptional depth of experience in one or two activities may demonstrate your passion more than minimal participation in five or six clubs. We want to see the impact you have had on that club, in your school, or in the larger community, and we want to learn of the impact that experience has had on you.
In some cases, exceptional abilities in athletics may influence our decision if the applicant is otherwise well qualified, but such abilities never, by themselves, ensure admission to Stanford.