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Please tell us about your experiences at Stanford.

tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
edited September 2006 in Stanford University
The first page here has a good number of chances threads. For variety I'd like to ask about the experiences of young people who actually matriculated at Stanford, including people like me who were young a generation ago. If you attend Stanford now, or if you graduated from Stanford, please tell us about what student life at Stanford is like. What were some of your favorite courses? How did you like dorm life? What interesting school traditions does Stanford have? What's surprising about Stanford when you first arrive there?

I hope anyone who has been a student at Stanford will represent here and describe Stanford for those of us looking on in this forum.
Post edited by tokenadult on

Replies to: Please tell us about your experiences at Stanford.

  • marlgirlmarlgirl Registered User Posts: 1,096 Senior Member
    There have been several threads like this recently. I'd suggest asking these questions on one of those threads.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
    Thanks for the reply. I was posting a new thread in view of the fact that new members join CC every day, and not all of the young people who will apply this year to colleges have seen the previous threads. It would be great, of course, if someone links here to earlier threads that describe the Stanford experience. It would also be great to hear the latest point of view of current Stanford students as they look back on their summer and at the start of a new school year.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
    Let's see if this question gets some response from Stanford students: what's the one thing you like to tell high school students about Stanford?
  • celestial605celestial605 Registered User Posts: 1,087 Senior Member
    The quality of education is unmatched. I have friends who are debating Stanford and a state school (I live in California, so they are choosing between Stanford and UCLA for example) and I have told them that while people say "college is what you make of it", you won't get the same quality of education if you go to a state school. (I am taking physics classes at a UC campus this summer, so I know.) Stanford is challenging in a wonderful way; it's the furthest thing from plug and chug. Topics are explored in depth and analysis encouraged; professors expect you to go beyond what was in the homework (if you're doing problem sets) and come up with ways to solve far more difficult problems by synthesizing the skills that you have learned. It's tough, but I have learned that I much prefer the challenge, and getting a few B's, to sitting in a class where no one participates and I coast by with A's.

    Also... I love the diversity and community feeling. Everyone is driven to learn and excited about something. It's unique, especially compared to high school (in my opinion) where kids are pretty similar because they're from the same area and there are a ton of kids who aren't that excited by learning. I have met people from Sweden who are as into psychology as I am... how neat is that =]
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
    Thanks, celestial605, for the interesting comments.
  • rosareirosarei Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    I think this is a good question. It's important to know what a place feels like.

    The academic vibrancy at Stanford is really amazing. You know, people say, Stanford's so great for the weather, the laid back attitude, etc, but of course those are just very small extra perks to the academics.

    Pretty much every department at Stanford is very strong, not just the ones you hear about most. The students are really smart, bold, articulate, not afraid to start off a great discussion, ask challenging questions - sometimes I'm a little intimidated in fact b/c I'm not so outgoing :) but I'm working on it. I'd characterize the students as smart, well-rounded, ambitious, multi-talented; some are aggressively outgoing while others are more reserved. And they're from all over the world and all the states. You meet a lot of international students with really different and interesting perspective. It's kind of enlightening.

    The professors, meanwhile, are brilliant--they are seem to be incredible scholars or leaders in their field. I mean, the instructor for social dance (one of the most popular classes) not only is a leader in dance history and reconstruction but also used to be an engineer and has like seven international patents. But they are still friendly and approachable. We have Faculty Nights at the dining hall sometimes, and you can invite any professor to come eat with you. Last time I did, the prof. was busy that night but gladly had lunch in the same week with me and the three other people who'd invited him.

    Some of my friends have said that Chem classes are very boring, and they've run into some bad teachers, but I haven't had any professor who's been less than very good yet. I've had several different classes where people burst into applause at the end of the lecture, and some sections where we go outside and sit in the grass to discuss philosophy. Also, for the freshman and sophomore seminars, underclassmen can take small classes (15 people each) with some of the most accomplished faculty, like Pulitzer Prize or Nobel Prize winners. The one I took let me do a really in-depth and interesting independent research project with the help of a great (and very enthusiastic) prof. in that specific field. The textbooks we used, by the way, were written by another faculty member in that department.

    Residential Education program-
    It doesn't stop in class but gets carried on back at the dorm through the terrific residential education program. The freshman dorms (and I think many of the others) all have an peer academic advisor, health educator, writing tutor, computing advisor, three RAs, and two resident fellows (who are professors that live in or next to your dorm with you). So there are always cool events at the dorm, like workshops that give you advice about finding internships, learn about different majors, workshops on nutrition, etc, our dorm also had an evening with President Hennessey and some dorms have barbeque nights with Dean Julie (the dean of freshmen). The ResEd program really adds another dimension to learning here.

    The RAs and dorm gov/whoever wants to also organizes a lot of social activities like barbeques, camping trips, movies, dances, bonfires, intramural sports, dorm talent shows, the annual ski trip, the scavenger hunt in San Francisco, fountainhopping, community service projects, tons of fun stuff. People from the dorms also tend to go to parties on the weekends together. There was a lot more partying than I expected, although I personally don't like frat parties much. You think you don't have time to party so much with all that studying, but you do! Some of the people here seem kind of superficial, they care a lot about appearances, looking good, trying to be cool, but everyone does have their genuine passions. But then again I'm only judging from freshman year, I hope the insecurity part fades as people settle in more.

    I think the best part about Stanford is that it is a renowned research institution with a ton of money and resources, but also makes an effort to take care of undergraduates, with the residential education program, advising, tutoring, and everything else. So you can do whatever you want. There are lots of programs: study abroad, independent research grants, fellowships, internships, fun organizations, etc. And hey, if you get starstruck by famous people like me, so many of them come here to speak! The opportunities are right there, it's very easy to seek out if you're motivated, but there is also support for you if you're having trouble and need a little guidance.

    Okay, one more thing and then I'll stop. Everyone at Stanford wants to try new things, have a lot of new experiences, learn, do, serve, seek thrills and challenges. The most important thing is to come with an open mind. It can be really fast-paced, sometimes way too fast with a lot of surprises, but you know, if you find yourself overwhelmed, you can always go to the oval, lie in the grass and look at all the gorgeous palm trees and perfectly blue sky and take a break.
  • celestial605celestial605 Registered User Posts: 1,087 Senior Member
    /me applauds

    Go Stanford!
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
    Thanks, rosarei, for the detailed answer.
  • Sly SiSly Si Registered User Posts: 938 Member
    Wow, where to start?

    First of all, pretty much everything that's been said is accurate. That kind of trims down what I need to say, I guess.

    On the subject of professors, they're not only brilliant in their fields, but at least through my first year, I've found them to be brilliant teachers and very approachable people. I've told this anecdote several times before, but in my multivariable calc class--which was SO much more than that, btw--it was normal for half a dozen or more students to come to office hours, and not all would have questions. Some would go just to hang out with the prof and hear him answer other people's questions.

    On a related note, each dorm dining hall have a "faculty night" once per quarter when students invite faculty to have dinner with them (and the quality of food is stepped up appropriately). Faculty, especially those teaching common freshman courses like IHUM, Chem 31, Math 50's, etc, generally accept these invitations.

    The classes are the most challenging I've ever had, and they're perfect for me. They make you think a lot more than anything I had in high school. In the case of IHUM, I was challenged to come up with original philosophical ideas and defend them coherently. In math and physics, I not only had to use what I learned in lecture on the problem sets, but for (almost) the first time, I found it challenging just to get my head around the stuff we were doing. In PWR, my research paper wasn't just a collection of information slapped on a page and molded around a rough theme, like some of the ones I did in high school were. Instead, I had to come up with and make an original point that had yet to be argued anywhere else.

    Dorm life is unparalleled. The dorms are small enough that they become very close-knit units; everyone knows everyone else. You have study groups with your dorm, go to parties (and in some cases, host parties) with them, go on ski trips with them, and on and on. Also, the RA's and other staff are awesome. You'll never get the stereotypical "dorm police" RA that you hear about from other schools. This is changing the subject, but another benefit of this is that you get to know some really amazing people. The kid down the hall might be the next Jane Goodall. Someone downstairs was the illustrator for a children's book. It doesn't feel weird to predict which people in the dorm will win Nobel prizes. And this paragraph absolutely does NOT do full justice to the amazingness of Stanford dorm life.

    I'd also like to weigh in on the issue of state school vs. Stanford. I was considering two state schools as my alternative choices. In hindsight, I would have done well at either. I would have found the other kids like me and spent time with them. I would have challenged myself academically. But at Stanford, I get challenged every day academically without having to do much to seek out the challenge. And those "other kids like me"? I lived with 88 of them.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
    Sly Si wrote:
    I'd also like to weigh in on the issue of state school vs. Stanford. I was considering two state schools as my alternative choices. In hindsight, I would have done well at either. I would have found the other kids like me and spent time with them. I would have challenged myself academically. But at Stanford, I get challenged every day academically without having to do much to seek out the challenge.

    Thanks, Sly Si, for that and the rest of your reply. Knowing my local circumstances as you do, this is particularly useful information. Yes, a motivated student can get a good education and find a peer group at a state flagship university, but at least one appeal of a highly selective school like Stanford is to find so much more of that.
  • superwizardsuperwizard Registered User Posts: 1,251 Senior Member
    Wow thank you all for all this wonderful information. It helps a lot those who are going to start in a couple of week's time really get to know Stanford better. Just imagine how much you would have benifited from this information the last few weeks of summer last year!
This discussion has been closed.