Could someone help me understand the biggest reasons why I was rejected from Stanford REA?

Intended Major: Science Technology and Society (Originally thought it was epidemiology related but later realized it was more of a history / humanities major)

ACT: 35

SAT 2s Chem, Phys, Math 2: 800


Submitted – Lang (5), French (4), Chem (4), Organic Chemistry I & II with As
Did not submit – Seminar
Taking – Physics C E&M, Macro, Micro, BC Calc, CSA, Bio

GPA: 3.86

Main ECs:

Internally published biochem research at Stanford

Paper submitted and being peer-reviewed on Mercury toxicity co-written with another nearby uni

Made short environment films that got accepted into an international film festival

More Biochem research at SRI that didn’t result in anything

Lesser ECs:

Public health club president

Scioly (medaled 6 times)

Board & treasurer of a pretty big NPO

Chem club VP

Volunteer work at various places

Chemistry lectures to middle school kids over covid


AP Chem Teacher, Lang Teacher, and Stanford Research professor
Read my research prof’s one and it was pretty good.

Essays :

I personally didn’t like it after reading it post-rejection but I’ve been told they’re decent. I’d say a 6/10.

No interview because I live in the bay and they don’t do interviews in my area.

Also applied as an international, kind of. I live in the Bay Area and attend a public hs but I have a Canadian citizenship

Too many qualified applicants for too few spots. But I am sure you will get some offers elsewhere. Focus on those applications and move on from Stanford.


Ah I see. Was there nothing glaring in the app?

They reject more than 95% of their applicants, and for every qualified applicant who they accept, they reject more than five qualified applicants. Looking at what you presented here, I am pretty sure than there was nothing there which caused the AOs to look at you applicant and say “nope, not @whippymop”. Rather, they had 100 applicants like you and decided that they only wanted 20, and selected the 20 who they felt fit the best in the class that they were trying to put together. In another year with a different set of applicants, they could have selected you (or not - don’t apply again next year under the assumption that they will accept you next year!).

Your GPA is slightly low, compared to most Stanford admitted students, but you had some good accomplishments, so it was most likely mostly a numbers game, which went against you.

Good luck - there are many amazing colleges out there for which you are an excellent candidate.


Your GPA seems on the low end for someone applying to the likes of Stanford and while none of us are grading your essays, you’re only giving yourself a 6/10 which is implying they’re weak.

You’re an international which means there are less spots for internationals that US citizens off the bat and a heck of a lot of internationals applying.

I don’t know what rigor was available at your school but by senior year of high school many people have usually taken more than 3 AP courses so perhaps that is also an issue and you’re not proven in your current coursework yet.

It could be a myriad of reasons or just a ton of applicants that just as a whole have are equal or better qualified in their opinion. A few years ago I heard that Stanford could fill their incoming class with 5 equal classes with all the students they rejected. There are tons of great schools out there and just like the Ivy’s are not the be all to end all, neither is Stanford.

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I see! Thank you so much. I guess the only thing I can work to improve is GPA slightly in senior year and my essays, which I think are much better this round. Do you think taking more SAT subject tests might make up for the lack of APs?

I don’t know how Stanford considers SAT and in fact most SATs have been cancelled throughout California altogether with Subject tests taking a backseat to the SAT seats so I wouldn’t worry about it. If you were rejected, I’m not sure you can reapply for RD. Isn’t this your senior year that you applied? You should go on the Stanford page for someone who is more familiar with the Stanford application process but these are some of the things that stand out and would the similar if you applied to Ivy Leagues and other T20 schools.

No. And I am confused. You’ve already applied. There are no further SAT subject tests until March, and even if you could take them, I doubt colleges would allow you to submit them. College really are not that interested in test scores in the context of the whole app, and especially not this year. They don’t admit kids based on more and more test scores. Very competitive colleges are interested in the whole package.

Your emphasis on test scores isn’t helpful.

ah I see. That’s quite unfortunate. Do you think there’s anything glaring that I could do to improve what I have right now? I’m not looking to reapply to stanford but potentially get into a t10 like duke or JHU

You can update your other colleges in the new year with grades and any accomplishments since you applied. Anything you send must be relevant and concise. Do not email any AO at a top school unless there is a legitimate reason to do so. Do not send a long email saying why the schools is right for you, etc… Emailing withiut a legitimate reason will work against you.

ETA: @whippymop hopefully you applied to match and safety schools. If not, I suggest you do so.

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Right! I applied to NYU and purdue non engi / all the UCs. I think I’m covered there

Did you apply for financial aid?

Stanford says that they are need aware for international applicants. All colleges have lost millions in dollars in this pandemic. If you applied for financial aid as an international applicant, this would be adversely effect your outcome. I think the only ones that are need blind for international applicants are Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.

0 Fin aid :slight_smile:. I was under the impression that an intl living in the U.S with 0 fin aid would have a similar process to a domestic applicant.

Don’t worry a top tier college will accept you. You look pretty impressive.

What do you mean “kind of”?

If you also have US citizenship or permanent residency, you would be a domestic applicant for US universities. If you are on a non-immigrant visa, you would be an international applicant. If you have undocumented or DACA status, each university may have its own policy on the matter.

As a Canadian citizen, there are many fine Canadian universities that have lower tuition for Canadian citizens.

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I mean I’ve lived in the US all my life. I’d like to stay here if I can. I’m getting my citizenship in a year. Sure, I’m considered an international applicant, but I had the impression that need aware universities might consider me similarly as my domestic peers. I might be wrong though – I’m not sure.

Is your GPA weighted or unweighted? 3.86 is sort of okay if unweighted. It is quite low for Stanford if it is weighted.

The main issue is that the acceptance rate at Stanford is very, very low. I have heard it said that Stanford could take their entire incoming freshman class, reject it, and fill the entire freshman class from the students that they rejected without lowering any meaningful academic metric. In an article sent to alumni a few years ago Stanford said that they estimate that 80% of their applicants are academically fully qualified to attend. They accept less than 5%.

What is your budget? Is this a case where for Stanford you would make it work because it is Stanford?

It sounds like you are a strong student, but for Stanford are an international student. That will lower your chances from what was already low. You will be considered an international student unless and until you have a green card (ie, permanent resident visa) or US citizenship.

I do know someone who did the bachelor’s degree at Toronto, and their master’s at Stanford. I used to work with someone who did their bachelor’s at Toronto, and their master’s and PhD at Princeton. Admissions is more predictable at the top Canadian universities, prices are much lower, and top graduate programs in the US do know how strong the undergraduate programs are at top universities in Canada.

By the way it did occur to me that your misunderstanding of the STS major might have showed up in your essays. Stanford does not admit by major for undergrad (graduate programs are different), so I do not know how much this will matter. However, it might make it look as if your interest in Stanford is more due to the name than the reality.


What stood out for me is your misunderstanding of the STS program. Your EC’s are very life sciences oriented and the STS program is interdisciplinary with a major dose of humanities as you later realized. Perhaps your essays/short answers/EC list did not match up for this program or your essays indicated that you failed to understand this program and raised a red flag with the AO. In any event that is water way under the bridge. If you are still working on apps/essays, make sure when you write about your interests/potential major(s) in college they match up to your academic record and EC’s. Do your research on those majors at each school as well. Sometimes it is effective to customize your essays to specific course offerings or even professors who are known in their field and tying those to your interests/studies/accomplishments.


I see. yeah my GPA is UW. I guess that’s true. maybe it was more of a other people were better than i wasn’t qualified.

I’m 100% full pay though.

As for Canada, my only gripe is the fact that I’ve lived in the U.S my entire life

It’s possible that your essays or something about the specific program you were applying for were a minor reason, but really there are just too many qualified applicants. It’s hard to stand out. You also need to realize (and I am stealing this metaphor from longtime poster) that admissions is like choosing people for the high school musical. If they are looking for a great soprano and you are an alto you might not get the part. There may just be too many kids in that slot.

My humanities/social science guy did better than we expected, while my computer guy did a little worse. (They both got into great schools in the end, so no complaints.) I think there are just fewer guys with perfect verbal scores who have taken every history AP the school offers than math and science guys.