How to Get Into Stanford....By Someone Who Didn't


I’ve seen your posts for a long time and it was clear how much you wanted to get admitted to Stanford. Frankly, I was a little surprised you didn’t. I enjoyed reading your take on the process; you make some great points.

But let me say this: you are too hard on yourself. For one thing, you are obviously not boring. But mostly, you are leaving out of one of the most important reasons you did not get accepted. In a word, it’s “RANDOMNESS”. First of all, you have 47,000 applicants for 2000 positions. Secondly, and perhaps even more important, Stanford - and every selective school - is trying to construct a class consisting of a wide variety of students. They want students of different backgrounds, different interests, different approaches to life etc. etc. So in other words, there isn’t a single “formula” or “something Stanford is looking for”. You were more than qualified, and in another year or with another constellation of random factors you could well have been admitted. Though your guidelines are valid, ultimately a successful application to Stanford (unless you are an Intel winner, child of a very major donor, or a recruited athlete) is going to be part lottery winner, part dumb luck.

By the way, you’re going to be fine.

“you are leaving out of one of the most important reasons you did not get accepted. In a word, it’s “RANDOMNESS”.”

I did get accepted to Stanford for graduate school. To be honest I have never known why I was accepted while other great students were rejected. I have always assumed that I was helped by geographic diversity, strong GRE scores, and strong references (I had been working and got along very well with my boss). However, my undergrad grades were marginal for Stanford, and other strong students, including some with higher undergrad GPAs, are turned down all the time.

I do think that it is at best very hard to predict who will get accepted, and not fully possible to know why any particular person was accepted or rejected. Stanford or another equal sized school could fill an entire freshman class with very strong students who had been rejected by Stanford and have a class which is academically just as strong as the actual freshman class at Stanford. The same could be said of other top US schools.

Robab, you’re obviously a very interesting person. Unfortunately, there are many interesting kids with great grades and the whole shebang, more than Stanford can accept. I hope you get into a great school but I’m sure you’ll do just fine wherever you end up. Good luck!

It’s not random. They know the sorts they want and who leaves them lukewarm, at best. Kids could stand to understand what that is, not guess.

OP doesn’t know why she/he didn’t get in.

“If you were rejected and all your scores were above 700s, then you were rejected for a reason other than your scores…” Duh. There’s a full app and challenging supp. Not just a report of grades, ECs, whatever you feel like writing. Not just wanting them since lower school (as if that proves snything.)

Of course it’s not completely random. What I’m saying is that there is a significant element of randomness given the enormous number of applicants and the imperfection of the system, as well as the fact that AO’s are human beings with emotions and biases like everyone else. I mean, think about it, an AO is not some godlike creature: s/he is a modestly paid midlevel employee of Stanford who did not even necessarily attend college there. Because of that, I hate to see kids beating themselves up trying to figure out what was wrong with them that they got rejected. Sometimes you can do everything right, and still not get picked. There is simply no magic formula. (And btw, my kid got in.)

I found this a fun and interesting read, with much imbedded truth. Based on the few kids who have gotten in out of the dozens I’ve interviewed, there was indeed a sense of authenticity. But who is going to read this who is authentic? If you are on CC, you are trying hard to get in, thus not authentic. But you’re pretty damn close. Good luck to you.

Your post is important. You can still do everything right, and NOT be admitted to your first choice. It happens a lot. The colleges are looking who to give their golden ticket to. They have lots of buckets of “types” of students. The one who got picked ahead of you may have been in the same bucket, and they didn’t need another so soon.
Don’t beat yourself up. All you can do is work hard, and be yourself, and pray for a little luck. The good news is success is not dependent on the name of your college.

This applies to all hard to get into schools. The essays need to be unique, personal and interesting. They should create a sticky for your posts. Lots of good information.

Unless you have a specific HOOK (which includes, legacy, URM, being a great athlete, a big donation etc.), aside from very good objective data, you simply somehow have to make the ADCOM reviewer CARE about you. You have to somehow get the teachers who write LoRs for you to present you as a real person that they like, not just a student who is an awesome student.

Now, here’s the clincher: even if you do all of the above, you still might not get in because others did better jobs than you. It can hurt your ego to admit this, but some people probably did better job at connecting with the ADCOM reviewer due to their effort and some luck. It happens. You can’t be great at everything.

Now, here’s another, even bigger clincher. Even if you don’t get in and you end up going to other options, i.e., Honors College with merits, your state school with cheaper state tuition etc., you have no disadvantage in pursuing what you wanted to do at Stanford and being very successful at it, if you are really motivated.

What’s really important is your attitude and your dedication. You are the same you no matter which school you attended.

Case in point: A kid with very high stats (near perfect GPA, 1550+SAT and NMF) didn’t get into any top college and went to a mid level UC. He did very well in CS there, got a great job in cyber security with a top govt agency, a job many kids at top colleges would love to get.

To everyone who read this thread:

I know from school, she is one of my dearest friends and I just found this post!!!

In my opinion, she freaking deserved to get into Stanford! I was so shocked when she didn’t. If you knew her IRL, you would see how precious this human being is.

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Stanford is overrated, lol.
I hope writing this thread is cathartic for you OP. There are so many wonderful places out there that you can thrive, be productive, and be happy. Stanford just happens not to be one of them. Their loss.
Good luck.

The Stanford alumni magazine had an article about admissions:

The feedback in the following magazine issue was interesting also,

There’s no secret formula for getting into selective schools. Students who got accepted don’t know what it was about their app that tipped the scale in their favor. Students who are academically qualified but didn’t get accepted can’t know for sure why they got that decision either. It’s nice that you want to help other students, but unless you got direct feedback from the college you really don’t know what worked and what didn’t.

I hope you have other affordable options that you’re excited about.

“if you have high 600s, you’ll be okay if you’re low-income or a minority (black, hispanic, or an underrepresented Asian like Vietnamese).”

New to this, but I’m curious, where are you getting this that Vietnamese is URM? Would you even mark that down as Asian, or other?

@cuteraspberries thank you so much for posting this. sending you lots of love and good luck–it’s all part of the process:) you’re going to have an amazing college experience no matter where you end up going. but thank you again for imparting on this little corner of the internet some of the wisdom and knowledge you’ve gained from this whole journey, your shared perspective is truly a gift.

My advice is twofold:

  1. spend your years in high school focused on activities, responsibilities and people you find meaningful (as opposed to selecting on the basis of what you think colleges want to see), &
  2. don’t get over-invested in any one particular college.

There are hundreds out there. If you didn’t consult data from ranking lists you’ll probably find 100 that would be a good fit to what you need. Find a college that’s a good fit don’t make yourself a fit to a college. You’ll be in a college for 4 years but you’ll be yourself forever. If you mold yourself to a college you’re stuck with the outcome.

Does the Stanford SU6 GPA weight AP classes at all? What about honors classes?

Maybe Stanford saw you as someone who overthought everything.

@cuteraspberries I think you come across as an interesting person. Where did you end up getting admitted to and going? By the way, in response to the above poster, I think most elite colleges except for MIT, Harvey Mudd and CalTech are overrated but not as much as some other schools which I am not going to mention. By the way, I always marvel at some kids who are really, really passionate about certain areas during high school, because I wasn’t passionate about anything during high school except for skipping school; and having observed and spoken to my kid who graduated from high school, he developed an interest area but I would not say he was really, really passionate about the area. I am hoping that he develops a passion in college or at least a deeper liking for a field of studies in college.

I guess I am more in the camp of: “Develop passion for the area you are in.” For example, I developed passion for an area of work I was in so really make it a success, but after I made it a success and got out of the field, I am not that interested in the field anymore. lol

@cuteraspberries Where did you end up committing to?