Things to mention in Stanford "Why us?" essay

Exactly what the title says. Any fellow applicants, alumni, staff, counselors, etc. know any obscure facts about stanford that might be cool to talk about? I will try to avoid things that you could just find out by googling, since that’s probably what people will go to first.

There is no need for “obscure facts.” I think too often people google and mention how excited they are to work with Professor X or take a certain class etc. etc. and don’t mention actual reasons for applying. Think of criteria often mentioned for choosing colleges: size, location, academics, EC’s, and especially “vibe.” Cost and career outcome are important too.

If a friend asked you why Stanford, what would you say?


I doubt random facts thrown out by people on the internet are going to create the foundation for a compelling essay.

Why do you want to go to Stanford? Because it’s number 3 or whatever on the US News list? Or why?

A “good essay” isn’t going to be good because you picked “the right topic”. It’ll be good if …

  1. trading out Stanford for Columbia, or MIT, or Berkeley, or any other school would make the essay fall apart,
  2. trading out you for any other applicant would make the essay fall apart.

You need to focus on why this school is the right fit for YOU. This is an opportunity to tie YOUR unique strengths and interests to what Stanford bring to offer and note what YOU can bring to the community.

IMO discussing a random obscure fact you learned about on a blog is not the way to go.

Stanford doesn’t really have a traditional why us essay.

Here are the three short essays for this year:

  1. The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning.

  2. Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate—and us—get to know you better.

  3. Please describe what aspects of your life experiences, interests and character would help you make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University.

#1 and #2 are straightforward. For #2 you might ask a couple of close friends what they would want to know about you.

For #3 you want to be specific and focus on the contribution you will make and how you will engage at Stanford…which should be related to the ECs and academic strengths on your application.

Things you might include clubs/activities you will join or be interested in starting, major/a class you will take, a professor you would be interested in doing research with, a program you would participate in, e.g., study abroad, see here for more. Avoid writing about how Stanford’s ‘vibe’ fits you, or you love the location, will thrive in the weather, or will get a high paying job upon graduation.

Good luck.


I may be mistaken, but I think there is actually a “why us” in the short response section - the additional prompts where you only have 50 words to answer, though, so it must be something very concise. At least this was the case in the past - haven’t looked this year.

The three questions I noted above are directly from this year’s common app short essay section (and match Stanford’s website).

Stanford also asks the following required five short response questions (max 50 words each).

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?
How did you spend your last two summers?
What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?
Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family.
List five things that are important to you.

Ah then they have changed them. In that short response section they used to have a prompt that was the equivalent of the “why us” essay. But again, with a 50 word max, not really an essay.

Oh, this is what is was last year: Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford.

So not exactly a “why us” but similar in spirit. Looks like they’re not using that one anymore, though.