Tips for the Stanford Supplemental Essays

Expert Guide to Understanding US and UK College Rankings

Stanford University is keen to understand the depth and breadth of your personality, something that doesn’t reflect in your transcripts. That is why Stanford’s supplemental essays are designed to get to know you beyond the academic data. This is your chance to diversify your application. Show elements of intellectual curiosity, volunteering experience, interdisciplinary learning, reading engagement, and tell them who you truly are as an individual.

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (in <50 words)

It is okay to mention the obvious ones as long as you are able to shed light on the ‘why’. Focus on the word ‘today’. Think about present times, rather than historical events. For instance, why is the pandemic the most significant challenge faced by society today? Is it due to the reality of the inequities exposed to us? In that, you could talk about the economic, social, or political inequities. Your answer need not be related to your major, since you will probably be talking about it in the other Stanford essays.

How did you spend your last two summers? (in <50 words)

This is a straightforward question requiring a straightforward answer. With 50 words, all you need to do is mention major activities from the last two summers. Preferably, you need to talk about how you furthered your passion for your major. Generally, students undertake research, an internship, or attend a summer program. On the other hand, you may have been exploring a country, pursuing a hobby, or taking on additional familial responsibilities. All of these fit the bill.

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (in <50 words)

Talk about your beliefs or passions through this one. If you wish you could have been at the time Simone de Beauvoir wrote the ‘Second Sex’ or during Archimedes’ ‘Eureka’ moment, tell why. Remember, this needs to be personal and relevant to you. Do not write something for the sake of sounding cool.

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family. (in <50 words)

This could be the essay that diversifies your application. Stanford is keen to put you into context. Who are you outside of the classroom? Are you someone who loves volunteering at an organization every weekend? What drives you to do that? What do you learn from it?

Are you a caregiver to someone in your home/community? Do you lead a reading club? Do you undertake gardening initiatives? Are you part of a cult? Just kidding about that last one. But you get the picture.

List five things that are important to you (in <50 words)

Be yourself, and list things that are important to you. Really.

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. (100 to 250 words)

This is the ‘intellectual vitality’ essay. Demonstrate your quirks with respect to something you are deeply passionate about. How did you truly pursue something that has come to shape you? Dive as deep as you can. Answers for this could range from undertaking lab-based research or deep reading novels from different countries or participating in tons of debates! It all boils down to your major. Choose a relevant activity that you feel you have taken to its highest level.

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 — know you better. (100 to 250 words) 

Did you hear another chance at a ‘Why Stanford’ essay? Yes, you did.

You can use this prompt to talk more about why you have picked Stanford and how it could satiate your academic and extra-curricular interests. You could also talk about your major in this essay. Moreover, feel free to talk about your unique personality and what you would like to share/learn from your roommate.

Please describe what aspects of your life experiences, interests, and character would help you make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University. (in <250 words)

This is your place to shine. Talk about your unique life experiences or interests that has made you the person you are today. Choose something truly distinguishing or unique; avoid writing about things that are common. Find ways you will make distinct contributions to the Stanford community and write about those.

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