top of page

An Overview of Stanford University

Stanford University Memorial Church
Memorial Church

Stanford University - officially named Leland Stanford Junior University but known as “the Farm” - opened its doors in 1891. Unlike most colleges founded during that period, it has been nonsectarian and coeducational from the beginning. 7,761 undergraduate students and 9,565 graduate students currently attend Stanford. On February 6, I had the pleasure of attending an information session and a student-led tour of Stanford. I took all the photos in this article.


With 8,180 contiguous acres, Stanford University’s campus is one of the largest in the country and even has its own zip code. It is located in the San Francisco Bay area, in the heart of Silicon Valley, adjacent to the city of Palo Alto, 30 minutes from San José and 45 minutes from San Francisco.

Hewlett Teaching Center at Stanford University
Hewlett Teaching Center


Stanford University is made up of seven schools, three of which award undergraduate degrees:

  • the School of Humanities and Sciences,

  • the School of Engineering, and the

  • Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability.

The schools that only award graduate degrees are the School of Medicine, the School of Law, the Graduate School of Education, and the Graduate School of Business.

The Doerr School of Sustainability is brand new, having opened its doors last fall. The School of Humanities and Sciences is the largest of the three undergraduate schools, offering 50 majors and awarding three-quarters of Stanford’s undergraduate degrees. The School of #Engineering offers ten majors of its own (Aeronautics & Astronautics, Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Systems Engineering, Management Science & Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering) as well as six interdepartmental majors.

The most popular majors at Stanford are computer science, human biology, economics, and engineering. Unique majors include Atmosphere/Energy (an interdepartmental engineering major), Digital Humanities, Symbolic Systems, and Science, Technology, and Society.

To graduate, all students must fulfill writing, foreign language, and Civic, Liberal, and Global Education requirements. In addition, they need to take 11 general education requirements labeled Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing in eight different areas. These include two courses each in Aesthetic and Interpretive Inquiry, Scientific Method and Analysis, and Social Inquiry, and one course each in Applied Quantitative Reasoning, Creative Expression, Exploring Difference and Power, Ethical Reasoning, and Formal Reasoning.

At Stanford, the scholastic year is divided into quarters, academics are rigorous, and classes are small. 79% of classes have fewer than 30 students, and 93% are taught by faculty (as opposed to graduate students). Introductory seminars, small, discussion-based courses taken by almost all first-year students, typically have only 10 to 16 students.

Huang Engineering Center at Stanford University
Huang Engineering Center

Student Life

Stanford considers living on campus to be an essential part of its educational experience and requires all first-year students to do so. Undergraduate students are guaranteed four years of on-campus housing, and 94% of all undergraduates live in Stanford accommodations. Since spring 2021, undergraduate housing has been organized into eight neighborhoods to facilitate community building. Students live with other students from the same neighborhood for all four years, and these neighborhoods host social events for residents. Each neighborhood offers various options (depending on the class year), including dorms, theme houses, Greek houses, and apartments. #GreekLife, in which 18% of men and 23% of women participate, does not dominate the social life on campus.

Students have over 650 student clubs and organizations, 33 club sports, and several intramural activities to choose from. Approximately 900 students at Stanford participate in one of their 36 NCAA #DivisionI sports teams. Despite the success of its sports teams and excellent athletic facilities, 11 varsity sports were cut two years ago.

Biking is the primary mode of transportation on campus, but students also have access to free shuttle buses, which not only take students around campus but also to downtown Palo Alto and the Cal Train station. Students looking to get off campus on weekends should know that Palo Alto isn’t a college town. A student I spoke with during my visit lamented that because the campus is so large, it takes a little bit of an effort to get into Palo alto, and in any case, there are no low-cost options for dining and entertainment just off campus.

Main Quad at Stanford University
Main Quad


Stanford has one of the highest sticker prices in the nation and just raised its tuition, room, and board by approximately 7%. For the 2023-24 academic year, tuition is projected to be $61,731, plus $753 in mandatory fees and $19,992 in room and board.

On the other hand, Stanford is very generous with its #financialaid, from which two-thirds of its students benefit. It is one of only a handful of colleges in the country that practices need-blind admissions and meets the full demonstrated financial need of domestic students without loans. Financial need is determined based on information gathered from both the CSS Profile and the FAFSA.

Stanford is one of only a handful of colleges in the country that practices need-blind admissions and meets the full demonstrated financial need of domestic students without loans.

The average financial aid package is $66,562 a year. Families with annual incomes below $150,000 yearly (with typical assets) pay no tuition. Those with incomes under $100,000 (and typical assets) pay no tuition, room, or board and have no parental contribution. Families making more than $150,000 still qualify for financial aid. Approximately 90% of families earning between $225,000 and 250,000 a year qualify for financial assistance. Home equity is not considered in the calculation of financial need.

Stanford does not award merit scholarships but confers athletic scholarships as an NCAA Division I school.

Undergraduate students eligible for the #YellowRibbonProgram receive $20,000 a year combined from Stanford and the VA. When added to the amount the #GIBill (Chapter 33) provides for tuition and housing allowance, this amount is enough to cover tuition, room, and board.

#ROTC is only available through crosstown programs: Army at the University of Santa Clara, Air Force at San Jose State, and Navy at UC Berkeley. While the first two are about 30 minutes away by car, Berekely is over a one-hour drive.

Stanford is one of approximately 50 colleges participating in the #QuestBridge National College Match, a program where partner colleges accept and award full scholarships to select high-achieving, low-income students. According to the admissions officer I spoke with, approximately 80 to 90 students a year match with Stanford, and all of them have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of zero. However, many students with higher EFCs who are QuestBridge finalists are accepted during the regular decision round.

Packard Electrical Engineering at Stanford University
Packard Electrical Engineering building


Stanford University has one of the lowest acceptance rates of any U.S. college - at only 3.68% for the 2021-22 application cycle. About 18% of accepted students are children of Stanford graduates or donors. Given that almost 12% of Stanford students participate in varsity athletics, several admissions slots are dedicated to student-athletes each year. Therefore, the acceptance rate for applicants who are not an athlete or the child of graduates or donors is minuscule.

Stanford University has one of the lowest acceptance rates of any U.S. college - at only 3.68%.

For the class that began at Stanford in the fall of 2022, the average GPA of admitted students was 3.96, and 94% were in the top 10% of their high school class. The middle 50th percentile scored between 1500 and 1570 on the SAT (with almost 50% submitting those scores) and between 33 and 35 on the ACT (with nearly 25% of applicants submitting scores).

Stanford accepts the Common App (beginning on August 1) and is one of the few universities to offer a Restrictive Early Action (REA) option. Under REA, applicants must submit their applications earlier (usually by November 1) than the Regular Decision deadline (usually January 5) and may not apply to any other colleges under their Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, Early Decision, or Early Notification plan (with some exceptions).

Students are admitted to the university as a whole rather than to a particular school or major. They have until the end of their sophomore year to declare a major.

Stanford is #testoptional for Fall 2024 entry and is still determining its policy for future classes. It encourages #homeschool applicants to submit scores from SAT Subject Tests (discontinued in 2021), AP, and/or IB exams “as an additional measure of academic preparation.” The university will super score the SAT for students who choose to submit scores.

Though admissions evaluations are #needblind (meaning they will not consider the family’s ability to pay when deciding whether or not to admit a student) for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, this is not the case for international students.

Stanford University Oval
Stanford Oval

Have you visited or attended Stanford University? If so, leave a comment and share your experience.

1 Comment

Very interesting! Thank you for the information!

bottom of page