Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Statistics Bulletin

Some people have asked me to share some statistics for this blog, so here goes. 

Since June 28th (the day this blog was plugged into Google Analytics), we've had 

  •  over 40,000  hits,
  • from 10,192 unique visitors, 
  • from 103 countries,
  • speaking 45 languages. 

(over) 99 countries but Greenland ain't one

Over the last fortnight, we've had visitors from 43 countries, including Cambodia and Oman.

Our top 10 city list:

As you can see from this very scientific Pie Chart, 50% of our traffic is from Chrome, 30% Safari and 14% firefox. IE takes 5%.
We've also had visitors from internal Google, Apple and Facebook IP addresses, which is pretty cool.

Feel free to shoot any questions to

(Update: 9/25 - numbers updated)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

And that's when I's alright now.

I guess it's time for a little confession of my own. ;)

Once upon a time, I was a ProFro.  I'm not quite a freshman, so this is about my only "good" "confession from Stanford" I'm going to make it count.

My first few minutes of Admit Weekend I was utterly bewildered.  Arriving in a place where everyone is incredibly talented and intelligent is a bit of a paradigm shift.  I was walking towards Memorial Auditorium with my parents wondering, "Will I ever be able to relax here?  Will I ever be able to let down my guard?"

And that's when I saw them.  There was a large group of students assembling on the sidewalk.  There were boys in prom dresses and "slutty" Halloween costumes.  Girls were dressed head to toe in neon, sparkles, and hats of all shapes and sizes.  One of the most remarkable individuals was a boy wearing seatless leather pants...and nothing else.
Oh, and everyone was holding musical instruments.

And then the stampede started.  The entire group ran screaming up the street and into the fountain in front of hundreds of ProFros and their families.  Trombonists hopped into the fountain and saxophonists danced in the bushes.  An explosion of high-decibel, high-tempo music came from the band.  It was different than any musical sound I've experienced.  The screaming fanfare of the trumpets, the blast from the tenor saxophones, and the high pitched runs from the piccolos(!!!!) could match that of any Big 10 marching band...however the sight and sound evoked the thrill and ecstasy of a rock concert.  I was enthralled, to say the very least.

Before spending a day on campus, I knew I had found a group of people that wordlessly called my name.

Get ready, Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band.  It's one month until frosh rehearsal, and I will be there.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When the odds are against you...

I'll let you in on a little secret...

Getting into any top school is hard. Yes. There's absolutely no denying that. And yes, it's true that a good many of us have amazing SATs and ACTs and APs and IBs and GPAs and PSATs and SAT IIs  and ABCs and 123s. And then there are the extracurriculars, and the volunteer hours, and the amazing internships, and the leadership roles in this that and the other thing. There's the running comment of "How did I get in here? Everybody has either started an orphanage in Africa or is working on research that will cure cancer or redefine modern-day physics!" And while some of this is in jest, there's also some major truth to it.
When the odds are against you, do not, I repeat DO NOT decide to not apply or not even try because you think you are not good enough to get in. GO FOR IT. I know first hand how much many people struggle to succeed, and let me tell you what I've learned: Stanford is an amazing school. They want diverse and unique individuals, not just people who have gotten all the right test scores and have done all the right activities. They care about the personal strengths and character in their classes, and it's not all about the "perfect" application. That secret, when you realize the truth of it, is such a glorious thing. Because for a person coming from the non-traditional background of a high school student, it can literally be something from your wildest possible dreams.

The living proof

Many people are not given the same opportunities others are. Guess what though? Just because you may have had to face some difficult times does not mean you do not have the world ahead of you. Yes, I know you've had to work harder to be successful. There's a statistic somewhere out there that says children from poorer backgrounds have it 44% harder to succeed in everything, since they do not have the privileges their peers who live comfortable have. I'm not talking the rich here- I mean the average middle class.
The beauty of Stanford is that they can recognize motivated people, and people who have developed resilience and determination. You may not have a 2100+ SAT or 4.0 GPA or be the president of anything or have a zillion volunteer hours because you may not be able to keep all that going. But the admissions counselors will recognize your skills and accomplishments, because in a way your accomplishments are not as easily measurable as some of your peers' are.

My story

Yes, I do know this on a personal level, and am not just making stuff up. I know how hard it is to stick to school when your life is falling down around you (or seems to be). I am living proof of how Stanford truly values character and people, and not truly just numbers. While numbers are important as well, I know for a fact that if that was what was important to Stanford, I would not be writing this right now.
I went to public schools my whole life. The one I graduated from was actually mostly comprised of  middle to upper income households, and as I lived with my godparents my senior year, I have to say my senior year was very stable financially. But that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't made some of my own decisions.
I grew up on a farm originally, in a single-wide trailer. I had a mom and step dad and three half brothers: two, three, and ten years younger than me. I went to a small county school of about 100 people per grade from Kindergarten to freshman year. Life had some major ups and downs, as things with my parents were never great. It was like a sinusoidal wave; there were crests when things were great, and there were troughs when I was separated from the family and kept locked out. Even now, I am still coming to terms with all that happened.
After my freshman year, my family became homeless. My parents cut off all ties with everyone outside of our nuclear familiar unit. For six months, we were homeless. During this time, I was home-schooled through a program at an alternative high school. It was the kind where the majority of the students are just barely struggling to graduate, and are in and out of juvie and have substance abuse issues. My parents, to my frustration, wouldn't let me return to public school during that year for a variety of reasons.
April 2010 found my family moving into a new house. We knew no one, and being a new student was difficult. My new school had some minor gang issues. I was finally able to take my first AP class, although I could only take two since I had a lot of other graduation requirements to take, being a transfer student.
Halfway through my junior year, things started to hit a trough again with my parents. It grew to a point that it had never reached before. I will spare the details, but will say that it was never physical abuse.
Long story short, I decided to file a Child in Needs of Services case, which is very similar to a CPS case in Washington state. My mother fought the case. The Commissioner who presided over my case couldn't believe it. He suggested emancipation, and my mother agreed. That was July 22, 2011. Not quite a year ago yet.
At their request, I have not talked to anyone in my family since.
Since then, life has been much improved. I literally can't say how much it has. I went to yet another school, but being a new student was worth it this time. Prior to my senior year, I'd never been in a club or had volunteered; I'd never been allowed to. My world all of a sudden opened up before me, and it was so exquisitely breath-taking.
There have been major emotional struggles, but I've been able to grow a lot through this.

In conclusion

Now, let me tell you why I told you that long story. It was not for sympathy, no sir. I am the last person who expects sympathy, so don't bother. My attitude is BRING IT ON, which brings me to my point.Just because you think you can't get in, apply anyway. That's the beauty of this stupendous school: it's not all about the numbers. It's one of the top schools in the country, and it values applicants for who they are as people. They take the time to get to know many of the aspects of your life. They want to admit you, and not your statistics.
That's why it's so important to go for it, even when many people around you -even your own parents- think you can't.
Don't let anything get in the way of your goals. You have the power over your own life, and you may be surprised at what happens when you shoot for the wildest of dreams. This time last year, I was literally fighting for my freedom, where my best option if I failed was a community college. Now I'm going to Stanford.
When the odds are against you, don't let them stop you. Let nothing stop you.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Nerdy Kid Loves Loud Guitars

Hello my lovely brohemians!

First off, thanks to all the lovely and talented people putting this blog together! I leap at any excuse to blab about myself, and all the admins and writers have put together a quality site so far! [Virtual high-five!]

But anywho, onto selfish me time!

I am Andrew, from the caffeinated hipster's paradise that is Seattle, WA. But, unlike hipsters, I have genuine passions for things (including disliking hipsters, which in a way kind of makes me hipster I guess…? (Hipster-ception?(Parenthetical-ception!)))

(#toomanyparentheticals (#irony))

…Sorry about that. ANYWAY! I am a bonafide geek. I love me some sci-fi, be it in book, tv, movie, comic book, or video game. Doctor Who is my favorite show, which I think says a lot about me (specifically my ability to stick with a show even when it gets terrible….Looking at you Russel T. Davies!) I watch TV obsessively and geek out over movies, loving to process the finer points of pop culture. I also consider myself a creative type, doing quite a lot of theater and writing during high school. I acted in a bazillion plays, and even got around to writing one, so theater is a passion well-practiced.

As you may not have been able to tell by my inability to write with anything remotely resembling formal style and proclivity to make up words (brohemians?) I absolutely love to write, both just on my own and on another blog. I write plays, short stories, reviews, essays, and whatever strikes my fancy. 

Additionally (because you didn't think I'd let you go that easy, did you?) I am a music FANATIC. I play (at last count) eight different instruments. I write, play, record, produce, listen to, review, an obsess over music. I play in two bands and make my own music.

….Blahblahblah I'm sure this is boring as hell to most of you. You don't want to know about ME, you want to know about Stanford! SO, how about this change of pace: Why Stanford?

Well, for me it was three-fold:

3) The Academics. Let's face it, Stanford is a good school. It has great faculty, great facilities, endowments, and is certainly a school to get a good education. However, this was less of a deciding factor for me, because my other schools were pretty much on par academically (as most schools are.) There isn't as much of a jump in quality from school to school as people make it out to be. It's certainly a factor, but as a friend of mine says "Chemistry isn't going to change if you study it at Harvard or UW."

2) The Quarter System. I LOVE the quarter system because I'm a nut who wants to study everything. Having an extra quarter to take extra classes is EXTREMELY attractive to me. I want to double major (or at the very least major, minor, and take a bunch of electives) and the flexibility that the quarter system provides is great for that! Plus, it makes me feel better about my possible Film And Media Studies Major if I can also take useful classes like Comp Sci or Economics.

1) The geekiness. This is probably the end-all and the be-all. The Big Daddy and the Little Sister. The….third thing and it's compliment? Anyway, Stanford is a geeky school. No way to argue that. And this particular zeitgeist was captured perfectly for me when I visited campus and went with my dad to the Stanford/UW game. I care ZERO about sports, and adore music, so I was excited to see the band play. And when they came out playing "All Right Now" in Star Wars outfits, I knew this was a school where I would feel right at home. This was a school where I could put my Doctor Who posters on my wall and be appreciated. This was a school where I could invite people over for Settlers Of Catan marathons.  This was a geeky, nerdy, school, and that was the kind of school that I want. 

After all, in my application where it asks for five words to describe yourself, I chose:
"Nerdy Kid Loves Loud Guitars."

There's a reason that Nerdy was the first word I chose, and it's the same reason that Stanford was the school I chose. Nerdiness is a part of me and a part of Stanford, making me a part of Stanford too. 

-Andrew W.

Connecting the Splotches

They say that hindsight is 20/20. Well, I say that Life just gives us crappy prescriptions for the future. I mean,  whoever said that Life was a certified optometrist? Now, I could try to tell you how and why I was accepted into such a prestigious university, but I couldn't, and I won't, because even those with perfect vision squint in the sunlight.

Perhaps you'd like to hear about the significant happenings of December 9, 2011. Maybe you'd like to know that I was located in my counselor's office when I opened the email. It is quite possible that you'd like to envision a tall young woman bear hug a faculty member as the two figures dance to the music of their ecstatic screams.

But that stuff doesn't matter. I believe that the background, most times, is more important than a short story of a snippet in time. I was born in Los Angeles. No, not the Los Angeles of beaches, surfers, and large sunglasses, but the area in which fireworks in December aren't actually fireworks. My memories are dim, but I distinctively remember moving to Arizona when I was 9, then back to LA when I was 13, then up to the realm of Northern California when I was 14. I even lived in the infamous Compton, Ca. Yes, be scared; I was scared, too. My childhood was far from perfect. The white picket fence was graffitied, and the lilies didn't quite grow like they were supposed to. Despite this metaphorical shack, though, I always had the sun of knowledge and hope beaming down upon my misfortune. 

If you were to talk to second grade me, she would tell you that in a decade she'd be attending Notre Dame University. If you were to speak to 9th grade Jo, she would tell you that Stanford was her number one pick. If you were to run into the Jo of 11th grade, she'd confess that in 2012 she would be a proud golden bear. And if you were to interview her the day before Yale's rejection letter, she would insinuate that snow boots were looking pretty tempting. As is obvious, I am a bit indecisive. Yet, above all, I always knew that education was my gateway to freedom. When it came time to write essays for colleges and scholarships, I was unashamed to detail both my past and my aspirations. This foster child with the metaphorical mind permitted her yearnings to roam freely. I guess that is my biggest advice! Don't be afraid to bear your inner soul. The college that accepts both your smarts and your flaws is the place you are meant to be. Instead of allowing the pressure of others to guide you, allow that voice you hear everyday to sing, even if it is a bit off-key. 

Being that I am to attend the glorious Stanford University in the fall, you probably assume that I can connect the dots. But as I mentioned earlier, I can't. In fact, the dots aren't even dots-- they are splotches, smeared by tears of pain, of joy, of anguish, of farewells, and of new beginnings. I cannot wait to begin college, and I cannot wait for you, whoever you are, to find yourself where you are supposed to be. Even if you don't apply to Stanford, I wish you the best of luck. I wish you challenges and good laughs. I wish you tribulation and hope. One last word from the girl with 5 gray hairs: Do not try to connect the splotches of life; eventually, your permanent marker will run out of ink. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

We Are Gatsby!

Like everyone else here, I have my own ideas about what goes on behind the closed doors of admissions offices at top schools. I personally like to think it involves some arcane ritual with blindfords and a dartboard. However, I thought I'd make my first post about the next step of the process. In the end, we can only choose one school, and many of us end up with the daunting (in an awesome way!) choice of where to matriculate. I'm going to focus on analyzing ,in a completely unbiased fashion, of course, some of the differences I noticed between Stanford and Yale.

During my admit weekend visits, it seemed like a huge amount of the students I met were trying to decide between Stanford and the Big 3 east coast Ivy League schools(Yale, Harvard, and Princeton). Of course,some people were also looking at other places as well. These people mostly fell in one of two groups. Some were considering specialized places such as MIT, Juilliard (music), or Annapolis (NAVY). Others were considering significant scholarships at other schools. I personally can't speak for either of these groups, and the right decision here often depends on one's own specific circumstances.

Stanford and the Ivy Leagues, however, compete on a more even playing field. All offer strong courses in a wide variety of subjects, all have diverse classes, and all limit themselves (except Stanford with some athletes) to need based aid. Since any aid differences can often be eliminated at these 4 schools (all of which happen to be filthy rich) with a little maneuvering, it all comes down to picking the place that feels right.

I'm not going to suggest that there aren't significant differences between the top Ivy League schools, but of the 4, most students seemed to agree Stanford is the odd man out, while the other 3 have relatively similar campus cultures. Therefore, I'll use Yale to represent all of Stanford's East coast competitors.

The location of Stanford is a pretty obvious factor. However, this affects more than just weather (where most would agree Stanford dominates). Stanford's Cali location also has a huge effect on the school's culture. I'd imagine this is largely due to the huge percentage of California students that matriculate. Even though it's packed full of overachievers, Stanford still somehow feels cool and relaxed. despite this, everyone is still working incredibly hard. This has lovingly been dubbed the "duck syndrome",but I honestly felt the effect it had was creating a relatively more warm and enjoyable environment. Yalies struck me as a bit more outwardly intense and competitive. Everyone was still incredibly friendly and welcoming, but I personally felt a bit less comfortable in this environment.

I also heard quite a few people worrying about the prestige of the schools. I think this is kind of ridiculous at this level, but many felt Stanford was less prestigious that it's Ivy League counterparts. I wouldn't necessarily agree with this. I think Stanford is kind of like Fitzgerald's Gatsby. It's the new money among these academic powerhouses that existed long before California was even a state! Personally, I found this exciting. The Ivy Leagues are the top schools of the past, but Stanford is the future! This is reflected in it's Silicon Valley location, it's STEM prowess, and (a favorite of the Stanford propaganda people) its entrepeneurial spirit.

The last thing I'd like to compare is the schools' student bodies. In reality, the schools admit many of the same people, and both classes end up with incredible people. IN GENERAL, I'd say that Ivy League people seem to be a bit more like what people would expect when they think of students at top schools. Many of these are the type A overachievers who started 5 clubs, saved a small and impoverished country, and somehow had time to self-study for that 18th AP test. At Stanford, quite a few students seem genuinely surprised to have made the cut. It seems that admissions at Stanford tends to look more highly upon essays, quirkiness, and a desire to get out and do something new in the real world. Many will roll their eyes at Stanford's slightly quirkier admissions, but I felt it created an additional layer of diversity that other schools just can't match.

I never really analyzed these factors in depth before choosing a school. That would have been kinda tough since Stanford scheduled their admit weekend literally days before we had to commit to a school (complete coincidence I'm sure). For me, something just clicked. Yale was incredible, but Stanford just had this secret sauce that won me over. Here's my advice to anyone making this kind of choice. Visit both places. Go with your gut. Never look back!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Yes, You Can Talk About Pancakes and Sudoku in a College Application Essay

*This is my personal opinion, from essays I've read, and the essays I've written. From what I've read about admissions, and the letters I've gotten from the university. This is why I believe that I got in.*

So, Let's Pretend For a Moment

We're going to pretend I know how I got in. If you want to play pretend with me, feel free to keep reading. Hopefully I can help make things a little easier for you than they were for me.

So. College essays. Yikes. You've done all you can as far as grades and extracurriculars, and now you're at the application stage. You're wracking your brain for that "perfect topic." That topic that will set you apart from the rest. You know that numbers are important, BUT: if people with 2400s and 4.0s can get rejected or waitlisted, then you know there's gotta be something else that those mysterious admissions officers are looking for. What is it?

That Spark

The people at admissions want to know what sets you apart. What inspires you. Why do they want you around; how will you contribute the the unique, eclectic, diverse world of the Stanford campus? And this is exactly what you have to give them. The unique, goofy, stoic, musical, athletic, quiet, loud, whatever sort of person you are. Don't pretend to be someone else: be who you are. Advice I read that helped me a lot? If you're not funny, don't try to be funny. If you are... go for it. I really took that advice to heart.

A Quick Example: Part of a "Letter to my Roommate":
"I sing show tunes in the shower, and I tell math jokes while playing the guitar. Back massages totally make my day. I firmly hold with the belief that children are much cuter when they're not your own. I eat pancakes at dinnertime, and I think that creamed spinach should not exist. On the other hand, I am totally fine with cottage cheese."

Silly, whimsical, light-hearted, and all true. Don't be afraid to be yourself. Show off what makes you unique, make them remember you. Be as silly or serious as you are. Talk about who you are and what makes you different.

What was something else that made me different? Well, as I alluded to in my "roommate essay," I enjoy math and theatre. In my "What Matters to Me" essay I talked about how the freedom to explore many different ventures was so important to me. That was one thing that set me apart. How do I know this? My admission officer told me as much in a handwritten note:

"Your genuine appreciation for the freedom to pursue many thespian and intellectual interests makes you a wonderful fit for the Stanford environment. I am thrilled for you to bring your love of calculus, math jokes, show tunes, languages and 'poetic gibberish' to the Farm! Looking so forward to meeting you in April!"

Also: Don't be afraid to let other people look at your essays. Some people I know didn't have anyone edit their essays. But for me, having someone else look at them helped, especially for my common app essay. In all honesty, that's the only one I really had people look at and edit, but it was extraordinarily helpful. They clued me in to so many ways to make it better. Of course, now you're probably wondering, "So, what did you write about?"

"What did you write about?" The question I get from all my friends when they heard I got in. The million dollar question. Well, not really, but just about. To be incredibly vague, but hopefully still slightly helpful, I wrote about a person who had influenced me. Were they a particularly good person? No, but they still helped me learn lessons that made me the person that I am today. And I compared it to Cinderella. (No, I was not writing about a boyfriend, in case you were wondering.)

And another pretty important essay:

Intellectual Vitality:

What is intellectual vitality? I honestly don't know. I wrote an essay about it, and I still don't know. But I do know this: I wrote about something I loved. I wrote a story about how I liked to multiply big numbers in my head when I was eight years old. 32 times 28? 896. (Yes, I just did that in my head.) I ended that essay with the passage:
"Over the summer, I went to a drama camp where I sang show tunes, danced the Charleston, and learned Meisner's views on acting, but the one thing I remember most? How dang much I wished someone would come up to me and say, 'Hey, you wanna do some Calculus?'"
This was the hardest essay for me to find a topic. And then I realized: I just had to write about something I loved. Write about something you love, and write it in a way that will capture your audience. Tell them a story, paint a picture, let them see why this is your passion, and why you love it so much. Let them know what makes you tick.

A Quick Summary
  • The people at admissions want to know what make you, you. 
  • If you're not funny, don't try to be funny. If you are... go for it. 
  • Talk about who you are and what makes you different. 
  • Just write about something you love. 
  • Tell them a story, paint a picture, let them see why this is your passion, and why you love it so much. 
  • Let them know what makes you tick.

Friday, June 29, 2012

For International prospectives: What I "think" I did right

Hi, it's Winnie again!

So here's my post on how to approach the college process from an international's perspective! I've actually saved this paragraph for last.
Scanning over what I've just wrote, it feels like the advice I've given is vague and somewhat obvious, but hey! The most obvious things are often the most important, because they're so obvious people tend to overlook them. The application process was a hit and miss experience for me, but I got lucky and did alright.
Here are some of the things I felt I did correctly and made an difference with, hope they help!


If you are studying in an American system school, I guess it's okay to start taking your SATs and APs well into junior year, and start on college applications after summer holidays.
You already have less time for applications and such. Once you start leaving everything to the last minute and start entering you classroom like this every morning,

(Compliments to the awesome StanfordGirlProblems tumblr)

I 'm pretty sure that it'll have a bad impact on your school grades and test grades.

"But procrastinating is human nature!"That's why you should start as early as you can. I definitely procrastinated more than I should've (who doesn't) but I was still relatively safe in the end, sending in my application 2-3 days before the deadline. I started taking my SATs in sophomore year, a total of 2 SAT I's and 2 SAT II's spanning almost 3 years; the slow pacing allowed me to be unproductive now and then, and spared me a crazily intense double identity academic life.

Of course, not everyone decides that they want to study abroad as early as that, and don't freak out if you're only starting to prepare at the end of your junior year-- it's just that you have to be more unforgiving with yourself, that's all.


Pay attention to your school's bulletin, and squeeze out everything you can get from the school

Maybe it's just because of my specific Asian culture, but honestly, it still kind of awes me how many clubs and startups and leadership positions people have in the States. At first, it felt as if everyone but me had a ton of diverse experiences and impressive records.
But actually, I've found that my school's bulletin was a great place to find stuff that interested me, and just by regularly scanning it and handing in forms now and then, I managed to go to a lot of unforgettable events.
Oftentimes important events or serious academic positions recruit via school connections, so look out for the latest school announcements! (Remember, how passionate you are about your experiences is still more important than the number of experiences you had. But that's not exactly relevant to this international student post and should be left for another article.)

Here's another example and advice specific to people who live in non-English speaking countries:

The Taiwanese high school system is typically very inflexible, but we have a special exemption system where you can take a test and be exempted from certain required course. I heard of this via our online announcement system; a small line of text admist all the other announcements.
The discovery helped me a LOT in the past 3 years;  taking out a 6 hour chunk of English classes per week out of an 9-hour day schedule, it definitely took a lot of pressure off my shoulders.If your school offers something like this, do not let go of this opportunity.(If you're considering studying abroad, I'm assuming your English is better than most of your school peers) 
If you don't know if your school offers something like this, ask and ask and ask and pester the school administration (in a polite way) or make deals with your English teacher or find other ways that might work. Try until you're sure there isn't any other way, and after that don't let yourself dwell on it too much.

Google anything you don't know

If you lack anything, search the almighty Internet. You've probably noticed that I'm not going to talk about how to prepare for the SAT, what the format is for the SAT, what in the world is an SAT.
The reason is that just by googling "American college applications" hundreds and thousands of websites pop up telling you the nuts and bolts of the system : ) ((I especially recommend Wikipedia and CollegeConfidential, though take the information in the latter with a grain of salt.))

Do everything you have to do and more

We didn't have a School Profile. I had to help my school's counseling office write it. What's more, my school's English website was last updated in 2006 and actually has less information on it than the Wikipedia school page.
So I spent at least 20 hours with 2-3 classmates who were also planning on studying abroad, running around the school gathering statistics from different offices, searching the Ministry of Education's website for education requirements then translating them, designing the profile format... If I may say so, I think the result looked pretty badass.

All the good universities in America definitely have a penchant for students who make the most of their environment; the lack of resources international students have can actually be used to our advantage. Show them that despite having to go out of your way to take standardized tests, to relearn courses for the tests aforementioned, and lacking stuff that every other American school apparently has, you found a way around it and still enjoyed yourself in high school.
Which brings me to the last thing I wanted to talk about:


I guess it might be easy to forget, when you're submerged in the doubleload of schoolwork, or when you have marching band competitions and SATs in the same week and 9 finals in the next (believe me, I feel your pain) ESPECIALLY if you grew up in a world similar to mine, where local schools simply look at your scores and admit you.

Like I said before, American universities like to admit students who flourished in their high school environment, and that extends beyond academics. By simply enjoying your high school life and naturally incorporating the fact into your essays, you're adding to your application's appeal.

It's also interesting to note that amongst the other good US unis, I think Stanford gives off a more vibrant, happy, fun-loving vibe.

Maybe, just maybe, the school intentionally chose students who gave them this happy impression .... and maybe it's just a result of having better weather than the East coast Ivies. But it won't hurt you either way! Remember that you only experience high school once ; ) try doing something stupid and fun and whimsical (in a harmless way) when you feel tired and depressed and demotivated. I'm sure that most of you won't have problems finding something fun to do, but I'll be more than happy to share with you a few crazy things I did in high school.
Such as cutting my raincoat into pieces in the pouring rain, and making makeshift rainboots with it just because I thought it would be nicer to have dry feet than dry everything-except-feet.

And having a year-long debate with my friends on what would be more edible, excrement that tasted like curry, or curry that tasted like poop.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Quick overview about myself:  My outside projects and extracurricular activities demonstrated leadership and (some) were pretty unique.  I think one of my main motivators in high school was that my mom passed away when I was 12. Shortly after that, I had to move in with my dad, whom she had divorced earlier on. I spent a lot of time since then... soul-searching, I guess, which helped in my essays. 

That is, by no means, a 'hook' or a grab at pity points, by the way. I suppose it served to provide the admissions officers with a sort of context about who I am. Oh, and if it matters to anyone, I'm an Asian male from the Bay Area. 

I really think that what gets you into Stanford, more than for other schools, is a love of innovation (especially through entrepreneurship), nonconformity, and a desire to impact the world in some positive way. You'd think that would be the case for all schools, but I feel that it's true for Stanford in particular. After all, Stanford IS in the heart of the Silicon Valley. There is a strong culture of entrepreneurship here; it's a good mix of lofty ambitions and a strong sense of practicality. I suppose to illustrate the point, a typical Stanford adviser may tell you to find the intersection between your interests, your abilities, and what can be useful to you in the future. 

There will always be those high school geniuses that you can compare yourself to and work (sometimes through a Sisyphean effort) to become like, but quite honestly, I believe that after a certain point of academic performance and extracurricular involvement, it really comes down to how you portray yourself as a person in your essays. Stanford's application is great in that it really gives you a chance to shine (sounds cliche, doesn't it?) Whereas many other colleges are looking for a certain mold, Stanford really seeks diversity and will value you if you tell a compelling story about your person, your hopes, your ambitions, and so forth. 

And that's, I think, how I got in. I wrote most sincerely for Stanford, and it paid off. No tricks or strings attached. 


Trust me guys, there really is no foolproof formula.

Hey everyone! I'm Sarah, another incoming freshman at Stanford. A little about me: I'm from San Jose, California (yeeee, Bay Area!) and graduated from a large (~3500 students) public high school. It's safe to say that I have spent more time on the softball field than in the classroom (or anywhere else for that matter), but I didn't get into Stanford through athletics and won't be playing any sports at the varsity level. I'm also a lover of volleyball, naps, pop-rock, and of course the San Francisco Giants! I am an engineering/science kind of person and have probably written more in bullet points than actual prose, so I'm gonna do the same for this post! Here are my thoughts/tips for applying to Stanford:

  • JUST DO IT. I honestly thought there was no fricken way that I would get in, but luckily my parents forced me to, hahah. Think of it this way: this is most likely the BEST chance you will ever have to get into Stanford/any other top-tier school, so go for it! The $90 application fee is nothing compared to the chance of a lifetime. 
  • Don't worry if you're not a 4.0 student who's also the president 6 clubs, concert master, and founder of a successful business - I still find it difficult to believe people like this actually exist. Stanford (and pretty much every university) isn't looking for the perfectly well-rounded student, but instead looking to build a well-rounded community. There really is no formula that can guarantee an acceptance - or rejection - so stick to who you are and just roll with it
  • Activities are more important than SAT scores or grades. Sure, the numbers do count, but that's not what you should be worrying about. My SAT score was pretty below the average scores listed on collegeboard or whatever (my critical reading and writing scores didn't even clear the 25th percentile, LOL) and I was really only involved in one club throughout my four years of high school, but I made it clear that I was extremely dedicated to sports and very interested in my intended field of study. 
  • For the essays/short answers: be yourself, and don't try too hard. I personally hate cliche sayings like that, and I apologize for all the rolled eyes and annoyed sighs, but there really is no other way to say it. Since I didn't think I would get in anyway, I really didn't put a lot effort (sounds terrible, but it's 100% true) into depicting myself as a brilliant, all-around kind of girl (ex: my entire roommate essay was about my obsession with the SF Giants. No lie.). It doesn't matter what you are interested in - cancer research, sports, the sci-fi channel, yu-gi-oh cards, fruit pie - just find a way to relate how it has formed you and represents you as a person. And trust me, writing about something you have a passion for is SO much easier than writing about something you think will make you sound good.
Keep in mind that although Stanford's one of the top schools in the world, it's also an extremely wacky place (in a good way!) - so don't hesitate one bit to let your application show the more odd/quirky side of you! Hope you find this helpful, and I wish you the best of luck!