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Stanford University 2016-17 Essay Prompts and Advice

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Stanford 2016-17 essay promptsStanford University is consistently ranked as one of the hardest schools to gain acceptance to in the United States, but that doesn’t seem to stop students from applying in hordes every year. In this ridiculously competitive environment, distinguishing yourself from other applicants is tough, which is why Stanford’s sprawling supplement is your ally, not your enemy. Our expert advice on attacking everything from the short answers to the short essays is below, along with our spotlight on the distinguishing features of this elite institution and its offerings. If you’re brave enough to apply, Stanford may be in your near future. Happy writing (and lots and lots of studying) until then.


Stanford 2016-17 Essay Prompts and Advice

Short Answer Questions

CEA’s ADVICE: Short answer questions are not as much about showcasing your writing chops as they are about putting a selection of creative, authentic ideas on display. Think about how you can honestly and adequately represent yourself using answers that are specific to you and no one else. Variety is important here — this is your opportunity to show Admissions the true range of your interests and imagination. Every answer should reveal something new and noteworthy about you to admissions. If answers start to feel repetitive, rethink your strategy and revise in favor of diversity.

  • Name your favorite books, authors, films, and/or artists. (50 word limit)
    • CEA’s ADVICE: Don’t just list books you read in school here and don’t rely too heavily on kids books here. If you like a variety of genres in literature film, etc. make sure that is clear in your selections. Choose at least one or two things that are unexpected if you can. Admissions is trying to get a sense of whose brain and work you admire — show range!
  • What newspapers, magazines, and/or websites do you enjoy? (50 word limit)
    • CEA’s ADVICE: Think about the media you consume every day that broadens your view of the world. Including everything from highbrow magazines (The New Yorker?) to message boards (Reddit!) can be useful here. A true representation of the range of your curiosity will help admission understand your perspective and appetite for knowledge.
  • What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 word limit)
    • CEA’s ADVICE: Remember your selection here implies your own investment in the issue. Why would you choose it if it didn’t mean something to you? At least that’s how you should be thinking. And if you can squeeze in a few words of explanation as to why you care about this issue, by all means, enlighten us!
  • How did you spend your last two summers? (50 word limit)
    • CEA’s ADVICE: This can be pretty straightforward, just remember to mention specifics! You still don’t want this answer to be on anyone else’s application exactly as it appears on yours.
  • What were your favorite events (e.g., performances, exhibits, competitions, conferences, etc.) in recent years? (50 word limit)
    • CEA’s ADVICE: Try to think out of the box with these. You don’t have to have seen a show on Broadway or a concert at Carnegie Hall for it to count as a worthy event. Have you participated in academic competitions? Attended local theater? Participated in a religious ceremony for a family member? This is your opportunity to paint a picture for Admissions of how you spend your spare time.
  • What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 word limit)
    • CEA’s ADVICE: Our main piece of advice here again is to think creatively. Unless you have a very specific reason for choosing the signing of the Declaration of Independence, you might want to rule that out. The WHY of this question is important and should say something about what matters to you and how you feel about both history and progress.
  • What five words best describe you?
    • CEA’s ADVICE: These are tough. Tougher than you think. The goal is to give admissions an idea of who you are and what characteristics you most want to emphasize, but there are a lot of boring ways to execute this. As much as you can, try not to use words you think will come up often on other applications or words that don’t say very much on their own (nice, good). Don’t be afraid to use words that aren’t adjectives (acrobat, artist, listener) And the combination of words is key here. Try not to be repetitive. Make sure every word you choose adds something new to the picture.

Short Essays

  • Stanford students possess an intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development. (100 to 250 words)
    • CEA’s ADVICE: The idea you choose to focus on here can be philosophical or factual. The experience, academic or totally recreational. All that matters is that the idea or experience sparked a change within you. Think about a time your perspective shifted or when you realized the value of knowledge. When has your curiosity flourished right before your own eyes?
  • 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)
    • CEA’s ADVICE: Voice is the key to success in this essay. Really treat this like an email. Pretend you are writing to a friend of your best friend and you’re introducing yourself. What would you want him or her to know? How will you endear yourself to your new roomie? Make sure to be authentic and casual in your tone, while still revealing some interesting and unexpected information about yourself, your likes and dislikes and anything else an admissions officer might find interesting.
  • What matters to you, and why? (100 to 250 words)
    • CEA’s ADVICE: This question is ripe with possibility. You can talk about nearly anything you want. What hasn’t been represented on your application up to this point? A cause about which you feel passionately? A connection with a family member? A hobby you have poured your heart and soul into? Now’s the time to tell Admissions.

Stanford University Spotlight

Basic Stats

  • Number of Undergrads: 6,994
  • Student/Faculty Ratio: 4:1
  • Acceptance Rate: 5%
  • SAT/ACT Required: Yes
  • Coalition or Common App: Both
  • Early Action Deadline: November 1, 2016
  • Regular Application Deadline: January 3, 2017

Digging to the Details

School Mission Statement/Motto

Stanford’s unofficial school motto is “Die Luft der Freiheit weht”, which translates to “the wind of freedom blows”. Originally stated by a 16th century humanist named Ulrich von Hutten, the motto was adopted by David Starr Jordan, Stanford’s first president. The motto is even part of the school’s seal (shown below).

Cool School Traditions

Steam Tunneling

Even the Golden Coast has its fair share of cold winter nights. As the frost covers Stanford, students engage in a fun (yet maybe slightly dangerous) tradition known as “steam tunneling”. Students run through the hot steam tunnels beneath the campus to partake in this popular tradition.

Fountain Hopping

Stanford’s campus is speckled with over a dozen fountains and, since we’re on the topic of weather, the spring and summer heat of California inspires many students to run through campus taking a dip in the multiple fountains, often all in one swoop. This tradition is especially popular after an athletic victory against rival UC Berkeley.

End of the Year Banquet

As you probably know by now, we love traditions involving food (because who doesn’t?). This is one in which the dorm staff will serve its residents a lavish meal to celebrate getting through a school year at this challenging academic institution.

Most Popular Academic Programs

Social Media

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, stalking your top colleges on social media is one of the best ways to get rich information about the university’s values, academic life and student life. Stanford University is no exception to this. With any luck, one day you’ll be able to join in on the fun of this prestigious school.

Ready to start writing? Contact us now.

Would you rather walk through it on your own? Give College Essay Academy a try!

Check out the Duke prompts and spotlight!


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