Stanford University is one of the most selective universities in the US, admitting just 4.8% of applicants. The dream school for many students, here are all the short answer prompts and supplemental essays you’ll need to answer in order to apply.
Stanford University is located near San Francisco in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. Close to 45,000 students applied to Stanford last year, making the competition extremely tough. With well-rounded undergraduate programs and resources, Stanford attracts many applicants with diverse background and interested, especially those who are interested in entrepreneurship and engineering.
Applying to Stanford University this year? Stanford’s application requires 8 additional short answers and 3 additional supplemental essays:
Short Answer Prompts
1. The following short answer prompts all have a 50 word limit.
2. What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?
3. How did you spend your last two summers?
4. What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?
5. What five words best describe you?
6. When the choice is yours, what do you read, listen to, or watch?
7. Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford.
8. Imagine you had an extra hour in the day — how would you spend that time?
Supplemental Essay Prompts
Essay Prompt #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. (100 to 250 words)
This essay prompt is slightly different from the essay prompt that was given last application season. Though the prompt changed slightly, the essay prompt is still asking the applicants the same thing: what makes you intellectually curious. Check out a few successful Stanford essay excerpts from essays included in the package below.
We’ve curated a package of 5 Stanford student profiles that include the response to this specific essay prompt. See how others approached this supplemental essay in full by unlocking the “Stanford Supplement: Intellectual Vitality” package!
Essay Prompt #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—know you better. (100 to 250 words)
The “Dear Roommate” essay! This essay prompt stumps a lot of applicants because it seems so casual, but can reveal so much about an applicant. It’s difficult to strike that balance: to show off who you are to a peer and to demonstrate your personality to the actual reader, the admissions office. Here are 5 roommate supplemental excerpts that might help you get off to the right start.
Want to read the supplemental essay examples in full? Unlock the Stanford Roommate Supplement package!
Essay Prompt #3
Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100 to 250 words)
Again, the Stanford supplement here has changed the wording of the supplement, but the core of the question is still asking the same thing. What is something that is valuable to you? It can be a memory, a book, or even a feeling. Here are 5 successful examples you can take a look at—some wrote about music, others wrote about what the future holds.
Need more inspiration for your supplemental essays? Unlock our “What Matters To You, and Why? Supplement package!
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About The Author
Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.
Like many institutions, Stanford requires applicants to answer several short essays and questions. Unlike single-prompt supplements, supplements with multiple short prompts require you to utilize several different topics. Thematically, you should not write all of your essays about the same thing, whether that’s an extracurricular passion or a particular facet of your personality that you wish to highlight.
Instead, your essays should work like a portfolio, each one acting to highlight a different portion of your application or personality, with a collective effect that conveys what you want. The short answer questions should also fit into this portfolio, as they allow you to reinforce key themes from your essay or introduce additional components of your life or personality.
The Rapid Fire Questions
Briefly respond to the following seven inquiries so we can get to know you better. Do not feel compelled to use complete sentences.
Name your favorite books, authors, films, and/or artists. (50 word limit)
What newspapers, magazines, and/or websites do you enjoy? (50 word limit)
What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 word limit)
How did you spend your last two summers? (50 word limit)
What were your favorite events (e.g., performances, exhibits, competitions, conferences, etc.) in recent years? (50 word limit)
What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 word limit)
What five words best describe you?
These short answer questions are nice in that they don’t necessarily have any wrong answers. For the most part, it’s okay to answer these questions truthfully, so long as you avoid potentially controversial or offensive responses. These questions are designed to give admissions officers a brief look at your personality, and each answer reflects a different portion of your personality or application.
For the most part, your answers can be very straightforward. For example, if you said that you wish you could have witnessed W.E.B Dubois’ “Talented Tenth” speech, then the Stanford admissions counselors will know that you are interested in history and questions related to race and racial relations. Normally with short answer questions, you might want to avoid writing an extremely advanced work of literature or erudite publication down as your “favorite.”
However, because you have 50 words to work with, you can afford to list several different books, publications, and the like. If possible, try to strike a balance between things that are pure enjoyment and things that are educational. Also, if you decide to feature a particular theme for your application, you should try to make sure that some of your answers to these questions reinforce that theme.
Princeton’s app has a similar rapid-fire section — for further tips, check out the CollegeVine blog post How to Write the Princeton University Supplement Essays 2015-2016.
Briefly elaborate on one of your ECs…
Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 word limit)
This essay is similar to the extracurricular prompt that used to be on the Common Application. One option for writing this essay is to choose the most meaningful or in-depth extracurricular on your application and then write about that. However, if your Common Application essay significantly addresses this activity, you should try to move on to another on your resume. You can choose almost any activity; however, you shouldn’t be writing about a superficial experience just because it fits with your major – focus on something more meaningful.
With regards to the content of the essay, your focus is on specificity. Don’t just recount your accomplishments in that activity (that belongs on a resume); instead, focus either on what you learned from it, what it says about you, or a specific event or project within that activity that illustrates your ability to execute key projects or your ability to work well with others.
Another option is to write a descriptive anecdote about a particular moment or accomplishment during one of your extracurricular activities. This option doesn’t offer as much in the way of highlighting your accomplishment or skills, but instead allows you to show off your writing prowess.
The Intellectual Vitality Prompt
Stanford students possess an intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development. (100 to 250 words)
The focus of this essay should be how and why the idea impacted you, not necessarily discussion and explanation of the idea itself. If possible, you should spend maybe 50 words discussing the idea and then the remainder of the essay analyzing its impact on your intellectual development. And with regards to the latter aspect, you should either discuss how the process gave you an important skill, or how it made you fall in love with a field (ideally one that’s tied to your major).
For example, you could discuss the idea of quantitative easing (a monetary policy tool, or more broadly an economics idea) to either discuss how it gave one the ability to be analytical or how it made you fall in love with economics (your major). Your idea need not be so academic. The term “intellectual development” can be applied loosely to almost anything you like. For example, you could talk about a type of dance move, and how your persistent perusal of the internet looking for tips on successfully performing said dance move inspired you to become a music major.
A Letter to Your Roommate
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)
This essay is as much about what not to say as about what you should say. The key thing to avoid in this essay: anything that could disqualify you in the eyes of the admissions committee. While you don’t want to write something that’s bland and clichéd, you should avoid discussing illegal or unsavory activities.
Conversely, you shouldn’t be afraid to explore your quirky side. Good topics are always unique hobbies or interesting personality quirks, and it’s perfectly fine to get a little weird. You can also talk about your favorite experiences with friends and how you’d enjoy similar experiences with a hypothetical roommate.
But you should probably stay away from things like politics. You can say you’re politically motivated if you are, but don’t indicate which party or ideology you tend to support. Also, try not to talk about specific political issues, especially if you hold a conservative viewpoint. It’s very easy to offend someone with politics.
What matters to you, and why?
What matters to you, and why? (100 to 250 words)
While it may seem as though this essay is asking you to discuss a social justice cause or some sort of “problem” with the world, the actual prompt is a lot broader. Basically, Stanford wants to know what’s at your core and the things that take up the majority of your mental desire.
The focus of this essay should be on the “why” portion of the essay. The “what” is important, but your explanation of the “why” is ultimately what will convey something new about you. Pretty much any topic, so long as you can legitimately describe why it matters to you, is fair game.
When writing about potentially controversial topics such as religion and politics, your focus should be explicitly on yourself. It’s okay to discuss how Christianity, for example, helped you gain a new appreciation for the value of personal discipline, but you shouldn’t discuss your deep-held desire to convert others to Christianity, because the idea of religious conversion could be offensive or controversial to some.
With these tips, you should be well on your way to writing the perfect Stanford Supplement. Best of luck from the CollegeVine team!
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