Our Selection Process

Academic Preparation

Academic preparation is the foundation of your college application. Throughout your high school years, we recommend that you:

  • take advantage of the opportunities available to you in high school
  • work hard and achieve at a high level all four years
  • consult early on with your secondary school counselor

Recommended High School Curriculum

We respect the responsibility that high schools, principals and teachers should have in the development of courses and curricula for their students. For that reason, we do not have a set of required courses for admission to Stanford. We have found, though, that a curriculum emphasizing depth and breadth across the core academic subjects is the best preparation for the academic rigors at Stanford. Our experience has suggested that students who excel in a curriculum like the one below are well-suited for the demands of college academics:

  • English: four years, with significant emphasis on writing and literature.
  • Mathematics: four years, with significant emphasis on fundamental mathematical skills (algebra; trigonometry; plane, solid, and analytic geometry).
  • History/Social Studies: three or more years. Such courses should include the writing of essays.
  • Science: three or more years of laboratory science (including biology, chemistry and physics).
  • Foreign Language: three or more years of the same foreign language. Your study of a foreign language ought to include the development of four basic skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening comprehension.

Choosing Courses

We expect applicants to pursue a reasonably challenging curriculum, choosing courses from among the most demanding courses available at your school. We ask you to exercise good judgment and to consult with your counselor, teachers and parents as you construct a curriculum that is right for you. Our hope is that your curriculum will inspire you to develop your intellectual passions, not suffer from unnecessary stress. The students who thrive at Stanford are those who are genuinely excited about learning, not necessarily those who take every single AP or IB, Honors or Accelerated class just because it has that designation.

Advanced Placement Courses and Scores

Our admission process allows—and indeed encourages—the flexibility of a high school to design the most appropriate curricular offerings and opportunities for its students. What a course is named or whether it concludes with a standardized test is considerably less important to us than the energy a student contributes to the learning process and the curiosity with which he or she investigates questions and pursues ideas. Sometimes this challenging high school course load will include Advanced Placement classes; other high schools choose to offer equally demanding courses that neither carry the AP designation nor lead to an AP exam.

We want to be clear that this is not a case of "whoever has the most APs wins." Instead, we look for thoughtful, eager and highly engaged students who will make a difference at Stanford and in the world beyond. We expect that these students have taken high school course loads of reasonable and appropriate challenge in the context of their schools.

As a result, we do not require students to submit AP scores as part of our admission process. AP scores that are reported are acknowledged but rarely play a significant role in the evaluation of an application. Grades earned over the course of a term, or a year, and evaluations from instructors who can comment on classroom engagement provide us with the most detailed insight into a student's readiness for the academic rigors of Stanford.

Updated on August 5, 2015 9:28 AM