First-Year Applicants

Academic Preparation

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

  • take a course load of reasonable and appropriate challenge in light of the academic opportunities available at your school
  • work hard and achieve at a high level across the five core liberal arts and science areas: English, math, social studies, science and world language
  • take approximately five academic courses each semester, including during your final year
  • consult early on with your secondary school counselor

Please note: A high school diploma or the equivalent is required in order to enroll at Stanford.

Recommended High School Curriculum

We do not have a set of required courses for admission to Stanford. However, we have found that a curriculum like the one below is the best preparation for the academic rigors at Stanford.

  • English: four years, with significant emphasis on writing and literature.
  • Mathematics: four years of rigorous mathematics incorporating a solid grounding in fundamental skills (algebra, geometry, trigonometry). We also welcome additional mathematical preparation, including calculus and statistics.
  • History/Social Studies: three or more years, with courses that include the writing of essays.
  • Science: three or more years of science (some examples include biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, human anatomy, and environmental science).
  • World Language: three or more years of the same world language.

We want to emphasize that these are just curriculum recommendations, not strict guidelines. 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. 

We understand students may experience scheduling limitations or particular courses may not be available at their school. Some students may opt to take certain classes over the summer or as dual enrollment courses. That is perfectly okay. The Additional Information section of the Common Application is an available space if students want to provide further context on their course schedule.  

Frequently Asked Questions

If you are unable to complete the Courses & Grades section of the Common application or if what you entered does not exactly match what is on your transcript(s), that is completely okay. We will review your official transcript(s).

When you apply to Stanford, you apply to the university as a whole, not to a particular major, department or school. As a result, no specific courses are required. Similarly, if you would like to pursue pre-med, pre-law, or pre-business coursework, there are no prerequisites.

Please note that Stanford does not offer pre-med, pre-law, or pre-business majors, although many students do pursue careers or graduate studies in those areas. Those students choose from one of our many major options, while also fulfilling requirements to apply to graduate school. You can find a list of all Stanford majors on the Undergraduate Majors webpage .

Students will also find pre-professional advisors and student groups that can help them prepare for graduate school applications.

We do not have a preference for any particular curriculum. Some high schools offer Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or A-Level classes, while other high schools offer equally demanding courses that neither carry a particular designation nor lead to an exam. We hope a school’s curriculum offers students the opportunity to contribute to the learning process and to pursue questions and ideas with energy and curiosity.

We recommend you pursue a reasonably challenging curriculum by choosing courses from among the most demanding 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 interests, 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. Overall, we look for thoughtful and highly-engaged students who will make a difference at Stanford and in the world beyond.

Please note that our recommended high school curriculum is only a guideline. There is not a set of required courses for admission to Stanford, and our guidelines leave room for flexibility.

For example, if you complete the most advanced level of a world language offered by your school as a sophomore, it is not necessary to take additional world language classes your junior and senior year. Please keep in mind, though, that we expect students to take approximately five academic courses each semester, including during their senior year.

We consider each student’s educational journey to be unique, and if graduating from high school early is a good fit for you, you should follow that path. At Stanford, no single educational pathway has an advantage over any other. We will review your application holistically, taking into account your context and the unique factors that have shaped your education thus far.

Students currently enrolled in AP courses are not required to submit AP scores as part of our admission process. However, we welcome the self-reporting of these scores as additional information to your application.

Students currently enrolled in an IB Diploma program outside the U.S. must have a school official send us their predicted IB marks (including TOK/essay bonus points).

Students currently enrolled in the British education system must have a school official send us their GCSE results and predicted A-Level marks for consideration. Generally, students applying to Stanford from the British education system will have taken at least three full A-Level courses (though they may not have taken the final examinations).

Updated on February 6, 2024 2:32 PM