Admission Overview

Holistic Admission

At Stanford, we practice holistic admission. This means that each piece in your application is reviewed as part of an integrated and comprehensive whole.

One piece tells us about your background and life experiences, another about your school and your academic achievement. We learn from others about your character and intellectual contributions. In your essays, we learn about your ideas and interests, and what is meaningful to you.

Each year (and in conformance with the law) we aim to enroll a class of diverse backgrounds and experiences, talents, academic interests, and ways of viewing the world.

In a holistic review, we seek to understand how you, as a whole person, would grow, contribute and thrive at Stanford, and how Stanford would, in turn, be changed by you.


Just as no two Stanford students are the same, each applicant to Stanford is unique. This means that as we review each application, we pay careful attention to unique circumstances. We take into account your background, educational pathway, and work and family responsibilities. By focusing on your achievements in context, we evaluate how you have excelled in your school environment and how you have taken advantage of what is available to you in your school and community.

Academic Excellence

The primary criterion for admission to Stanford is academic excellence. We look for your preparation and potential to succeed. We expect you to challenge yourself throughout high school and to do very well.

The most important credential for evaluating your academic record is your transcript. Please know that our evaluation goes beyond any numerical formula. There is no minimum GPA or test score, nor is there any specific number of AP or honors courses you must have on your transcript in order to have your application reviewed or be admitted to Stanford.

For more complete information on our curriculum guidelines for first-year students, please visit our Academic Preparation page.

Intellectual Vitality

We want to see your commitment, dedication and genuine interest in expanding your intellectual horizons, both in what you write about yourself and in what others write on your behalf. We want to see the kind of curiosity and enthusiasm that will allow you to spark a lively discussion in a seminar and continue the conversation at the dinner table. We want to see the energy and depth of commitment you will bring to your endeavors, whether that means in a research lab, as part of a community organization, during a performance or on an athletic field. We want to see the initiative with which you seek out opportunities and expand your perspective.

Extracurricular Activities

Learning about your extracurricular activities and nonacademic interests helps us understand your potential contributions to the Stanford community. Students often assume our primary concern is the number of activities in which a student participates. In fact, an exceptional depth of experience in one or two activities may demonstrate your passion more than minimal participation in five or six clubs. You may also hold down a job or have family responsibilities. These are as important as any other extracurricular activity. In general, we want to understand the impact you have had at your job, in your family, in a club, in your school or in the larger community, and we want to learn of the impact that experience has had on you.

In some cases, exceptional abilities in athletics may influence our decision if the applicant is otherwise well qualified, but such abilities never, by themselves, ensure admission to Stanford.

It is important to know these variables are not listed in order of importance in our evaluation and selection process. We review applications holistically. No portion of the application is considered without the rest of the application.

Updated on July 25, 2023 1:27 PM