Thirty-five miles south of San Francisco I took a break from vacation to visit Stanford University – California’s flagship private university. The campus was unlike any campus I had ever seen. The mission-style buildings with their red-tiled roofs are attractively situated on this huge (over 8,000 acre) campus. 60% of the land remains open space, part of founder Leland Stanford’s stipulation that the original land he gave to found the University could never be sold. Life is focused on campus for the 6,500 undergraduates at Stanford. Housing is guaranteed for all four years and there are many different types of options ranging from residence halls to small-group houses, apartments, and coops. Freshmen live in freshmen dorms and are paired with roommates by the University. Contrary to the trend for students to pick roommates via Facebook, at Stanford you are not told your roommates name until you arrive on campus. While this seems somewhat anxiety provoking (who is going to bring the refrigerator?) they believe strongly in their process.
There is a lot of school spirit and many traditions at Stanford. Fountain hopping through the 12 campus fountains is one such tradition. Access to the outside world is made easy. The University runs buses to Palo Alto, a tony suburb with plenty of upscale shops, restaurants, and malls as well as to the Caltrain station for easy trips into San Francisco. Our tour guide raved about the Stanford Introductory Seminars (SIS) for freshmen and sophomores. They are focused, small-group courses (capped at 16 students) ranging in topic from Energy Options for the 21st Century to Coffee & Cigarettes: The Making of French Intellectual Culture to A View from the Podium: The Art of Conducting. The offerings are extensive and they are great opportunities for students to explore a potential academic interest and to build a relationship with a faculty member. The information session focused mainly on applying to Stanford – a few key points stood out for me.
Entrepreneurial spirit – they are looking for candidates who have unique ideas who need resources to make those ideas happen. Stanford has the resources to put those ideas into motion – example, they have set aside $4 million for student research projects. Innovation, change and development are pervasive at Stanford. The fact that Stanford has been an incubator for Google, Yahoo, Netflix, is no surprise.
Exploration – students with multiple passions are able to pursue more courses because of the quarter system. The rapid 10-week cycle is touted as an opportunity for students to explore more different types of courses over the four years. This is great for some, difficult for others.
Diversity – what new perspective can you offer? While diversity applies to many aspects of the applicant (geographic, racial, socioeconomic) they stressed the diversity of perspective that a candidate can bring to campus. As part of the admissions process, they do not evaluate 9th grade grades. They see the grades but only use 10th, 11th & 12th grade grades for evaluative purposes. Rigor of courses and GPA are the most important factors. Admission is super selective – for the class of 2014 they received over 32,000 applications for 1,675 seats.
Passionate, driven, enthusiastic, challenging – the pursuit of excellence is evident in everything Stanford.