Why is Stanford University a Top Rated School?

Each year in the summer, College Raptor releases rankings for the top 50 colleges in the United States. For 2024, Stanford University was ranked #6! But what makes Stanford such a great school and why do students want to go there? Keep reading to learn more about the school, why we ranked it so high, and what you need to do to increase your chances of receiving an acceptance letter from Stanford

Stanford University Was Ranked #6 by College Raptor for 2024

Hoover Tower in Stanford University campus aerial shot.

Flickr user Yan-Di Chang

In our 2024 rankings, we named Stanford University #6 out of the Top 50 Best Colleges in the United States. When compiling the list each year, College Raptor looks at a number of different areas such as diversity, endowment, graduation rates, student-to-faculty ratios, first year retention rates, and more.

Stanford University also made a number of our other “Top” lists including:

A Short History of Stanford University

Stanford University was founded in 1885, originally named Leland Stanford Junior University. The name was in memory of the founder’s son, Leland Sanford, and would first begin admitting students in 1891. Although located in California, it was modeled after colleges in the East, specifically Cornell University, and would actually become known as “Cornell of the West” as many faculty members were from Cornell. Later, it would even become called “the Harvard of the West.”

The Facts

  • Number of Students: 18,283
  • Religious Affiliation: None
  • School Motto: Die Luft der Freiheit weht, German for “The wind of freedom blows”
  • Newspaper: The Stanford Daily
  • Student Nickname: Cardinals
  • School Colors: Red and white
  • Unofficial Mascot: Stanford Tree
  • Some Famous Alumni: Herbert Hoover, Sandra Day O’Connor, Phil Knight, Reid Hoffman, Larry Page, Condoleezza Rice

Why is Stanford University A Top Rated School?

Stanford University is well known for its academic and research excellence. Students and faculty have access to standout research facilities and an environment that supports innovation and growth. The campus features unique opportunities for research, too. There students can find the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and Hopkins Marine Station.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, students are in the midst of tech start-ups and major companies. Many alumni have gone on to found or lead many of the most recognizable technology companies today, such as Larry Page, the founder of Alphabet Inc., and Reid Hoffman, the founder of the LinkedIn Corporation. Stanford has also produced world leaders, 74 living billionaires, 17 astronauts, Rhodes Scholars, and U.S. Congress members.

The Stats

  • Four Year Graduation Rate: 73%
    • #166 in the United States
  • Student-to-Faculty ratio: 5 to 1
    • #19 in the United States
  • First Year Retention Rate: 98%
    • #10 in the United States
  • Endowment:
    • #3 in the United States for Largest Endowment
    • #5 in the United States for Endowment per Student
  • Diversity: #130 in the United States

How Can You Increase Your Chances of Getting Into Stanford University?

According to their website, Stanford University practices “holistic admission.” This means they will not look at individual pieces of your application one at a time, but rather the whole thing in context. They state that they understand every student is unique and they will take special circumstances and opportunities into account.

To elevate your application and increase your chances of receiving an acceptance letter (Stanford only accepts 3.7% of applicants), you should

1. Know What Stanford is Looking For in a Student

Good grades matter, of course, on just about any college application, but Stanford and other top rated colleges are looking beyond your GPA. Stanford, in particular, is looking for students who:

  • Challenge themselves
  • Show dedication to passions
  • Showcase intellectual vitality
  • A commitment to endeavors and goals
  • Seek out opportunities
  • Participate in extracurriculars
  • Are leaders
  • Show social responsibility
  • Are dedicated to innovation
  • Are passionate about learning

2. Score Well on the ACT or SAT

Although Stanford does not currently require ACT or SAT scores to apply, it’s always a good idea to take them no matter what school you apply to. Sitting for the exams even though you technically “don’t have to” shows dedication and drive.

On the ACT students should aim for a 34 to 36 Composite score. For the SAT, it’s recommended that you score a 1,490 or higher.

3. Take Time to Answer the Short Essay Questions

Stanford University uses the Common Application which requires its own personal essay. However, this school does request that you answer a number of short essay questions. These should be taken as seriously as your personal essay. Don’t rush them.

In 2023, the three posted short essay questions required a 100 word minimum and a 250 word maximum. The topics included:

  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.
  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—get to know you better.
  3. Please describe what aspects of your life experiences, interests and character would help you make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University.

As a top rated school, getting into Stanford University isn’t easy. For students interested in applying, understanding what the institution is looking for in an individual and showcasing those skills and abilities is essential to crafting a standout application.

Are you interested in attending Stanford? See how you stack up against other students who have been accepted in recent years by using College Match tool today.

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