12 Best Stanford Supplemental Essays That Worked 2023

Stanford University Essay Examples

Your essays are one of the best ways you can stand out in Stanford's competitive admissions process.

In this article, I'm going to share with you 12 answers to Stanford's notorious writing supplement from an admitted student.

Stanford University Admissions FAQs

Many students are interested in applying to Stanford, even though admission may seem like a long-shot.

But you may surprise yourself, and for many students it's the only time in their life they'll apply.

Here are some common questions students and parents have about Stanford's admissions:

What is Stanford University's acceptance rate?

This past year, Stanford had a record 55,471 applications and admitted 2,190 students. That gives Stanford an overall admit rate of 3.95%.

Or in other words, less than 1 in 25 students are admitted.

Just having good stats is not enough to get into schools like Stanford.

Which makes your essays are a critical opportunity for you to show why you should be accepted.

Stanford University Acceptance Scattergram

But for any school that has competitive admissions like Stanford, that only means your essays are more heavily weighed.

Each year thousands of students apply with stats that are good enough to get in. And your essays are one important factor admissions officers use.

What is Stanford's application deadline for this year?

Stanford offers two admissions deadlines for 2022-23: restrictive early action and regular decision.

For this year, Stanford's deadlines are:

  • Restrictive Early Action (REA): November 1st, 2022
  • Regular Decision (RD): January 5th, 2023

How many essays does Stanford require?

This year, Stanford University requires applying students to answer five Short Questions and write three Short Essays. If you're applying with the Common App, you'll also need a strong personal statement essay .

Stanford is notorious for its lengthy and creative writing supplement. The questions are known to be thought-provoking, which is done on purpose.

Stanford admissions officers want to dig into your thought process, and learn how you think.

What are the Stanford supplemental essay prompts for 2022-23?

For 2023, the Stanford writing supplement consists of eight questions total:

Short Questions

Stanford requires applicants to answer five short answer questions of between 3 and 50 words each.

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (3-50 words)

How did you spend your last two summers? (3-50 words)

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (3-50 words)

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family. (3-50 words)

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (3-50 words)

Short Essays

Stanford's short essays are three required essays of between 100 and 250 words each.

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. (100-250 words)

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. (100-250 words)

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100-250 words)

Stanford's unique prompts give you a lot of freedom in how you choose to respond.

But being so open-ended can also make it difficult to get started.

Because of that, it can be helpful to see how other students wrote answers to Stanford's prompts in recent years.

12 Stanford University Essays That Worked

For getting your best shot at Stanford, you'll need to write authentic and interesting essays.

My advice: Have fun with the prompts when coming up with ideas. But write about them with care and diligence. Above all, be authentic.

Check out how these admitted Stanford students wrote their essay and short answer responses.

I've also included a great Common App essay from an admitted student.

  • Stanford University Essay Example #1
  • Stanford University Essay Example #2
  • Stanford University Essay Example #3
  • Stanford University Essay Example #4
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  • Stanford University Essay Example #9
  • Stanford University Essay Example #10
  • Stanford University Essay Example #11
  • Stanford University Essay Example #12

1. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 words max)


Why This Essay Works:

  • Bold and Unique: Stanford's prompts reward bold and genuine writing. It is okay to be simple and straightforward, but still must be thoughtful as this response is.
  • Well-Composed: Although only three words, this response still shows thought. The use of capitalization and periods separating each word emphasizes the author's point and makes it even more poignant.

What They Might Change:

  • Use The Full Word Limit: It is risky to leave 47 words unused. This essay succeeds in taking that risk, but generally you should use all the words available because each one is an opportunity to convey more meaning.

2. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: How did you spend your last two summers? (50 words max)

[Date] : Working with the head of IT at Golden Gate Parks and Rec to renovate the social media program and redesign the website. (sfrecpark.org)

[Date] : Studying at Stanford High School Summer College, building a family in two months.

  • Answers Prompt Directly: This response leaves no room for doubt. And shows that you don't have to be fancy or "try hard" for all essays. Sometimes plain answers work best when it is a short prompt like this one.
  • Organized Clearly: For straightforward answers, having a straightforward structure can be a good thing. Each word is used carefully and has a purpose.
  • Has Strong Ideas: You don't need much to convey meaning. In just the last six words ("building a family in two months") there is hints of deeper ideas.

3. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 words max)

The Trinity test, the first detonation of the atomic bomb. For one, an opportunity to meet my role models: Oppenheimer, Feynman, Fermi, etc. But also, to witness the 4 millisecond shift to an era of humanity that could eradicate itself. “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

  • Connects To Author's Interests: The author cleverly reveals about themselves by telling their role models: the physicists involved.
  • Shows Specific Knowledge: Rather than just saying "the first atomic bomb test", the author names it specifically: The Trinity Test. Including the famous Oppenheimer quote from the Bhagavad Gita also shows real thought was put into it.

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4. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 words max)

Representing an ideal.

Stanford is a gathering place of people working towards a common ideal; one of engagement, passion, intellectual vitality, and devotion to progress. This is what I stand for, so I want to help Stanford represent it.

(Also those cream cheese croissants from CoHo.)

  • Idea-Focused: The author's take on what Stanford represents ("an ideal") is a unique perspective.
  • Authentic Motivations: Revealing your genuine motivation for attending a school shows your interest is not surface-level. The author's motivation is also a powerful one: representing an ideal.
  • Lighthearted and Relatable: The last remark in parantheses lightens the tone, while still relating to Stanford specifically. Admissions officers surely would crack a smile at this remark because it is relatable to them and genuine.

5. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: What five words best describe you? (5 words max)

I don’t conform to arbitrary boundaries.

  • Bold and Takes a Risk: Stanford supplements are the perfect place to take a (calculated) risk. This type of answer only works if A.) it hasn't been done before and B.) it is genuine and not done just for the sake of risk-taking.

6. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: Imagine you had an extra hour in the day — how would you spend that time? (50 words max)

One extra hour is thirty minutes extra of daylight.

The US has 28 GW of installed solar capacity. With the extra daylight, there will be a 4% increase in national capacity, an entire GW added. This small increase alone powers 700,000 homes. I’m spending the time investing in photovoltaics!

  • Thinks Outside the Box: Most students would answer this prompt more literally: with what activity they would do. Having a unique approach shows your ability to think differently.
  • Cleverness: Strikes the right balance between being clever and genuinely answering the prompt. Trying too hard to be clever is easily seen-through.
  • Explain Acronyms Before Using: Instead of writing "GW," the first reference should say "gigawatt." This is a minor semantic correction that would make things slightly more clear.

7. Stanford University "Genuinely Excited About Learning" Short Essay

Prompt: 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. (100-250 words)

It’s in the mail.

I rip open the package.

It feels sleek along my fingertips. Three volumes. Gorgeous red binding with stunning silver lettering. THE Feynman LECTURES ON PHYSICS The NEW MILLENIUM Edition

I had heard about them previously, but a Quora thread on “essential physics texts” convinced me to invest in them. I thought I was buying a textbook, but I was buying a new way of life. That night, while I laid in bed, Feynman changed my entire perspective of the universe. In the first lecture.

Not only was he a Nobel prize winning physicist with a unique approach to the subject, but his pedagogical capabilities were perfectly suited to my personality. When Feynman teaches, he does not just teach physics, he teaches how to think and understand. He helped me recognize that my passion wasn’t for physics, it was for a passion for learning and understanding.

Spoken directly from the source: “I don't know anything, but I do know that everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough.”

Reading the Lectures rouses within me the most intense feeling of elation I have ever experienced. When I open the Lectures, any bad mood is erased, any haze in my mind is cleared away, and I become the person I strive to be.

Now, I always have at least one of the Lectures on me. At festivals, in backpacks, in carryons, if I am there, so are the Lectures.

  • Tells a Story: Painting a vivid picture can bring admissions officers into your world. Using stories also is a compelling way to share ideas without stating them plainly.
  • Showcases Genuine Interest: Write about things in a way that only you could write about. The authenticity in this essay is palpable.

8. Stanford University "Letter to Roommate" Short Essay

Prompt: 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 -- know you better. (100-250 words)

Dear roommate,

Don’t be alarmed if you glance over at my laptop late at night displaying a plague doctor examining a watermelon with a stethoscope, meticulously listening for a heartbeat.

I apologise for waking you, but before requesting a room change, allow me to explain. This twisted scene is innocently my favorite video on YouTube. I have ASMR, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is a euphoric, calming sensation triggered by visual and auditory stimuli like whispering and fine movements, which I use to aid my insomnia. This plague doctor, played by youtuber Ephemeral Rift, has movements as he inspects the watermelon that are as calming to me as a mother’s lullabies are to a child.

I know we will both have our strong, unique personalities with our individual quirks like this. However, I guarantee we have a fundamental similarity which lead us to becoming Stanford students.

We have passion for learning. Even if two people are polar-opposite personalities, they can become family if they have this.

That said, I have a feeling we won’t be polar opposites. I love jamming on my guitar, going out to parties, playing video games, messing around with soccer, and a hodgepodge of other hobbies. I’m sure we’ll have some common ground to start off but either way there will be plenty of time to grow together!

P.S. I am a whiteboard fiend. I hope that’s okay.

  • Humanizes the Author: Being quirky for quirkiness sake isn't good. But the author strikes a balance between showing their unique (some may say strange) interests and the relatable aspects (like whiteboards, going to parties, and soccer).
  • Connects to Bigger Ideas: Even in "unserious" writing, connecting to meaningful ideas is key. The author brilliantly shows what relates all Stanford students: their passion for learning.
  • Minor Writing Fixes: Small edits such as capitalizing the proper noun "Youtuber" and some word choices could be altered.

9. Stanford University "Meaningful To You" Short Essay

Prompt: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100-250 words)

A meaningful discussion can be found deep in the jungle of YouTube, during an obscure “CBS This Morning” interview with Bill Murray.

“What do you want, that you don’t have?” - Charlie Rose

Bill Murray - “I’d like to be here all the time, and just see what I could get done, what I could do if I really, you know, didn’t cloud myself... if I were able to... to not get distracted. To not change channels in my mind and body, to be my own channel.”

Death is scary but my slimy, monolithic, Lovecraftian fear is unengagement. I only have a brief time to experience life and I know I will find the most fulfillment in “[seeing] what I could get done.” When I feel that signature fuzzy, tired feeling in my head, I am reminded of my old night terrors; I would be awake yet unable to interact with my surroundings.

In sophomore year, when I discovered my passion for physics, I found a powerful way to stay engaged. Developing a passion fundamentally requires me, as Murray puts it, “to be my own channel.” Problem solving, understanding difficult concepts, having intense discussions all demand your mind to be present and I am more than happy to oblige.

Intellectual vitality is not my application buzzword, it is my lifestyle.

  • Shows What Drives Them: Admissions officers are interested in the root of your being. That is, what gets you up in the morning. Showing your perspective on life and what you hope to get out of life is key.
  • Connects to Application's Interests: A central theme of this author is physics. And each essay relates back to their intended area of study to a varying degree. By connecting to the rest of your application, it creates a cohesive picture of yourself as an applicant.
  • Use Less Quotes: Quotes can be great for introducing ideas. But ultimately admissions officers want to hear your words, not other people's. The first three paragraphs are about other people's ideas, not the author's, and could be condensed.

10. Stanford University Short Essay

Prompt: Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 words max)

One month into AP Physics C Mr. Shapiro's cancer came out of remission. With no teacher for the rest of the semester, I offered to give a few lectures. The first try was a huge success and I was hooked on teaching.

Following my newfound addiction, I started Lowell Physics Club (LPC). Our first lecture attracted 50 students, with 40 returning the next week!

A victim of grandeur, I designed an environment more than a club. It had to be innovative, attractive, and have a tangible payoff. We tutor students in physics, connect those looking for fun projects, prepare students for the F=ma Olympiad, and sometimes I give lectures which expand rather than repeat. This year two students qualified.

Mr. Shapiro returned this semester and continued teaching. I can now relax in the back of the room listening to his engaging lectures, occasionally giving one of my own.

  • Provides Backstory: Explaining how you got started in an extracurricular is compelling because it reveals your motivations for doing it.
  • Shows Takeaways from Their Achievements: Listing achievements and extracurriculars isn't as important as what you got from them. The author emphasizes the important of their extracurricular and why it is meaningful, rather than just what they did.
  • Be Careful With Personal Details: Unless this author got permission from "Mr. Shapiro" to use their name, revealing personal details such as health conditions is not good to do. Always be careful naming people in your essays, but especially for potentially sensitive topics.

11. Stanford University Short Question

Prompt: When the choice is yours, what do you read, listen to, or watch? (50 words max)

From my bookshelf, Youtube subscriptions, Netflix history, and Spotify.

The Feynman Lectures, MF Doom, Ephemeral Rift, Tank and The Bangas, The Eric Andre Show, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hubbard and Hubbard’s Differential Equations and Vector Calculus, Thích Nhất Hạnh, Kamasi Washington, 3Blue1Brown, Al Green, Band of Gypsys, Oxford Press - Very Short Introductions

  • Answers Prompt Clearly: Provides a straightforward response without room for misinterpretation.
  • Has Good Context: By stating where these interests come from ("bookshelf, Youtube subscriptions, Netflix"), the answers have more context.
  • Organization: Listing their interests by type (such as musical artists, authors, and TV shows) would help readers who may not be as familiar with all the interests.

12. Stanford University Common App Essay

Common App Prompt #7: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. (250-650 words)

Slowly, my passion emerged from pretense and envy into reality.

This essay is all based upon the metaphor of "the itch" representing a desire to understand the world. By using a central theme, such as a metaphor, you can create a thread of ideas that run throughout your essay. If you want to use a metaphor, make sure it clearly relates to the idea you're trying to express, rather than choosing one just because it is a creative or unique approach. In this case, there is perhaps no better metaphor than "the itch" which would capture their main idea, so it works well.

Instead of "telling" their ideas, this essay does a lot of fantastic "showing" through specific anecdotes. Sentences like "I learned to sing the blues before I knew the words..." capture a lot about the author's character and background without having to say it outright. By showing the reader, you allow them to draw their own conclusions rather than just having to accept what you're telling them. Using specific language also creates a more vibrant and interesting essay. Rather than saying "I loved learning as a kid," this student shows it using a concrete example: "my favorite book was an introduction to fulcrums".

Writing about other people in your essay can be a great way to tell things about yourself. Known as a literary "foil," by describing other people you can show your own values without stating them plainly. In this essay, the author shows their value (of being passionate about learning) by first recognizing that value in somebody else, "Kikki" in this case. By writing about people in your life, you can also create a sense of humility and humanity. Nobody is an "island," meaning that everyone is influenced by those around us. Showing how you draw inspiration, values, or lessons from others will show more about your character than simply telling admissions would.

In general, listing activities in your essay is a bad strategy, because it is repetitive of your activities list and comes across boring. However, this essay manages to list their activities in the 3rd-to-last paragraph by connecting them to a central idea: how their newfound passion for learning sparked all these new engagements. Listing activities can be okay, but only if they have a clear purpose in doing so. In this case, the purpose is to show how these activities are representative of their new passion for learning. But the purpose for listing activities could also be to show a specific value, provide examples for your idea, demonstrate your new perspective, etc.

What Can You Learn From These Stanford Essays?

Do you want to get into Stanford in 2022? If so, writing great application essays is one of your most critical parts of applying.

With selective schools like Stanford, your essays matter even more.

Hopefully these 12 Stanford short answers and essays have helped inspire you.

From these essay examples, you can learn what it takes to write some stellar Stanford supplements:

  • Don't be afraid to be creative
  • Don't write formally. You can write as you would speak.
  • Showcase your genuine self, interests, and passions
  • Think outside the box, if appropriate and natural

If you enjoyed these essays, you'll also like reading UCLA essays and USC essays .

What did you think of these Stanford essays?

Ryan Chiang , Founder of EssaysThatWorked

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Princeton Admitted Essay

People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is... uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable...

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Her baking is not confined to an amalgamation of sugar, butter, and flour. It's an outstretched hand, an open invitation, a makeshift bridge thrown across the divides of age and culture. Thanks to Buni, the reason I bake has evolved. What started as stress relief is now a lifeline to my heritage, a language that allows me to communicate with my family in ways my tongue cannot. By rolling dough for saratele and crushing walnuts for cornulete, my baking speaks more fluently to my Romanian heritage than my broken Romanian ever could....

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UPenn Admitted Essay

A cow gave birth and I watched. Staring from the window of our stopped car, I experienced two beginnings that day: the small bovine life and my future. Both emerged when I was only 10 years old and cruising along the twisting roads of rural Maryland...

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Stanford Supplemental Essays 2023-24 – Prompts and Advice

August 14, 2023

Stanford supplemental essays

With an acceptance rate of 3.68% in 2023, Stanford University is in a league of selectivity with only a handful of other schools including Harvard, MIT, and Princeton. At Stanford, the median SAT is a 1500 and 96% hail from the top 10% of their high school class. As a result, you need more than just superior test scores and a sparkling transcript to be among the 1 in every 25 applicants who is ultimately admitted. Each year, we work with a number of successful Stanford University applicants. We can say with confidence that exceptional Stanford supplemental essays are a necessary component of any winning application.

 (Want to learn more about How to Get Into Stanford? Visit our blog entitled:  How to Get Into Stanford: Admissions Data and Strategies  for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

Stanford University requires applicants to respond to a whopping eight prompts. This makes the decision to apply an instantly sizable time commitment. Your mission—should you choose to accept it— is to write compelling, standout compositions that showcase your top-notch writing ability and reveal more about who you are as an individual. Below are Stanford’s essay prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle along with tips about how to address each one.

Stanford Supplemental Essays: (100-250 words)

Prompt 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..

Whether it’s a general love for math/science or literature or a specific interest in aerospace engineering or 19th-century French novels, use this opportunity to share what makes you tick, the ideas that keep you up at night, and what subject inspires you to dream big. What topic makes you read books and online content until your eyes bleed? Share the manner in which you relentlessly pursue knowledge. Whether it’s falling down a Wikipedia rabbit hole about the nature of time or consuming thousands of hours of podcasts on game theory, this is a chance to illustrate the ways in which you are an obsessive learner with an endless thirst for information. The admissions reader should emerge from reading this essay with the sense that you are a sincerely curious young person with a strong intellectual drive.

Prompt 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.

Applicants can utilize this response to give greater insight into the little details about themselves that may not appear elsewhere in the application. Keep the old adage “you don’t truly know a person until you live with them” in mind. Think about what your future roommate will learn about your daily habits, quirks, passions, and preferences. What music do you like to listen to? At what time do you get up in the morning and what is your morning routine? What activities do you like to do (that ideally have not yet been communicated elsewhere)? Most often, writers choose to put together a number of different details. Before including each one, think about what it communicates about you.

Stanford Supplemental Essays (Continued)

For example, if you can seldom be found without a novel in hand or spend an hour every morning practicing yoga, why is that important for us to know? That said, at least a few details are often comical or light-hearted (perhaps you can’t survive without a large supply of lime seltzer or always eat salt & vinegar chips when you’re up late studying). Another common “move” writers use in this essay is to list a few uniquely-Stanford things that they can’t wait to do with their roommate around campus. In the grand scheme of things, this is a genuine chance to reveal more about your character, unique personality, and also—sometimes— how to get along with others.

Prompt 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.

This prompt asks you to not only share a particular life experience, interest, or value. Additionally, you’ll describe why that experience, interest, or value will help you contribute to Stanford in general. Essentially, it’s asking you to take your essay’s reflection one step further. You’ll need to share why the experience, interest, or value you’ve chosen has impacted you. Additionally, you can explore why/how you believe it will allow you to positively impact the Stanford community.

First, choose a key aspect of your experiences, background, or personality that reveals something deep and meaningful about you. (Although you could choose more than one, we’d advise against it, given that you only have 250 words in which to respond.) As you brainstorm, consider the following avenues:

  • Your role in your family.
  • Your role in your social group.
  • Something you’re particularly committed to, i.e., an activity, social/political cause, or idea (just be sure it doesn’t overlap with the intellectual curiosity response).
  • A challenge you’ve faced.
  • A formative experience or realization.
  • Core values and beliefs.
  • Important aspects of your upbringing.
  • Most intriguing and unique attributes.
  • Cultural, religious, community influence.

Second, you’ll need to describe both personal and future impact. Note the absence of a straight “Why Stanford?” essay in this application. This response is the closest thing to it. Make sure that your answer reveals something about how you will live out Stanford’s values or contribute to an academic/social community. For the latter angle, you could name a specific  course ,  research opportunity , or extracurricular club , to name a few—perhaps living in a beach town has heavily contributed to your passion for the world’s oceans, and you seek to bring that perspective to the biology department’s research opportunities. Alternatively, you could discuss something more intangible—perhaps Stanford’s mission to develop active citizens resonates with you, and you hope to bring your experience of growing up in a large family (which gave you excellent communication and conflict resolution skills) to volunteer positions on campus and within the surrounding community.

Stanford Supplemental Essays – Short Response Questions (50 words)

1) what is the most significant challenge that society faces today.

The admissions committee wants to make sure that your personal aims align with those of the university, as indicated in its mission statement. This mission is “to extend the frontiers of knowledge, stimulate creativity, and solve real-world problems, prepare students to think broadly, deeply and critically, and to contribute to the world, and deploy Stanford’s strengths to benefit our region, country, and world.” The strongest answers usually include some level of previous or hopeful participation/community service on the part of the applicant. For example, if you are concerned about voting rights and the preservation of the democratic process, you may have volunteered with a relevant organization.

2) How did you spend your last two summers? 

We are looking at your summers after sophomore and junior year for this prompt. So, why is Stanford so interested in what you did from mid-June through August, you ask? The answer, primarily, is because this is the time of the year when your entire schedule wasn’t laid out for you–the admissions office can observe your actions in the lone time and space when you are given complete agency and control.

Did you work to earn money to help support your family? On the other hand, did you work to save money for a specific purpose? Did you take a college course or two or enroll in an academic summer program? Or, did you conduct independent research or secure an internship at a company or organization? Stanford recognizes that students in different circumstances have varying levels of opportunity. Therefore, if you spent the summer watching your siblings out of necessity so your mom could go to work, that can be as valid as attending an aerospace engineering program at MIT. Ideally, your summer endeavor will—at least to some extent, align with your expressed passions and academic/intellectual aims.

3) What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?

Keep in mind that “historical” could refer to a famous event that is included in your average history textbook. Alternatively, it could be something more personal to your family, like when your great-grandmother immigrated to California in 1917. Many times, if students select a moment in world history, it isn’t one that is universally known in endless detail. Unless you are picking something as well known as MLK’s “I Have a Dream Speech” or the 1969 Moon landing, make sure to give the reader some level of context about the actual event in addition to your commentary about why that moment is special to you. No need to get uber-obscure with your answer. However, the most needle-moving answers are generally not usually based on any of the most famous events in human history. These are the kind of events that you’ve known about since elementary school.

You might approach this prompt by choosing an issue of importance to you and then researching corresponding moments/events (whether within recorded or personal history) that allow you to communicate that interest.

4) Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family.

Stanford is not necessarily asking you to write about the activity where you earned the most prestigious awards or held the highest position of leadership. The university is going to see all of your activities in that section of the Common App. As such, you want to ask yourself—which of your entries is crying out for more explanation and detail? Which one is closest to your heart and most representative of your unique passions? Pick the option that will allow you to deliver additional detail that may be memorable to the admissions reader. Start this process by asking yourself, “What is the most interesting and consequential moment that I have experienced in one of my extracurricular activities?” If you can identify one clear-cut moment, that is likely the activity worth sharing with the Stanford admissions staff.

5) List five things that are important to you.

Before answering this question, take inventory of what has already been communicated on the rest of your application. What have you tackled in your other responses? Is there anything that has been left unsaid? What themes are currently present that you could reinforce? The list should be organic. This means that some answers will naturally reiterate passions and experiences shared in other areas of the application. That said, you’ll want to avoid straight-up repeats to the best of your ability. In addition, try to be as specific as possible. Since you have fifty words to utilize, try to include a brief why or explanation for each answer, that, again, is different than what’s already been presented in other areas of the application.

How important are the Stanford supplemental essays?

The lengthy supplemental essay section is among the nine factors that Stanford considers to be “very important.” The other factors are: rigor of secondary school record, class rank, GPA, standardized test scores, recommendations, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities.

Stanford Supplemental Essays – Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

In conclusion, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your Stanford supplemental essays, we encourage you to  get a quote  today.

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How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essays 2023–2024

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With a professorship roster including 19 Nobel laureates, nearly 900 student organizations, and a gorgeous campus in the heart of California’s Bay Area, Stanford University is an easy pick for many students’ dream school. Its acceptance rate, however – 3.68% for the class of 2026 – is a more daunting statistic to swallow. Don’t get discouraged! We’re here to help you take your best shot at getting into Stanford , starting by teaching you how to write the Stanford supplemental essays.

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Students admitted to Stanford report an average unweighted GPA of 3.96 , an average SAT score of 1505 , and an average ACT of 34 . In other words, at universities like Stanford, top-notch academics are the norm rather than the exception. You’ll need to count on more than just your GPA and standardized test scores to stand out – which is where your essays come in.

Stanford asks you to respond to 5 short-answer prompts, 3 long-answer prompts for a total of 8 essays – double what most other universities require. While means you have twice the writing to do, it also means you have twice the opportunity to show admissions officials your unique strengths as an applicant. With that in mind, let’s have a look at Stanford’s 8 supplemental essay prompts for the 2023-2024 application cycle.

Stanford’s 2023–2024 Prompts

Short response (50 words).

  • What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?
  • What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?
  • How did you spend your last two summers?
  • Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family.
  • List five things that are important to you.

Essay Prompts (100-250 words)

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

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General Tips

For the 5 short-answer prompts, you’ll only have 50 words to convey a meaningful response. Avoid restating the question and trim unnecessary connector words to make the most of your word count. You can also improve concision by replacing conjunctions and clunky transition phrases with colons, semicolons, and em dashes.

The first example below is an instance of choppy, overly verbose writing.

Ex. 1 : “I think that the most significant challenge that society faces today is improper urban planning. Improper urban planning can result in a surprising number of issues, including noise pollution, increased fossil fuel output, and overcrowding.”

The second example cleans it up using the tips we’ve just discussed.

Ex. 2: “Improper urban planning may sound like a niche issue, but it encompasses a surprising number of society’s challenges – from noise pollution, to fossil fuel output, to overcrowding.”

You have more wiggle room with the reflection – 50-150 words – and even more for the long essay prompts – 100-250 words . Still, you should strive for concision to improve your essay’s flow. Unnecessary fluff and run-on sentences will confuse your reader no matter the length of the essay.

Wherever possible, write your essays on topics you haven’t discussed elsewhere in your application. If an admissions official sees your math team in your activities transcript, and then reads three short responses about the same math team, they may see you as a one-note applicant. Instead, try to vary your essay topics and take advantage of any opportunities to discuss an activity or interest that isn’t reflected in your transcript.

Finally, before we move to a prompt-by-prompt breakdown of the Stanford supplemental essays, here are two tips to keep in mind for both your short-responses and long-answer essays.

One, detail is key. Instead of telling admissions officials that your 10th-grade swim team was important to you, tell admissions officials about the swim meet where you came last in freestyle, motivating you to practice for months and earn first place at the next meet. Especially in your long-answer essays, detailed anecdotes are an excellent way to craft an engaging narrative.

Two, write essays that tell admissions officials about you . This may seem like obvious advice, but some of Stanford’s prompts ask about topics that don’t relate to you directly. Even so, you need to connect these topics to your own perspective. Instead of reciting to Stanford admissions officials impressive statistics about their own school, tell them why it excites you that Stanford has nearly 900 student organizations. Instead of flatly describing the challenges climate change poses to society, tell your reader how these specific challenges have impacted your own life and what you’ve done to help solve them.

With these higher-level tips out of the way, let’s move on to a prompt-by-prompt breakdown of the Stanford supplemental essays.

Stanford’s Short-Responses

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today (50 words).

A good response to this short-answer prompt will clearly identify one significant challenge society faces, with unique insight into its problems and potential solutions. Remember, detail is key – even if you pick a broader topic, you can still explore that topic in a way that sets your response apart from other students.

Let’s say the challenge you’ve chosen is economic inequality. Rather than stating in vague terms that poverty is an issue, you might propose building more homeless-friendly public architecture to combat the dangers poverty poses – and if you connect your response to the public architecture you see in your own community, even better. By going into detail on a specific issue, proposing a solution, and connecting it to your own experience, you’ve shown admissions officials you’re a conscientious and observant student who can bring those qualities to their campus community in turn.

How did you spend your last two summers? (50 words)

Instead of going into exhaustive detail on this short prompt, try to consider themes – what skills or personal experiences did you focus on developing over the last two summers? Can you group your different activities together under an overarching goal you’ve been working towards? If so, you’ll be able to include a wide variety of activities while keeping your response cohesive, and giving admissions officials a sense of your long-term plans.

Ex. 1 : “Last summer, I played basketball with my city’s team and volunteered for a school board chair’s campaign. The summer before that, I worked at a Columbia Sportswear in the local mall.”
Ex. 2: “For me, these last two summers were all about connecting with my community – sweating it out with my city’s basketball team, tamping down campaign signs for a school board candidate, and showing a friendly face to customers at the mall’s Columbia Sportswear.”

Like the last prompt, you’ll also want to try thinking outside the box for your response. Don’t just consider extracurricular activities, jobs, or volunteer experiences – did you travel anywhere interesting? Did you make any long-lasting personal connections? Did you learn any valuable life lessons? Keep your word limit in mind – but even if you don’t have a lot of formal activities to recount, you still did something over the past two summers. Try to tell admissions officials more about yourself by highlighting the experiences that were most meaningful to you.

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 words)

Prompts like these can be tricky if an idea doesn’t come to mind right away. Try to choose a moment that’s widely recognizable so you don’t have to waste words giving context, but unique and relevant to your specific interests. You might wish you were in the audience for Shakespeare’s first production of Macbeth , or at a 1980’s board meeting when Shigeru Miyamoto first pitched his idea for Super Mario Bros . Remember, you have a wide range of history to work with!

Some other questions to consider: are there any historical mysteries you wish you could solve, like the disappearance of Amelia Earhart? Do you have any historical role models? When you read or watch historical fiction, what time period do you go for? Try to have fun with this prompt – a creative answer will go a long way toward making efficient use of your 50 words.

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family. (50 words)

This prompt gives you an opportunity to dig a little deeper into a job or activity you’ve listed on your transcript. Ideally, this should be an activity you didn’t mention in Prompt #2 – as always, you want to avoid repetition wherever possible so you don’t appear single-faceted.

Try to choose an activity you’ve put a lot of time and passion into. If you’ve changed as a person through the friends you made at chess club, or your role in a political advocacy group completely changed your perspective, tell that story here! Narratives of personal growth make for effective college essays in general – admissions officials want to invite students who are open to learning and changing over time – so keep an eye out for any you’ve experienced in your past activities. Of course, the 50-word limit is still looming, so make sure you clearly identify the narrative you want to tell before distilling it into 2-3 sentences.

The last part of this prompt also gives an opportunity to discuss family responsibilities, an activity you may not have been able to get into elsewhere. Looking after your baby brother, helping your aunt renovate her new home, and cooking meals for a parent who works late may not be activities you’d put on your resume, but they’re still important activities that can help round out your background. If something immediately comes to mind, consider taking advantage of the opportunity this prompt gives you to discuss it.

List five things that are important to you. (50 words)

This prompt breaks from the standard short-response format and asks you to provide a list instead. Take advantage of this formatting break to save on your word count! Consider using a numbered or bulleted list – maybe even ordering your items from least to greatest importance.

Beyond the formatting, the content of this question is vague – on purpose. A lot of things might be important to you, from your custom-built PC, to a deeply-held value, to a close family member. Vary your answers to show you can think outside the box, and give a wide-spanning overview of your personal qualities. If you can, make each of your five things fall under a different category.

Some categories to consider: objects that are important to you; people; specific personal values (i.e. not just “gender equality,” but perhaps “holding the door for anyone who comes through, regardless of gender”); abilities; aspirations; places you love to visit.

Stanford’s Essay Prompts

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. (100-250 words).

For this first longer essay prompt, anecdotes are your best friend . Was there a moment in class when you realized you were no longer learning to pass a test, but because you found the subject genuinely fascinating? Can you recall the first time your favorite hobby captivated your interest? If so, opening your essay in that moment will immediately draw readers in and engage them with your perspective.

From there, you can spend time showing your reader why you find your favorite subject/hobby so fascinating, and what you’ve done to pursue it. The idea here is to show admissions officials your enthusiasm for learning at its peak – if your reader can sense your excitement through the page, then you’re doing a great job with this prompt. Again, narratives of personal growth are a great way to craft an engaging essay, so try to illustrate how you actually did learn beyond just feeling excited.

Here’s an example essay to help you get a feel for this prompt, as well as the larger word limit:

“There’s no such thing as talent, only hard work.” Coming from anyone else, these words would’ve sounded cheap – but as I looked over my older sister’s shoulder at the sketches she was etching in her notepad, I was breathtaken. I couldn’t believe those life-like characters – the expressive work of a professional comic artist – were something I could learn to do with hard work. From that moment, I resolved to draw one sketch a day. I looked up online courses on anatomy, perspective, and shading, and made my own disastrous renditions of the tutorials that popped up. Some nights, even though my eyes stung from looking at the page, I refused to go to bed without completing my daily sketch. When my brother bought a drawing tablet, he immediately regretted saying I could borrow it whenever I wanted. I had a whole new skillset to learn: digital art, with all its quirks and conveniences. Slowly, I began producing work I was proud to look back on, my character sketches starting to look like they could just maybe stand on the same page as my sister’s. Now, with three sketchbooks scattered haphazardly around my desk as I type, I’m so grateful to my sister for teaching me about hard work early on. I’m happy with where I am in my artistic journey, but I know I still have heaps to learn – and I’m excited to begin that learning process all over again with the next tutorial I click.

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 — know you better. (100-250 words)

For your second long-answer essay, you’ll answer either this prompt OR Prompt 3 below . Try brainstorming a few ideas for both prompts, and going with the prompt you can describe in more compelling detail.

This prompt challenges you to shake up the essay format with a more personal, casually formatted letter. While earlier essays showed off your interests, activities, and background, this prompt aims to find out who you really are in your day-to-day life. While your tone should still be polite – and your sentences grammatically correct – feel free to take a more playful, informal approach to this essay . What music will your roommate likely overhear blaring at max volume from your earbuds? What eccentricities should they expect from living with you?

Your response also shows admissions officials how you might interact with other members of the Stanford community. Try to think about what kind of relationship you’d like to have with your roommate, and how that reflects more broadly with how you’d like to interact with other Stanford students. Would you want to host dorm room study sessions? Are you hoping your roommate will tell you about courses and clubs you might not otherwise have known about? Details along these lines can show admissions officials you plan to engage intellectually with other community members – but again, don’t be afraid to talk about the more casual aspects of your ideal roommate relationship.

You can also get a little more creative with your essay’s format for this prompt. A letter format may be the most obvious, but you might also try out a bulleted list of things your roommate should know, or a memo you left on your roommate’s desk before leaving for class.

Please describe what aspects of your life experiences, interests and character would help you make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University. (100-250 words)

Lots of applicants give huge laundry lists of reasons they want to go to Stanford – the intellectual prestige, the academic resources, the vast opportunities for extracurricular engagement. Here, you need to think the other way around. If Stanford’s community can contribute tons to your college experience, what can you contribute to Stanford’s community?

You might be tempted to answer the prompt straight away, but remember – avoid restating the question, and consider your essay’s narrative structure as a whole. Instead of:

I can make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate at Stanford by drawing on my unique perspective as a first-generation college student. Because of my hard work and resourcefulness which I learned by seeking out help through the college application process, I’ll be able to make meaningful connections in the community and succeed even in the face of adversity.

Try structuring your essay more along the lines of this:

In my junior year of high school, I had no idea how to begin the college application process. Neither of my parents attended college, and I didn’t know anyone who could help – so I learned to reach out on my own. I started by researching my school’s faculty page to find our guidance counselor, then arranged a meeting with her to catch me up to speed on the process. Even though I started a head behind other students in my class, I learned how to be resourceful and ask for help – and now, as a prospective Stanford student, I’ll bring that resourcefulness to campus by forging connections in the community and uplifting other first-generation students like me.

By describing your personal experiences first – ideally in an anecdote – you can answer the prompt more confidently in your later paragraphs. Plus, you can grab your reader’s attention and stand out among other applicants who answer the question in a more typical fashion.

If you need help polishing up your Yale supplemental essays, check out our  College Essay Review  service. You can receive detailed feedback from Ivy League consultants in as little as 24 hours.

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College Essays


Are you hoping to be one of the less than 4% of students admitted to Stanford this year? If so, you'll need to write some amazing essays as part of your application.

In this article, we'll outline the different types of essays you need to write for your Stanford University application and teach you how to write an essay that will help you stand out from the thousands of other applicants. We'll also go over the five short answer questions that are part of the Stanford supplement.

So let's get started!

What Are the Stanford Essays?

Stanford requires that you complete a total of four essays as a part of your application for admission.

You'll need to answer one  prompt provided by the Common Application or Coalition Application , depending on which one you use to submit your Stanford application through. You can find more information about the Common Application essays here , and more info about the Coalition essay prompts here .

You'll also need to respond to three Stanford-specific short essay questions .

The Stanford essay prompts offer you plenty of opportunities to show off your qualifications as an applicant and wow the admissions committee.

stanford supplemental essays 2022 23 examples

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2022-2023 Stanford Essay Prompts

You'll need to respond to three Stanford Questions for your Stanford supplement essays. You'll submit the Stanford supplement essays online with your Coalition or Common app.

You need to respond to all three of the Stanford essay prompts for your application. Each one of the Stanford essays has a 100-word minimum and a 250-word maximum.

Here are the 2022-2023 Stanford essay prompts:

#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—know you better.

#3 : Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why?

Stanford Essays Analyzed

In this section, we'll be looking at each of the three Stanford supplement essays in depth. Remember, every applicant must answer every one of the Stanford essay prompts, so you don't get to choose which essay you would like to write. You have to answer all three of the Stanford essay prompts well in order for your application to stand out.

Let's take a look at each of the three Stanford short essay questions and see how to write something meaningful for each.

Stanford Essay Prompt 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. (100 word min, 250 word max)

This Stanford essay prompt is very broad. The structure of the prompt indicates that the committee is interested in learning about your curiosity inside and outside of the classroom, so don't feel like you have to limit the lessons you talk about to ones that occur at school.

The most important thing to remember here is to be specific. The committee doesn't want you to wax poetic about the virtues of remaining eternally curious; they want to see how a real-life example has affected you.

For instance, instead of talking about how a trip to a foreign country opened your eyes to different cultures, pick a specific moment from your visit that really hammered home the importance of curiosity. Go into detail about how that one experience affected you. Being specific is more powerful than speaking in generalized platitudes.

Similarly, you want to write about something that you're genuinely passionate and excited about. After all, it says so right in the prompt! Pick a topic that you truly love, such as a historical fiction book that you read that inspired you to learn about a new era in history or the science fiction movie that sparked curiosity about how time works in space.

Don't feel limited to your potential major. Stanford doesn't require that you pick and stick with a specific major for your application, so you don't have to write about a moment here that relates to your predicted course of study. In fact, picking a learning experience in a different field will better show that you're curious and open to new ideas.


Stanford Essay Prompt 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—know you better. (100 word min, 250 word max) 

Stanford's roommate essay question is notorious. While the other two of the three Stanford essays may change from year-to-year, the Stanford roommate essay is always on the application.

First, remember that this essay is written to your future roommate, who will be one of your peers. You can adopt a more informal, fun tone with this essay, because the prompt indicates that it's going to someone who is your age.

The Stanford roommate essay is your opportunity to show a different side of your personality than the admissions committee will see on the rest of your application. This essay is your chance to show yourself as a well-rounded person who has a variety of different interests and talents.

Don't repeat information that the committee can find elsewhere on your application. Take the time to share fun, personal details about yourself.

For instance, do you make awesome, screen-accurate cosplays or have a collection of rock crystals from caving expeditions? Think about what you love to do in your spare time.

Be specific—the committee wants to get a real picture of you as a person. Don't just say that you love to play video games, say exactly which video games you love and why.

The roommate essay is also a great time to show off your community—the friends, family, teammates, etc. who make up your current life. You can talk about the deep bonds you have and how they have affected you. Showing your relationships to others gives the committee a better idea of how you will fit in on Stanford's campus.

All in all, the Stanford roommate essay is a great opportunity to have some fun and show off some different aspects of your personality. Let yourself shine!

Stanford Essay Prompt 3

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why? (100 word min, 250 word max) 

While all three of the Stanford essay prompts are fairly broad, the third Stanford essay prompt is by far the broadest. You can write about anything that's meaningful to you here— the prompt doesn't specify that you have to talk about something academic or personal.

Sometimes, broad prompts can be more intimidating than prompts that have a very narrow focus. The trick here is to (again) pick something specific and stick to it.

Don't, for instance, say that world peace is meaningful to you because it won't sound sincere. You should talk about something that is uniquely important to you, not the other thousands of students that are applying to Stanford.

Pick something that is really meaningful to you. You could talk about your relationship with your grandmother and how she taught you how to cook or a specific musical album that reminds you of an important experience in your life. You might talk about a club or after-school activity that has broadened your horizons or an academic award you won after an extreme challenge.

Whatever topic you choose, your essay should feel sincere. Don't write what you think the committee wants to hear. They'll be more impressed by a meaningful experience that rings true than one that seems artificial or implausible.


Stanford Short Answer Questions Analyzed

Along with your essays, you'll also need to answer five short questions. You'll only have 50 words to answer each one...so you'll need to make it count!

Question 1: The Social Challenge Question

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?

There are two ways you can answer this question. First, you can choose a significant social challenge that matters to you. For instance, perhaps your parents are essential workers, and the COVID pandemic revealed the unfair labor practices that exist in the US to you. Labor issues are a major social issue both in the US and abroad, and because you're impacted by it, you'll be able to put together a very compelling and powerful answer.

The other approach you can take to this question is linking it to your academic interests. Perhaps you want to major in mechanical engineering. One huge social issue is access to clean drinking water. In your response, you can explain the issue and then talk about how it inspired you to become a mechanical engineer. Maybe you want to develop better water decontamination systems! That would be a great response to this question.

The big thing to remember is you need to include a why in your answer. Why do you think this challenge is significant? And how are you planning to help solve this problem? Make sure you include these answers in your response!

Question 2: The Summer Question

How did you spend your last two summers?

This is a pretty straightforward question. Make a list of everything you did the past two summers, then parse it down so that you're including the most important aspects. For example, say you volunteered at a summer camp for the past two summers, but you also helped your family with chores and volunteered with a political campaign. Our recommendation would be to leave the chores out and focus on the bigger, more notable aspects of your summer vacation.

But maybe you had to work over the summers. Or perhaps you weren't able to take on extracurriculars because your parents needed your help caring for your younger siblings. Don't worry: those are great answers here, too. Your response doesn't have to be flashy —you don't have to have spent two summers participating in scientific research!

The important thing is to include a why in your answer . Why did you spend your summer vacations this way? And what do your choices say about your values? For instance, if you helped care for your younger siblings, you can explain that family is important to you, and that's part of why you're driven to get a college education. Counselors are trying to get a sense of who you are and what you care about!

Question 3: The Historical Moment Question

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?

Think back to your history classes. Is there a historical moment you're fascinated with? This is a good time to share it with the admissions committee! Maybe you love legal history, so you would have loved to have attended Ruth Bader Ginsburg's swearing in ceremony. Or perhaps you're more interested in medicine, so you'd have loved to witness Wilhelm Röntgen discover x-rays.

Our best advice for answering this question is to be specific and original. Stay away from popular and obvious answers, like "the signing of the Declaration of Independence" or "Lincoln's Gettysburg address." Pick something more unique so that you stand out from other applicants. Once you've picked your historical moment, explain why you'd want to witness it!

Question 4: The Extracurriculars and Responsibilities Question

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family.

The key word in this question is "one." The admissions counselors don't want to read a list of your responsibilities. They want you to talk about one of them and then explain why you participate and/or why it's important to you.

For this question, avoid discussing something that's already evident from the rest of your admissions packet. For instance, if you've already listed band as an extracurricular and talked about it in one of your essays, you don't really need to talk about it here. Give the admissions counselors new information about yourself that they wouldn't be able to learn from other parts of your application.

For instance, maybe you help your dad out with his lawn care business in the summers. That would be a great thing to discuss here, especially if you haven't had a chance to talk about this elsewhere in your application. You could use this opportunity to discuss how helping your family out is important to you, and you also appreciated getting to know the people in your community while cutting their grass.

Whatever activity you choose, be sure to do more than just explain what that activity entails . Go into detail about what it means to you. Why do you participate in that activity? How has it impacted you as a person? You'll have to keep it brief, but these kinds of personal details are what Stanford admissions counselors are looking for.

Question 5: The Stanford Question

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford.

Answering this question starts with research. What is one—again, just one —thing you can't wait to learn, experience, or participate in as a Stanford student? You'll need to spend some time on the Stanford website looking into the different opportunities available to students.

First things first: limit your answer to academics or academic-leaning extracurricular activities. Yes, Palo Alto is beautiful. And yes, Stanford has a fun football program. But admissions counselors want to see that you're going to be a thoughtful, involved member of the Stanford community. So while these things are true and fun, this question is your chance to explain how you're going to get involved on the Stanford campus ...and maybe even give back, too.

Also, the best answers to this question are going to be specific. Instead of saying that you can't wait to participate in clubs, pick one (like the Food and Agribusiness Club) and discuss why it's so exciting to you. The more specific you are, the more you'll show admissions counselors that you're super serious about being a Stanford student.


How to Write a Great Stanford Essay

Regardless of which Stanford essay prompt you're responding to, you should keep in mind the following tips for how to write a great Stanford essay.

#1: Use Your Own Voice

The point of a college essay is for the admissions committee to have the chance to get to know you beyond your test scores, grades, and honors. Your admissions essays are your opportunity to make yourself come alive for the essay readers and to present yourself as a fully fleshed out person.

You should, then, make sure that the person you're presenting in your college essays is yourself. Don't try to emulate what you think the committee wants to hear or try to act like someone you're not.

If you lie or exaggerate, your essay will come across as insincere, which will diminish its effectiveness. Stick to telling real stories about the person you really are, not who you think Stanford wants you to be.

#2: Avoid Cliches and Overused Phrases

When writing your Stanford essays, try to avoid using cliches or overused quotes or phrases.

These include quotations that have been quoted to death and phrases or idioms that are overused in daily life. The college admissions committee has probably seen numerous essays that state, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Strive for originality.

Similarly, avoid using cliches , which take away from the strength and sincerity of your work.

#3: Check Your Work

It should almost go without saying, but you want to make sure your Stanford essays are the strongest example of your work possible. Before you turn in your Stanford application, make sure to edit and proofread your essays.

Your work should be free of spelling and grammar errors. Make sure to run your essays through a spelling and grammar check before you submit.

It's a good idea to have someone else read your Stanford essays, too. You can seek a second opinion on your work from a parent, teacher, or friend. Ask them whether your work represents you as a student and person. Have them check and make sure you haven't missed any small writing errors. Having a second opinion will help your work be the best it possibly can be.

What's Next?

If you want to be one of the 6% of students accepted to Stanford, you'll have to have a great GPA. Check out our guide on how to get good grades in high school for some tips and strategies!

Confused or intimidated about the college admissions process? Check out our complete guide on how to apply to college.

If you want to stand out from the crowd as an applicant, you'll need a solid resume of extracurricular activities . Learn more about your extracurricular options and why they matter.

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Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.

Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.

Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now :

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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.

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Conquering Stanford University's 2023-2024 Supplemental Essays

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Stanford University's supplemental essays allow you the opportunity to stand out from the throng of prospective students. We'll breakdown this year's prompts, provide expert advice, and share compelling examples of successful essays from past applications, focusing on both content and length.

Prompt 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. (100-250 words)

This prompt is Stanford's way of assessing your intellectual vitality. Think about an idea or experience that sparked your curiosity and led you to learn something new.

Here is a compelling example from a 2021 application:

"Stargazing on a clear night, I was awestruck by the enormity of the cosmos. This ignited a profound curiosity about the celestial bodies above. I eagerly delved into astrophysics, digesting complex theories about black holes, supernovas, and quantum mechanics. Each revelation about the universe's vastness further intensified my excitement about learning. I even began attending local astronomy club meetings, reveling in our shared awe and curiosity. To me, the infinite cosmos serves as a humbling reminder of our quest for knowledge, a quest that I eagerly wish to continue at Stanford."

Prompt 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. (100-250 words)

This creative prompt helps Stanford get a sense of your personality and values. Be authentic, and remember, your future roommate will also be reading this!

An endearing example from a 2022 application reads:

"Dear Roomie,

Welcome to our room! I'm excited about the year ahead. I should tell you that I am a self-proclaimed 'chocoholic' and there's a good chance you'll always find a hidden stash of dark chocolate in our room (willing to share, of course!). I enjoy morning runs and would love company if you're up for it. On weekends, you'll likely find me in a quiet corner, lost in a book or scribbling in my journal. I've also mastered the art of 'silent' typing for our late-night study sessions. Lastly, I bring a collection of indoor plants. They make our room livelier and I promise they don’t attract bugs!

Looking forward to sharing our Stanford journey, [Your Name]"

Prompt 3: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why? (100-250 words)

Here, Stanford is inviting you to share something that holds significance in your life. It can be an experience, an object, or an idea.

A profound example from a 2021 application articulates:

"One thing meaningful to me is my grandfather's pocket watch. Not only does it hold sentimental value, but it also serves as a reminder of the relentless passage of time. Its incessant ticking prompts me to value each moment and not postpone my dreams. This small object has influenced my philosophy towards life, fostering my desire to make an impact, create change, and not wait for 'someday.' It drives me to contribute to my community, voice my opinions, and not shy away from challenges."

As you set about crafting your Stanford supplemental essays, let your uniqueness and authentic self be evident. Use these essays as an opportunity to present your story and character. Good luck, and may your words make an impact!

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6 Stellar Stanford Essay Examples

What’s covered:, essay example #1 – letter to your future roommate, one-second videos, essay example #2 – letter to your future roommate, study and fun, essay example #3 – letter to your future roommate, k-pop and food, essay example #4 – something meaningful, 1984, essay example #5 – something meaningful, ramen, essay example #6 – significant challenge short answer, where to get your stanford essays edited.

Stanford is one of the most selective colleges in the nation, with an acceptance rate typically under 5%. If you want to snag a spot at this renowned university in sunny California, you’ll need to write standout essays.

Stanford is known for it’s short and whimsical prompts that give students a lot of freedom to let their creativity shine through. In this post, we will be going over three essays real students have submitted to Stanford to give you an idea of how to approach your essays. We will also share what each essay did well and where there is room for improvement.

Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 

Read our Stanford essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts. 

Prompt: 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. (100-250 words)

Hey roomie!

I’m so excited to meet you and share our first year at Stanford, but I should probably warn you. By the end of fall quarter, I guarantee that you will be sick of hearing me ask, “Do you want to be in my one second?”

For the past couple of years, recording a one-second video every day has been my way of finding excitement in even the most boring days. I promise that while we’re roommates, my one-second clips will make every day an adventure.

Some of my personal favorites:

  • Ice skating in Millennium Park in Chicago
  • Watching Netflix with my 3 sisters (usually Jane the Virgin)
  • Baking a cake in physics class
  • Petting my 17-pound rabbit, or my 2-pound rabbit
  • Family karaoke night featuring the High School Musical soundtrack and my terrible singing 
  • Playing in Pep Band at basketball games with my best friends
  • Winning Mario Kart (I am a self-proclaimed professional)
  • Playing with a friend’s new puppy
  • Selfies with my Target coworkers after handling an army of coupon moms

I’m excited to capture our first year together at Stanford, from Big Game to our first ski trip. Even on days where studying in our dorm seems like the highlight, I’ll suggest a spontaneous ice cream run so we’re not THAT lame.

So when I inevitably ask you to be in my one second, I promise that it’ll be worth it (and you can’t say I didn’t warn you).


Your soon-to-be bestie/adventure buddy/one-second-a-day-video-taking roommate

What The Essay Did Well

This is such a fun essay to read because it shows us who this student is outside of her academics and extracurriculars. There isn’t a single mention of her academic interests or the clubs and organizations she is in—ironically, that’s the strength of the essay! By focusing her essay around her one second a day video, it allows her to demonstrate to the reader her most natural self. Outside the confines of a classroom or pursuing extracurricular achievement, these are the things that bring her joy and make her interesting; conveying that idea is the exact point of Stanford asking this question.

Bulleting her most memorable one second videos is a great way to share a wide variety of stories without making the essay too dense. They are quick thoughts—not even fully formed sentences—but they all start with a verb to bring a sense of action to the essay. Not to mention, she was able to work in a good amount of humor. Including her “terrible singing ” at karaoke night, being a “ self-proclaimed professional ” at Mario Kart, and the “ army of coupon moms ” at her job isn’t necessary for each story, but adding it in gives admissions officers an extra little chuckle.

No space is wasted in this essay, even down to the sign-off. She could have ended by saying “ Sincerely, Sara “, but instead, she added an extra line to excitedly describe herself as “ Your soon-to-be bestie/adventure buddy/one-second-a-day-video-taking roommate.”  As if we didn’t get enough of a taste of her personality throughout, this student closes with a run-on thought that conveys her child-like enthusiasm at going to Stanford and meeting her roommate. 

What Could Be Improved

Overall, this is a really strong essay. That being said, there are a few sentences that could be reworked to be a bit more fun and align better with the rest of the essay.

For example, the starting off with an admission that her roommate might get sick of hearing about her one second videos is cute, but it could be made stronger by really leaning into it. “ Hi roomie! Here’s to hoping you aren’t ready to throw my phone out the third-floor window of Branner by finals!”  With this opening, we are immediately asking ourselves what could this student possibly be doing with her phone that would cause her roommate to chuck it out a window. It builds suspense and also adds humor. Not to mention, she would be including a dorm on campus to show she has thoroughly research life at Stanford.

Another sentence that could use some extra TLC is “ I promise that while we’re roommates, my one-second clips will make every day an adventure.”  Again, a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t stimulate the reader’s mind in the same way an example would. She goes into some of the one seconds they will capture at Stanford later on, but it wouldn’t hurt to add another example here. She could write something like this: “ With me everyday will be an adventure; I’ll have the clip of you trying scrambled eggs and strawberries at the dining hall for proof (trust me, it’s how they were meant to be eaten). “

Dear stranger (but hopefully future roomie),

Are you looking for someone that:

S ees you only at night when they are going to sleep?

T hrives being taciturn?

U nnerves you on the eve of your exams?

D oesn’t tell Moroccan fairy tales each night?

Y owls while sleeping?

A bhors lending you their clothes?

N ever nibbles on snacks and won’t bring you Moroccan cookies?

D oesn’t ask you to go for a walk on campus?

F idgets when you need help?

U proots a spider they cross without asking you for help?

N ot ready to sing with you if you play Beyonce’s songs?

Don’t fret if you said no to all of the above. That just means we are the perfect match because I am the opposite of everything I described above! It would be my great pleasure to introduce you to the person with whom you will not just share a room, but also have unforgettable moments. Be ready to spend nights laughing–it is not my fault if I keep you up all night with my jokes. Words cannot express how excited I am to find out what makes you, you! I’ve cleverly hidden our theme within my note. In case you didn’t notice, reread the first letter of each line.

P.S: It may be difficult for you to say the “kh” in my name, especially if you don’t speak Arabic or Spanish. So feel free to call me Yara.

This is a charming way to introduce yourself to a future roommate. Not only did they spell out all the ways they will be a loyal and dependable roommate, but they literally spelled out a secret message! Accomplishing this shows this student took extra time and care into crafting statements to add an extra layer of creativity.

This student also imbued aspects of their personality in these statements—once you flip it around. We see how important their Moroccan heritage is, as they look forward to sharing “ Moroccan fairytales each night ” and “ Moroccan cookies ” with their roommate. We see how caring they are when it comes to  “lending you clothes”  and not fidgeting “ when you need help. ” They also include some humor in some lines: “Yowls while sleeping.” Each sentence helps piece together different aspects of this student’s personality to help us put together a full picture.

Although the idea of presenting a bunch of contradictory statements puts a nice spin on the structure, be cautious about going this route if it gets too confusing for your reader. Certain lines create double negatives—” doesn’t tell Moroccan fairytales ,” “ never nibbles on snacks ,” “ not ready to sing with you “—that take the reader an extra second to wrap their head around what the student is actually trying to say. Admissions officers spend a very limited amount of time on each essay, so you don’t want to include any language that requires additional brain power to digest.

This essay is also missing the closing to the letter. The author includes “ Dear stranger ” and “ P.S. “, indicating they are writing the essay in the format of a letter. Their letter requires a closing statement and a sign-off of their name. Without them signing their name at the end of the essay, the P.S. they include doesn’t make as much sense. If the reader doesn’t know what their name is, how would they understand their nickname? 

Hey, future roommate!

As an INFJ personality type, I value my relationships and genuinely want to know you better:

How do you feel about music? I. Love. Music. My favorite genre is kpop, and since I am an avid kpop lover, I follow many groups (TXT and Twice being my favorites). I apologize in advance if you hear me blasting songs. Admittedly, getting lost in my own little world happens a lot. You can just ask me to tone it down. Or join in!

I am also a sucker for dramas. We could watch sweet heart aching love stories or historical ones together! Both are also my cup of tea.

Speaking of tea, what is your favorite drink to order? I tend to prefer sweet, bitter coffee and teas. I also like trying out new foods and making them. You know…you could be my taste tester. I like to consider myself an amateur cook. If we somehow miss the dining hours, no need to worry. With my portable bunsen stove, we can make hot pot in the dorm or quickly whip something up suitable to both our tastes.

As much as I love all food, Burmese food holds a special place in my heart. I would like to share with you my favorite foods: lahpet thoke (tea leaf salad) and ohn no khao swè (coconut noodle soup). Food is my love language, and I hope that we can share that same connection through exchanging and trying out new foods!

This essay packs a ton of information into just a few paragraphs. We learn about the author’s food and drink preferences, music taste, and favorite TV shows. The vivid language about food, drink, and cooking in particular makes the images of this student’s potential life at Stanford that much clearer and more compelling. 

Another especially strong element of this essay is the author’s personality and voice, which come through loud and clear in this essay. Through varied sentence structure and the way they phrase their stories, we get a great sense of this applicant’s friendliness and happy, enthusiastic style of engaging with their peers. 

Finally, college applications are by their nature typically quite dry affairs, and this kind of prompt is one of the few chances you might have to share certain parts of your personality that are truly essential to understanding who you are, but don’t come across in a transcript or activities list. This student does a great job taking advantage of this opportunity to showcase a truly new side of them that wouldn’t come across anywhere else in their application.

You wouldn’t, for example, want to just rehash all the APs you took or talk about being captain of your sports team. Firstly, because those probably aren’t the first things you’d talk about with your new roommate, and secondly, because that information doesn’t tell admissions officers anything they don’t already know. Instead, approach this prompt like this student did, and discuss aspects of who you are that help them understand who you are on a day to day basis—as the prompt itself hints at, the residential college experience is about much more than just class.

This is a great letter to a future roommate, but it’s important to remember that while the prompt is officially for future roommates, the essay is actually going to admissions committees. So, you want to  think carefully about what kinds of practices you mention in your essays. In most college dorms, students aren’t even supposed to light candles because it’s a fire hazard. So, while your dorm cooking skills might be very impressive, it’s probably not a good idea to advertise a plan to bring a portable stove to campus, as these kinds of things are often against dorm rules.

This may seem like nitpicking, but at a school as competitive as Stanford, you want to be extra careful to avoid saying anything that admissions officers might find off-putting, even subconsciously. For a more extreme example, you obviously wouldn’t want to talk about all the parties you plan on hosting. While this slip-up is much more minor, and the student was clearly well-intentioned, the overall genre of disregard for the rules is the same, and obviously not something you want to highlight in any college application.

Prompt: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100-250 words)

I am an avid anti-annotationist; the mere idea of tainting the crisp white pages of any novel with dark imprints of my own thoughts is simply repulsive. However, I have one exception — my copy of George Orwell’s 1984, weathered and annotated in two languages. While victimized by uneven handwriting eating away at the margins, it is the only novel I still hold beloved despite its flaws. 

Two years before reading 1984, I was indulging in the novels of Dr. Seuss, not because of my preferences, but because my reading level was deemed an “A” — the reading level of a toddler. I was certainly anything but that; I was a fresh-off-the-plane immigrant and rising middle schooler who could barely name colors in English. 

After reading the likes of A Very Hungry Caterpillar like a madman, my next step was purchasing more advanced books in both English and Korean, so I could understand the nuance and missing details of novels after I initially read them in English. This crutch worked perfectly until George Orwell’s 1984 — the first novel I purchased and read without the training wheels of a translated copy. It took me weeks to finish the book; it was painfully slow, like a snail inching toward an arbitrary finish line. 

I read the novel twenty-seven times, each reading becoming faster and revealing more information. When I look at my copy of 1984, I still cringe at its weathered and tainted pages, but I can’t help admiring that initial portal between two literary worlds. 

This is undoubtedly an excellent writer who produced an exceptionally strong essay. Right from describing themself as an “ avid anti-annotationist, ” we can tell this is going to be different than you typical essay. While many students will choose something related to their academic or extracurricular passion, this essay choose a specific book. Although 1984 is so much more to them than simply a novel, as they reveal through the essay, the focus on an individual object as something meaningful is such a powerful image.

This student does a beautiful job conveying their journey through the symbol of 1984. They measure time using the book (“ Two years before reading 1984 “), and use well-known children’s novels like A Very Hungry Caterpillar and Dr. Seuss to convey just how far they came without explicitly needing to describe how behind they were. Describing reading 1984 without a translated copy as ditching “training wheels” further emphasizes their growth.

The meaningfulness of 1984 is reinforced through the focus on its “ weathered and tainted pages .” Admitting to the reader at the beginning that they hate marking up books, yet their favorite book is annotated from cover to cover, highlights how 1984 is so much more than a book to them. It is a symbol of their resilience, of their growth, and of a pivotal turning point in their lives. Although the student doesn’t say any of this in their essay, their skilled writing reveals all of it to the reader.

One of Stanford’s deepest values is intellectual vitality (in fact, there’s a whole separate prompt dedicated to the topic!). This student demonstrates this value through establishing a willingness to learn and a love of cross-cultural literature.  All the while, this student is authentic. There’s little posturing here intended to impress the admissions officers with the student’s resilience and deep love for the written word; instead, he is genuine in sharing a small but authentic part of his life.

This essay has very little that needs to be improved on, but there is one crucial question that would have been nice to have answered: why 1984? Out of all the books in the world, why was this the one this student decided to commit to as the first all-English novel? Was it just by chance, did a teacher encourage them to pick it up, or did the premise of the book speak to them? Whatever the reason, it would have been nice to know to further understand its significance.

While most people argue that the best invention is something mechanical or conceptual, I believe it’s the creation of instant ramen. There’s little time involvement, deliciousness, and convenience all included in one package. What more could one ask for? The nostalgia packed within instant ramen makes it a guilty pleasure I can’t live without. 

During a road trip to Yellowstone, this miracle meal followed my family as we took turns sharing an umbrella under the pouring rain and indulging it in its instant delicacy: we were shivering in the cold, but the heat of the spicy soup and the huge portion of springy noodles warmed our souls instantly. It was an unforgettable experience, and eating ramen has since then followed us to Disneyland, Crater Lake, and Space Needle, being incorporated in our frequent road trips. 

It has also come in handy during our wushu competition trips. Often, competitions ended at midnight, making it inconvenient to eat out. In these situations, the only essentials we needed were hot water and instant ramen packages, enough to satiate our spirits and hunger.

Instant ramen is also a way my mom and grandma express their care for me. On late nights of doing homework after wushu practice, I usually ate something—sometimes instant ramen—to have a smoother recovery. My mom and grandma usually paired instant ramen with extra toppings like homemade wontons or fish balls—their motto being “instant ramen always tastes better when someone makes it for you.

By picking such an unusual topic, this applicant grabs the attention and interest of readers straightaway. Picking something as commonplace and commercial as instant ramen and transforming it into a thoughtful story about family is a testament to this student’s ability to think outside the box and surprise admissions officers. It makes for an essay that’s both meaningful and memorable! 

Another great aspect of this response is how information-dense it is. We learn not just about the writer’s fondness for instant ramen, but about their family road trips, their participation in wushu, their close-knit extended family, and their culture. Even though some of these details come in the form of brief, almost throwaway lines, like briefly mentioning fishballs and wontons, they are clearly thoughtfully placed and designed to add depth and texture to the essay. 

While walking the line between maximizing every word available to you and having your essay be cohesive and easy to follow is tricky, this writer does a fantastic job of it. The details they include are all clearly relevant to their main theme of instant ramen, but also distinct enough that we get a comprehensive sense of who they are in just 250 words. Remember, even quick details can go a long way in enriching your overall description of your topic or theme.

This is a very strong essay, but there’s always room for improvement. The first paragraph of this essay, though a good general introduction that you might find in an academic essay, doesn’t actually say much about this applicant’s potential as a Stanford student. Remember, since your space is so limited in the college essay, you want every sentence, and really every word, to be teaching admissions officers something new about you.

Starting a story in media res, or in the middle of the action, can get the reader immersed in your story more quickly, and save you some words that you can then use to add details later on. Avoiding a broad overview in your first paragraph also allows you to get into the meat of your writing more quickly, which admissions officers will appreciate—remember, they’re reading dozens if not hundreds of applications a day, so the more efficient you can be in getting to your point, the better.

Everybody talks. The Neon Trees were right, everybody does indeed talk but in our society no one listens. Understandably, the inclination to be heard and understood jades our respect for others, resulting in us speaking over people to overpower them with our greatest tools, being our voices.

What The Response Did Well

This prompt is a textbook example of the “Global Issues” essay , but with an obvious catch: you have only 50 words to get your point across. With such limited space, this Stanford short answer supplement demands that applicants get their point across quickly and efficiently. This essay does a great job of grabbing one’s attention with an unusual hook that segues smoothly into the main topic. Along with that, the student demonstrates that they have a great vocabulary and sophisticated writing style in just a few sentences. 

While failing to communicate effectively indeed causes a great many problems, failure to listen is an incredibly broad challenge, and therefore, not the strongest choice for this short response. Remember, like with any other supplement, you want your response to teach Stanford admissions officers something about you. So, you ideally want to choose a specific subject that reflects both your knowledge of the world and your personal passions.

Again, your space is limited, but if this student had been even slightly more specific, we would have learned much more about their personality. For example, the sentence that starts with “understandably” could have instead read:

““Understandably, the inclination to be heard and understood jades our respect for others, which causes shortsightedness that, if nothing changes, will soon enough leave our air unbreathable and our water undrinkable.”

This version goes a step further, by not just speaking vaguely about nobody listening, but also pointing out a tangible consequence of this problem, which in turn demonstrates the student’s passion for environmentalism.

Do you want feedback on your Stanford essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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August 8, 2023

2023-2024 Stanford Supplemental Essay Prompts

A panoramic of Stanford University, with red-roofed buildings beyond a lawn.

Stanford University has published its 2023-2024 admissions essays for applicants to its Class of 2028. In all, Stanford asks this year’s applicants to answer five short essay prompts of 50-words each in addition to three longer essay prompts of 250-words each. In addition to The Common Application ‘s Personal Statement, all of the short supplemental answers and more extended supplemental essays are required of applicants to the Stanford Class of 2028 .

2023-2024 Stanford Essay Topics and Questions

Short answer questions.

Stanford’s five short answers, which can be answered in up to 50 words, are listed below. This year, Stanford does not ask a short Why Stanford prompt.

1. What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?

The prompt is a longtime staple of the Stanford supplement. Don’t choose climate change. Don’t choose race relations. Stanford receives too many such responses. Applicants should instead dare to teach Stanford’s admissions officers something they don’t already know in their answer.

2. How did you spend your last two summers?

A student must demonstrate their hook in this answer. If a student traveled the world last summer, they’d be wise not to write about it. Instead, they should focus on what they did locally that meaningfully connects to the singular hook they hope to bring to the Stanford campus.

3. What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?

This prompt is a chance for an applicant to enlighten admissions officers about an event they don’t know about. As such, writing about witnessing the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech would not qualify. Dare to teach admissions officers something new here, too!

4. Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family.

Applicants should detail an activity here that relates to their hook — just like their summer activities. But since each answer should be a puzzle piece that complements rather than repeats information that’s already been shared with Stanford admissions officers, applicants should make sure not to repeat an activity they wrote about in their answer to how they spent the last two summers.

5. List five things that are important to you.

Stanford wants a list here. But that doesn’t mean an applicant can’t pepper in an explanation or two — within the 50-word limit, of course!

Longer Essay Prompts

Stanford applicants must answer the three essays below in 100-250 words:

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.

This essay is also making yet another appearance in the Stanford supplement. It’s Stanford’s most well-known essay. Too often, applicants show a silly side to themselves in their answers to the roommate prompt that they didn’t showcase in other areas of their application. And that’s a mistake. Students must almost demonstrate intellectual curiosity — whether the prompt directly asks them as much or not.

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.

As such, Stanford’s admissions officers want to hear what you will discuss in late-night conversations with your roommate. They want to hear about some things you will do together on Stanford’s campus. They want to see what impact an applicant will make on the student body — through the prism of their roommate experience.

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.

This essay prompt is somewhat of a hybrid: part tell us more about yourself and part Why Stanford. The life experiences component of this prompt is likely Stanford’s response to the Supreme Court’s outlawing of Affirmative Action . Chief Justice John Roberts left an opening for applicants to write about their backgrounds, including their race: “Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.” Herein lies that opening.

And while this is not a Why Stanford essay, to address the second part of the question, it would be wise for students to include a few specifics about how they hope to contribute to Stanford’s campus through their life experience, interests, or character, and, no, that does not mean peppering in class names or name-dropping professors who may or may not even be at Stanford next year. Instead, they should endeavor to capture enduring specifics about the university — from programs and institutes to activities and traditions.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Stanford Essays

If you’re interested in giving yourself the best chance of earning admission to Stanford by submitting the most compelling essays possible, fill out Ivy Coach ’s consultation form , and we’ll be in touch to outline our college admissions counseling services for Stanford applicants.

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Stanford Essays 2023-24

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Stanford Supplemental Essays 

The Stanford essays form a critical part of the application process. Like at many top schools around the country, when you apply to Stanford, you’ll complete school-specific Stanford essay prompts in addition to the Common App essay. If you’re wondering how to get into Stanford, strong Stanford supplemental essays are a good place to start. 

In this article, we’ll discuss each of the Stanford supplemental essays in detail, including the Stanford roommate essay and other Stanford essays. Additionally, we’ll review the requirements for each of the Stanford essay prompts. We’ll also provide resources with Stanford essay examples that you can use when writing your own Stanford essays. Finally, we’ll offer more tips on how to get into Stanford, including application deadlines, dates, and timelines.

Stanford Essays: Quick Facts

Stanford university supplemental essays quick facts.

  • Stanford Acceptance Rate: The acceptance rate for Stanford admissions is only 4% according to U.S. News . 
  • Understanding the Stanford Essay Requirements: The Stanford requirements include three Stanford supplemental essays. Each of the Stanford essays must be between 100 and 250 words.
  • Applying to Stanford: Students must complete the Common Application and the Stanford requirements before the Stanford application deadline. Make sure you submit your Stanford supplemental essays along with all other application materials when applying .
  • Restrictive Early Action Deadline: November 1
  • Standard Application Deadline: January 5
  • Top Stanford Essays Tip: Because you have to complete three Stanford essays, make sure you give yourself enough time to work on each of them. Even though each of the essays is only at most 250 words, shorter essays can take longer to revise and perfect.

Please note that essay requirements are subject to change each admissions cycle, and portions of this article may have been written before the final publication of the most recent guidelines. For the most up-to-date information on essay requirements, check the university’s admissions website. 

Does Stanford have supplemental essays?

Yes, students must complete three Stanford supplemental essays. Students must submit their Stanford supplemental essays in addition to the Common App essay and the other Stanford requirements. These Stanford essays help the admissions team get to know their applicants better and evaluate whether they will be a good fit for the school.

How many essays does Stanford require?

Students must submit responses to three Stanford essay prompts as part of their application. In addition to these Stanford supplemental essays, there are also several additional short answer prompts that students must complete. 

These responses are limited to 50 words maximum, so they are not quite long enough to be considered full Stanford essays. However, they are still an important part of your application, so plan to spend as much time on those responses as your responses to the Stanford essay prompts. You can find a list of these additional prompts along with tips and Stanford essays examples in our guide here .

Do Stanford essays change?

stanford essays

The Stanford essay prompts do sometimes change from year to year. One of their more well-known prompts, the Stanford roommate essay, has been part of the application for a while and likely won’t change. However, in the 2021-2022 school year , one of the Stanford essay prompts asked students to talk about a topic that was meaningful to them. Now, that question has been changed to ask students: what aspects of your life experiences, interests, and character would help you make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University?

Even though the Stanford supplemental essays may change, the purpose behind the Stanford essays remains the same. The admissions team uses the Stanford supplemental essays to get to know students on a deeper and more personal level. While grades and extracurricular activities are also important, the Stanford essays allow students to share parts of their life and experiences that the admissions office would not otherwise know. So, in each of your Stanford essays, highlight why you would be a perfect fit for Stanford!

What are the Stanford essay prompts?

The Stanford supplemental essays consist of three different Stanford essay prompts. Each prompt must be answered with an essay of between 100 and 250 words. The Stanford essay prompts for 2023-2024 are as follows and can also be found on the Stanford admissions website:

Stanford University Essay Prompts

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..

Before you start writing your Stanford essays, we recommend taking the time to read each of the Stanford essay prompts carefully. This will help you know exactly what each prompt asks so you can craft a strong response. 

Below, we’ll break down each prompt individually and show you how you can write standout Stanford essays for each prompt. For additional tips and Stanford essay examples, check out our Stanford essays guide .

Stanford Essays #1

stanford essays

The first of the Stanford essay prompts is fairly straightforward. This prompt asks you to describe a time or experience that sparked a passion for learning. The possibilities for answering this prompt vary widely. However, the key to any great essay is specificity and focus. Remember that you only have a maximum of 250 words to write your Stanford supplemental essays, so you need to choose which of your passions to focus on. 

Start by identifying a formative moment when you developed a love for learning about your chosen subject. Then, build from that to show your intellectual curiosity. For instance, this could be a school field trip to a planetarium that inspired an ongoing love of space. The best essays begin by immediately pulling their readers into a story rather than restating the prompt or giving a general introduction.

Keep it authentic

Some students make the mistake of trying to look perfect and writing Stanford essay examples that they believe readers want to see. Being authentic and showing off your unique personality is much more important. In fact, your readers will appreciate getting to know the real you. 

This prompt asks about more than just a single defining moment. It is about why this moment was meaningful and how that moment inspired you to keep learning and growing. So, don’t be afraid to show off how much you love your topic.

Stanford Essays #2

stanford essays

Prompt #2 is the famous Stanford roommate essay. While the other Stanford essays share common elements with other essay prompts, the Stanford roommate essay is in a category of its own. In the Stanford roommate essay, students write a letter introducing themselves to their future roommate. This essay can take many forms, from a standard letter beginning with “Dear Roomie,” to a list of important characteristics, and even a “day in the life” snapshot where the writer describes what a typical Stanford day might look like for them.

Whichever format you choose for your Stanford roommate essay, remember that your audience for this essay is not just your hypothetical future roommate, but also the Stanford admissions team. So, like your other Stanford essays, your Stanford roommate essay should highlight what makes you unique. 

Approaching the Stanford roommate essay

Think about what quirks, characteristics, or personality traits you want to reveal about yourself. Then, come up with anecdotes or stories that showcase those characteristics. Instead of simply saying to your reader, “I am an avid crossword puzzle solver,” you can convey the same information in a more interesting way by saying “You’ll probably wake up most mornings and hear me mumbling random words to myself while hunched over a newspaper. Don’t worry, I promise I’ll be more social once I finish my daily crossword!”

The Stanford roommate essay can seem intimidating at first, but it can also be a fun way to show off who you are. If you have trouble coming up with ideas, don’t be afraid to ask family members or friends for help. They may be able to identify parts of your personality that would make great subjects for your Stanford roommate essay. 

Stanford Essays #3

stanford essays

After the Stanford roommate essay, the final prompt for the Stanford supplemental essays asks you to describe why you would make a “distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University.” In other words, this essay asks you to tell the admissions team how you would contribute to life at Stanford. Although this question is more straightforward than the Stanford roommate essay, you should still think carefully about your response. 

As with the other Stanford essays, there is no single right answer for how you would contribute to the Stanford community. Like other top colleges, Stanford hopes to create a diverse community of students. So, write about what excites you and let your passion for those subjects shine through. Just remember that you only have 250 words to answer the Stanford essays. So, it helps to pick out two or three key ways you would get involved at Stanford.

Getting specific

The Stanford supplemental essays are also a great place to show off the research you have done about Stanford. Your Stanford supplemental essays should indicate both why you are a good fit for Stanford and why Stanford would be the perfect fit for your interests. The more specific details you include from either an in-person or virtual visit , the stronger your essay will be. Including the names of specific professors, internships, clubs, or study abroad programs is great, but make sure to provide context and specificity. Talk about why that aspect of life at Stanford stood out to you and how it connects back to your academic and career goals.

As with your other Stanford supplemental essays, make sure not to simply repeat your extracurriculars list from earlier in your application. If you do mention these activities, talk about how you would continue to pursue that interest at Stanford. Check out lists of student organizations and/or programs and see what lines up with your passions. For example, if you have an interest in journalism, you might talk about writing articles for the Stanford Daily or contributing to the many other student-run publications on campus. The more detailed you can get about what kind of Stanford student you would be, the better.

What is Stanford looking for in essays?

stanford essays

The Stanford supplemental essays serve several purposes. First and foremost, the Stanford supplemental essays help your application readers learn who you are in a more holistic way. The Stanford essays let you introduce yourself to the admissions team and give them a complete picture of who you are. So, your Stanford essays should highlight your life and experiences. 

The second purpose of the Stanford supplemental essays is to assess your writing abilities. No matter your major, you will write papers of some kind while at Stanford. So, Stanford wants to see that you have strong written communication skills. This does not mean that you need to fill your Stanford essays with impressive vocabulary words. Rather, Stanford simply wants to see clear, well-written prose that shows evidence of revision and thoughtfulness. So, make sure you check your Stanford supplemental essays for spelling and grammar before you submit them.

To learn more about Stanford check out this video from Stanford Admissions below:

Where can I find Stanford essays that worked?

One of the most effective things you can do to write better Stanford essays is to look at Stanford essays examples from admitted students. These essays can teach you what kinds of essays get students accepted to the most competitive schools in the country. It is important to note, however, that you should never copy someone else’s essay. Instead, think of these Stanford essays examples as a source of inspiration for your own writing. 

While there are books of Stanford supplemental essays available for you to purchase, there are plenty of free resources out there to help you with the Stanford supplemental essays. At CollegeAdvisor.com, we have a series of essay guides with tips for many different kinds of essays, including the Stanford supplemental essays. You can find the tips for the Stanford essays including full examples here and additional guidance for the Stanford supplemental essays here . You can also check out our full series about how to get into Stanford through the college page , which has all the info you need to ace your application.

Stanford Essays Examples

What is the application deadline for Stanford?

Like at other schools, students can choose between multiple Stanford application deadlines. If you know that Stanford is your first choice school, you can apply through the Restrictive Early Action pool. This pathway allows you to apply to other colleges as well as Stanford as long as those other applications are through a Regular Decision pathway (not Early Action or Decision). 

If admitted through REA, you are not required to attend Stanford and you have until May 1st to accept or decline your offer of admission. The Stanford application deadline for Restrictive Early Action is November 1st.

Students who do not wish to apply to Stanford through the Restrictive Early Action pathway can instead apply to Stanford through the Regular Decision pathway. Students who choose this route may apply to other schools with no restrictions from Stanford. The Regular Decision application deadline is January 5th, and students receive decisions from Stanford in early April. There are separate timelines and application deadlines for financial aid, which you can find on the school’s website .

Five tips for writing outstanding Stanford essays!

stanford essays

1. Start early

Because there are so many Stanford supplemental essays and short answer questions, it helps to get started on them as early as possible. Especially if you apply through the Restrictive Early Action pathway, you should give yourself enough time to write each of the Stanford essays. You likely won’t submit your first draft of the Stanford essays, so leave plenty of time to redraft and edit. This will also give you time to put the other Stanford essays tips we’ve discussed into practice!

2. Brainstorm ideas before writing

The Stanford supplemental essays, in particular the Stanford roommate essay, require a lot of personal reflection. Because of this, we recommend that you think critically about your passions, interests, and most important personal traits. That way, you can outline what you want your Stanford essays to say about you and choose subjects that highlight those aspects of your personality. The Stanford essays are not long enough to capture every one of your unique life experiences and qualities. So, choosing a few key details will help streamline your essays.

3. Show, don’t tell

This guideline can help you strengthen not only your Stanford essays, but also your writing in general. Try to use examples from your life to highlight your key traits rather than stating them outright. For example, if you want to show that you have exceptional leadership skills and a passion for gardening, you could describe how you created a horticulture club at your school and transformed an old courtyard into a plant sanctuary. These stories help your reader see the kind of person you are. Moreover, they provide perspective into the kind of student you would be at Stanford.

4. It’s all in the details 

Make sure your Stanford essays include vivid, specific details. The more descriptive and specific your language, the better your message will come across. So, keep your Stanford essays focused. Don’t try to include too much information—instead, center each essay on a single, compelling narrative. Then, use as much descriptive language as possible!  

5. Ask for help

The Stanford essays, and particularly the Stanford roommate essay, are not easy to complete. Moreover, writing any college essay is very different from writing a paper for class. So, find someone you trust to help you revise and edit your essays. Additionally, for prompts like the Stanford roommate essay, a second reader can provide useful insights. They also may catch mistakes or see improvements that you would not have otherwise considered. Just make sure that no one writes the Stanford essays for you! Admissions officers are trained to look for essays written by parents or siblings. Additionally, the strongest Stanford essays will capture your authentic voice. 

If you’re looking for help writing your Stanford supplemental essays, our advisors can help. We’ll provide one-on-one guidance to help you make the most of your Stanford essays. Click here to schedule a meeting with our team and learn more about how to make your Stanford essays count.

stanford supplemental essays 2022 23 examples

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Stanford Supplemental Essay Examples

With tips for writing a compelling essay.

Stanford Supplemental Essay Examples

Looking at Stanford supplemental essay examples is a great way to prepare for your own  college supplemental essays . Even if you are not planning on attending  Stanford University , you will find that reviewing different college essays will help you learn how to tackle various types of essay prompts so that you can learn to write a better essay. If you are applying to Stanford or any other prestigious university, like the  Ivy League Schools , you will need a compelling essay to improve your chances of admission.

Every year, universities like Stanford get thousands of applications from students with good grades and strong extracurriculars, and only a few of them get admitted. In fact, last year, Stanford had an acceptance rate that was just under 4%. If you want to stand out and be part of those few students who get an offer of admission, you will need to write a college essay that stands out.

Reviewing different  college essay examples  can help you do that. So take a look at the X outstanding Stanford supplemental college essay examples that we share in this blog. We also share a few tips to help you ace your college essays and tackle tricky topics like the notorious Stanford roommate essay. 

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 6 min read

Stanford supplemental essay example # 1.

Prompt: 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. (100 – 250 words)

My mother loves to tell me that I was born in a garden. It's not exactly true. Her water broke in our backyard garden, and she didn't feel the need to hurry to the hospital. It's my grandmother who came home from work and found her in the middle of the garden that finally convinced her that her tomatoes could wait while I - the baby she needed to give birth to - could not.

She blames those few minutes for my obsession with agriculture, but I believe it stems from watching her care for her garden. I remember watching her plant seeds as a child and being amazed when actual food started growing out of the ground within a few weeks.

I started helping her out in her garden when I was a child, and we volunteered together for the local community garden. As I grew up, I became more curious about agriculture. I started asking questions in school and researching independently to learn more. It led me to the national agriculture  summer program for high school students , where I got to learn more about the technical aspects of food production and distribution.

That experience reaffirmed the decision that I have made to learn about agricultural economics and sustainability. I am genuinely excited to learn what we can do to improve the current processes in order to make things better for future generations. I believe that Stanford's sustainability program is the best place for me to do that.  (248 words)

Prompt: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100 – 250 words)

"Not thanking is Witchcraft, Annie. You have to thank people for their effort". Those are my grandmother's words. She often reminds me that the profoundly traditional Shawna people of Zimbabwe, where she and my parents were raised, believe that not thanking is witchcraft more often than I can remember. 

As a child, I loved my grandmother but thought she was very annoying. She speaks very little English, and my Shawna is not very good, so sometimes it's hard to understand her. She also loves to tell me stories about the village she grew up in, which I have never seen and will likely never see because, according to her, the foreigners have built shopping malls where it was. 

I started appreciating my grandmother when I began learning about oral history in class. It occurred to me that although I was born and raised in the US, I am a Zimbabwean American and most of my connection to my culture comes from her. She always made it a point to cook traditional foods like Sadza for my siblings and me, speak to us in Shawna even when she knew how to say it in English, and teach us about our culture. 

My relationship with her and the stories she shares with us have allowed me to connect with my heritage, and they prompted my interest in African history and cultures. So I'd like to wrap up this short essay by thanking her for teaching me and thanking you for considering my application.  (250 words)

Wondering how to get into a top college with a low GPA? Check this out:

Prompt: 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. (100 – 250 words)

Dear future roommate, 

The first thing you need to know about me is that almost every song is "my jam". You will probably start rolling your eyes every time I say, "ouh, that's my song" by the end of our first week together. Don't worry; I won't take it personally. I will also try not to sing or hum loudly, but I know this will be a serious challenge, so if I get carried away and disturb you when you're studying or just having some quiet time, let me know, and I will stop. 

I hope you're a music lover too so we can listen to some great records together. Yes, you read that right. I said records because I have an old-school record player and a great collection of vinyls that has a bit of everything, including Kendrick Lamar, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Frank Sinatra.

If music is not your thing, then I'm sure we'll find something else to bond over. I also enjoy reading, shopping, and defending the superiority of DC comics over marvel. I also enjoy trying new things, so I hope you'll be open to introducing me to one of your hobbies. I'm willing to try anything that doesn't involve horses. I know that they are cute and majestic, but one of them scarred me for life, and I am kind of scared of them now. 

I look forward to telling you the whole story one day soon and learning about you. 

(249 words)

Tips for tackling the Stanford roommate essay

Many students find the Stanford roommate essay especially difficult to write because it is so broad and a bit more personal than most college essays. When tackling this prompt, you should remember that even though the admissions committee will be reading this essay, it needs to be written as if it were addressed to a peer. By asking you to write to your college roommate, they have given you a writing assignment, and you need to follow instructions. So your tone should be a bit less formal but still courteous. It would also be best to avoid focusing on academia in this essay.

This particular prompt gives you a chance to humanize your application so take advantage of that. Many students approach this essay the same way they do the " tell me about yourself" interview question , but this is not the same thing. This essay should focus more on providing the admissions committee with an authentic portrayal of your character and personality. You can't share everything in 250 words, so we recommend making a list of everything you'd want to share with an actual future roommate and then narrowing it down to the three or four things that are most meaningful to you.

Check out this video for more college essay tips:

Contrary to popular belief in my home, I cannot wait to meet you! 

There are thirteen people in my house on most days. That includes my parents, eight siblings, grandmother, and two cousins. Most of them assumed that I would have opted to live on my own so that I could have some peace and quiet. I can see why they'd think that, but the truth is that while I enjoy doing many things on my own- like curling up on the couch with a good book and some ginger tea or drawing- I also enjoy being around people. 

One of the reasons I am excited about college is that I get a chance to try new things and meet new people. I like to explore and learn about different cultures, so I hope you'll feel comfortable telling me about where you're from and teaching me about your culture. I am Senegalese-American, and I hope that I'll get a chance to introduce you to some Senegalese food because it is delicious, and I think everyone should try it at least once. 

I don't cook very often, but I love food, so I look forward to checking out all the different restaurants on and near campus. I love to spend Saturday nights on the couch with good company, great takeout, and a good movie. If that sounds like a fun night to you, then I think we will get along just fine. 


(246 words)

Conclusion & Writing tips

Your supplemental college essays can significantly impact the admissions committee's decision, so it is important that you do everything you can to write an essay that will not only be attention-grabbing but will also add value to your overall application. This is especially important if you are hoping to  get into college with a low GPA.   So, here are a few tips to help you write a more compelling essay. 

Many promising students don't know  how to write a college essay . If you are one of them, or if you feel that you need some additional guidance as you write your essay, then you should reach out to a  college essay advisor  for support. Or, if you've already started working on your essay, it may be a good idea to reach out to a  college essay review service . These services are offered by admission professionals who will be able to identify issues in your essay that the untrained eye may not be able to. "}]">

Last year, only 3.9% of the students who applied to Stanford were offered admission, so it is fair to say that it is a highly competitive school. You will need an outstanding application to get in. 

Many assume that Stanford is an Ivy League School, but it is actually not. It is, however, one of the most prestigious universities in the United States and the entire world.

Do not underestimate the importance of your college essays. Every year, Stanford gets applications from thousands of students with high GPAs and impressive extracurriculars. Your essays give the school a chance to find out what else you bring to the table.

These essays are relatively short. You’re between 100-250 words.

One of Stanford's oldest and most well-known supplemental essay prompts asks students to write a letter to their future roommates. It is one of the essays that students often find challenging.

Your roommate essay needs to be about you! This essay is supposed to tell the admission committee what you are like as a person, what interests you, and what you can contribute to the Stanford campus. So, talk about your hobbies, habits, and interests outside of academia.

You can improve the overall quality of your essays by having a strong opening, using specific examples, showing instead of telling, and ensuring that your essay is error-free. If you're not sure how to do this, reach out to a college essay advisor for some assistance. 

We recommend starting your essay with a "hook" or something catchy like an anecdote, a gripping or funny fun fact about you so that you can grab the reader's attention from the very beginning.

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Our holistic review allows us to consider each applicant's unique circumstances and educational background. We recognize that many of our transfer applicants have followed non-traditional routes to higher education, and we welcome the diverse perspectives these students bring to campus. Additionally, we understand that family, personal or financial circumstances may prevent students from participating in traditional extracurricular activities. We hope you will use the application to explain your specific situation.

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The personal statement request is located in the Stanford Questions section of the Transfer Common Application. The question reads: Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve. (650-word maximum)

Stanford Short Essays

We ask applicants to write a short essay on each of the following three topics. For the second essay, transfer applicants must choose one of the two listed prompts. There is a 100-word minimum and a 250-word maximum for each essay.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stanford’s community is an essential part of the undergraduate experience. How do you define community and what contributions have you made to yours?
  • Please describe what aspects of your life experiences, interests and character would help you make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University.
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How To Answer Stanford's 2023/24 Supplemental Essays: Tips & Insights

How To Answer Stanford's 2023/24 Supplemental Essays: Tips & Insights

What's New in 2023/24

What Are Stanford's Essay Prompts?

Short Answer Questions

Short essay questions.

General Guidelines

Navigating Stanford University's supplemental essays for the 2023/24 admissions cycle? This guide offers step-by-step advice on tackling each question, from the short answers to the more complex essays. We also include general guidelines to help you craft compelling narratives that answer the prompts, showcase your unique character, and fit with Stanford's community. It is ideal for anyone aiming to make their application stand out in a highly competitive pool.

Stanford’s 2023/24 Supplemental Essay Updates: What's Changed?

Gaining admission to Stanford University , with its acceptance rate of approximately 4% , is an unparalleled accomplishment. In the fiercely competitive world of college admissions, your supplemental essays play a pivotal role in showcasing your unique story and alignment with Stanford's values.

Every academic year, prestigious institutions like Stanford fine-tune their application process to ensure they capture a comprehensive view of their potential students. For the 2023/24 admissions cycle, Stanford has implemented a few notable changes to its supplemental essay questions.

In the short answer section, while four prompts remain consistent with previous years, the question about anticipating an experience at Stanford has been substituted with a prompt asking applicants to "List five things that are important to you." This shift indicates a desire to understand applicants' priorities and values on a more personal level.

The short essay section has also seen adjustments. While the prompts about reflecting on personal learning and penning a note to a future roommate continue to feature, Stanford has amalgamated the questions about defining family and discussing something significant. Now, applicants are invited to describe how their life experiences, interests, and character would contribute to the Stanford undergraduate community.

These revisions highlight Stanford's evolving admissions approach, emphasizing understanding the diverse life experiences and intrinsic values applicants would bring to its dynamic undergraduate community.

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What Are Stanford’s Supplemental Essay Prompts for 2023/24?

For the 2023/24 application cycle, Stanford University has thoughtfully designed specific supplemental essay prompts to delve deeper into the profiles of its applicants, complementing the Common App questions. These prompts aim to uncover your societal concerns, personal experiences, academic passions, and how you envision your journey at Stanford.

Stanford's short answer questions provide a snapshot into your perspectives, experiences, and values.

  • Societal Challenge : What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 words)
  • Summer Activities : How did you spend your last two summers? (50 words)
  • Historical Witness : What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 words)
  • Extracurricular Elaboration : Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family. (50 words)
  • Personal Priorities : List five things that are important to you. (50 words)

These essays provide a deeper insight into your intellectual curiosities, personal experiences, and how you'll contribute to Stanford's vibrant community.

  • Passion for Learning : 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. (100-250 words)
  • Roommate Introduction : 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. (100-250 words)
  • Distinctive Contribution : Please describe what aspects of your life experiences, interests, and character would help you make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University. (100-250 words)

With an acceptance rate hovering around 4% , Stanford's application process is undeniably rigorous. These prompts offer applicants a unique opportunity to showcase their societal insights, personal growth, and the distinct perspectives they'll bring to the Stanford community.

Looking for inspiration? Dive into these Stanford essay examples to see what successful applications look like!

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How to Answer Stanford’s Short Answer Questions?

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today, - 50 words max.

Stanford seeks students who are not only academically adept but also socially aware and proactive. This question aims to gauge your awareness of global or local challenges and your perspective on their significance . It's an opportunity to showcase your critical thinking and ability to prioritize issues based on their impact.

Selecting a Challenge

The first step is to identify a challenge you genuinely believe is significant. This could be:

  • Environmental issues like climate change or deforestation.
  • Social challenges such as racial inequality, gender discrimination, or mental health stigma.
  • Technological challenges like data privacy concerns or the ethical implications of AI.
  • Economic challenges such as income inequality or unemployment.

Articulating the Significance

Once you've chosen a challenge, delve into why you believe it's the most significant:

  • Scope of Impact : Is it a global issue affecting millions or a local challenge with profound implications?
  • Long-Term Implications : Does the challenge have potential long-term consequences if not addressed?
  • Personal Connection : Perhaps you've witnessed the effects of this challenge firsthand or have been personally affected by it.

Being Concise and Specific

With a 50-word limit, precision is key. Avoid generic statements. Instead, focus on specific aspects of the challenge and its implications.

  • "The digital divide is society's most pressing challenge. As technology advances, those without access are left behind, widening educational and economic disparities."
  • "Mental health stigma is a silent crisis. Many suffer in silence, fearing judgment, which exacerbates the issue and prevents early intervention."

Stanford's first short answer question tests your awareness, perspective, and ability to articulate complex issues succinctly . Choose a challenge you're passionate about, explain its significance, and ensure your response is concise and impactful.

How did you spend your last two summers?

Stanford is interested in how you utilize your free time, as it provides insight into your interests, priorities, and work ethic. This question aims to understand what activities or experiences you value and how you engage with the world when academic commitments are less pressing.

Being Specific and Honest

The key to answering this question effectively is being specific and honest. Instead of saying, "I spent time with family," you could elaborate with, "I explored local hiking trails with my family, fostering my love for environmental science."

Balancing Variety and Depth

You can mention a variety of activities, but remember to be concise. If possible, connect the activities to your intended field of study or personal growth:

  • Academic Pursuits : Did you take any courses, attend workshops, or engage in self-study that aligns with your academic interests?
  • Work Experience : Did you have a job or internship? What skills did you gain, and how did it shape your understanding of a particular field?
  • Volunteering : If you engaged in community service, what impact did it have on you and the community?
  • Personal Interests : Did you engage in any hobbies or personal projects? How did they contribute to your skills or well-being?


Ensure that the experiences you share are appropriate for an academic application. They should be experiences you'd be comfortable sharing with a teacher or in a professional setting.

  • "Last summer, I interned at a local tech startup, honing my coding skills and understanding the dynamics of team collaboration. The previous summer, I volunteered at a food bank, which deepened my awareness of food insecurity issues."
  • "I spent one summer taking a creative writing course, which fueled my passion for storytelling. The other was dedicated to a family road trip across historical sites, enriching my love for history."

Stanford's second short answer question seeks to understand how you use your free time to engage in meaningful activities or personal growth . Be specific, honest, and appropriate in your response, and if possible, connect your activities to your broader goals or interests.

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?

Stanford is keen to explore your intellectual curiosity and how you relate to history, whether it's a globally recognized event or a personal moment in time. This question aims to understand what you find significant or intriguing in the tapestry of human experience .

Unleashing Your Imagination

Don't limit yourself to textbook historical events. This is an opportunity to showcase your unique interests. Whether it's a monumental event like the signing of the Declaration of Independence or something more personal or niche, like a family event or a lesser-known cultural phenomenon, the key is to pick something that genuinely interests you.

Exploring the 'Why'

Once you've chosen the event, delve into why you wish you could have witnessed it.

  • What do you think you would learn or gain from the experience?
  • Would it offer insights into contemporary issues, personal growth, or your field of study?

The 'why' is as important as the 'what' in this question.

Timing and Context

Consider the timing of the event. Would it be a moment that lasts a few minutes, like witnessing a groundbreaking scientific discovery, or something more prolonged, like being present during a significant cultural festival? The duration and setting can add another layer of depth to your answer.

  • "I wish I could have witnessed the Women's Suffrage Parade of 1913. Seeing the courage and unity of women fighting for their rights would deepen my understanding of the struggles that paved the way for the freedoms I have today."
  • "I'd love to have been in the audience at the premiere of Stravinsky's 'The Rite of Spring.' The riot it incited speaks volumes about the power of art to challenge societal norms, something still relevant today."

Stanford's third short answer question is an invitation to share your intellectual or personal interests through the lens of history . Be imaginative and specific, and focus on the event and why witnessing it would be significant to you. This is a chance to offer a glimpse into what excites your curiosity and how you relate to the world and its history.

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family.

Stanford wants to see a fuller picture of who you are beyond academics . This question explores another facet of your life you're passionate about or committed to. It's an opportunity to showcase your skills, values, and contributions in a different context.

Choosing the Right Experience

Select an experience you haven't elaborated on in other parts of your application. It could be an extracurricular activity , a part-time job, or even family responsibilities. The key is to choose something that has significantly impacted you and ideally contrasts with your intended major to show the breadth of your interests.

Narrative Over Summary

Instead of listing what you've done, focus on a specific anecdote that encapsulates the essence of your involvement. Describe a moment that was pivotal or enlightening in that experience. This makes your answer more engaging and provides a deeper insight into your role and its significance.

What You Bring to the Table

Discuss the skills or values you've gained from this experience. Whether it's leadership in a club, responsibility in a family setting, or problem-solving in a job, highlight how these skills have shaped you and how they could be applied in a Stanford context.

  • "As the editor of our school newspaper, I once had to navigate a controversial article submission. Balancing freedom of speech with the potential for harm taught me the delicate art of ethical journalism."
  • "Working in a family-owned restaurant taught me the value of hard work and customer service. It also fueled my passion for business analytics, as I started to see how data-driven decisions could improve our operations."

Stanford's fourth short answer question is a window into your life outside the classroom. Focusing on a specific anecdote and the lessons learned can provide a more vivid and meaningful picture of your extracurricular involvement or responsibilities . This is your chance to show Stanford another layer of who you are and what you could bring to their community.

List five things that are important to you.

This prompt is a straightforward yet revealing way for Stanford to understand your priorities, values, and interests . It's a snapshot of what matters most to you, from personal beliefs to hobbies, relationships, or aspirations.

Selecting Your Five Things

Choose items that genuinely resonate with you and ideally offer a well-rounded view of who you are. The list can include a mix of the profound and the seemingly mundane as long as they are genuinely important to you.

Be Authentic, Be You

This is not the time to list what you think Stanford wants to hear. Authenticity is key. Your list should reflect your true self, as it offers another layer of understanding about you that might not be evident in other parts of your application.

  • Family: The cornerstone of my life and my biggest support system.
  • Environmental Sustainability: A cause I'm deeply committed to, both in lifestyle choices and activism.
  • Music: A universal language that brings me joy and emotional expression.
  • Intellectual Curiosity: The driving force behind my academic and personal endeavors.
  • Humor: A necessary tool for navigating life's ups and downs.

Stanford's fifth short answer question is a quick but insightful look into your values and interests. By carefully selecting the five genuinely important things to you, you offer Stanford a glimpse into what drives you, what you care about, and what kind of community member you would be .

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How to Answer Stanford’s Short Essay Questions?

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., - 100 to 250 words.

Stanford is looking for students who are both academically competent and passionately curious. This essay aims to delve into what genuinely excites you about learning , whether it's a specific subject, a method of inquiry, or an experiential learning opportunity.

Identifying Your Idea or Experience

Begin by pinpointing the idea or experience that genuinely excites you about learning. This could be:

  • A subject matter that you are passionate about but haven't had the chance to explore in a formal educational setting.
  • An experience that sparked your curiosity and led you to further exploration or research.
  • A methodology or form of inquiry that you find particularly stimulating.

Narrating the Discovery Journey

Discuss how you came across this idea or experience. Was it through a book, a mentor, an internship, or perhaps a personal experience? If you faced any obstacles or discouragement in pursuing this interest, this is a good place to discuss it.

Connecting to Stanford's Learning Environment

Now, consider how you would continue to explore this interest at Stanford. Would it be through specific courses, research opportunities, or clubs? Are there professors you're excited to work with or facilities you're eager to use?

Formulating Questions and Research Approaches

Discuss the kinds of questions this topic raises for you and how you might go about answering them. Whether it's through lab experiments, fieldwork, or theoretical analysis, indicate how you envision your learning journey unfolding at Stanford.

Collaborative Learning

Stanford values collaborative learning. Briefly touch upon how you see yourself engaging with peers, professors, or even external communities to deepen your understanding of the topic.

Stanford's first short essay question is an opportunity to showcase your intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. By detailing an idea or experience that excites you and connecting it to Stanford's resources and community, you demonstrate not just your passion but also how you would contribute to the intellectual vitality of the campus. Approach this essay with a focus on specificity, authenticity, and a clear vision of your academic journey at Stanford .

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.

Stanford wants to get a glimpse of who you are outside of your academic and extracurricular achievements. This essay is a chance to showcase your personality, quirks, and the unique traits that make you, you .

Setting the Tone

Approach this essay as if you're writing a letter to a friend. The tone should be conversational; you can incorporate humor, vulnerability, or even self-deprecation to make it engaging and relatable.

Sharing Personal Anecdotes

Instead of using adjectives to describe yourself, share specific anecdotes or experiences that reveal something about you. This could be:

  • A ritual or tradition that's important to you.
  • A hobby or interest that you're passionate about.
  • A challenge you've faced and how you dealt with it.

Examples for Inspiration

  • If you have a religious practice, you could talk about how you adapted it during a school trip, perhaps waking up early to pray without disturbing others.
  • If you love aesthetics, you might mention how you can't resist picking flowers from your neighborhood to make your space more beautiful.

Incorporating Humor or Poignancy

Feel free to incorporate humor or poignant moments to make the essay memorable. Whether it's a funny story about a family vacation gone wrong or a touching moment from a community service trip, these details help paint a fuller picture of who you are.

Living Together

Since this is a letter to a future roommate, consider mentioning how you approach shared living spaces. Are you neat or messy? An early riser or a night owl? This adds another layer of personal insight.

Stanford's second short essay question offers a unique opportunity to showcase your personality in a more informal setting. By sharing specific anecdotes and experiences, you not only help your future roommate get to know you but also give Stanford a more comprehensive view of what you'll bring to its community . Approach this essay with authenticity, vulnerability, and a dash of humor to make it memorable.

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

Stanford wants to understand how you will contribute to its diverse and vibrant community. This prompt allows you to showcase the unique qualities, experiences, and perspectives you bring to the table .

Defining Your Community

Start by identifying a community you are a part of . This could be anything from a school club, a sports team, a religious group, or even a community of hobbyists. What binds this community together? Is it a shared goal, a common interest, or collective challenge?

Your Role in the Community

Once you've defined the community, focus on your role within it. Are you a leader, a supporter, a motivator, or perhaps a creative mind? How have you contributed to this community, and what impact have you had?

  • If you've been part of a mentoring program, you could discuss how you nurtured that relationship over the years, the challenges you faced, and the growth you observed in yourself and your mentee.
  • If you started a club in school, you could talk about how it originated from a common interest, how it grew, and what steps you've taken to ensure its continuity after you leave for college.

Connecting to Stanford

Now, tie these experiences back to how you will contribute to Stanford.

  • Will you bring your leadership skills to a student organization?
  • Will your creative thinking contribute to classroom discussions?
  • Will your commitment to service find a new avenue on campus?

Character Traits

Don't forget to mention character traits that enable you to make these contributions. Are you empathetic, resilient, innovative, or collaborative? Use specific examples to demonstrate these traits.

Stanford's third short essay question is your chance to showcase how your unique life experiences, interests, and character will enrich the Stanford community. Focusing on your role in a specific community and how you've contributed to it provides a glimpse into how you'll engage with the Stanford community. Approach this essay with introspection and authenticity to effectively convey your potential contributions .

General Guidelines for Answering Stanford's Supplemental Essay Questions

  • Research and Specificity : Stanford's essay prompts are designed to gauge your fit within its diverse and intellectually vibrant community. Be specific about courses, professors, or extracurricular activities that excite you. Mentioning these details shows that you've done your homework and that you're genuinely interested in Stanford.
  • Show Self-awareness : Stanford values students who are reflective and self-aware. Whether you're discussing a societal challenge, your summer activities, or your future roommate, always tie it back to what these experiences or thoughts reveal about you.
  • Diversity of Thought : Stanford prides itself on a diverse student body that brings many perspectives to campus. Highlight how your unique experiences, viewpoints, or background will contribute to this diversity of thought.
  • Be Authentic : Authenticity is crucial. Don't write what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. Your genuine interests, challenges, and aspirations will always make a more profound impression.
  • Quality Over Quantity : With strict word limits, focusing on depth rather than breadth is essential. Choose a few points and explore them fully to give the admissions committee a more detailed picture of who you are.
  • Narrative Storytelling : A compelling narrative can make your essay stand out. Whether you're describing a historical event you wish you'd witnessed or explaining what brings you joy, storytelling techniques can make your essay more engaging and memorable.
  • Proofread and Revise : Your essays should be well-crafted and error-free. Beyond grammar and spelling, ensure your essay flows well and effectively communicates your message. Consider seeking feedback from teachers, mentors, or friends.
  • Connect to the Bigger Picture : Always relate your answers back to your potential contributions to the Stanford community and how Stanford will help you achieve your personal and academic goals. This shows that you're not just thinking about admission but also about how you'll fit into the Stanford community long-term.
  • Embrace the Challenge : These essays are your opportunity to present a fuller picture of yourself beyond just grades and test scores. Use them to show why you and Stanford would be a mutually beneficial match.

Stanford's supplemental essays provide a platform to express your individuality, aspirations, and suitability for the university. By carefully crafting your responses and connecting them to Stanford's resources and ethos, you can effectively demonstrate why you would be a valuable addition to the Stanford community.

For more inspiration, you might want to explore examples of successful Stanford essays to understand what makes an application truly stand out.

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Final Thoughts

Embarking on the journey to Stanford is about more than just academic excellence; it's about crafting a narrative that deeply resonates with Stanford's unique ethos and the admissions committee. Your supplemental essays offer a unique lens into your character, aspirations, and the distinct contributions you'll make to the Stanford community.

Every Stanford hopeful has a unique story to tell. This is your golden opportunity to narrate yours. Approach your essays with authenticity, introspection, and a genuine enthusiasm for your narrative.

If you're uncertain whether your essay truly encapsulates your essence or if it will distinguish you amidst the sea of applications, our essay review service is here to assist. Our seasoned experts will meticulously review and provide feedback, ensuring your essay strikes a chord with Stanford's admissions officers.

Want some helpful inspiration? Explore our ebook and discover essays from students like you who have secured places at elite institutions. And for those aiming for Stanford, our collection of successful Stanford essay examples will offer invaluable insights.

For those at the onset of their college application journey, consider booking a free consultation with our experienced college counselors. We're committed to guiding you in crafting an application that amplifies your chances of walking through Stanford's iconic arch. Your dream of becoming a Stanford Cardinal is attainable, and we're here to support you every step of the way.

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What Makes Crimson Different

Key Resources & Further Reading

  • Everything you need to know about US Application Supplemental Essays
  • Acing your College Application Essay: 5 Expert Tips to Make it Stand Out from the Rest
  • How to Tackle Every Type of Supplemental Essay
  • 2023-24 Common App Essay Prompts
  • What are the Most Unusual US College Supplemental Essay Prompts?

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Highly-selective colleges and universities often require supplemental application materials. These materials help further personalize the admissions process so that each college’s admissions committee has the information it needs to select a vibrant and diverse incoming class. 

In this article, we will look at 10 supplemental essay prompts from top colleges and universities for the 2022-23 admissions cycle. Once you get a better sense of what to expect from a supplemental essay prompt, we will outline key strategies for answering these prompts, as well as provide practical writing tips to help you get started.

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What are supplemental essays and are they important?

Each college has its own sets of values and criteria that it looks for in applicants. This is why determining college fit is so important. By carefully researching each school on your college list and having several clear and compelling reasons for wanting to attend, you will increase your overall chances of admission.    

One way that colleges gauge whether or not a student would be a good fit for their university is by posing unique supplemental essay prompts. This is why knowing how to write a supplemental essay is so important. Most colleges with supplemental essays will have applicants write the “why this college” essay . 

Many selective colleges will require additional supplemental essays as well. In some cases, you will need to prepare an additional five essays per school, so give yourself plenty of time to complete each essay thoughtfully, write multiple drafts, seek out feedback, and proofread. The college application process can feel overwhelming at times, so make sure you brainstorm ways to stay organized during the college application process . 

Although the style and content of the actual prompts can vary greatly, at the core these prompts have one thing in common: They are designed to get to know who you are as a person, what your values are, and whether you demonstrate compatibility with the university’s overall mission. 

How to write supplemental essays

If you’re looking for supplemental essay tips, you’ve come to the right place! In this section, we will discuss how to write a good supplemental essay, by providing several key application essay tips. 

To start, it’s important to remember that the process of writing supplemental essays is similar to the process of writing a successful personal statement . Review components of a strong personal statement to give yourself a fresh perspective before beginning your supplemental essays.

Tips for writing supplemental essays

Supplemental essays are typically pretty brief. This is why it’s important to learn how to write concisely and powerfully. Having very few words to respond does not mean that you should prepare your responses casually or that your responses shouldn’t include lots of details. Rather, approach each word limit creatively. Whether you have 50 words, 200 words, or 500 words, try to use each sentence and detail to your advantage. One of the best ways to do this is to begin by freewriting. Write down everything that comes to mind. Take time to fully flush out your ideas. Then review what you’ve written and see what feels most important. These are the details you will want to highlight in your response.

Some colleges will require three to five additional essays. Maybe even more! This is why it’s important to be prepared and plan ahead. Supplemental essays are an important part of your college application and they require a lot of time and effort. While some supplemental essay prompts may be similar between schools, in general, you want to avoid recycling your college essays. Admissions officers can tell when a student is tweaking an existing essay to fit a prompt.

While some essay prompts are required, others are optional. In general, try to answer each prompt thoughtfully and creatively. After all, it’s no secret that college admissions are highly competitive so it’s great to give your application “an edge” whenever possible. That said, there are times when you should pass on writing an optional essay. If you’re not sure whether or not you should submit an essay for an optional prompt, begin by drafting a response. Then ask yourself if the essay feels forced or genuine. Does the essay convey something new about you that isn’t included in the rest of your application? If the question doesn’t seem to apply to you and you are genuinely unsure what to contribute, you should probably skip that particular essay. After all, no one wants to read an uninspired essay that doesn’t contribute to your overall application.

2022-23 supplemental essay prompts

As mentioned, supplemental essay prompts can vary significantly. Some prompts ask you to respond in 50 words while other prompts ask you to respond in 500 words. Some prompts focus on academics while others ask you to reflect carefully on your cultural upbringing or life philosophies. Still, other prompts will ask you to introduce who you are as a person or discuss something that you enjoy.

Just as supplemental essay prompts vary in style, your responses will also vary. Some prompts will require you to be thoughtful and serious, while other prompts may encourage you to be humorous or creative. It all depends.

Brown University supplemental essay prompt

As a part of the 2022-23 college applications, Brown University requires three supplemental essays. One of the supplemental essay prompts is as follows:

Brown’s culture fosters a community in which students challenge the ideas of others and have their ideas challenged in return, promoting a deeper and clearer understanding of the complex issues confronting society. This active engagement in dialogue is as present outside the classroom as it is in academic spaces. Tell us about a time you were challenged by a perspective that differed from your own. How did you respond? (200-250 words)

Columbia University supplemental essay prompt

As a part of the 2022-23 college applications, Columbia University requires the following supplemental materials: 1 list of 75 words, 1 list of 125 words, 3 essays of 200 words each, and 1 short answer of 35 words. One of their supplemental essay prompts is as follows:

For the following questions, we ask that you list each individual response using commas or semicolons; the items do not have to be numbered or in any specific order. No explanatory text or formatting is needed. (For example, it is not necessary to italicize or underline titles of books or other publications. No author names, subtitles or explanatory remarks are needed.)  

List the titles of the books, essays, poetry, short stories or plays you read outside of academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school. (75 words or fewer)

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Dartmouth college supplemental essay prompt.

As a part of the 2022-23 college applications, Dartmouth College requires three supplemental essays. One of the supplemental essay prompts is as follows:

“Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde advised. “Everyone else is taken.” Introduce yourself in 200-250 words. 

Duke University supplemental essay prompt

As a part of the 2022-23 college applications, Duke University requires at least one supplemental essay, with the option to submit an additional two supplemental essays. One of the optional supplemental essay prompts is as follows:

What has been your best academic experience in the last two years, and what made it so good?

Emory University supplemental essay prompt

As a part of the 2022-23 college applications, Emory University requires two supplemental essays. One of the supplemental essay prompts is as follows:

Emory If you could witness a historic event (past, present or future) first-hand, what would it be, and why?

Harvard University supplemental essay prompt

As a part of the 2022-23 college applications, Harvard University requires three supplemental essays. One of the supplemental essay prompts is as follows:

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (50-150 words)

MIT supplemental essay prompt

As a part of the 2022-23 college applications, MIT requires five supplemental essays. One of the supplemental essay prompts is as follows:

We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do simply for the pleasure of it.

Princeton University supplemental essay prompt

As a part of the 2022-23 college applications, Princeton University requires three supplemental essays and three short responses. One of the short-answer prompts is as follows:

Please respond to each question in 75 words or fewer. There are no right or wrong answers. Be yourself!

What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?

What brings you joy? 

What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?

Stanford University supplemental essay prompt

As a part of the 2022-23 college applications, Stanford University requires three supplemental essays and five short answer responses. One of the short-answer prompts is as follows:

How did you spend your last two summers? (50-word limit)

UPenn supplemental essay prompt

As a part of the 2022-23 college applications, UPenn requires three supplemental essays. One of the supplemental essay prompts is as follows: 

Write a short thank-you note to someone you have not yet thanked and would like to acknowledge. (We encourage you to share this note with that person, if possible, and reflect on the experience!) (150-200 words)

Yale University supplemental essay prompt

As a part of the 2022-23 college applications, Yale University requires the following supplemental materials: 1 list; 6 short answer questions; 1 additional short essay of 400 words. One of the short answer prompts is as follows:

Yale’s residential colleges regularly host conversations with guests representing a wide range of experiences and accomplishments. What person, past or present, would you invite to speak? What would you ask them to discuss? (200 characters or fewer)

Supplemental essay examples

One of the best ways to prepare your supplemental essay responses is to look at successful past examples. In this section, we will look at three examples and explain why each response is successful. 

This first example was submitted as a part of Harvard’s college application. This essay is in response to the prompt: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (50-150 words).

Feet moving, eyes up, every shot back, chants the silent mantra in my head. The ball becomes a beacon of neon green as I dart forward and backward, shuffling from corner to far corner of the court, determined not to let a single point escape me. With bated breath, I swing my racquet upwards and outwards and it catches the ball just in time to propel it, spinning, over the net. My heart soars as my grinning teammates cheer from the sidelines. While I greatly value the endurance, tenacity, and persistence that I have developed while playing tennis throughout the last four years, I will always most cherish the bonds that I have created and maintained each year with my team.

This essay uses rich, descriptive language to evoke a clear sense of movement and place. The first paragraph shows a creative and expert control of language, whereas the second paragraph uses straightforward language to highlight key characteristics. Overall, this response is creative, well-balanced, and uses each word to its advantage. 

Source: https://www.collegeadvisor.com/essay-guides/harvard-university-essay-examples-and-why-they-worked/  

This essay was submitted as a part of an MIT college application. The supplemental essay prompt that it addresses is: Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations?

We were moving away from my home of thirteen years to go miles and miles away, from my whole life. Worst of all: away from New York City – the only place in the world worth knowing – or so I thought. The town might as well have been called “Miniscule Ville”. I resented every second of it. The real shocking thing to me was almost that anything existed outside of New York City. NYC is a world of its own, with its own pulses and lifeblood. I still think it’s a great place, and I’ll likely at least visit it someday, but right now, I want to visit everywhere. My move humbled me. I began to love nature walks, the friendly camaraderie of the small town, and saw a world I never imagined. I thought I knew it all just because I lived in New York. Here was a great place, hidden from view. I loved experiencing that new world, learning local history, and most of all, learning the life stories of my new neighbors, each one of whom had a fascinating life. My greatest dream is to be a journalist, covering other countries, and learning about new worlds and neighbors. My old perspective feels so limited. If I can share global stories, I can open up my perspective, and I can share those stories with a thousand homes so readers can learn about other perspectives as well. The world is full of different lives. Everywhere is somebody’s home.

This essay covers a lot of material; most impressively, it shows a shift in perspective and its effect on the student’s lived experience. It also clearly explains the student’s academic and professional goals. The tone of this essay is both confident and humble. It demonstrates who this student is as a person, what their goals are, and what they value.  

Source: https://bemoacademicconsulting.com/blog/mit-supplemental-essay-examples  

This essay was submitted as a part of a Duke college application. The essay addresses the prompt: What has been your best academic experience in the last two years, and what made it so good?

Most teachers who taught me talked a big game about wanting students to engage in debate, or “dialectic” as they called it, and to challenge their ideas. In my experience, most of this was a fabrication. The best essay grades and participation marks were found through parroting what was dictated from on high. Did the teacher think such-and-such is the “correct” interpretation of a novel? You did, too, or you lost points. None of that was true for Ms. Jackie Winters. The first essay I sent her came back with the note, “This doesn’t sound like you; it sounds like me.” I asked her about the note, and this initiated a marvelous learning environment, in which I grew faster than I ever have in any other class. Discussions were lively, and the more I presented my authentic views, the more I was respected. My grades were dependent on being backed up by rhetoric, sources, and logic, not by compliance. Due to this engagement, this was the most enjoyable English literature class I had, and I feel like my viewpoints were challenged. I learned to question my ideas and dig into a text for the best results. Best of all, I was putting in more and more effort to find good, quality sources to back up my arguments. I was held to a high standard and shown respect, and I believe that those qualities made for the best learning environment possible

This essay clearly shows a shift in perspective and the effects it had on this student’s ability to think, speak, and write critically. Structurally, this essay uses an anecdote to introduce and contextualize a topic, but the essay itself isn’t overly narrative. Rather, the student explains, in detail, how this teacher’s encouragement and guidance have influenced their willingness and ability to engage with the source material and academic discourse.

Source: https://bemoacademicconsulting.com/blog/duke-supplemental-essay-examples  

Key takeaways and moving forward

Supplemental essays are an important part of your college applications. In fact, they are a key factor in what college admissions officers look for in an applicant . Highly-selective colleges and universities use supplemental essays to further personalize the college admissions process. After all, thousands of qualified students apply to Ivy League institutions each year and only a small fraction are admitted. Supplemental essays allow you to share more about who you are as a person and as a student. Use each prompt as an opportunity to add something new to your college application. If you feel like you could benefit from professional guidance throughout this process, reach out to learn more about our services .

Frequently asked questions and answers

Still have questions about supplemental essays and the effects they have on college applications? Review the following frequently asked questions and answers for further insight on supplemental essays. 

How important are supplemental essays?

Supplemental essays are an incredibly important part of your college applications and should be properly prioritized. If a college didn’t care about your response, they wouldn’t ask you in the first place. Put plenty of time and care into your responses. Write several drafts, seek out feedback, and always proofread.

How long should supplemental essays be?

Always follow directions. Colleges will specify how long each supplemental essay should be, usually right after the prompt itself. Depending on the college, and the prompt, a supplemental essay’s word count may range anywhere from 50 to 500 words.

Do supplemental essays change every year?

It all depends on the college. Colleges often reuse past prompts, but there are no guarantees. This is why it’s important to plan ahead and make a list of supplemental essay prompts early on in the college application process.

Are supplemental essays required?

Sometimes colleges will have both required and optional supplemental essays. That said, the essay prompts are clearly labeled. In short, each college will specify whether supplemental essays are required. 

Do all colleges have supplemental essays?

No, not all colleges have supplemental essays. Highly-selective colleges, however, often require at least one additional essay.

  • December 14, 2022

Supplemental Essay Guide for 2022-23 Prompts

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Stanford University 2020-21 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

The Requirements: 8 essays and short answers of varying length. Supplemental Essay Type(s):  Why ,  Community ,  Oddball

Stanford University 2020-2021 Application Essay Question Explanations

Unshockingly, given that Stanford is the most difficult university to get into in the country, this supplement is a doozie. It puts both your writing and creativity to the test in a myriad ways. One of the most important things to remember about this supplement, as with all supplements that lob a host of essays and short answer questions at you, is that each response is an opportunity to reveal something new about yourself to admissions. Think about the tidbits you have to offer up as you pull together your package and make sure you distribute them across the supplement. Try as hard as you can not to be repetitive. And, as much as you can, have fun with these. If you embrace the challenge laid out in front of you, your answers will be instilled with that positive spirit as well. Trust us.

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 word limit)

Fifty words is not a lot of words. This is going to be a recurring thought as you begin to tackle the Stanford app. How do you explain society’s most significant challenge in just fifty words? You boil it down to its essence and rely on the topic to speak volumes. Think about what nags at you on a daily basis. How would you like to improve the world? Where might we be going down the wrong path? What you choose to write about will give admissions an idea of what you truly care about and how you see the world. Are you concerned that as a species we will never achieve true gender equality? Does climate change keep you up at night? What activities have you participated in or books have you read to educate yourself about this issue? Maybe you even have a solution to offer up. Show admissions that you can turn passion into action.

How did you spend your last two summers? (50 word limit)

Fifty words is not a lot of words. For this response, that means you will likely have to add and prune, add again and prune again. Feel free to take a straightforward approach to this question. Stanford really wants to know what you did last summer (and the summer before)! Just make sure to include the unexpected commitments that will not appear anywhere else on the application, like your babysitting job, your road trip with your family, or your backyard photography habit. Anything you can do to add a layer of understanding to admissions picture of you will help.

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 word limit)

Fifty words is not a lot of words. So this answer is really about creating an effective summary of the event in question, and concisely explaining the motivation behind your selection. This is another question in which your selection of topic tells a story. Maybe you want to witness the creation of Gutenberg’s printing press or the swearing in of the first African American president. Whatever you do, try to avoid subjects other students will likely flock to. MLK’s “I Had A Dream” speech is incredible, but it might not make for the best topic here — unless, of course, you have a highly personal story that connects to that moment that you can summarize in 50 words or less. (There are always exceptions to the rules!)

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family. (50 word limit)

Like so many other universities, Stanford wants to get a feel for your commitments outside the classroom as well as in. Think about your application as a whole, reading through all of the Stanford prompts before you dig in,  and figure out what you can detail here that hasn’t or will not be addressed in other essays. Also make sure the activity, experience, job, or responsibility you highlight is something you are clearly invested in. Don’t choose to elaborate on a fundraiser to which you contribute five hours of your time, twice a year. This is a good place to feature a work experience if you have one, as that is something that often feels less standard than an internship or activity in which many other students participate. For example, tell admissions about the summer you spent working at a hot dog stand and how it taught you about responsibility, organization, and portable fans. That said, even if you write about a national club or organization that other students may feature, the trick to nailing this essay is personalization. Why is this the activity or experience you have chosen to highlight? How were you a contributor and how will it impact your ability to be a contributor on campus? How has participation made you a more compassionate, assertive, or responsible person overall? And how will this experience impact your future? You don’t have a lot of space here, so make sure you focus on personal and powerful details that other people could not replicate.

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 word limit)

This is “Why Stanford” in its most distilled form. Your answer should be personal and, if possible, unexpected. This is not the place to detail your love of the campus or dining hall. Stanford already knows it has “world-class” professors. Are you looking forward to participating in a certain school tradition because it aligns with your interests? Maybe you can’t wait to start a chapter of a charity you created on campus. Or maybe there is a professor in your department who has done research you admire — are you dying to work alongside that person? Get specific. Let Stanford know what resources you will take advantage of that other might not think of.

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. (100 to 250 words)  *CONFIRMED FOR 2021-22*

How hungry for knowledge are you? That’s what Stanford really wants to know. Focus on a subject that stokes your curiosity, a specific concept that has infiltrated your browser history, or an experience that has burned itself into your brain. What homework assignments are you clamoring to complete first? Which topics want to make you open up a new book, google the definition of word you’re not familiar with or hit play on a podcast? Who challenges you to think of issues in new ways? Now consider what about the subject, activity, or experience itself is inspiring your pursuit of knowledge. Are you driven by the pursuit of the truth and nothing but the truth? Maybe more abstract and creative arenas are more interesting to you. Regardless of what floats your boat, Stanford University is aiming to bring self-motivated, deep thinkers into their student body. Admissions officers want to know that you’ll be eager to contribute to lively class discussion and maybe conduct research in your latter years on campus. Show them that you’ll be a valuable addition to any classroom setting.

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 — know you better. (100 to 250 words)  *CONFIRMED FOR 2021-22*

This, at its essence, is a creative writing exercise. All this time colleges have been asking you to write in a casual but professional voice — until now. Pretend you’re writing an email to a friend. Open your browser window and actually draft in a new message box if it helps you adjust your voice. You are now writing to your peer, not admissions. What might someone you are about to live with want to know about you? And, more importantly, what quirky personal information do you want to convey to admissions that might not be appropriate to reveal in response to a stuffier prompt? Are you a closet botanist who will be bringing 30 plants to your dorm room? Have you been practicing how to make your grandma’s special rice in a dorm room hot pot? This is a great place to inject a little humor in your application — if that’s your style. It is also a great opportunity for you to showcase what it would be like to be friends with you (without the use of emojis and with the addition of perfect grammar).

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100 to 250 words) *CONFIRMED FOR 2021-22*

This is one of those open-ended questions that can be answered in so many ways, it’s almost maddening. It does come at the end of the application, however, which will help you narrow down the subjects that are not up for contention — namely, anything you have written about already. Dig through your brainstorms for any subjects about which you feel passionately that you’ve left untouched thus far. Consider options across a wide spectrum. Which people are important to you? Which memories? Which objects? Which experiences? What general concepts? Do your white river rapids excursions with your family fill your life with excitement and joy? Does volunteering at the local soup kitchen infuse your life with love and gratitude? Does your religion dictate the way you live your life and make decisions? Again, your job here is to tell Admissions something about yourself that they wouldn’t already know.

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  1. Stanford Supplemental Essay Examples for 2023

    stanford supplemental essays 2022 23 examples

  2. How to Write the Stanford University Essays 2022-2023

    stanford supplemental essays 2022 23 examples

  3. Stanford University Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

    stanford supplemental essays 2022 23 examples

  4. How to Write the Stanford University Supplemental Essays

    stanford supplemental essays 2022 23 examples

  5. Stanford Essays Examples

    stanford supplemental essays 2022 23 examples

  6. #Transizion Stanford Supplemental Essays: How to Write Them!

    stanford supplemental essays 2022 23 examples


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  4. Supplemental Essays 2023


  1. How to Write the Stanford University Essays 2023-2024

    Essay Questions (100-250 words) Prompt 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. Prompt 2: Virtually all of Stanford's undergraduates live on campus.

  2. 12 Best Stanford Supplemental Essays That Worked 2023

    4. Stanford University Short Question. Prompt: Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 words max) Supplemental. Representing an ideal. Stanford is a gathering place of people working towards a common ideal; one of engagement, passion, intellectual vitality, and devotion to progress.

  3. How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essay

    Well, most colleges will have anywhere from 1-4 supplemental essay prompts you'll need to answer in addition to the Common App essay. Stanford is sitting comfortably with eight supplemental essay prompts, with a combined possible 1000 words. On top of that, Stanford has the lowest acceptance rate of any college in the US at 4.3%.

  4. How To Ace Stanford's 2023/24 Supplemental Essay Prompts

    For the 2023/24 application cycle, Stanford University has thoughtfully designed specific supplemental essay prompts to delve deeper into the profiles of its applicants, complementing the Common App questions. These prompts aim to uncover your societal concerns, personal experiences, academic passions, and how you envision your journey at Stanford.

  5. Stanford Supplemental Essays 2023-24

    Stanford Supplemental Essays 2023-24 - Prompts and Advice. August 14, 2023. With an acceptance rate of 3.68% in 2023, Stanford University is in a league of selectivity with only a handful of other schools including Harvard, MIT, and Princeton. At Stanford, the median SAT is a 1500 and 96% hail from the top 10% of their high school class.

  6. Stanford Essays Examples

    How many essays does Stanford require? There are eight required Stanford supplemental essays for 2022-23 applicants.. While eight Stanford essays may seem like a lot, remember that not all the Stanford essays are full-length essays, like the two-to-five-page essays you write for class or the 650-word personal statement you will write for the Common Application.

  7. How to Write the Stanford Supplemental Essays 2023-2024

    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 — know you better. (100-250 words) For your second long-answer essay, you'll answer either this prompt OR Prompt 3 below.

  8. 2023-24 Stanford University Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

    The Requirements: 3 essays of 100-250 words; 5 short answers of 50 words. Supplemental Essay Type (s): Why , Community , Oddball. Unshockingly, given that Stanford is the most difficult university to get into in the country, this supplement is a doozie. It puts both your writing and creativity to the test in a myriad ways.

  9. How to Write the Stanford University Supplement 2022-2023

    Sample Admission Essays FAQ College Specific Supplements ... +1 (212) 769-2198 Caroline Koppelman. September 6, 2022. How to Write the Stanford University Supplement 2022-2023. Caroline Koppelman. September 6, 2022 ... Short Essay (250) The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea ...

  10. How to Write Stellar Stanford Essays: 3 Expert Tips

    You need to respond to all three of the Stanford essay prompts for your application. Each one of the Stanford essays has a 100-word minimum and a 250-word maximum. Here are the 2022-2023 Stanford essay prompts: #1: The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that ...

  11. Stanford University Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

    There are three short Stanford essays which are between 100 and 250 words, and five short Stanford essay questions, which are a maximum of 50 words each. Though they vary in word count, it's important to take each of the Stanford supplemental essays seriously. A 50-word Stanford essay can mean just as much as a 250-word response!

  12. Application and Essays : Stanford University

    The Common Application includes essay prompts for your personal essay. In addition to the personal essay, we also require the Stanford Questions, which you can access and submit through the Common Application once you add Stanford University to your list of colleges. The essays are your chance to tell us about yourself in your own words; there ...

  13. Conquering Stanford University's 2023-2024 Supplemental Essays

    Admit Hero brings you a comprehensive guide to understanding and approaching Stanford University's supplemental essay prompts for the 2023-2024 cycle. ... provide expert advice, and share compelling examples of successful essays from past applications, focusing on both content and length. ... An endearing example from a 2022 application reads:

  14. 6 Stellar Stanford Essay Examples

    Essay Example #2 - Letter to Your Future Roommate, Study and Fun. Essay Example #3 - Letter to Your Future Roommate, K-pop and Food. Essay Example #4 - Something Meaningful, 1984. Essay Example #5 - Something Meaningful, Ramen. Essay Example #6 - Significant Challenge Short Answer. Where to Get Your Stanford Essays Edited.

  15. 2023-2024 Stanford Supplemental Essay Prompts

    Stanford University has published its 2023-2024 admissions essays for applicants to its Class of 2028. In all, Stanford asks this year's applicants to answer five short essay prompts of 50-words each in addition to three longer essay prompts of 250-words each. In addition to The Common Application 's Personal Statement, all of the short ...

  16. Stanford Supplemental Essays 2022-2023

    Stanford Supplemental Essay Prompts 2022-2023. So, let's start by looking at each supplemental essay prompt, and then we will discuss how to approach each one individually. There is a 100-word minimum and a 250-word maximum for each essay. The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom.

  17. How to Get Into Stanford Undergrad: Essays and Strategies That Worked

    Part 4: 2023-2024 Stanford supplemental essays (examples included) ... Stanford supplemental essays. On top of those short answers, applicants must also respond to three supplemental essay prompts located in Stanford's Common App under the "Short Essays" section. The 2023-2024 questions, each of which must be answered in 100-250 words ...

  18. Stanford Essays

    Stanford Acceptance Rate: The acceptance rate for Stanford admissions is only 4% according to U.S. News . Understanding the Stanford Essay Requirements: The Stanford requirements include three Stanford supplemental essays. Each of the Stanford essays must be between 100 and 250 words. Applying to Stanford: Students must complete the Common ...

  19. Stanford Supplemental Essay Examples

    Stanford supplemental essay example # 1. Prompt: 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. (100 - 250 words) My mother loves to tell me that I was born in a garden. It's not exactly true.

  20. Application and Essays : Stanford University

    Stanford Short Essays. We ask applicants to write a short essay on each of the following three topics. For the second essay, transfer applicants must choose one of the two listed prompts. There is a 100-word minimum and a 250-word maximum for each essay. The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom.

  21. How To Answer Stanford's Supplemental Essays For 2022/23

    While these essays are a bit longer, they are still relatively short and require careful thinking and editing. Before diving in, choose a topic you can fully invest in. Make every word count. Essay 1: The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom.

  22. Supplemental Essay Guide for 2022-23 Prompts

    2022-23 supplemental essay prompts. As mentioned, supplemental essay prompts can vary significantly. Some prompts ask you to respond in 50 words while other prompts ask you to respond in 500 words. Some prompts focus on academics while others ask you to reflect carefully on your cultural upbringing or life philosophies.

  23. 2020-21 Stanford University Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

    The Requirements: 8 essays and short answers of varying length. Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why, Community, Oddball. Stanford University 2020-2021 Application Essay Question Explanations. Unshockingly, given that Stanford is the most difficult university to get into in the country, this supplement is a doozie.