How to get into Stanford

“I got into Stanford.” Four words that will turn heads. These words may intimidate, shock, awe, and even boast. I’ve found that these four words can earn me a tremendous amount of respect in a quick instant. But why?

Why is it that a piece of paper that says “Congratulations!” from Stanford University immediately changes how people may see me? I don’t want respect to come from the name of some big-shot university. I’d much rather earn it.

Ever since college acceptances started rolling in, I’ve had underclassmen ask me how I got into all these schools, like they’re looking for some sort of secret formula. Sorry to break it to you guys, but there is none.  

Here’s my bit of advice to underclassmen for getting into college:

  1. Be confident in yourself! Instead of thinking about being good enough for a certain school, consider which school is good enough for you. Value yourself and be confident in your academic and extracurricular efforts and endeavors.
  2. Remember that school isn’t everything, and it doesn’t define who you are. Colleges want to hear who YOU are outside of the academic sphere,  what you care about or how you’re working to improve the world around you. In my college essays I emphasized my resilience and motivation to succeed, despite the difficult things I faced. I also wrote about the passion I have for the activities I’m involved in, such as music, swimming, and journalism. Never choose to do something if it’s just to “look good on your application.” When your heart isn’t in something, it becomes a waste of time
  3. Aim high and don’t be afraid of failure. I was accepted to UCLA, UC Berkeley, and USC to name a few, but I was also rejected by Yale, Columbia, and waitlisted at Princeton. Every school looks for something different, and some schools just might not be for you.
  4. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect or push yourself to the point of breaking. Just be yourself and see what happens. We’re all so young, let’s not try to take ourselves too seriously. High school really isn’t that big of a deal. How many AP classes you take isn’t a competition. Getting a B on your report card won’t be the end of the world, and losing a whole night’s sleep over homework really isn’t worth it. Use this time to do what you like. Take all the opportunities you can. Let go of the pettiness and forgive the little things. It may be bittersweet when these four years are over, but hopefully you’ve taken everything you could from this experience.

When I was applying for colleges in the fall, I got a variety of responses when I told people that I wanted to go to Stanford. Some people laughed at me, others told me to be more realistic. I’ll admit it, I’m not the smartest smarty-pants in my grade. I don’t have the highest SAT score, I haven’t taken the most AP classes, and I haven’t done 500 hours of community service. However, as cliche as this may sound, the one thing I did do was believe in myself. I’ll always appreciate the people who also believed in me and provided genuine support and optimism.