Stanford or Bust

Stanford or Bust

By Tasha

Applying to immensely competitive schools is stressful. One Sparkler has a great list of questions about the process.

Dear Corinne,

To start off, I really appreciate your time when it comes to college admissions advice. I am planning on applying to Stanford next summer and hopefully (if all goes well) I will get admitted. I've seen the statistics when it comes to admissions at Stanford and at just below 8%, it's immensely competitive. I just have a few questions about college admissions:

1. From your standpoint, about what percentage are SAT scores worth in overall acceptance when it comes to admissions?
2. Are commonplace extracurriculars such as volunteering all that helpful when it comes to admission?
3. What do colleges dislike seeing on a facebook page? What do they consider on facebook a plus when it comes to admissions?
4. What sticks out the most in an application? What strikes you as extremely important?
5. What do you look for when it comes to the College essay response?

Answers to any or all of these questions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

I’m sure you already know this, but if you are planning on applying to a highly competitive school like Stanford, then make sure to apply to several other schools, some competitive and some non-competitive. You know how hard it is to get into a top school—admissions officers frequently have to turn down stellar applicants, and decisions are almost never easy. With that being said, let's get to some of your questions.

First of all, on the topic of SAT scores: the emphasis on very high scores can vary considerably from school to school. The best way to determine how important they will be is to look at each university’s undergraduate admissions website and find out what the average scores were for some of the most recent freshmen classes. According to Stanford's website, 64% of admitted students  scored 700-800 on SAT Critical Reading, 70% scored 700-800 on SAT Math, and 65% scored 700-800 on SAT Writing. These numbers suggest that if you're hoping to get into Stanford, it's important to do exceptionally well on the SAT.

Extracurriculars are always important—specifically, leadership roles in extracurriculars. But don’t volunteer or join an organization just to have something to list on an application. Try to find an organization you can really contribute to and take an active role in.

Most admissions officers don't stalk applicants on Facebook. Rather, they'll take a quick look at applicant profiles to see if anything worrisome jumps out. If you're concerned about offending an admissions committee member, make sure you delete from your photos and wall anything PG13 or open to misinterpretation. Consider changing your Facebook settings to prevent anyone from posting anything potentially harmful/ profane. It's also true that Facebook can be a great way to express your personality. Admissions officers will be pleased to see links to articles you like, videos of your show choir performance, and other items that suggest you're a happy, interesting, and well-rounded kid.

Speaking personally, what most impresses me are students who have done exceedingly well academically and who have taken an active role in their community or organizations. Admissions officers want to admit the students they know will make a positive impact on the campus community—and thrive in an academically rigorous classroom. That ability to thrive is extremely important to the more elite schools, which is why test scores and GPAs are important. They provide an objective way to measure a student’s past academic success, and they give a pretty good indication of how a student will perform at the college level. They also give us a way of differentiating between students who offer equally brilliant essays, lists of activities, and terrific recommendations. When you're applying to elite colleges, you have to be prepared for what they look for: perfection.

To ask Tasha a question, email

Topics: college admissions, stanford

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