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How to Respond to the 2023/2024 Stanford Supplemental Essay Prompts

Stanford University is a private research university located in Stanford, California. It is an extremely selective university with the acceptance rate hovering around 4%. In order to apply, students must complete the Stanford supplemental essays. Before applying to any university or college, you should make sure that it is the right fit for you. Meaning, it has the programs, location, cost, extracurricular activities and more that you are longing for. 

Once you know this school is the right fit for you, spend some time researching. This will help you breeze through the application process due to your extensive knowledge of the school and all the programs and opportunities available. If you’ve decided that you are interested in Stanford, it’s time to dig into their supplemental essays. Here’s our guide for how to ace each prompt on the application.

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Stanford supplemental essays – 100 to 250 word responses

The three supplemental essay questions Stanford requires must be answered between 100 to 250 words. This may seem like a lot,  but it truly is not once you start answering these prompts. Therefore, try to be short and sweet with your answers. Do not use filler words or go off track to ensure the word count is met. 

Essay 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 is the time to discuss a passion you have in regards to academics. Be specific with this response and consider what major or type of study you want to get involved in college that are not typical academics offered at the high school level. 

Try and channel your inner nerd! Think of a time while learning that something truly fascinated you and you wanted to continue to learn more. 

Questions to consider: 

  • What is your favorite subject to learn? 
  • What class or major are you most excited to be a part of in college? 
  • What is something that you nerd out about? 

Related: How to write a 250 word essay

Essay 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.”

This prompt is a chance to show a side of you that most colleges do not see from an application. Rather than looking at grades or academics they want to learn more about your personality and who you are as a person outside of a school environment. 

This prompt wants you to write to a future roommate so the tone should be more casual as if you were just talking to a good friend. So, this essay is a great opportunity to stray away from a typical essay format and play around with different styles of writing and formatting. 

Do not focus on Stanford or academic related activities such as wanting to study together or wanting to attend a football game together as roommates. This will not provide an admissions officer with a true understanding of you on a personal level.

Rather, you should answer this prompt by focusing on the minute and intimate details of your life that a roommate would experience. For example, maybe you have to go to sleep listening to music or maybe you have to wake up and immediately go get an iced coffee before you can function. 

After considering these experiences, you should then think about why you do these things. Understanding your motivations and the “why” to your actions will allow you to write a solid response to this prompt. 

Questions to consider: 

  • What is something unique about yourself that only those who live with you can see? 
  • What type of morning or night routine do you have? 
  • What are you looking forward to in regards to having a roommate? What are you not looking forward to? 
  • What makes you you? 
  • What are some fun facts about yourself? 
  • How would you introduce yourself to a stranger? 

Don’t miss: How to write an essay about yourself

Essay 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 is an extremely broad prompt and can be tricky to narrow it down to one 100-250 word answer. Luckily, it is the last essay question so therefore you should think about what you have not revealed about yourself in your application that you would like to. 

For this prompt, you can choose to focus on what makes you “you.” Think about how your unique perspective and life experience brings something special to the Stanford University community. Express that you want to meaningfully share what your experiences and make a difference to others. 

Questions to consider

  • What have you not written about yourself in this application yet? 
  • What is something that you are passionate about? Something you could talk about for hours? 
  • What do you spend your free time doing? 
  • Have you ever volunteered somewhere? 
  • If you could donate to any organization who would it be? Why? 

Related: How to respond to the Common App essay prompts

Short answer questions- 50 words

In addition to the supplemental essay questions you will need to answer 5 short answer questions with a 50 word limit. 

50 words is not a lot so really try to be concise and direct with your answers. This is not the section to drone on about random details rather you should be straightforward.

Short answer 1

“What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?” 

Pick a not-too broad topic that is a true challenge to society today and include a quick “why”, it is important to emphasize your logic and opinion behind the challenge. 

Short answer 2

“How did you spend your last two summers?” 

Do not talk about the mundane aspects of your summer rather focus on something you did to better yourself or an experience that you have learned from. Try to consider something you did related to what you want to study in college. This can include volunteering or job experience you may have. 

Short answer 3

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

This response should utilize your imagination so try and truly think about a moment you wish you could have witnessed. It does not have to be a huge event that altered the course of life, rather it can be a smaller historical event such as a concert. The important thing with this prompt is to reveal more about your personality so choose something you are interested in. 

Short answer 4

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

Use this space to discuss experiences outside of a school setting that you are a part of. Try to show your diverse interests in this answer. 

Short answer 5

“List five things that are important to you.” 

The five things you choose will be unique to you, so there is really no right or wrong. If you can find a way to tie how you will continue to connect to those things while at Stanford, all the better. Through researching Stanford you should have a good idea about the culture and programs of the school.  Just try and show your personality through your response. 

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Next steps after applying to Stanford

Once you’ve completed the Stanford supplemental essays, take a breather! The hard part is over and your application is just about ready. Congratulations, you did it! Your next step should be continuing to show demonstrated interest in Stanford so they know you are committed and prioritizing their school (even if you have a few other top choices).

This can be done by following their social media accounts, reaching out to admissions officers, scheduling an in-person or virtual tour, reading up on what you want to get involved in on campus and more. Essentially, showing interest and staying connected will allow you to get that extra foot in the door and make your name known.

Also see: How to choose a college

Additional resources

Once you’ve sent off your application, remember to be proactive as you wait to hear back from each school. It’s never too early to apply for scholarships, and our free scholarship search tool is a great resource to connect you to vetted and personalized opportunities. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re applying to a diverse coalition of colleges – check out our guides for how many schools to apply to, and how to find a financial safety school.

Once you hear back from your schools, you’ll have some big choices to make. Check out our guides to interpreting your financial aid award letter, and appealing it if it does not provide enough money. If you’ll be taking out loans, we can also help you choose the best loans for your situation. Good luck out there, and make sure that you apply for all the scholarships you qualify for while you are eligible!

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