Stanford 2016 – Avi Edition.

Hey readers of this awesome blog – whoever you are! I’m a new contributor – a fellow member of the class of 2016 who wants to share with you my experience of getting to this point – being a part of the Cardinal family for four years!

  Who is this new guy?I just graduated from Whitney High in Southern California, ready to take on the world. I’m active in a lot – I love the water. I swim, play water polo, and dragon boat (a sport similar to crew but uses more of the upper body and abdominal muscles to pull the boat – there is also a dragon head at the front of the boat, making us that much cooler). I’m a drama techie, soundboards and cameras are second nature to me, and I like being behind the scenes. I love history, biology, and filmmaking – and I will talk to people about the most random things because I really like to talk about random things. Yeah, I just like talking :)

  What do you want to go into? I’m honestly not sure. I love biology, history, film – for the longest time I’ve wanted to become a filmmaker, but bio research looks extremely exciting. I want to be on the forefront of something cool I guess. I think I’ll just take the next two years to figure out exactly what I want.

  HOW DID YOU GET IN?I’m not some amazing kid – I just really like learning. My profile below: SAT: Reading-720 Math-720 Writing-730 ACT: 35 SAT-II: Chemistry – 800; Math IIC – 800; US History – 750 GPA: 3.95/4.000 (unweighted) AP Tests: 2010: Human Geography – 5; 2011: Calculus BC-5,Chemistry – 5, US History-5, English Lang-4, Statistics-4 2012: Biology PSAT: 215 National Merit Scholar Commended *Disclaimer: These are simply numbers. I know for a fact that there are people among the c/o ’16 with much worse scores than mine, and there are people with far better test scores that were rejected. – copied from Amelia Outside of the desk, I led my life by one philosophy – Do what I want to, and enjoy whatever it is. I liked doing many things, and I really like being busy, so these two parts of me went pretty well together. I’ve been a member of the High School broadcast team since I was a sophomore, became Executive Producer my junior year. I have been swimming since freshmen year, dragonboating since my sophomore year. Key Club was a small passion of mine until I realized that it was less about service and more about a resume for most people, so I left that. I did robotics for two years, went to world championships this year. I started the history bowl team at my school and helped send two teams to nationals. I was an All-State Sound Director, and went to DC for the congressional academy. I feel like I just wrote the activities part of my common app again :D

  Why did I choose Stanford?I didn’t really have much difficulty choosing Stanford. By mid march, I had a college acceptance streak. I got into all the UCs, USC, and Northwestern. I was riding high, and was pretty happy. But then on March 28th, I faced my first outright rejection from Princeton, and was deferred to spring for Berkeley. I wasn’t necessarily devastated, but I was saddened. I assumed I would be going to UCLA and let the next couple of days come. I got waitlisted for Brown and UChicago, so I wasn’t even expecting Harvard or Stanford. Then, at a swim meet on March 30th, I heard a buzz. I checked my email and found out that there was an email from Stanford Admissions. I opened it with half of my team watching me, and… Well, you know. I got in. I was exhilarated. I broke my record for backstroke that day, and stayed on a high that lasted for a pretty long time. Stanford has been a dream school for me. I loved the campus, I love the faculty, and I loved the weather (THIS IS IMPORTANT). I’m a pretty avid biker as well, so the size of the campus never scared me. I actually chose Stanford right away – sent in my deposit the next day. I was a Cardinal as soon as I could be. I wrote a lot, and I would be surprised if you read all of this. But I do plan to write more about being a Class of 2016 member – hopefully we all can show you how great a place this will be. :) ~Avi

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A Small Miracle (a.k.a. how I came to be a freshman at Stanford; Lilly/Lilliana edition)

First off, the most important advice I can give to a prospective applicant:

APPLY.

I know it seems like common sense, but my mom literally had to force me to apply. Why? Not because I didn’t want to go to Stanford, but much to the contrary… I thought there was no friggen way I’d get in, so I figured I’d save the $90 from the application fee and put it toward boots or something to keep me warm during east coast winters. I was a regular decision applicant, and didn’t apply early anywhere, so by the time I was about to apply, I had heard of a kid from our rival HS with a 2400 SAT score, who was also an Eagle Scout, that had gotten rejected from Stanford. I took that as a sign that I could never get in, but evidently I was wrong. Very wrong, about a lot of things. So I’m going to outline these ever so quickly for you:

1. You don’t need to have straight A’s.
     -I hadn’t had the darn things since sophomore year!
2. You don’t need to have a perfect SAT score.
     -I didn’t even take the SAT, I took the ACT, once, and didn’t feel the need to keep taking it over and over again in pursuit of the perfect score. If you feel you can do better, by all means try, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that the tenth time’s the charm. Your best is your best, and too many attempts reflect poorly on you. Do some practice tests, get comfortable, perform, then go back to focusing on other important things, because you really are evaluated as more than just a test score.
3. You don’t need to be the president of every club, nor do you need to be rebuilding entire cities in China.
     -I was a four sport athlete throughout high school, which obviously didn’t lend itself to too much spare time for volunteering or being in every club that interested me. I was active in a few clubs, two of which were culturally based and one of which was a freshman mentoring program, which worked for me because that’s what really matters to me. I volunteered at some sports camps, which also shows consistency because of my whole sports thing. (I will not be playing varsity at Stanford because of a nice collection of injuries, but will probably play club in case you’re wondering.)

What I’ve noticed about not just Stanford, but also about top universities in general, is that they’re not looking for the perfect applicant. As an applicant, you’re in a bit of a static state. They care about achievements throughout high school, but that’s just some of it. What they really want to know is that the “applicant you” will evolve into the “do-er you.” They want to know that you’re passionate about something, and that this passion moves you. They want people who are catalysts for change, whether it be global or within a specific field. Let’s be honest, you don’t apply to Stanford unless you’re qualified, one way or another, so there’s no doubt that most of the applicants can handle the coursework and get the degree. They care about what you’ll do with it.

As far as my test scores and other quantitative data (which people like to ask me about all the time, ugh), I don’t particularly feel like looking it up, here’s what I remember:
 33 on the ACT; 780 on the Lit SAT-II, 790 on Spanish SAT-II (native speaker), 640 or so on Math 2 SAT-II (I’m terrible at math), 670 or something on the Bio SAT-II (not too shabby for taking it three years after having Bio haha); top 10 all four years at a medium-sized public high school in Southern California (senior class was 700-something); 5 on AP Spanish Lang, 4 on AP US Hist; awaiting scores for AP Spanish Lit and AP Calc AB. I’m a year ahead in school, I skipped second grade, so I graduated at 16 and will be starting at Stanford a couple weeks after my 17th birthday. That’s kinda different, so I figured I’d throw it out there. Also, if I do say so myself, I poured out some pretty great essays, and I think that’s what tipped the scales in my favor when I can seem so underqualified next to my classmates… it’s hard not to sound smart when you’re writing about your interest in practical applications of Machiavellian principles  :P

Academic Plans at Stanford:
 I’ll be majoring in Communication (focusing on mass/bilingual media, PR, and perhaps human-technology interaction in relation to things like autonomous driving and smart rooms) and minoring in Modern Languages (a minor which is basically a minor in two or more foreign languages; I’ll be continuing Spanish and starting Portuguese and Italian, maybe French too don’t know yet) with a double minor in some sort of Bioethics thing if I figure out how to do that (a concentration in the Ethics in Society minor, or trying to construct my own minor, we’ll see). I also plan on coterm-ing with Comm, so I’ll spend a fifth year at Stanford and come out with a Master’s.

My decision:
I hate making decisions, so I applied regular decision to 13 schools (lucky 13!) and was only rejected by Harvard. I was likelied by (received a likely letter from) the University of Pennsylvania, so I was probably going to go there because of its Ivy status and kickass Comm department, but as soon as I got my Stanford decision, I knew that was where I was going to go. The people are amazing (it takes a special group of people not to kick me upside the head when I ask the FB group what our official mascot is; turns out it’s Cardinal THE COLOR NOT THE BIRD and the Tree is actually the BAND’S mascot), and I can’t wait to move in!

SORRY I WROTE SO MUCH. and sorry my little bulleted paragraphs aren’t aligned how they should be, it’s bothering me but I don’t know how to fix it!

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How I Came to Stanford (Eric Edition)

This is a bit about how one night I found myself running out of my room, screaming at the top of my lungs.

My Personal Introduction
I am a graduate of a large Houston area high school. I love to think, love to learn, and do whatever seems fun at the time (like paintball).

Academics
I plan on majoring in Geophysics, working towards a Master’s degree (Doctorate’s if I feel like it later). I plan on having a career involving energy production, natural gas specifically.

How I got into Stanford
I am by no means a prodigy or a genius. Of the four schools I applied to, I received one rejection letter (from Berkeley if you can believe it). For the sake of sheer numbers:
SAT: Reading-780  Math-720 Writing-640
Class Rank*: 3 out of 804
AP Tests: World History-4  Chemistry-5  US History-4  European History-3   Physics B-4
            English Language-4
       2012: Environmental Science, Calculus AB, English Literature, Physics C: Mechanics, US Government,     Macroeconomics
*Rank as of February 2012
National Achievement Scholar Award Recipient, AP Scholar with Distinction

Basically, I’d say I just did the best I could.

Why I chose Stanford
The decision process was quite slow in the beginning. Back in middle school, when we had no idea what college really was besides (so we thought) what smart people do to get smarter, I just though about whatever school was nearby. I moved around often, state to state, so my decision would go from UNC to USC to Duke to Harvard, to Texas Tech, to whatever school I heard about at the time. My mother, I think, mentioned Stanford one time in passing, a few days after I entered 9th grade if I remember correctly. This was still before I considered colleges in any death. In 10th grade, I started looking into college more. I had decided Stanford was going to be on my list, but was still wondering about the University of Chicago, or USC, both of which I have cousins currently in attendance. By 11th grade, I had shortened my list to five schools, eliminating all Ivy league considerations because of the weather.When the fateful day came that I received the Stanford acceptance email, I didn’t think twice about finishing the Chicago application. By then, I was sure it was where I wanted to go.

That’s the basic story, compressed as well as I think I could. Just one piece of advice: try to be courteous to your neighbors. They might be distressed by the sound of an entire apartment’s occupants screaming in unison.

~Eric Wilson

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We’re expanding!!!

Hi, Amelia here!

So I’ve used our Stanford 2016 Facebook group to reach out to some of my fellow classmates, and the blog will have new admins joining soon!  They’ll be sharing their backgrounds and experiences with admission as well!

Stay tuned!

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An Interview? But it’s not a job…

I know I should write one more post about admissions before I actually can start talking about other things (after acceptance, personal experiences after moving in, why Stanford is awesome, etc.).  So now is a good time to talk about my admissions interview.

I’m going to put this out there right away.  DO ONE.  Here’s why.

For me, doing an interview was the natural choice.  As I briefly touched on in my last post, I’m a face-to-face sort of a person.  I express myself much better orally and verbally than I do in writing.  I decided I was going to go to whatever lenghths necessary to get interviews…which really meant driving.  I went 77 miles (one way) to my Duke interview, 54 miles one way to my Harvard interview, and 60 miles one way to do my Yale and Princeton interviews (which were about an hour apart).  For me, it seemed worth it.

By the time I got to my Stanford interview (my 5th and final interview), I was “practiced” and prepared.  Plus, instead of driving all the way to the Twin Cities or some hoity toity private school, my Stanford interview was in the next town over (about a 15 minute drive from home), in the local Caribou Coffee that I frequent a couple times a week…I was in my element.

Before I continue my story, here’s my general overview of college interviews as a whole–what happens, and what to do.

  • College interviews generally have two components: you tell the interviewer about yourself, and they answer any questions you have about the college.  Your interviewer will likely state this upfront at the beginning of the interview.
  • That being said, come with four sets of information mentally prepared:
    • General information about your activites that highlights your passion and accomplishments (don’t feel as if you have to blurt out everything…spend the bulk of your time on what’s most important to you).
    • Any big achievements that you’ve had in the time between when you submitted your application and your interview (for example, I mentioned my standing as a National Merit Scholar, which I didn’t know for sure at the time I applied).
    • Any special academic passions or reasons you want to pursue a specific major.
    • Specific questions for your interview about the college and their experiences there (Interviewers often volunteer because they love the school, and are eager to discuss their stories…they often have a great picture of what makes their school special and what makes it stand out from any other colleges).  If you have any unanswered questions about the college’s culture, this is the time to ask them!
  • Interviewers have a form to fill out and send in to the admissions office, so they typically will ask about test scores/GPA/class ranking, as well as what you do with your time and your goals.
  • Your interviewer will likely take notes for their report.
  • Interviews can be set up in a variety of locations…I had two at a school, one in an office at a college, and two at coffee shops.  If you are at a coffee shop, the interviewer will probably offer to buy you something (take advantage of the free drink, and THANK THEM!).
  • Dressing up is good, but obviously find a suitable outfit…it’s not school, but it’s not prom either.  I believe I wore a pencil skirt, flats, and a nice shirt to all of my interviews.  Looking professional pays off.
  • An obvious sense of self-confidence goes a LONG way.  Eye contact, a firm handshake, and body language say as much as any words coming out of your mouth.  Also, don’t be afraid to be proud of your accomplishments.  Don’t be cocky, but also graciously accept any compliments you receive.
  • If your interviewer asks where else you’re applying, answer…but otherwise it probably isn’t a great idea to spend time talking about other schools.
  • An interview is about the only time you’ll have to informally talk about exactly why you’re applying to Stanford (or whichever school you’re interviewing for).  It’s the best time to show that you’ve done your research, and to directly communicate why you are attracted to Stanford (or wherever) and why it is a good fit for you.  I talked about how I was keeping a very open mind about my college admissions, but that I knew that even if I didn’t go to Stanford for my undergrad, that I’d definitely apply for grad school because of the wonderful reputation of their graduate biology and genetics programs.  That went a long way with my interviewer.

I’d never met my interviewer before that day.  He was a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and is the CEO of Red Wing Shoes.  He bought me a drink, and we sat down and talked for about an hour and a half.  Honestly, it didn’t seem as long as it actually was.  I intruduced him to chai tea lattes, and he introduced me to TED (honestly, how did I not know about that before??????).  I shared with him my interests and outlook on life, and he smiled, took notes, and carried on a good conversation.  He said that he thought I’d be a perfect fit for Stanford.

I knew my interview had gone well, but I didn’t know how well until much later.  My interviewer called me about a week after I’d gotten my acceptance letter to congratulate me.  At that point, he told me that out of the 5 students he’d interviewed, I was the only one that he recommended.  In addition, he felt so strongly that I should be admitted to Stanford, that he wrote an additional letter to the dean of admissions on my behalf.  Without that recommendation, I don’t know if I would have been accepted.

Moral of the story, say yes to college interviews!  You never know how much impact a positive first impression can have. :)

Posted in Admission, Amelia, Applying and Admission, College, Interview, Stanford | 2 Comments

The Application

The first step of getting in to Stanford is applying.  So let’s talk about that application!

First, let me share a little bit of my experience with the application.  I will be the first to admit that I’m not a writer.  I like science and numbers.  And above all, I love speaking.  If I’m going to get my ideas out, I’d prefer to do it face to face.  However with college applications, there isn’t much of a choice.  Secondly, I’m a procrastinator.  Big time.  I honest to god arrived at my friend’s New Year’s party at 11:59 because I was submitting college applications.  I didn’t finish and submit the Stanford application until the next evening, just hours before it was due.  In fact, I wasn’t even entirely certain that I was going to finish it.  But I did, thank God.  Personally, I found the hardest part of the application was crafting rich and meaningful essays that fit in the spaces provided…I always write long essays and papers, so my personal challenge was paring down my essays so they fit in the online forms without being truncated.

The Common App (commonapp.org) is definitely the way to go when applying to Stanford (I actually don’t know if you can apply without using the common app.  Anywho…everything was online, and I only had to fill out my personal and extracirricular information once for all the schools that I was applying to, and then I completed an additional supplement form for each application.  Sweet and time saving deal.

Now, onto the actual content of the application.  Much of it is pretty standart–possible major, test scores, information about extracirricular involvement, some family information, etc.  The essay questions are obviously the most work intensive portion, and require the most thought.  There were two essays that went along with the common app, and the rest were part of the Stanford supplement.  Here are the essays questions, their lenght parameters, and a little bit about what I wrote about for each.

Common App Short Essay: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracirricular activities in the space below.  (1000 character maximum)
I wrote about my experiences in 4-H! :)

The main common app essay has 6 choices to choose from:
1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
This is the one I chose.  I wrote about my experiences with my dogs–how showing and breeding shaped me as a person, and inspired my academic and career goals.
2. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
3. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
4. Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
5. A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
6. Topic of your choice.

Stanford Supplement

The Stanford Supplement first asks for a little additional personal information (Social Security #, whether you have ever applied before, regular/early decision, and whether you have any siblings also applying.

Next, there were several questions that simply asked you to list some of your preference in a couple lines (no need to use full sentences).  All have a maximum of 300 characters.
Name your favorite books, authors, films, and/or musical artists.
What newspapers, magazines, and/or websites do you enjoy?
What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?
How did you spend your last two summers?
What were your favorite events (e.g., performances, exhibits, sporting events, etc.) this past year?
What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?
What five words best describe you?

Then, there were the short essays…at least 250 words, but not exceeding the space provided (2000 characters).
Stanford students possess an intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development.
I wrote about my experiences at Lac du Bois (French camp, part of the Concordia Language Villages), and how it not only helped me grow lingually, but shaped my cultual outlook.

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.
I framed this essay around my Facebook profile.  I stated how important I believe the pictues on someone’s profile are, and described some of the most important moments and pictures on my profile.  I went on to talk about how Facebook, more than just being a biography and a photo album, is a way to connect people, and how I couldn’t wait to connect with m roommate!

What matters to you, and why?
I reworked a speach I’d written on scholarship for my school’s NHS induction.  I talked about how keen intellect and academic curiosity not only benefits the individual scholar, but also society as a whole.

The rest of the supplement is pretty simple stuff.  They ask you to list all the alumni in your family (I didn’t have any, don’t worry.  It doesn’t seem very important), agree to the honor code, and agree to the additional instructions.  And that’s it!

Good luck to anyone who may be a future member of Stanford ’17…I believe that you can start your application in about a month!

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Behind the Numbers

Personally, I love numbers.  I love how clearly and consisely they can transmit information.  Especially when it comes to college admissions, numbers can be very important.
But as I’m going to say several times in this post, numbers aren’t everything.

Additionally, colleges love to throw information and numbers to prospective applicants, hoping to entice them and convince them to apply.  Yes, a good deal of this information is helpful.  But some of it definitely needs another (ahem, firsthand) perspective.

So…here is my take on some of the statisics and information taken from the admissions website, college ranking sites, and other Stanford publications, and what it actually means to an applicant.

Stanford’s admission rate for the Class of 2016 was 6.6%  36,631 students applied, and ultimately 2,427 were admitted.  Stanford was the second most selective college in the country, following Harvard (which had a 5.4% admission rate….Yale and Princeton followed close behind Stanford).  The last few years, Stanford has had an admission rates of 7.1%, 7.3%, 7.9%, and 9.5%.  Admissions rates dropped about .5% to 1% at nearly all of the top colleges….it is harder than ever to get in to Stanford.

Stanford’s yield rate for the Class of 2016 was 73%.  I recently read this statistic somewhere, which means that 73% of the students admitted to the class of 2016 accepted the offer of admission…according to the article, this is likely the largest yield rate in the country.  The article also stated that Stanford didn’t expect this high of a yield rate and is bracing itself for an unexpectedly large incoming class.  This is more evidence that Stanford will lower its acceptance rate more next fall.

Here, http://www.stanford.edu/dept/uga/basics/selection/profile.html, you can find an overview of the test scores and GPAs of the students who entered in the fall of last year.  As you can see, the vast majority of the students have extremely high test scores and GPAs.  You probably already knew that.  It is important to note that not all of the admitted students had a perfect 2400 on their SAT and not all were valedictorians.  36,631 students applied…and after talking with admissions officers from various top colleges, the majority of those applicants are “academically qualified”.  That being said, if Stanford wanted to only admit students with perfect test scores and absolutely perfect grades, they could.  Stanford takes a “holistic” approach to admissions.  They look at grades, test scores, extracirriculars, letters of recommendation, and application essays.  In short, they want to find students that challenge themselves within the context of their environment and succeed.  They want students who clearly demonstrate not only an academic competency, but an intellectual vitality.

Stanford is located on 8,180 acres in the heart of the Silicon Valley.  8,180 acres is a lot of space.  In fact Stanford is the largest continuous in the United States.  Don’t let that scare you away though!  The campus is very accessible, and nothing seems very far from the centralized locations on campus (the quad, the student center, etc.).  Additionally, it is very bike friendly, and having a bike seems to be a must to get around campus quickly and efficiently.
Also, being in the center of Silicon Valley has a profound impact on Stanford.  I should say, that the nature of Stanford has had an effect on its surroundings–Silicon Valley sprouted because of many companies that started at Stanford.  Because of this relationship, Stanford has a different culture from its East-Coast counterparts.  Stanford is better known for its science and engineering than for its humanities, while some of the ivy league schools are more balanced, or may be better known for their business and law programs.  It’s not enough to make a noticible difference on the quality of the education–Stanford is truly great at everything it does.  Additionally, there is a very tangible spirit of entrepreneurship at Stanford that simply cannot be found outside of the Silicon Valley.  Stanford Students all seem to be instilled with the drive to go make their own success.

Stanford is a diverse place.  Stanford has people of all races, geographic origins, socioeconomic origins, faiths, sexual orientations, and walks of life.  People really come from all backgrounds….except for the fact that there are tons of Californians (to give an example, my admissions officer managed 8 or 10 states….there were 6 admissions officers for Los Angeles alone).

Stanford has a 98% retention rate.  98% of Stanford freshmen return for their sophomore year.  Stanford students are happy with where they are.  Enough said.

More to come soon!

~Amelia

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