Stanford University Top Questions

What should every freshman at Stanford University know before they start?


I would tell myself to not waste time. When you find yourself just sitting around, doing nothing or watching TV just because you don't have anything you HAVE to do, do something. You feel like time is unlimited, but college made me realize that there is so much I want to do, and so little time. If only I had the motivation and sense of time pressure when I was younger, I could've done so much more. I want to learn so many topics in math, want to learn so many programming languages, learn how to make websites and apps, work out to keep healthy, learn how to play guitar, improve my singing, etc. All of these interests I had before college, but college made me realize how much I wanted to pursue them. I see these incredible people in college who developed unique and incredible skills, and it makes me wish that I too had done more in high school. Fun does not have to be unproductive, pursuing your dreams, however small or large, is the most fun that I realized is possible.


Academics are important, but don't make them your entire life. That is the advice I would give to me high school self. When I was in high school, I was highly ambitious and hard-working. I spent all day at school, did extra activities before and after school, and did homework as soon as I got home. While these traits were valuable in getting into college, I sometimes feel that I missed out on a lot of experiences. When you get to college, your hard work will still be very important. However, success in college is not just about test scores or a GPA. You will be expected to demonstrate passion, creativity, leadership, and critical thinking. Take time to develop passions. Learn an instrument, learn new languages, read for pleasure. When you get to college, you'll eventually do all of these things, but start now. One day, you'll realize that grades aren't everything. Right now, it's probably difficult not to define yourself by your achievements. Take time to do something you love and create an identity for yourself outside of school. And keep up the good work.


You are about to experience one of the best times of your life. Come out of your shell and shed that old high school self. You can be anyone you want to be, both academically and socially. First off, advising from day one is critical. Find someone you connect with (a professor, mentor). Ask questions and learn from them. Second, do not limit yourself to making only one or two friends whom you stick to all four years. Make many many friends. Be the friendliest version of you; there is no point in being shy. Choose your extracurricular activities wisely. Sororities and fraternities can be enticing because of their social value, but be wary they do not get in the way of your academic endeavors. Partying can begin to consume you if you let it become a part of your weekly life. Do not make it a priority but instead do it once in a while. Do not ever let anyone make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe particularly in romantic situations. You may find yourself unsure of how to say no if unwanted advances are made. Be strong, know what you want/don't want, and do exactly that.


Chris, I want you to refrain from being humble and remind yourself in the future: you genuinely deserve to be at Stanford. You are intellectually affluent. You are modest, compassionate, endearing, perspicacious, magnanimous, gregarious, aesthetically imaginative. You are composed of your mother’s tenacity, your father’s diligence, your grandmother's infinite affection, your younger brothers' naiveté and curiosity, your best friend's undeniable fidelity, your teachers' amaranthine encouragement. Oftentimes you deprive yourself of acquiring inner peace and experiencing true euphoria by incessantly comparing yourself to others. Don't morph your identity in order to impress your peers and don't associate yourself with those who force you to compromise your morals; you are the people you surround yourself by and your opinion of yourself preponderates all others. Don't define yourself by the goals you failed to accomplish or the obstacles you failed to surmount, but by the triumphs and the individuals that molded you into the eternally exuberant and persistently passionate human being you are today. And lastly, I want for you to live in such a way that if anyone should speak poorly of you, no one else would believe it.


You're going to enter college and feel out of place at first. Don't freak out about this. You know all the other freshmen in your dorm? Yeah... the ones who seem like they have everything together? I'm going to let you in on a little secret: THEY DON'T. They're just as confused as you are. They're just as worried about whether or not they can do Stanford work and not flunk out as you are. When you get there, it won't seem like it- people will be hanging out with each other until 4am, raging, and exclaiming excitment over having freedom for the first time in their life- but it is. Be yourself. Don't feel the need to go along with this act. It will mean the most to you to find friends who are secure in themselves and, more importantly, who actually like you for you instead of the person you're pretending to be. Find that group early and hold on tight to them. Because them, God, and your family- not how much you know or how much you study- are what will really get you through Stanford.


I could tell you what to do. Don’t take that class--you’re just doing it because everyone else is. Don’t wait so long to come out--everyone already knows and no one cares. Don’t forget to lock your bike--it’s going to be stolen!I could tell you what to do, yes, but I won’t. Why? Because the sum of my experiences is who I am, and I like who I am. You’re obstinate enough to ignore me anyway.So don’t change a thing, but prepare yourself. Recognize that not everything will happen on your timeline. You’re literally going to make yourself sick trying to get the grades, the girl, the perfect body. Take a step back and take care of yourself, love. Open yourself up to other people. Being vulnerable is part of life and you will miss out if you don’t trust. You’re a great judge of character and your friends will recognize just how much you’re worth. Those people in high school weren’t really your friends. These people are.Oh, and yes, she likes you back. Also, lock your bike!Your friend,Nadia


Things get better. That fog that you swear is going to consume you will fade away. You will soon see clearly that all the exhausting years of work were worth it. You are going to receive an opportunity greater than you had ever imagined; you're going to have the courage to take it. You're going to attend one of the greatest universities in the world. You're going to make incredible friends. You're going to fall in love. So hold on! Hold on to your sanity; take a nap! Hold on to your high school friends; go out to the movies. Hold on to your family; listen to their stories at dinner. I promise you that a new adventure is coming and it will blow you away. But you can't ever truly go back once you start this new journey. You can't bring the friends you've known since you were toddlers or the parents that loved and raised you. So cherish them. Right now. Text, call, hug, do whatever it takes so that they know that they are loved. And when you take your first steps into Stanford University, know that things are better.


I always imagined what the world would be like if my great-grandmother was alive. She was born and raised in North Carolina: it was her home, her vestige, the special memento she kept in her back pocket. She would always pull it out to reflect on a memory or piece of advice before we left for a big trip. I liked that about her. I always imagined what she’d say before I left for college. I imagined it like this: We’re sitting on our front porch in Pendleton, North Carolina and she says, “Gal, if there is one thing you should remember before college, it’s this: Stay away from the moonshine. Yes, the moonshine. All those mixtures, colors, and flavors ain’t nothing but a way for you to start tipping, dragging and falling all the way home. And before you start tipping and dragging, remember, them men will follow after you and a lot of 'em won’t be nice.” I’d like to think what she was alluding to was college depredation. I knew that was just her way of keeping me safe. It's also the thing I'd tell my college self.


Go out and party. Stay in and study. Don’t feel guilty for either. Never doubt your abilities or question your place at Stanford - time spent feeling insecure could be time spent engaging in far more worthwhile activities. Appreciate and give in to the madness that is college life; never again will you get to live surrounded by your best friends. Even if they make you crazy sometimes, have fun while they are so close. -You’ll meet many, many people you disagree with but they will sharpen your worldviews far more than the ones you agree with. You won’t like the hook-up dating culture at college but enjoy being single. You'll meet someone amazing after college that'll make those dating frustrations worth it. At times it might seem like you’re never going to graduate, but by the end you’re going to look back in such disbelief at how fast these four years go. Above all, hold fast to your sense of humor and open mind. They’ll allow you to enjoy the good times and laugh off the stressful ones, making a ton of memories and life-long friends along the way.


When I applied to Stanford, I saw it as a reach school-- I honestly didn't think I'd get in. For the schools I thought I could attend, the pressure to write the perfect application was so intense, it was hard to find what I wanted to say. However, I took the shortest amount of time to apply to Stanford, and because I didn't believe I'd get in the pressure disappeared and the answers flowed. Ironically, I got into Stanford by accidentally being myself. I honestly think that if I'd treated my Stanford application with same trepidation as the other schools', I woudn't have been able to accomplish this. If I were to advise my past self, I would tell myself (and others), that you should never think to know your true worth. Your honest self is your best self, and your ability is as high as your ambition-- if you never try for something, there's a 100{4a082faed443b016e84c6ea63012b481c58f64867aa2dc62fff66e22ad7dff6c} chance that you won't get it. I still walk to class and wonder at how I got here, and all I can say is that I'm unbelievably thankful that I convinced myself to try.