Stanford is one of the most competitive universities to get into but also I think a lot of people underestimate themselves and think well only super talented, super extraordinary students would get into Stanford. But really all that you need is a lot of preparation and maybe a little bit of luck. There are several programs in Stanford, you can do bachelors, you can do masters, you can do PhD.
For every program you need to pass a particular exam. If you’re getting into bachelors programs, you would need to pass SAT. If you’re getting into masters programs and PhD programs, you would need to pass either GMAT or GRE.
GMAT is for subjects that are related to economics. GRE is for everything else. If you’re international students, you would also need to pass TOEFL or IELTS to prove that your language skills are good enough. But, exams are only a tiny part of your application because you would also need to submit motivation letters which play 30% of your whole application. This is the only way for the admissions committee to see you as a person. Since when they just open your application, they see numbers, they see your exam results, they see your GPA which is your average grade at school. However to really know you as a person, to know what affected your choice of your subjects or what effect your decision to go to Stanford, they need to know you as a person and this is what motivation letter is. Please take it seriously.
Another thing you should remember that your GPA should be relatively high to apply to Stanford and your exams should be really good. If your GPA is low and you think you’re not competitive enough, but your exam score is good, then you have an advantage to explain why your GPA is low. It happens to many of us when we start studying somewhere and we realize that the subjects that we chosen don’t look for us. That’s okay, just explain that in your application.
There is also a recommendation letter part and I would say recommendation letters play around 10% role in your application and this means you should spend 10% of your preparation time on recommendation letters. This means you should really talk to your recommenders and tell them the questions that the universities are going to ask them. Really think of the stories that recommenders can tell about you. For example, if the question is discussing how candidate compares to others in the same area, then this should be really an example from your work life or from your student life. It’s not like at the recommendation letter shouldn’t be like – “Oh the student is amazing, he’s great for your program. I really recommend him.” This doesn’t make sense because Stanford receives hundreds of those motivation. Recommendation letters should tell that we had something you know, something happened in your class and you had to stay late like till 12 a.m. and you coped with that in your solved stressful situations.
Another part of your application is resume. It really depends on the program that you’re getting into but normally they would request a one-page resume which talks about your achievements your, career achievements. So, when you’re talking about your career, when you’re writing a resume, please make sure that if you worked as an analyst, don’t list what you had to do. Don’t list that you had to consult with clients always that you had to do Excel spreadsheet, instead tell about what makes you different in that position. Maybe, you were 5 times better at assessing new deals or maybe you signed 10 times more clients than an average manager or you got promoted two times faster in the bike lane. Quantify your successes and list them in your resume.
Another important thing to remember is that Stanford would consider your application regardless of your exam results so basically if you have a low SAT score, you would still be able to apply. But, you would need to pay an application fee and really make sure that you fit into the class. What you can do, you can go to the program that you’ve chosen to that website and see the average cost profile and see what’s the SAT or GRE or GMAT score. For students who got admitted and then compare yourself to those students and just think of the probability of you getting into Stanford.
For example, application for an MBA program costs $250 and this is not something you would know just randomly do, just randomly applied to Stanford. Make sure that a chance is up good. Also if you think that your score is low but you have something that really makes you stand out, for example if you want to get an MBA and you’re an entrepreneur and you had a startup and do you raise some money for it or maybe you had some successes, this makes you stand out.
Again, I’m gonna finish with what I’ve started. Please believe in yourself. I’ve met dozens of students from Stanford and they’re normal people that I wouldn’t say they’re average. They’re very interesting to communicate with but it’s not like they are aliens, it’s not like they’re from Mars. Basically they are the same people as us. They just worked a little harder, push a little harder, when they were preparing for their exams and they were starting at school.