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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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6 Stellar Stanford Essay Examples

What’s Covered:


Stanford is one of the most selective colleges in the nation, with an acceptance rate typically under 5%. If you want to snag a spot at this renowned university in sunny California, you’ll need to write standout essays.


Stanford is known for it’s short and whimsical prompts that give students a lot of freedom to let their creativity shine through. In this post, we will be going over three essays real students have submitted to Stanford to give you an idea of how to approach your essays. We will also share what each essay did well and where there is room for improvement.


Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 


Read our Stanford essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts. 


Essay Example #1 – Letter to Your Future Roommate, One-Second Videos


Prompt: 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. (100-250 words)


Hey roomie!


I’m so excited to meet you and share our first year at Stanford, but I should probably warn you. By the end of fall quarter, I guarantee that you will be sick of hearing me ask, “Do you want to be in my one second?”


For the past couple of years, recording a one-second video every day has been my way of finding excitement in even the most boring days. I promise that while we’re roommates, my one-second clips will make every day an adventure.


Some of my personal favorites:


  • Ice skating in Millennium Park in Chicago
  • Watching Netflix with my 3 sisters (usually Jane the Virgin)
  • Baking a cake in physics class
  • Petting my 17-pound rabbit, or my 2-pound rabbit
  • Family karaoke night featuring the High School Musical soundtrack and my terrible singing 
  • Playing in Pep Band at basketball games with my best friends
  • Winning Mario Kart (I am a self-proclaimed professional)
  • Playing with a friend’s new puppy
  • Selfies with my Target coworkers after handling an army of coupon moms


I’m excited to capture our first year together at Stanford, from Big Game to our first ski trip. Even on days where studying in our dorm seems like the highlight, I’ll suggest a spontaneous ice cream run so we’re not THAT lame.


So when I inevitably ask you to be in my one second, I promise that it’ll be worth it (and you can’t say I didn’t warn you).



Your soon-to-be bestie/adventure buddy/one-second-a-day-video-taking roommate



What The Essay Did Well


This is such a fun essay to read because it shows us who this student is outside of her academics and extracurriculars. There isn’t a single mention of her academic interests or the clubs and organizations she is in—ironically, that’s the strength of the essay! By focusing her essay around her one second a day video, it allows her to demonstrate to the reader her most natural self. Outside the confines of a classroom or pursuing extracurricular achievement, these are the things that bring her joy and make her interesting; conveying that idea is the exact point of Stanford asking this question.


Bulleting her most memorable one second videos is a great way to share a wide variety of stories without making the essay too dense. They are quick thoughts—not even fully formed sentences—but they all start with a verb to bring a sense of action to the essay. Not to mention, she was able to work in a good amount of humor. Including her “terrible singing” at karaoke night, being a “self-proclaimed professional” at Mario Kart, and the “army of coupon moms” at her job isn’t necessary for each story, but adding it in gives admissions officers an extra little chuckle.


No space is wasted in this essay, even down to the sign-off. She could have ended by saying “Sincerely, Sara“, but instead, she added an extra line to excitedly describe herself as “Your soon-to-be bestie/adventure buddy/one-second-a-day-video-taking roommate.” As if we didn’t get enough of a taste of her personality throughout, this student closes with a run-on thought that conveys her child-like enthusiasm at going to Stanford and meeting her roommate. 


What Could Be Improved


Overall, this is a really strong essay. That being said, there are a few sentences that could be reworked to be a bit more fun and align better with the rest of the essay.


For example, the starting off with an admission that her roommate might get sick of hearing about her one second videos is cute, but it could be made stronger by really leaning into it. “Hi roomie! Here’s to hoping you aren’t ready to throw my phone out the third-floor window of Branner by finals!” With this opening, we are immediately asking ourselves what could this student possibly be doing with her phone that would cause her roommate to chuck it out a window. It builds suspense and also adds humor. Not to mention, she would be including a dorm on campus to show she has thoroughly research life at Stanford.


Another sentence that could use some extra TLC is “I promise that while we’re roommates, my one-second clips will make every day an adventure.” Again, a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t stimulate the reader’s mind in the same way an example would. She goes into some of the one seconds they will capture at Stanford later on, but it wouldn’t hurt to add another example here. She could write something like this: “With me everyday will be an adventure; I’ll have the clip of you trying scrambled eggs and strawberries at the dining hall for proof (trust me, it’s how they were meant to be eaten).


Essay Example #2 – Letter to Your Future Roommate, Study and Fun


Prompt: 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. (100-250 words)


Dear stranger (but hopefully future roomie),


Are you looking for someone that:


Sees you only at night when they are going to sleep?

Thrives being taciturn?

Unnerves you on the eve of your exams?

Doesn’t tell Moroccan fairy tales each night?

Yowls while sleeping?

Abhors lending you their clothes?

Never nibbles on snacks and won’t bring you Moroccan cookies?

Doesn’t ask you to go for a walk on campus?

Fidgets when you need help?

Uproots a spider they cross without asking you for help?

Not ready to sing with you if you play Beyonce’s songs?


Don’t fret if you said no to all of the above. That just means we are the perfect match because I am the opposite of everything I described above! It would be my great pleasure to introduce you to the person with whom you will not just share a room, but also have unforgettable moments. Be ready to spend nights laughing–it is not my fault if I keep you up all night with my jokes. Words cannot express how excited I am to find out what makes you, you! I’ve cleverly hidden our theme within my note. In case you didn’t notice, reread the first letter of each line.


P.S: It may be difficult for you to say the “kh” in my name, especially if you don’t speak Arabic or Spanish. So feel free to call me Yara.


What The Essay Did Well


This is a charming way to introduce yourself to a future roommate. Not only did they spell out all the ways they will be a loyal and dependable roommate, but they literally spelled out a secret message! Accomplishing this shows this student took extra time and care into crafting statements to add an extra layer of creativity.


This student also imbued aspects of their personality in these statements—once you flip it around. We see how important their Moroccan heritage is, as they look forward to sharing “Moroccan fairytales each night” and “Moroccan cookies” with their roommate. We see how caring they are when it comes to “lending you clothes” and not fidgeting “when you need help.” They also include some humor in some lines: “Yowls while sleeping.” Each sentence helps piece together different aspects of this student’s personality to help us put together a full picture.


What Could Be Improved


Although the idea of presenting a bunch of contradictory statements puts a nice spin on the structure, be cautious about going this route if it gets too confusing for your reader. Certain lines create double negatives—”doesn’t tell Moroccan fairytales,” “never nibbles on snacks,” “not ready to sing with you“—that take the reader an extra second to wrap their head around what the student is actually trying to say. Admissions officers spend a very limited amount of time on each essay, so you don’t want to include any language that requires additional brain power to digest.


This essay is also missing the closing to the letter. The author includes “Dear stranger” and “P.S.“, indicating they are writing the essay in the format of a letter. Their letter requires a closing statement and a sign-off of their name. Without them signing their name at the end of the essay, the P.S. they include doesn’t make as much sense. If the reader doesn’t know what their name is, how would they understand their nickname? 


Essay Example #3 – Letter to Your Future Roommate, K-pop and Food


Prompt: 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. (100-250 words)


Hey, future roommate!


As an INFJ personality type, I value my relationships and genuinely want to know you better:


How do you feel about music? I. Love. Music. My favorite genre is kpop, and since I am an avid kpop lover, I follow many groups (TXT and Twice being my favorites). I apologize in advance if you hear me blasting songs. Admittedly, getting lost in my own little world happens a lot. You can just ask me to tone it down. Or join in!


I am also a sucker for dramas. We could watch sweet heart aching love stories or historical ones together! Both are also my cup of tea.


Speaking of tea, what is your favorite drink to order? I tend to prefer sweet, bitter coffee and teas. I also like trying out new foods and making them. You know…you could be my taste tester. I like to consider myself an amateur cook. If we somehow miss the dining hours, no need to worry. With my portable bunsen stove, we can make hot pot in the dorm or quickly whip something up suitable to both our tastes.


As much as I love all food, Burmese food holds a special place in my heart. I would like to share with you my favorite foods: lahpet thoke (tea leaf salad) and ohn no khao swè (coconut noodle soup). Food is my love language, and I hope that we can share that same connection through exchanging and trying out new foods!


What The Essay Did Well


This essay packs a ton of information into just a few paragraphs. We learn about the author’s food and drink preferences, music taste, and favorite TV shows. The vivid language about food, drink, and cooking in particular makes the images of this student’s potential life at Stanford that much clearer and more compelling. 


Another especially strong element of this essay is the author’s personality and voice, which come through loud and clear in this essay. Through varied sentence structure and the way they phrase their stories, we get a great sense of this applicant’s friendliness and happy, enthusiastic style of engaging with their peers. 


Finally, college applications are by their nature typically quite dry affairs, and this kind of prompt is one of the few chances you might have to share certain parts of your personality that are truly essential to understanding who you are, but don’t come across in a transcript or activities list. This student does a great job taking advantage of this opportunity to showcase a truly new side of them that wouldn’t come across anywhere else in their application.


You wouldn’t, for example, want to just rehash all the APs you took or talk about being captain of your sports team. Firstly, because those probably aren’t the first things you’d talk about with your new roommate, and secondly, because that information doesn’t tell admissions officers anything they don’t already know. Instead, approach this prompt like this student did, and discuss aspects of who you are that help them understand who you are on a day to day basis—as the prompt itself hints at, the residential college experience is about much more than just class.


What Could Be Improved


This is a great letter to a future roommate, but it’s important to remember that while the prompt is officially for future roommates, the essay is actually going to admissions committees. So, you want to  think carefully about what kinds of practices you mention in your essays. In most college dorms, students aren’t even supposed to light candles because it’s a fire hazard. So, while your dorm cooking skills might be very impressive, it’s probably not a good idea to advertise a plan to bring a portable stove to campus, as these kinds of things are often against dorm rules.


This may seem like nitpicking, but at a school as competitive as Stanford, you want to be extra careful to avoid saying anything that admissions officers might find off-putting, even subconsciously. For a more extreme example, you obviously wouldn’t want to talk about all the parties you plan on hosting. While this slip-up is much more minor, and the student was clearly well-intentioned, the overall genre of disregard for the rules is the same, and obviously not something you want to highlight in any college application.


Essay Example #4 – Something Meaningful, 1984


Prompt: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100-250 words)


I am an avid anti-annotationist; the mere idea of tainting the crisp white pages of any novel with dark imprints of my own thoughts is simply repulsive. However, I have one exceptionmy copy of George Orwell’s 1984, weathered and annotated in two languages. While victimized by uneven handwriting eating away at the margins, it is the only novel I still hold beloved despite its flaws. 


Two years before reading 1984, I was indulging in the novels of Dr. Seuss, not because of my preferences, but because my reading level was deemed an “A”the reading level of a toddler. I was certainly anything but that; I was a fresh-off-the-plane immigrant and rising middle schooler who could barely name colors in English. 


After reading the likes of A Very Hungry Caterpillar like a madman, my next step was purchasing more advanced books in both English and Korean, so I could understand the nuance and missing details of novels after I initially read them in English. This crutch worked perfectly until George Orwell’s 1984the first novel I purchased and read without the training wheels of a translated copy. It took me weeks to finish the book; it was painfully slow, like a snail inching toward an arbitrary finish line. 


I read the novel twenty-seven times, each reading becoming faster and revealing more information. When I look at my copy of 1984, I still cringe at its weathered and tainted pages, but I can’t help admiring that initial portal between two literary worlds. 


What The Essay Did Well


This is undoubtedly an excellent writer who produced an exceptionally strong essay. Right from describing themself as an “avid anti-annotationist,” we can tell this is going to be different than you typical essay. While many students will choose something related to their academic or extracurricular passion, this essay choose a specific book. Although 1984 is so much more to them than simply a novel, as they reveal through the essay, the focus on an individual object as something meaningful is such a powerful image.


This student does a beautiful job conveying their journey through the symbol of 1984. They measure time using the book (“Two years before reading 1984“), and use well-known children’s novels like A Very Hungry Caterpillar and Dr. Seuss to convey just how far they came without explicitly needing to describe how behind they were. Describing reading 1984 without a translated copy as ditching “training wheels” further emphasizes their growth.


The meaningfulness of 1984 is reinforced through the focus on its “weathered and tainted pages.” Admitting to the reader at the beginning that they hate marking up books, yet their favorite book is annotated from cover to cover, highlights how 1984 is so much more than a book to them. It is a symbol of their resilience, of their growth, and of a pivotal turning point in their lives. Although the student doesn’t say any of this in their essay, their skilled writing reveals all of it to the reader.


One of Stanford’s deepest values is intellectual vitality (in fact, there’s a whole separate prompt dedicated to the topic!). This student demonstrates this value through establishing a willingness to learn and a love of cross-cultural literature. All the while, this student is authentic. There’s little posturing here intended to impress the admissions officers with the student’s resilience and deep love for the written word; instead, he is genuine in sharing a small but authentic part of his life.


What Could Be Improved


This essay has very little that needs to be improved on, but there is one crucial question that would have been nice to have answered: why 1984? Out of all the books in the world, why was this the one this student decided to commit to as the first all-English novel? Was it just by chance, did a teacher encourage them to pick it up, or did the premise of the book speak to them? Whatever the reason, it would have been nice to know to further understand its significance.


Essay Example #5 – Something Meaningful, Ramen


Prompt: Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100-250 words)


While most people argue that the best invention is something mechanical or conceptual, I believe it’s the creation of instant ramen. There’s little time involvement, deliciousness, and convenience all included in one package. What more could one ask for? The nostalgia packed within instant ramen makes it a guilty pleasure I can’t live without. 


During a road trip to Yellowstone, this miracle meal followed my family as we took turns sharing an umbrella under the pouring rain and indulging it in its instant delicacy: we were shivering in the cold, but the heat of the spicy soup and the huge portion of springy noodles warmed our souls instantly. It was an unforgettable experience, and eating ramen has since then followed us to Disneyland, Crater Lake, and Space Needle, being incorporated in our frequent road trips. 


It has also come in handy during our wushu competition trips. Often, competitions ended at midnight, making it inconvenient to eat out. In these situations, the only essentials we needed were hot water and instant ramen packages, enough to satiate our spirits and hunger.


Instant ramen is also a way my mom and grandma express their care for me. On late nights of doing homework after wushu practice, I usually ate something—sometimes instant ramen—to have a smoother recovery. My mom and grandma usually paired instant ramen with extra toppings like homemade wontons or fish balls—their motto being “instant ramen always tastes better when someone makes it for you.


What The Essay Did Well


By picking such an unusual topic, this applicant grabs the attention and interest of readers straightaway. Picking something as commonplace and commercial as instant ramen and transforming it into a thoughtful story about family is a testament to this student’s ability to think outside the box and surprise admissions officers. It makes for an essay that’s both meaningful and memorable! 


Another great aspect of this response is how information-dense it is. We learn not just about the writer’s fondness for instant ramen, but about their family road trips, their participation in wushu, their close-knit extended family, and their culture. Even though some of these details come in the form of brief, almost throwaway lines, like briefly mentioning fishballs and wontons, they are clearly thoughtfully placed and designed to add depth and texture to the essay. 


While walking the line between maximizing every word available to you and having your essay be cohesive and easy to follow is tricky, this writer does a fantastic job of it. The details they include are all clearly relevant to their main theme of instant ramen, but also distinct enough that we get a comprehensive sense of who they are in just 250 words. Remember, even quick details can go a long way in enriching your overall description of your topic or theme.


What Could Be Improved


This is a very strong essay, but there’s always room for improvement. The first paragraph of this essay, though a good general introduction that you might find in an academic essay, doesn’t actually say much about this applicant’s potential as a Stanford student. Remember, since your space is so limited in the college essay, you want every sentence, and really every word, to be teaching admissions officers something new about you.


Starting a story in media res, or in the middle of the action, can get the reader immersed in your story more quickly, and save you some words that you can then use to add details later on. Avoiding a broad overview in your first paragraph also allows you to get into the meat of your writing more quickly, which admissions officers will appreciate—remember, they’re reading dozens if not hundreds of applications a day, so the more efficient you can be in getting to your point, the better.


Essay Example #6 – Significant Challenge Short Answer


Prompt: What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 words)


Everybody talks. The Neon Trees were right, everybody does indeed talk but in our society no one listens. Understandably, the inclination to be heard and understood jades our respect for others, resulting in us speaking over people to overpower them with our greatest tools, being our voices.


What The Response Did Well


This prompt is a textbook example of the “Global Issues” essay, but with an obvious catch: you have only 50 words to get your point across. With such limited space, this Stanford short answer supplement demands that applicants get their point across quickly and efficiently. This essay does a great job of grabbing one’s attention with an unusual hook that segues smoothly into the main topic. Along with that, the student demonstrates that they have a great vocabulary and sophisticated writing style in just a few sentences. 


What Could Be Improved


While failing to communicate effectively indeed causes a great many problems, failure to listen is an incredibly broad challenge, and therefore, not the strongest choice for this short response. Remember, like with any other supplement, you want your response to teach Stanford admissions officers something about you. So, you ideally want to choose a specific subject that reflects both your knowledge of the world and your personal passions.


Again, your space is limited, but if this student had been even slightly more specific, we would have learned much more about their personality. For example, the sentence that starts with “understandably” could have instead read:


““Understandably, the inclination to be heard and understood jades our respect for others, which causes shortsightedness that, if nothing changes, will soon enough leave our air unbreathable and our water undrinkable.”


This version goes a step further, by not just speaking vaguely about nobody listening, but also pointing out a tangible consequence of this problem, which in turn demonstrates the student’s passion for environmentalism.


Where to Get Your Stanford Essays Edited


Do you want feedback on your Stanford essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 


If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.