What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Respond to Stanford’s Second Short Answer Prompt

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Johnathan Patin-Sauls in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



When applying to Stanford, there are five short answer questions for this year’s application, and you have 50 words to respond. For Stanford’s second short essay, the prompt reads as follows: 


How did you spend your last two summers? (50 words)


In this article, we will discuss tips for how to start writing your essay, select your topic, and proofread your response. For more information about Stanford’s other supplemental essays, check out our post on how to write the Stanford essays.


Getting Started Writing


Just Get Started


Approaching these short answer prompts might be difficult at first. You have so much to say and so little words to say them in. One way to start is by writing everything down and then revising your work. Just write down any ideas that come to mind. The important thing is to just start, because once you begin writing more ideas will come to you. 


You can then come back and evaluate which ones you think are important or go together. Look out for the ideas that show off your personality or the ones that give context to your academic interests or major. The ultimate goal when writing these essays, either short or long, is to show Stanford what kind of student you would be at their school. 


Be Unique


Most students applying to Stanford are academically impressive, so these essays are how you can set yourself apart. While this prompt is a pretty generic question, make sure your answer isn’t a generic response. An admission officer could go through multiple applicants in one hour and those basic responses wont hold their attention. 


Narrowing Down Your Response


When the admissions committee reads an application, they are trying to determine how this student would fit into the college. We’ve often heard admissions officers refer to this process as solving a puzzle. Each student admitted into Stanford solves a piece of that puzzle. They might play the violin in Stanford’s orchestra or be president of the pottery club, but they all fill a piece. This is what makes life at Stanford so special and diverse. In your essays you want to tell the committee your story. Try and convey what piece of the Stanford puzzle you would solve. 


Your first idea for your response to this prompt might not be the topic you end up writing about. Strictly answering what you did last summer might not be the most meaningful story. This is when you dig deeper. Ask yourself what the events of last summer meant to you and why. Maybe the events of your High School summer led to personal growth or conveyed a diverse experience. This question is all about digging through that superficial layer and telling your story in a meaningful way.


Proofreading Your Essay


Applying to college is a very exciting time for both you and your family. Parents often like to be very involved in this process and will probably want to read the essays you’ve written. While it is important to have someone proofread your essay for both grammatical and concept mistakes, you want to be careful. Parents often believe they know you best and will have their own ideas as to how you should write about yourself. If you let their opinions overshadow your own, you might lose your voice. Not only will Stanford then get a false understanding of who you are, they will probably be able to tell your essay is not as authentically you. 


Remember this is your application, so your voice should be the only one coming through. An essay derived from deep internal reflection is the best way to show who you are to the admissions committee.