6 Tips for the Stanford Essays and Short Answers
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
The Stanford application has two different types of essays this year. There are 3 long essays with a 250 word count limit and 5 short-answer essays with a 50 word count limit.
Here are our expert tips for writing standout essays that will improve your chances of acceptance! Stick around until the end of the post for the most important tip.
Stanford Essay Tips
With the different word counts in each prompt, you’ll want to approach writing each in different ways.
1. Make your intro sentence strong.
The important thing to do with the 250-word essays is to make sure your introductory sentence is really strong. Unlike in longer essays or the common application essay, you can use a paragraph or two to build your points and captivate your audience. That isn’t the case here. In this essay, you can’t waste any time building a narrative. You have to come out in the beginning and grab your audience’s attention.
2. Maximize the word count.
If your essay is 240 words or above, you’re good to go.. One or two extra words won’t drastically change your essay. But, if you have 25 or more words remaining, you could use that space to convey additional material. You could also enhance something you’ve already said, such as taking a couple of sentences and making them more “punchy” or fun to read.
Short Answer Tips
3. Don’t sacrifice writing quality.
These essays are being assessed for writing quality the same way the longer essays are. The fact that they are so much shorter means they will be put under a microscope even more.
4. Don’t waste time on detailed explanations.
If you can describe a concept or idea in shorter words, do that. Keep it concise and to the point. It is much more important to get your entire point across in a logical way than to focus on describing a detail that doesn’t fit into the larger picture of what you’re trying to say.
Overall Writing Tips
5. Humanize yourself.
This is the most important tip. You want to show colleges that you are not just your college application; you’re not just a series of grades on a transcript or activities on a resume. Instead, you want to give the admissions committee almost a 3D picture of who you are as a person.
So from that perspective, try to have a mix of more fun and more serious answers. You don’t necessarily have to have everything super academic. For example, for the “historical event I want to witness” prompt, you don’t have to say “I want to go back to the signing of the Magna Carta.” If that genuinely interests you, that’s totally fine to say, but try to have some fun in your other responses.
In fact, at a super-selective school like Stanford, they want you to have the grades and resume that say you’ve spent a lot of your waking life on the admissions process and academics, but they also don’t want to admit students who are trying too hard. It’s not exactly fair, but it’s unfortunately how selective admissions works.
6. Look at your essay with fresh eyes
Regardless of your writing process, the best way to approach editing your essay is with time. In between writing and editing your response, take a break. Whether it’s an hour, a day, or a week, looking at your materials with fresh eyes will be a huge benefit. You will find key points that are missing or areas that you can rewrite in a more concise or interesting way.
Looking for more Stanford essay tips? Check out our full Stanford essay guide.