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12 Best Stanford Supplemental Essays That Worked 2022

Ryan
by Ryan ChiangUpdated Aug. 18, 2022

Your essays are one of the best ways you can stand out in Stanford's competitive admissions process.

In this article, I'm going to share with you 12 answers to Stanford's notorious writing supplement from an admitted student.

Stanford University Admissions FAQs

Many students are interested in applying to Stanford, even though admission may seem like a long-shot.

But you may surprise yourself, and for many students it's the only time in their life they'll apply.

Here are some common questions students and parents have about Stanford's admissions:

What is Stanford University's acceptance rate?

This past year, Stanford had a record 55,471 applications and admitted 2,190 students. That gives Stanford an overall admit rate of 3.95%.

Or in other words, less than 1 in 25 students are admitted.

Just having good stats is not enough to get into schools like Stanford.

Which makes your essays are a critical opportunity for you to show why you should be accepted.

Stanford University Acceptance Scattergram

But for any school that has competitive admissions like Stanford, that only means your essays are more heavily weighed.

Each year thousands of students apply with stats that are good enough to get in. And your essays are one important factor admissions officers use.

What is Stanford's application deadline for this year?

Stanford offers two admissions deadlines for 2022-23: restrictive early action and regular decision.

For this year, Stanford's deadlines are:

  • Restrictive Early Action (REA): November 1st, 2022
  • Regular Decision (RD): January 5th, 2023
How many essays does Stanford require?

This year, Stanford University requires applying students to answer five Short Questions and write three Short Essays. If you're applying with the Common App, you'll also need a strong personal statement essay.

Stanford is notorious for its lengthy and creative writing supplement. The questions are known to be thought-provoking, which is done on purpose.

Stanford admissions officers want to dig into your thought process, and learn how you think.

What are the Stanford supplemental essay prompts for 2022-23?

For 2022, the Stanford writing supplement consists of eight questions total:

Short Questions

Stanford requires applicants to answer five short answer questions of between 3 and 50 words each.

  1. What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (3-50 words)

  2. How did you spend your last two summers? (3-50 words)

  3. What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (3-50 words)

  4. Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family. (3-50 words)

  5. Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (3-50 words)

Short Essays

Stanford's short essays are three required essays of between 100 and 250 words each.

  1. The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning. (100-250 words)

  2. 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)

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

Stanford's unique prompts give you a lot of freedom in how you choose to respond.

But being so open-ended can also make it difficult to get started.

Because of that, it can be helpful to see how other students wrote answers to Stanford's prompts in recent years.

12 Stanford University Essays That Worked

For getting your best shot at Stanford, you'll need to write authentic and interesting essays.

My advice: Have fun with the prompts when coming up with ideas. But write about them with care and diligence. Above all, be authentic.

Check out how these admitted Stanford students wrote their essay and short answer responses.

I've also included a great Common App essay from an admitted student.

1. Stanford University Short Question

Supplemental Essay

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

RECOGNIZING. CLIMATE. CHANGE.

(3 / 50 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Bold and Unique: Stanford's prompts reward bold and genuine writing. It is okay to be simple and straightforward, but still must be thoughtful as this response is.
  • Well-Composed: Although only three words, this response still shows thought. The use of capitalization and periods separating each word emphasizes the author's point and makes it even more poignant.
What They Might Change:
  • Use The Full Word Limit: It is risky to leave 47 words unused. This essay succeeds in taking that risk, but generally you should use all the words available because each one is an opportunity to convey more meaning.

2. Stanford University Short Question

Supplemental Essay

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

2016: Working with the head of IT at Golden Gate Parks and Rec to renovate the social media program and redesign the website. (sfrecpark.org)

2017: Studying at Stanford High School Summer College, building a family in two months.

(38 / 50 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Answers Prompt Directly: This response leaves no room for doubt. And shows that you don't have to be fancy or "try hard" for all essays. Sometimes plain answers work best when it is a short prompt like this one.
  • Organized Clearly: For straightforward answers, having a straightforward structure can be a good thing. Each word is used carefully and has a purpose.
  • Has Strong Ideas: You don't need much to convey meaning. In just the last six words ("building a family in two months") there is hints of deeper ideas.

3. Stanford University Short Question

Supplemental Essay

Prompt: What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 words max)

The Trinity test, the first detonation of the atomic bomb. For one, an opportunity to meet my role models: Oppenheimer, Feynman, Fermi, etc. But also, to witness the 4 millisecond shift to an era of humanity that could eradicate itself. “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

(49 / 50 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Connects To Author's Interests: The author cleverly reveals about themselves by telling their role models: the physicists involved.
  • Shows Specific Knowledge: Rather than just saying "the first atomic bomb test", the author names it specifically: The Trinity Test. Including the famous Oppenheimer quote from the Bhagavad Gita also shows real thought was put into it.

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4. Stanford University Short Question

Supplemental Essay

Prompt: Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 words max)

Representing an ideal.

Stanford is a gathering place of people working towards a common ideal; one of engagement, passion, intellectual vitality, and devotion to progress. This is what I stand for, so I want to help Stanford represent it.

(Also those cream cheese croissants from CoHo.)

(46 / 50 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Idea-Focused: The author's take on what Stanford represents ("an ideal") is a unique perspective.
  • Authentic Motivations: Revealing your genuine motivation for attending a school shows your interest is not surface-level. The author's motivation is also a powerful one: representing an ideal.
  • Lighthearted and Relatable: The last remark in parantheses lightens the tone, while still relating to Stanford specifically. Admissions officers surely would crack a smile at this remark because it is relatable to them and genuine.

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5. Stanford University Short Question

Supplemental Essay

Prompt: What five words best describe you? (5 words max)

I don’t conform to arbitrary boundaries.

(6 / 5 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Bold and Takes a Risk: Stanford supplements are the perfect place to take a (calculated) risk. This type of answer only works if A.) it hasn't been done before and B.) it is genuine and not done just for the sake of risk-taking.

6. Stanford University Short Question

Supplemental Essay

Prompt: Imagine you had an extra hour in the day — how would you spend that time? (50 words max)

One extra hour is thirty minutes extra of daylight.

The US has 28 GW of installed solar capacity. With the extra daylight, there will be a 4% increase in national capacity, an entire GW added. This small increase alone powers 700,000 homes. I’m spending the time investing in photovoltaics!

(49 / 50 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Thinks Outside the Box: Most students would answer this prompt more literally: with what activity they would do. Having a unique approach shows your ability to think differently.
  • Cleverness: Strikes the right balance between being clever and genuinely answering the prompt. Trying too hard to be clever is easily seen-through.
What They Might Change:
  • Explain Acronyms Before Using: Instead of writing "GW," the first reference should say "gigawatt." After that it is okay to use GW, but to make things perfectly clear, avoid introducing acronyms without telling them first (unless they're extremely obvious like "US").

7. Stanford University "Genuinely Excited About Learning" Short Essay

Supplemental Essay

Prompt: The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning. (100-250 words)

It’s in the mail.

It’s here.

I rip open the package.

It feels sleek along my fingertips. Three volumes. Gorgeous red binding with stunning silver lettering. THE Feynman LECTURES ON PHYSICS The NEW MILLENIUM Edition

I had heard about them previously, but a Quora thread on “essential physics texts” convinced me to invest in them. I thought I was buying a textbook, but I was buying a new way of life. That night, while I laid in bed, Feynman changed my entire perspective of the universe. In the first lecture.

Not only was he a Nobel prize winning physicist with a unique approach to the subject, but his pedagogical capabilities were perfectly suited to my personality. When Feynman teaches, he does not just teach physics, he teaches how to think and understand. He helped me recognize that my passion wasn’t for physics, it was for a passion for learning and understanding.

Spoken directly from the source: “I don't know anything, but I do know that everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough.”

Reading the Lectures rouses within me the most intense feeling of elation I have ever experienced. When I open the Lectures, any bad mood is erased, any haze in my mind is cleared away, and I become the person I strive to be.

Now, I always have at least one of the Lectures on me. At festivals, in backpacks, in carryons, if I am there, so are the Lectures.

(244 / 250 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Tells a Story: Painting a vivid picture can bring admissions officers into your world. Using stories also is a compelling way to share ideas without stating them plainly.
  • Showcases Genuine Interest: Write about things in a way that only you could write about. The authenticity in this essay is palpable.

8. Stanford University "Letter to Roommate" Short Essay

Supplemental Essay

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 -- know you better. (100-250 words)

Dear roommate,

Don’t be alarmed if you glance over at my laptop late at night displaying a plague doctor examining a watermelon with a stethoscope, meticulously listening for a heartbeat.

I apologise for waking you, but before requesting a room change, allow me to explain. This twisted scene is innocently my favorite video on YouTube. I have ASMR, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is a euphoric, calming sensation triggered by visual and auditory stimuli like whispering and fine movements, which I use to aid my insomnia. This plague doctor, played by youtuber Ephemeral Rift, has movements as he inspects the watermelon that are as calming to me as a mother’s lullabies are to a child.

I know we will both have our strong, unique personalities with our individual quirks like this. However, I guarantee we have a fundamental similarity which lead us to becoming Stanford students.

We have passion for learning. Even if two people are polar-opposite personalities, they can become family if they have this.

That said, I have a feeling we won’t be polar opposites. I love jamming on my guitar, going out to parties, playing video games, messing around with soccer, and a hodgepodge of other hobbies. I’m sure we’ll have some common ground to start off but either way there will be plenty of time to grow together!

P.S. I am a whiteboard fiend. I hope that’s okay.

(232 / 250 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Humanizes the Author: Being quirky for quirkiness sake isn't good. But the author strikes a balance between showing their unique (some may say strange) interests and the relatable aspects (like whiteboards, going to parties, and soccer).
  • Connects to Bigger Ideas: Even in "unserious" writing, connecting to meaningful ideas is key. The author brilliantly shows what relates all Stanford students: their passion for learning.
What They Might Change:
  • Minor Writing Fixes: Small edits such as capitalizing the proper noun "Youtuber" and some word choices could be altered.

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9. Stanford University "Meaningful To You" Short Essay

Supplemental Essay

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

A meaningful discussion can be found deep in the jungle of YouTube, during an obscure “CBS This Morning” interview with Bill Murray.

“What do you want, that you don’t have?” - Charlie Rose

Bill Murray - “I’d like to be here all the time, and just see what I could get done, what I could do if I really, you know, didn’t cloud myself... if I were able to... to not get distracted. To not change channels in my mind and body, to be my own channel.”

Death is scary but my slimy, monolithic, Lovecraftian fear is unengagement. I only have a brief time to experience life and I know I will find the most fulfillment in “[seeing] what I could get done.” When I feel that signature fuzzy, tired feeling in my head, I am reminded of my old night terrors; I would be awake yet unable to interact with my surroundings.

In sophomore year, when I discovered my passion for physics, I found a powerful way to stay engaged. Developing a passion fundamentally requires me, as Murray puts it, “to be my own channel.” Problem solving, understanding difficult concepts, having intense discussions all demand your mind to be present and I am more than happy to oblige.

Intellectual vitality is not my application buzzword, it is my lifestyle.

(220 / 250 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Shows What Drives Them: Admissions officers are interested in the root of your being. That is, what gets you up in the morning. Showing your perspective on life and what you hope to get out of life is key.
  • Connects to Application's Interests: A central theme of this author is physics. And each essay relates back to their intended area of study to a varying degree. By connecting to the rest of your application, it creates a cohesive picture of yourself as an applicant.
What They Might Change:
  • Use Less Quotes: Quotes can be great for introducing ideas. But ultimately admissions officers want to hear your words, not other people's. The first three paragraphs are about other people's ideas, not the author's, and could be condensed.

10. Stanford University Short Essay

Supplemental Essay

Prompt: Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 words max)

One month into AP Physics C Mr. Shapiro's cancer came out of remission. With no teacher for the rest of the semester, I offered to give a few lectures. The first try was a huge success and I was hooked on teaching.

Following my newfound addiction, I started Lowell Physics Club (LPC). Our first lecture attracted 50 students, with 40 returning the next week!

A victim of grandeur, I designed an environment more than a club. It had to be innovative, attractive, and have a tangible payoff. We tutor students in physics, connect those looking for fun projects, prepare students for the F=ma Olympiad, and sometimes I give lectures which expand rather than repeat. This year two students qualified.

Mr. Shapiro returned this semester and continued teaching. I can now relax in the back of the room listening to his engaging lectures, occasionally giving one of my own.

(148 / 150 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Provides Backstory: Explaining how you got started in an extracurricular is compelling because it reveals your motivations for doing it.
  • Shows Takeaways from Their Achievements: Listing achievements and extracurriculars isn't as important as what you got from them. The author emphasizes the important of their extracurricular and why it is meaningful, rather than just what they did.
What They Might Change:
  • Be Careful With Personal Details: Unless this author got permission from "Mr. Shapiro" to use their name, revealing personal details such as health conditions is not good to do. Always be careful naming people in your essays, but especially for potentially sensitive topics.

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11. Stanford University Short Question

Supplemental Essay

Prompt: When the choice is yours, what do you read, listen to, or watch? (50 words max)

From my bookshelf, Youtube subscriptions, Netflix history, and Spotify.

The Feynman Lectures, MF Doom, Ephemeral Rift, Tank and The Bangas, The Eric Andre Show, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hubbard and Hubbard’s Differential Equations and Vector Calculus, Thích Nhất Hạnh, Kamasi Washington, 3Blue1Brown, Al Green, Band of Gypsys, Oxford Press - Very Short Introductions

(51 / 50 words)

Why This Essay Works:
  • Answers Prompt Clearly: Provides a straightforward response without room for misinterpretation.
  • Has Good Context: By stating where these interests come from ("bookshelf, Youtube subscriptions, Netflix"), the answers have more context.
What They Might Change:
  • Organization: Listing their interests by type (such as musical artists, authors, and TV shows) would help readers who may not be as familiar with all the interests.

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12. Stanford University Common App Essay

Personal Statement Essay

Common App Prompt #7: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. (250-650 words)

For my entire life, I have had the itch: the itch to understand. As a kid I was obsessed with a universe I knew nothing about. In elementary school, my favorite book was an introduction to fulcrums for kids. Like the Pythagoreans who had marveled at the perfect ratios of musical notes, I was...
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Summary

Do you want to get into Stanford in 2022? If so, writing great application essays is one of your most critical parts of applying.

With selective schools like Stanford, your essays matter even more.

Hopefully these 12 Stanford short answers and essays have helped inspire you.

From these essay examples, you can learn what it takes to write some stellar Stanford supplements:

  • Don't be afraid to be creative
  • Don't write formally. You can write as you would speak.
  • Showcase your genuine self, interests, and passions
  • Think outside the box, if appropriate and natural

If you enjoyed these essays, you'll also like reading Columbia's supplements and USC essays. Both schools also require several "short answer" type essays like Stanford.

What did you think of these Columbia essays?

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