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11 Best Stanford Supplemental Essays That Worked 2022

Ryan
by Ryan ChiangUpdated May. 17, 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

11
answers to Stanford's notorious writing supplement from an admitted student.

What is Stanford University's Acceptance Rate?

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.

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.

Stanford 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 are the Stanford Supplemental Essay Prompts for 2022-23?

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.

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.

For

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

Short Questions
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
6
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)
7
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)
8
Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why.
(100-250 words)
Verified prompts for 2022-23

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.

11
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.

Prompt: Most Significant Challenge

Writing Supplement

What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?

0-50 words

Stanford University Essay Example #1

RECOGNIZING. CLIMATE. CHANGE.

(3 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 Could Be Improved:

  • 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.

Prompt: Last Two Summers

Writing Supplement

How did you spend your last two summers?

0-50 words

Stanford University Essay Example #2

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 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 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.

What Could Be Improved:

  • Nothing.

Prompt: Historical Moment or Event

Writing Supplement

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?

0-50 words

Stanford University Essay Example #3

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 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 Deep 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.

What Could Be Improved:

  • Nothing.

Prompt: Look Forward to Experiencing

Writing Supplement

Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford.

0-50 words

Stanford University Essay Example #4

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 words)

Why This Essay Works:

  • Idea-Focused: The author's take on what Stanford represents ("an ideal") is a unique perspective.
  • Shows "Why Stanford": 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.

What Could Be Improved:

  • Nothing.

Prompt: Excited About Learning

Writing Supplement

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

Stanford University Essay Example #5

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 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.

What Could Be Improved:

  • Nothing.

Prompt: Letter to Roommate

Writing Supplement

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

Stanford University Essay Example #6

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 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 Could Be Improved:

  • Minor Writing Fixes: Small edits such as capitalizing the proper noun "Youtuber" and some word choices could be altered.

Prompt: Something Meaningful To You

Writing Supplement

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why.

100-250 words

Stanford University Essay Example #7

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 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 Could Be Improved:

  • 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.

Prompt: Extracurricular Activity

Writing Supplement

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.

0-150 words

Stanford University Essay Example #8

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 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 Could Be Improved:

  • 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.

Prompt: Five Words

Writing Supplement

What five words best describe you?

0-5 words

Stanford University Essay Example #9

I don’t conform to arbitrary boundaries.

(6 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.

What Could Be Improved:

  • Nothing.

Prompt: Interests

Writing Supplement

When the choice is yours, what do you read, listen to, or watch?

0-50 words

Stanford University Essay Example #10

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 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 Could Be Improved:

  • 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.

Prompt: One Extra Hour

Writing Supplement

Imagine you had an extra hour in the day — how would you spend that time?

0-50 words

Stanford University Essay Example #11

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 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 Could Be Improved:

  • 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").

Prompt: Any Essay Topic

Personal Statement

#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

Stanford University Essay Example #12

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 enamored with the mathematical symmetries of fulcrums. The book inflamed my itch but I had no means to scratch it.

I was raised a San Francisco Hippie by musicians and artists. I learned to sing the blues before I knew the words I used. Without guidance from any scientific role models, I never learned what it meant to do science, let alone differentiate science from science-fiction. As a kid, it was obvious to me a flying car was equally as plausible as a man on the moon. When my parents told me my design for a helium filled broomstick would not fly, they could not explain why, they just knew it wouldn’t. My curiosity went unrewarded and I learned to silence my scientific mind to avoid the torture of my inability to scratch the itch.

Then, in Sophomore year, I met Kikki. Before Kikki, “passion” was an intangible vocab term I had memorized. Ever since she lost her best friend to cancer in middle school, she had been using her pain to fuel her passion for fighting cancer. When you spoke to her about oncology, her eyes lit up, she bounced like a child, her voice raised an octave. She emanated raw, overwhelming passion.

I wanted it. I was enviously watching another person scratch an itch I couldn’t.

I was so desperate to feel the way Kikki did that I faked feeling passionate; AP Physics 1 with Mr. Prothro had sparked my old Pythagorean wonder in mathematics so I latched on to physics as my new passion and whenever I talked about it, I made my eyes light up, made myself bounce like a child, purposefully raised my voice an octave.

Slowly, my passion emerged from pretense and envy into reality.

Without prompting, my eyes would light up, my heart would swell, and my mind would clear. One night, I was so exhilarated to start that night's problem set that I jumped out of my seat. I forgot to sit back down. I spent that night bent over at my desk, occasionally straightening out, walking around and visualising problems in my head. Five whiteboards now cover my walls and every night, I do my homework standing up.

Once learning became my passion, my life changed. Old concepts gained new beauty, the blues became a powerful medium of expression. Mathematics became a language rather than a subject. I rocketed from the kid who cried in class while learning about negative numbers to one of two juniors in an 800-person class to skip directly into AP Physics C and AP Calculus BC. I founded Lowell Physics Club, which became one of the largest clubs in the school. Over the summer at Stanford, I earned perfect marks in Ordinary Differential Equations, Energy Resources, an Introduction to MATLAB, and an environmental seminar, all the while completing the Summer Environment and Water Studies Intensive. Now in my senior year, I am earning my AS in Mathematics and Physics at the City College of San Francisco.

As I enter college, the applicability of my field of physics offers me a broad array of high-impact careers. Given that by 2050, 17% of Bangladesh's land will be underwater displacing twenty million people, I have settled on energy resources engineering.

All of this is natural progression from one development - I learned to scratch my itch.

(611 words)

Why This Essay Works:

  • Strong Hook: A good first sentence doesn't need to be complicated or long. Often the best "hooks" are simple declarative sentences that capture an interesting idea.
  • Shows Their Background and Identity: Explaining how you grew up and connecting it to your current ambitions helps create a more full picture of yourself.
  • Interesting Structure: Essays are boring if paragraphs are all of the same size. The author does a great job of splitting up their essay into many paragraphs, some only being one sentence, others being longer.
  • Conclusion That Is Inevitable: Great conclusions often connect to the rest of your essay while also being surprising.

What Could Be Improved:

  • Word Choice: Using simple words over complex words is usually better. You don't need to showoff an extensive vocabulary to seem smart. Let your ideas do the talking: simplicity is sophistication.

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

11
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.

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