How to Write the Stanford Short Essay Questions Supplement 2019-2020

It is almost impossible to get into Stanford. That may be frustrating if Stanford is your dream school. Stanford accepts so few applicants that they stopped publishing their acceptance rate after it dipped below 4.7%. Their application doesn’t make trying your luck easy, either. With 11 questions, it’s a bit of a beast. But if you are genuinely passionate about Stanford and have the scores and grades to match, we’re here to help. 

If you’ve already made it through Stanford’s short answer questions, welcome to the short essays! If you haven’t done the short answers yet, we recommend starting at our post on the first half of the Stanford supplement before returning to this one! 

The short essays can feel positively spacious after the cramped confines of the 50-word answers. Don’t let this fool you, though. A 100-250 word answer still requires precision, finesse, and more than a little finagling to get everything you want to say into a tight space. The key is to focus, and we’re here to help. 

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 to 250 words)

The first step to this question is deciding whether you will write about an experience or an idea. We can make this decision very easy. You will be writing about an experience. Why? Because it is easier to write about experiences in a way that is narratively-driven (aka it tells a story) than it is to write about an idea without sounding like you’re up on a high horse. You’re also going to write about an experience because Stanford wants students that are taking action, not just pondering the universe.  

Once you’ve made that decision (that was easy!), you need to decide what experience you are going to write about. One of the questions we like to pose to our students when they are trying to figure out how to answer this question is, “What was the last project that you wish you could have kept doing long after you finished it?” Sometimes their answer is a school project, but it doesn’t have to be. 

Another place to find an answer is in your browser history. What was the last Wikipedia black hole you fell into? Once you’ve zeroed in on something that excites you, write your answer in a way that excites the reader. They should be itching to learn more by the time your 250 words run out.  

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)

This is a super fun question, and we’re very jealous that you get to answer it. This short essay is a place to have some fun and to show the reader that, yes, your grades are fantastic, but you’re also a real teenager with stuff going on in your life other than science homework! We’ve had students write about things as silly as their love of pasta and commitment to making it in the dorm kitchen, and that essay was awesome.  

Before you commit to a certain angle, try drafting up a few different letters to a few different types of people. Maybe start with a letter to someone from another country and then a letter to someone who lives in the same town as you. You’ll find that you focus on different things based on the type of person you’re writing to. The magic is where those things overlap. 

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

The last question on the Stanford supplement is another place where starting with a few different ideas will pay off big-time. It’s also a place to think back to the second short answer question when we asked you think micro. Try creating a list of objects that hold meaning for you, especially small things that you can link to good memories. Writing about friendship doesn’t work here, but writing about an object that links you to a friend can work really well. 

There are a lot of places to be vulnerable in the Stanford supplement, but this question offers the most obvious place to open yourself up to the reader. That’s right; a real human will be reading this. Most likely, multiple real humans will flip through its pages looking to connect with you. This is a great place to build that connection. You don’t need to bare all of your scars, but don’t be afraid of letting the reader into your world. 

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve finished the Stanford supplement. Congratulations! It was a lot, we know, but remember that some of what you wrote here will undoubtedly be able to be repurposed in another supplement, for another school. Don’t copy and paste, but do find ways to reuse your hard work! 


Contact us here if you need more help.