Stanford University - Comments and Student Experiences|
Stanford is a truly wonderful place to be an undergrad. The word idyllic comes to mind. Having visited friends at half a dozen other universities around the country (and vice-versa), I know with uncommon certainty that I made the right choice. Beyond the nearly unparalleled opportunities in the classrooms and research labs, the most valuable part of a Stanford education is being surrounded by and interacting with some of the brightest and most broadly thinking people you're likely to ever meet. Having graduated, I miss that!
As for those that claim Stanford is not diverse (ethnically, politically, etc.) -- this is crap. I challenge you to find a more ethnically diverse campus of this stature, anywhere in the world. While self-segregation is an unfortunate reality, students from all ethnicities and backgrounds participate in extracurriculars, sports, research -- not to mention classes. You'd have to live under a rock to not be exposed to other points of view at Stanford. Politically, you should expect that Stanford students tend to lean left, as do most bright, well educated people, especially in the Bay Area. However, there are plenty of conservatives both among the student body (certain fraternities, for example) and at the now-infamous Hoover Institution. At Stanford, I even had a few Evangelical Christian friends. There are many Mormons at Stanford, and many Muslims as well. One of my favorite classes was on Buddhist philosophy. You get the idea.
Full financial aid and need-blind admissions mean that Stanford is now economically more diverse as well. The stereotype of the snooty, privileged, left-wing Silicon Valley intellectual couldn't be further from the Stanford I experienced. There were more hippies and farm boys there than anyone fitting that unfounded stereotype. One of my best friends from undergrad at Stanford was from Kenya. Another was from Turkey. My freshman roommate was from Inglewood -- one of the grittiest neighborhoods of Los Angeles -- not exactly Beverly Hills.
So I guess I'm posting this mainly in response to the few strongly negative reviews I've read. I think those people really missed the boat. Many others have expounded on the countless things that make Stanford the best university in the world -- for undergrads as well as grads -- so I won't go any further. Suffice it to say, I was extremely satisfied with virtually all aspects of my experience at Stanford, and wouldn't trade a minute of it. In fact, if I could change any one thing, I would have stayed longer.
A final piece of advice for those considering a school like Stanford: Get out there and find activities and clubs that are interesting to you. Seek out people who challenge your views, and engage both students and professors in meaningful conversations. Go to basketball games. Go fountain hopping. If you're having difficulties finding your place at Stanford, talk to your Resident Fellow (RF) or your RA -- they took those jobs to help you! I'm convinced that if the poor souls who posted negative comments here had done that, they might have taken away a completely different impression. Hopefully yours will be more like mine.
Good luck, and best wishes.
I would have to say that my biggest complaints have to do with the surrounding area and the attitude of some students. Palo alto is not what I would call student friendly. The majority of its inhabitants are very well off and the town's shops and restaurants reflect this ($$$).
As for the students, I do not want people to get the wrong impression. I love the students at Stanford. The diversity and friendliness of the student body is at the top of my list of "things I love about Stanford." However, as a religious studies/philosophy major, I sometimes feel that the pre-professional attitude of Stanford can be a little oppressive. I don't want to say that Stanford students are anti-intellectual, but I would say that many are much more focused on their research and internships than on staying up all night discussing philosophical quandaries. Nevertheless, within certain departments (such as philosophy or religious studies) it is very easy to find people who are passionate about intellectual exploration, whether or not the rest of the world considers it worthwhile. And the majority of other students are also open to having deep conversations. I would just say that this is not the place for those who want to be completely immersed in the type of intellectual atmosphere one might find at an isolated liberal arts college.
Now for the positives. As I said before, I love the students at Stanford. First of all, everyone is brilliant. They have all done amazing things. Secondly, everyone brings something different to the table. The diversity of the student body provides an extremely enriching and eye-opening environment.
I also love the faculty. Those who I have approached for help have gone out of their way to assist me in whatever ways they could.
The campus is beautiful, facilities are in top condition, and there is a huge variety of different student groups one may join. I have also found that it is quite easy to become a part of the community on campus. I love Stanford and I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. I highly recommend it.
There's no getting around the fact that Stanford is a large research university. But, unlike many other schools, the faculty actually are accessible...if you know where to look. Most faculty members become ecstatic when you ask to do research with them. They love to get kids involved. Or, if you're not into the research world, most would be even happier to meet with you, even have a cup of coffee (if either of you can find the time).
The teachers here teach. I've heard assaults on larger schools, things like "You never see your professors". Again, while sometimes it may seem like the professors just give their lectures and then disappear, you can find them and have great conversations, learning just as much outside the clasroom if you try. Plus, all of the TAs and Teaching Fellows are really cool (okay, maybe not all), and through them you can gain a link to the academic community...with someone who is a little closer to your age and your mentality.
In addition, Stanford is probably the best larger university at making its student body seem small. There are so many communities on campus, it's impossible not to fit into one. Plus, the freshman residential system, assuming you get into an al-freshman house (which isgoing to be getting easier in the next few years) sets you up immediately with 80 or so good friends, most of whom you will actually want to see after your freshman year.So, to sum it up, make an effort to get to know professors, and enjoy your first few years. They go by quickly. Make a bunch of friends. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to find a cool group of kids to share your experiences with.