Hey 2021ers, you should pick Stanford

April 7, 2017, 8:55 a.m.

Last week, Stanford finished accepting its 2,050 students for the class of 2021. So congratulations! Many of you have probably dreamed about Stanford since you were little, and your decision to attend was instantaneous. But others may still be vacillating, weighing the pros and cons of West versus East Coast, going far from or staying close to home…

So why choose Stanford?

There’s the much lauded weather. I really did enjoy calling my parents on the phone in the middle of February and hearing about all about the snow back in Connecticut before gleefully informing them that I was wearing shorts and a tank top. But this winter also greeted us with a bit of a monsoon for a while, and you really shouldn’t decide on a school solely due to the weather.

Of course, there’s also the fact that many people view Stanford as the best college in the country, but seriously, you shouldn’t just pick a college based on prestige.

Luckily for Stanford, its impressive reputation is bolstered by some spectacular realities. Brilliant professors — Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners and much more — teach undergraduates — especially freshman! My intro chemistry class was taught by a professor who had won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  My THINK class this quarter is taught by Abraham Verghese, professor of medicine, author of the bestselling novel “Cutting for Stone” and winner of the National Humanities Medal from President Obama. You cannot imagine how incredible it is to have these pillars of intellectual achievement literally standing a few feet away from you in the classroom. It’s like meeting a celebrity, but better!

Then there’s the quarter system. For those of you who don’t know, instead of being divided into semesters, Stanford is divided into three quarters (fall, winter, and spring; classes are also offered during summer quarter but most students do not take classes then). Yes, the quarter system has flaws: Most strikingly, the late finishing date in mid-June and starting date in late September means your summer schedule can differ from friends at other schools. But the quarter system also means that you get to take 50 percent more classes than your friends at semester-system schools!

The quarter system allows you to explore your interests more, since you have three opportunities each year to enroll in classes instead of two. I’ve been able to take classes in chemistry, math, history, English and creative writing, all without worrying about having to figure out major requirements yet. You’ll find chemical engineering or CS majors taking English classes because they have enough room in their schedule — despite the daunting number of units required for those majors — because of the quarter system.

And if you’re worried that Stanford is too “STEM” focused, then don’t be. Yes, Stanford has some of the best STEM programs in the world. But it also has the best history department in the country, the best economics department in the country, the best political science department in the country and the best psychology department in the country. That’s arguably better than schools like Harvard (only number 1 for three of the social science/humanities ratings) or Yale (only number 1 for two) or Princeton (only number 1 for three). Yes, I know I said that you shouldn’t pick a school based on rankings, and you shouldn’t. But sometimes statistics are the most convincing form of argument. Even if you’re not a big STEM person, it shouldn’t be a negative thing to be around people with different interests, and secondly, clearly Stanford has amazing — and sometimes underused by undergraduates — humanities programs.

I’ve been talking on and on about academics and professors because let’s face it — you go to college to learn. And hopefully, you’re really excited about that!

But Stanford is also an incredibly fun place to learn. There’s loads of crazy traditions — the Big Game, Full Moon on the Quad, Screw your Roommate, freshman ski trip (Stanford basically pays for your entire freshman dorm to ski in Tahoe for the weekend), Scav Hunt, Frost Music Festival — and many more! Spring quarter is dubbed “Camp Stanford” because the sunny weather and happy-go-lucky feelings of the students makes school feel more like summer camp. And it helps that Stanford’s campus is full of places to lounge in the sun — from the rec pool to going fountain hopping!

So it’s the caliber of the professors, the intellectual curiosity of your peers and the kooky, very “Stanford” traditions — but it’s also the little details that make you smile as you stroll down the sunny Quad to class.

It’s smelling strawberries at the farmer’s market at Tresidder every Tuesday at noon or spotting a famous athlete walking to class. It’s the way your breath catches when you stare at the glimmering mosaics of Memorial Church. It’s sipping an iced tea and strolling around in flip flops and a sundress and feeling like you’re still on spring break because it’s so sunny outside. It’s sitting in class and marveling over a professor’s eye-opening lecture.

It’s Stanford, that wonderful, mind-blowing, sometimes frustrating but mostly exhilarating school.


Contact Caroline Dunn at cwdunn98 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Login or create an account