Why I Loved Being a Stanford Student

Grace Kennedy

Why I Loved Being a Stanford Student

Putting how much I enjoyed my Stanford experience into words is hardly possible. I was THAT Stanford student who expressed my love of Stanford to every single person I met. Stanford is known for its absurdly low acceptance rate (4.8%!), and academically challenging environment. But it is so much more than just Nerd Nation. Stanford is an incredibly welcoming institution.

When people ask me what I loved the most about being a Stanford student, I shout “EVERYTHING!” Well, ok not everything. Stanford is an extremely difficult university, and I would be lying if I said I never got stressed from academics. Stanford students are known for having the “floating duck syndrome” - a term invented at Stanford - evoking a duck that appears to be drifting along the surface with ease, while in reality it is paddling furiously to keep afloat. However, Stanford’s tight knit communities make it easier to find friends who feel the same way. Every college experience will be stressful at times, but the support I received from my friends at Stanford got me through.

So, what did I love most about being a Stanford student? There were many reasons, but here are my top ones.

The Location

Stanford’s beautiful campus rests in idyllic Palo Alto, in Northern California. I mean, who wouldn’t want sunny 70-75 degree weather all year round? California offers a multitude of terrains, and Stanford is right in the center. Want to go skiing for the weekend? Tahoe is just a couple of hours away! Want to go to the beach? Cruise on down to Santa Cruz to explore its boardwalks. Want a vibrant city life? San Francisco is just a quick Caltrain ride, with some of the best food and tourist sights. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Stanford is literally in the middle of Silicon Valley - the biggest tech hub in the United States.

Stanford’s huge campus is known for its lush grass, towering palm trees, and red roofs. Nearly all Stanford students live in one of Stanford’s 81 residences. Living on campus, everyone bikes, skateboards, or walks to class. Since the weather rarely changes, Stanford students spend the majority of their time outside - doing homework, slacklining, or just relaxing between classes.

The People

It is no secret that Stanford produces some of the most brilliant minds. Here’s a look at the most successful people who were once Stanford students - Snapchat CEO, Reese Witherspoon, Google Co-founders, Yahoo CEO, PayPal Co-founder, Netflix Co-founder, Cory Booker, Instagram Co-founder, Hewlett and Packard (heard of HP computers?), and more! Being surrounded by some of the most intelligent students was definitely a humbling experience.

When you arrive at Stanford as a freshman, you are immediately placed outside your comfort zone. Stanford pairs you with your freshman year roommate based off of a questionnaire and you won’t know who this person is until you walk through your door. No chance to FB stalk them before arriving. But more likely than not, they will be amazing and extremely passionate about something. I was an athlete, so Stanford made sure not to pair me with an athlete. I am thankful for this, because it forced me to make friends with a completely different group of people. Often, I would be talking with a new friend, and would learn that they started a non-profit, or won a prestigious research award. Every Stanford student I came across was as impressive as they were humble.

The Academics

Note that Stanford runs on a quarter system instead of semesters. This allows you to enroll in a range of courses and complete the credits required for your major. With this structure, you’re able to take a class that sounds unusual in an entirely different department that you might not have been able to squeeze in if the school ran on a semester system!

One of the main reasons that I loved Stanford was my major. Stanford has a variety of unique and interdisciplinary programs, such as Biomedical Computation, Atmosphere/Energy, and Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. Although it doesn’t have an undergraduate business major, Stanford does have a Management, Science, and Engineering major. I majored in Science, Technology, and Society with a concentration in Policy, Security, and Technology. I know, it’s a mouthful. But it was an amazing major that let me be flexible and take a variety of different classes - from Computer Science, to Political Science, to Communication. I truly took advantage of all that Stanford academics had to offer, and even took a Yoga class that counted towards my senior year credits!

Stanford is also known for their amazing study abroad program. The Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP) gives Stanford students the opportunity to live in a city abroad while continuing their studies. The program is a quarter long, and offers direct Stanford credit for courses taught overseas. I studied abroad in Florence during my junior year, and took classes that counted towards my major requirements. While abroad, I lived with a host mother and held an internship teaching English at an Italian elementary school. I absorbed different cultures and learned about the history of Italy, especially in my “Fascism in Cinema” class. I would HIGHLY recommend studying abroad while you are in college, no matter where you go.

The Athletics

I’m a bit biased, since I was a college athlete, but Stanford athletics are exceptional. Not every student is looking for a school with great athletics, and that’s fine. But if you want a school where you can attend a football game in a near-100,000 capacity stadium on Saturday, and then switch your focus to your Digital Humanities or Geophysics classes on Sunday, Stanford is perfect.

Stanford has incredible sports teams with athletes who can keep up with their difficult academics. Recently, Stanford captured its 115th NCAA team championship! It’s pretty amazing when you’re sitting in your Renaissance Art class, and an Olympian is right next to you. Stanford has won 270 overall medals since 1912!

The Community

Stanford has a place for everyone. There are countless clubs, activities, intramural sports, etc. where you can belong. There are over 600 student organizations! Some of the activities you can join at Stanford are:

  • Alliance Streetdance
  • Asia-Pacific Students Entrepreneurship Society
  • Asian American Theatre Project
  • Black and Queer at Stanford
  • Faiths Act in Togetherness and Hope
  • Gender-Inclusive Housing Taskforce
  • Jam Pac’d Hip Hop Dance Ensemble
  • Muslim Students Awareness Network
  • Natives in Medicine
  • Power to ACT: Abilities Coming Together
  • Promoting Women’s Health and Human Rights
  • Safe and Open Spaces at Stanford
  • South Pacific Islander Association
  • Stanford Chinese Dance
  • Stanford Egyptian Association
  • Stanford Friends of Tibet
  • Stanford Global AIDS Campaign
  • Stanford Gospel Choir
  • Stanford Latino Law Association
  • Stanford Newtype Anime
  • Stanford Society of Latino Engineers
  • Stanford Steppers
  • Stanford Students for Choice
  • Stanford Taiko
  • Stanford Women’s Club Soccer
  • Stanford Women in Business
  • The Dualist
  • The Stanford Daily
  • Transgender Task Force
  • Women in Electrical Engineering

As you can tell, there’s a wide variety of activities you can participate in based on your interests, career goals, and identity. Want to empower women? Join the Women’s in Business club, that is known for bringing powerful women (like Tyra Banks) to talk on Stanford’s campus. Have a passion for making people laugh? Join Robber Barons, a sketch comedy club that performs on campus once a quarter! Want to make a difference in the LGBT community? There are 16+ clubs that you can choose from.

Stanford students also throw themselves into campus traditions. You don’t want to miss out on the chance to participate in Fountain Hopping, when students hop between and swim in the various fountains around campus. There’s also Band Run, a tradition where the Leland Junior Stanford University Marching Band picks up freshmen and staff from the dorms, stopping to play music and dance at each location. Topping off these traditions is primal scream, when the campus rings with screaming students the night before finals begin. Stanford’s unique traditions make its community stronger.

The Stanford experience is an accumulation of the academics, community, and an abundance of opportunities. It is a place to pursue your passions, even if they’re weird. Stanford is difficult, but rewarding. I had the best experience being a part of Nerd Nation, and hope that you will too!

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