What It Takes

December 16, 2019

Stanford Magazine recently published an article by Ivan Maisel entitled "What It Takes," to shed some light on what it takes to get accepted into Stanford.  It seems everyone thinks (or perhaps wishes) there was some formula that, if you successfully discover and execute, will deliver you that highly-anticipated college acceptance email.

If you think of the metrics that colleges use to gauge success, you can see that it's not that easy to put into a formula.  I believe that colleges and universities emphasis the following three priorities :

  1. Students accepted will finish their degrees within 5 years.
  2. Upon graduation, students will go on to do amazing things, thus increasing the reputation of the college.
  3. Each accepted class represents a diverse population.

In the article Maisel says "Stanford, in addition to wanting superior scholars, also wants to bring in a pre-built community populated by kids from every stop on the geographic, socioeconomic and talent spectrums."

To further make the point, this statistic was shocking: "Even perfect test scores don't guarantee admission. Far from it: 69 percent of Stanford's applicants over the past five years with SATs of 2400—the highest score possible—didn't get in."

So while SATs are an indicator of the ability to handle the coursework found in college, getting a perfect score isn't the ticket in. There is something more. The article quotes the dean of admission Richard Shaw, "[o]f course academic credentials are important, but we're also looking for evidence that this young person has a passion, that he or she will bring something to our community that is unique. We want to hear a 'voice'—that's a critical component." I found this to be true in my cohort during my time at Stanford. Our small group represented more than ten countries and people from very different backgrounds, all with unique voices that enriched my experience and added to my development.

The idea of developing your 'voice' is exactly what we're trying to do at Summit Writing: we want to develop students into confident writers who can share their voice, their worldview. This isn't something that is unique to Stanford, every school wants to hear the unique voices from their students.  They know that there are amazing students out there, with so much to offer, and they want to build a community that brings these people together. Successful employers know this as well: when creative, confident people add their voice to their organization, it gets stronger, and they do go on to do amazing things in the world.