More than 38,000 hopefuls applied in 2013 to enroll at Stanford University, and fewer than 6 percent were admitted. Sometimes called the “Harvard of the West,” Stanford routinely surpasses the Ivy League in worldwide published university rankings. Stanford urges candidates of the highest caliber to stick to deadlines and push themselves academically, but to be true to themselves when they fill out application forms.

Basic Requirements

Stanford University accepts the Common Application, an application administered online by a nonprofit association. The application is used by more than 500 international universities. As part of the application, students must complete a Stanford Writing Supplement, which is a personal essay. Students also must have ACT Plus Writing or SAT standardized test results sent to Stanford. A school transcript including a mid-year report for the senior year must be sent by guidance counselors to Stanford. Finally, the school requires two teacher evaluations.

Deadlines and Early Decision

Stanford must receive all application materials by Jan. 1. If Stanford is your first choice, you can apply as a restrictive early action candidate by Nov. 1. Early decision notices are sent back by Dec. 15. If you’re accepted, you have until May 1 to enroll. It’s possible you could be rejected as an early decision candidate and deferred to regular decision, in which case you’ll receive notice of your admissions status by April 1. Or, you could be rejected outright, in which case you can’t apply again until the next year. If you apply under restrictive early action, you may to apply to other colleges and universities, but you can’t apply as an early decision candidate anywhere else.

Academic Background

Stanford recommends a well-rounded rigorous high school curriculum for its incoming class. Stanford prefers four years of English with a writing and literature emphasis; four years of mathematics, with emphasis on algebra, trigonometry and geometry; three or more years of history or social studies, which should include essay writing; three or more years of laboratory science; and three or more years of the same foreign language. The university encourages students to take the most challenging courses available. Taking Advanced Placement classes isn’t as significant as how much a student applies himself to each class. The college accepts AP test scores but says they don’t play much of a factor in the admissions decision.

Grades and Test Score Targets

There is no minimum grade-point average or standardized test score required for admission, although most applicants are at the top of their classes. In the class of 2013, 74 percent of freshmen had a 4.0 or greater grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. Only 3 percent had a GPA below 3.70. Ninety-six percent of Stanford freshmen ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school class. Only 3 percent scored lower than 600 on the SAT critical reading and writing tests, and 2 percent scored lower than 600 on the math test. Eighty-seven percent scored 30 to 36 on the ACT composite test and 78 percent scored in that range on the ACT English/Writing test.

Be Yourself

Stanford admissions officials say applicants too often try to posture themselves in ways they think will impress the admissions evaluators. They recommend you communicate through your essay and body of application the love you have for learning and how it manifests itself. Applicants shouldn’t necessarily join a host of extracurricular clubs and activities just to bolster an application. Rather, the admissions staff looks for depth of experience, leaderships roles and ways the activities helped the applicant grow as a person. Varsity athletics experience, coupled with a strong academic record, could influence the committee, but athletic participation by itself is not among the criteria considered.