International students at Stanford


You may have heard of my alma mater: Leland Stanford Junior University, better known as Stanford. Famed for its computer science and engineering programs, it has a robust humanities programme as well, of which I was privileged to be a part. It’s truly got opportunities for everything.

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This is because Stanford is truly a global top school. In the QS World University Rankings for 2021, Stanford scores second place in the world (after just MIT). It’s a world-class institution. When I say “world-class”, I mean this – it doesn’t just attract students from California, where its students call home. Stanford students come from all walks of life – and all continents. I bet there are even a few who’ve worked on Antarctica!

What does all of this mean for the typical Stanford student? It means that students such as myself, California born and raised, are far from the majority. International students make up almost a quarter (24.6%) of Stanford’s student body. And when I was a student there, a number of my friends were international. I had friends from Iran, Serbia, India, Turkey, mainland China and even Hong Kong!

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What opportunities are there for international students at Stanford?

Stanford has a robust selection of opportunities and aid for international students, to help them to make California into their home. The university has a go-to spot for everything study-abroad related: the Bechtel International Centre. From help with visas for incoming students, to countless events, it has an amazing amount of opportunities. (Join the centre’s mailing list by sending a blank email to [email protected].)

However, as good as it may get for international students who’ve been admitted, there are almost 200 countries in the world, and only one Stanford University! As a world leader, Stanford is – if nothing else – cut-throat competitive. While the students are often friendly and relaxed to each other, once they’ve been admitted, getting in is a different beast altogether.

How can I get in?

It isn’t easy. Stanford is the #1 most selective university in the world, with an admissions rate that is often below 5%. In fact, it no longer releases its admissions data, because the provost fears that this will deter people from applying.

But you shouldn’t be afraid! Yes, getting in is quite hard – but, with guidance and a good team of college admission counsellors, you just might be offered admission!

International students have some additional hurdles that they must overcome. As English proficiency is a must to follow classes at the university level, Stanford requires that you speak English well. While they have no testing requirement for undergraduate students, their website for international applicants suggests that most applicants from schools where English is not the primary language of instruction submit test scores to prove their English proficiency. It mentions the TOEFL, IELTS, and even the Duolingo English Test. And it’s true that, when I was an undergrad at Stanford, I never met an international student who struggled with English.

This is why it’s critical to have someone who understands both college admissions in a country like the USA, and who can hook you up with good, native English-speaking tutors. Lucky for you, these exist! For example, there’s Helppo, an online tutoring platform based in Hong Kong. Say hi to us by clicking the green what’s app button down below to set up a free trial session, and you’ll be one step closer to joining the pool of international students in these top-tier universities.