Advice to HS Freshmen from the Stanford Class of 2022 (Responses)
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What is your name?
If you could give your past-self advice about how to best deal with high school, what would it be?
What was your academic workload like?
With regards to getting admitted into Stanford, how did you prepare yourself prior to the college admissions process?
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Hamza El Boudali
Only participate in things you enjoy and would do even if you couldn't put it on your college app. Don't commit to too many things at once and always leave enough time for socializing and sleep.
Heavy. The homework was not super difficult content-wise, but there was a lot of it so time management was the biggest difficulty.
Research! Through research (mostly reading on the internet, but be careful because there is a lot of false information out there) I was able to learn what I needed to do to maximize my chance of getting accepted and I set up a plan to achieve this goal. Of course I couldn't guarantee my plan would work, but I was able to greatly increase my chances by understanding the admissions process ahead of time and preparing for it. Some basic things you want to start doing from freshman year are to take rigorous classes, get good grades, and get deeply involved in extracurricular activities that are meaningful to you.
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Eric Wang
Eric, I know that you might think you know this, but right now you really don't. You're insecure, although you might not know or admit it. You want to fit in. You can. But right now, you're too negative and critical of others and it's going to cost you friends. You're gonna flake and not keep your work ethic going, and it's going to cost you support and leadership chances. But don't give up. Look and find why others view you that way, and prove them wrong. You will achieve so much from becoming optimistic and nicer towards others, and eventually, by understanding yourself, you can see your future, write about it, and get into the college of your dreams, and you might just find your dream career and the love of your life while you study there. Keep fighting, and you'll blow everyone away.
20 APs, 1 DE, 11 Honors, 2 CPs
I envisioned myself at the school, taking courses, playing golf, and going to football games, all the while sharing my passions and humor with my peers.
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Nicole
Enjoy time with your family, you don’t know how long you’ll have them for. Also screw dating, friends are better and won’t cheat.
Too much, after clubs and activities I stayed up late trying to do everything
Just the normal things like taking aps and studying for sats and doing things I was passionate about
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Fatima
Join more clubs. Do music. Do sports. Do science. Be more involved.
Semi heavy
I found out their academic requirements and aimed to surpass them. And also i wrote essays that felt as though they were coming out of my soul and represented me fully.
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Do things you like and do them well. Do them reallly well. Don’t try to fill your plate with a lot of things that are superficial.
I did a full IB schdule and dual enrollment at night. But I don’t regret it. It teaches you amazing time management skills. My school also got out early (around 1:30) and In between school and dual enrollment I did a lot of extra curriculars.
I tried to do a few things and do those few things very well. I think a common misconception is being well rounded. I rather think you need a few things that can cohesively mesh and show various parts of your personality. For me, doing many clubs superficially didn’t do that.
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Caroline Ricksen
High school is hard and overwhelming, but if you surround yourself with positive people it is totally doable. I found myself more productive and happier overall when I found friends who brought out the best in me. Branch out and learn more about new people.
I had a lot of work! In addition to getting home from rowing practice at 7:30 each night, I had 3-4 hours of homework.
I prepared myself by thinking early on about what I wanted to write my essays on. I stayed true to myself and didn’t write about what I thought anyone wanted to hear. I spoke my truth. Also, throughout high school, I didn’t do activities for college or to look good on paper, I did what I loved to do and it shaped me into a more interesting person.
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Jack Quinn
Ironically, I would tell myself to care less abut school. I think that students today, myself included, place far too much importance on their grades, class rank and standardized test scores, and they would benefit from decompressing from time to time and gaining some necessary context on the purpose of their education. High school is becoming more and more of a competition between students, when it should be treated as an enriching educational experience that colors, but doesn't define a student's adolescence.
It was pretty rigorous. I pushed myself to take the most amount of Honors/AP classes possible, leading to 3-5 hours of homework nightly in my junior and senior years.
I made absolutely no preparations and set zero expectations for myself. I think that what got me into Stanford was the authenticity and creativity that my relaxed attitude lent to my essays and interview.
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Kevin Martin
Do what you love, Love what you do, and be unafriad to do what makes you uncomfortable. Be unapologetically authentic.
Varied from unbearable to just barely bearable
Started writing essays and recording music samples on July 1st
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Natasha Ong
Don’t be afraid to be yourself and open up.
Very challenging but enjoyable. Take classes you actually care about/are interested in.
Always work hard and try your best
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Ellie Taylor
Do only activities that you enjoy so that you can commit copious amounts of time and effort without losing your mind.

Never second guess your actions when you know you are doing the right thing.

Don’t afraid to stand up for others who can’t stand up for themselves.
pretty tough lol
I didn’t take myself too seriously and I never allowed myself to dream of Stanford so I didn’t break my heart.
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See, life is the opposite of gravity. The higher you go, the more weight you bear. The more you strive; the more tears on your face; the more blur in your eyes; the more blood you bleed. But... what does this mean? Why keep marching this trail of sadness. Why keep burdening yourself. Why keep rolling Sisyphus's stone? Why strive for the peaks of barren loneliness. Why...

Because of love.
Look behind you. There's a family that loves you. A mother that has worked most of her life to see you prosper. A father that has abandoned his whole world to carry you.

Now it's your turn.
The more you climb, the tougher you are. The more you carry, the stronger your shoulders. The more you cry, the bigger your heart.

Now become stronger, so that one day... the people behind you won't be behind you anymore. They will look over the brisk horizon from the tops of your shoulders.
Minimum 14 hours a day
Be myself. Work as hard as I can and make my mother proud.
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Alexa Ramachandran
Don’t stress too much. A healthy amount of stress is necessary, but don’t stress over things that aren’t in your control.
Extremely challenging and laborious, but I think it was well worth it and made me a better student and more competitive applicant.
I prepared myself by focusing in academics, but also expanding my reach to the extracurriculars I enjoyed the most. These extracurriculars simultaneously took my mind off the college process and inadvertently added more credentials to my application.
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Anastasia Brada (call me Lilly— middle name)
You don’t have to be PERFECT. Take a second to breathe every once in a while. In all honesty, a mental break can ultimately help in the long run. At least, it did for me. Do things you like to do for some well deserved relaxation time, whether it be a warm bath, exercising, reading, cooking, etc. Just make sure you finish you school work after!
Pretty tough. I’m an IB Diploma student, which is pretty demanding. However, it’s not a lot if busy work, but a lot of long-term assignments which, a lot of times, were due at the same time. I’m the kind of kid that finishes everything a week early, but with everything due at once, I KNOW what crunch time is like!
Of course, I wanted the best application I could have. That being said, I never went out of my way to do something for my application that I would not have done otherwise— then it really wouldn’t have been ME. I simply did the very best I could and accepted that. If I were rejected, then at least I did all I could.
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Ben Schwartz
Focus more on trying to figure out the things you love to do and doing them, and worry less about checking all the boxes for college. I got three Bs in high school, and I still got into Stanford. I know half a dozen kids from my school with straight As who were rejected. At least three of them also had higher SAT scores than me. The secret, I'm convinced, is that the things that matter most for college are actually the same as the things that matter to you. Find one or two things you really like, and spend a lot of time getting good at them. If you don't know what you like, try a lot of things until you figure it out. Don't bog yourself down with activities you don't care about because you think it'll be good for your college apps. I think a good litmus test to see if an activity is worth it is to ask yourself if you care about improving at it. If you don't, then maybe you should quit.
My workload was pretty intense. I took it super seriously as a freshman and especially as a sophomore. I excelled more when I started coasting in school (still getting As, but just barely) and focusing more on my real interests.
If you do things you care about, college essays will not be that hard. They'll still be a lot of work, but you won't find yourself short on things to write about. I just wrote about the things I care about. Don't focus too much on trying to rattle off your accomplishments and awards. Try to show, not tell, that you love what you love and why.
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Gabrielle Mendoza
Fill your time with extracurriculars you can enjoy; you’ll make friends and won’t waste time just sleeping or lounging around.
Extremely heavy. I’m talking about like Atlas carrying the sky on his back heavy, except my burdens included textbooks and homework.
Honestly, I decided to submit my REA application on November 1, and I did every essay that same night. I procrastinated hardcore with this application and I’m blessed that I even got admitted.
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Akshaya Dinesh
Don't pursue activities because other people are doing it or because you think it will get you into a good college. Pursue things you are truly passionate about and can make an impact in.
I took the maximum number of AP classes I could. However, I did not put too much effort into my schoolwork because I chose to focus a lot on extracurriculars.
I took all of my standardized testing during or before junior year.
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LR (I’d prefer just giving my initials)
Don’t worry so much what other people think of you, be open to new things (people, places, topics, and how you as a person are changing and growing), and chill. Seriously, I wish I’d been less stressed about every single paper, test, presentation, and exam. Yes, they are important and you need to study and work hard and do your best, but don’t obsess and don’t agonize over it. Take a deep breath
Unreasonable at best. I was homeschooled and then I attended an online high school so freshman year was a bit of a curveball getting used to the technology, especially since they switched the platforms after my first year. The caliber of work was much harder than I was used to, and I was required to take classes in topics I had no previous exposure to, like philosophy in sophomore year. Junior year I took four APs (I know, not a lot relative to some, but that was in addition to other non AP classs and piano), and this senior year all my classes have big final projects plus exams...plus a piano exam my teacher roped me into....I don’t know what I signed up for. That’s another piece of advice for highschool students: don’t slack off, but do relax a bit senior year. Please
For the admissions process I spoke with my high school college counselor about general advice on schools to pick and how to write essays etc. I really didn’t think I was going to be accepted; I kind of “prepared for the worst and hoped to be pleasantly surprised.” Also, stanford was one of the last applications I submitted. My biggest advice in college applications in general is to just be yourself. List your classes, achievements, activities, send in your transcripts, test scores, letters of rec. And in the essays, be honest. Im sure you’ve heard it a million times, but you will end up accepted into schools you belong at and ones that want you. As far as preparing for the Stanford admissions decision I have no other advice than to try not to think too hard about it, cross your fingers very tightly and prepare to scream when you open your letter :) I’m sorry if this response hasn’t made much sense it’s very late where I am and I’m very tired. It took me five tries to spell “very” correctly in that sentence.
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Kailah Seymour
Don’t let fear stop you. Take risks and be bold. Worse case, it’ll make for some really funny story down the road. The biggest thing in your way is you. And also be patient with yourself. There are going to be bad days. Sometimes really bad ones, but you will gain nothing from trying to pretend everything is fine. If you need a mental health day, take it. But make sure you’re not just abusing it to get out of class. Do your best everyday, but acknowledge that your best will change depending on what’s going on it your life and that your best is not to be compared to anyone else’s. Really work on getting to know who you are and who you want to be; then be fearless in the pursuit of becoming that person. Don’t hang around others that bring you down or treat others poorly. Surround yourself with people that exemplify characteristics that you admire so you are motivated to strive to act similarly. Be kind. Be loving. And reach out to the students at your school. Especially the “weird ones” or people you don’t talk to. And lastly, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something because “you’re just a kid”. Know your worth. You have power. You have a purpose. And there is no age requirement for causing change. You’ve got this. You just have to believe it. Now go and make the most of these next four years.
Rigorous. Lots of late nights. Lots of crying. But also a whole lot of growth. Luckily I had really good relationships with my teachers (do yourself a favor and do the same), so they were always more than willing to help. They pushed me, but it was never more than I could handle (even if the stress monster inside me continually told me otherwise).
Taking challenging classes of course (AP, IB, and dual enrollment), but I think it was most important to become well-rounded. Volunteer. Join loads of clubs and activities. Have a good relationship with teacher and your counselor (seriously.) I got to know what I was passionate about and found outlets to express them (theatre, peer counseling). I failed. A lot. Which I think totally helped me grow and learn more than any of my textbooks have. But more than anything I focused on getting to know myself so that when Stanford asked about me, I could authentically tell them who I am and what matters to me. I found my voice so I could write essays that truly let them get to know me beyond just another applicant.
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Sara
Know how to balance academics and time with friends and family. You only go to high school once.
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Trinity Donohugh
Take advantage of every opportunity you are presented with; pursue what you love; make time for the activities you enjoy the most; talk to people, be interested in other's stories, experiences -- I've found that over high school, I've learned the most from conversation with my classmates and strangers on the tube.
I go to a British school so we do the a levels, where I took 5 subjects, which is an average amount. I wanted to make more time to focus on my extra curriculars.
start writing/ brainstorming essays early; go in with the attitude that you will end up where you are meant to be!
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Bea
Study for the SAT summer before Junior Year
Very heavy, full IB diploma with 4 HLs
Worked from freshmen year build my profile and get involved in my school and community. Tried to explore and take advantage of every opportunity but also narrow my interests so I have coherent themes in my app.
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Shawn Zhang
Although your schoolwork is important, I would argue that your extra-curriculars are even more so. Explore clubs, explore new crazy opportunities — don't hesitate! These ECs will help you find what you're interested in and what you enjoy.
Freshman - 0 APs, Sophomore - 3 APs, Junior - 5 APs, Senior - 5 APs.
Not too extreme, but a rigorous course load nonetheless.
I really only started writing my application essays once school started. Then, I just kept a schedule to find time to keep writing essays whenever I wasn't busy.
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Jason Zhu
Don't do things because you think it'll look good on a college application. Instead, focus on activities and extracurriculars that you're passionate about and will actually enjoy doing. That way, not only will you have a resume that reflects a lot of passion (and consequently, success, because you have that level of passion), you'll also enjoy your time in high school more.

By extension, don't be afraid to quit things that you feel are not right for you. Yes, persistence in the face of obstacles is important, but if you feel like your time could be better spent on something else, pursue that something else instead, and you'll have a more fulfilling high school experience.
It was heavy. Most of my courses were either AP courses or Pre-AP courses (more so AP towards the second half of my high school career), and on top of that, I participated in the Academic Decathlon course at my school.
I did a lot of research on where I would be happy going. This included looking into where would be good for my prospective major, where I would be comfortable living, and where I would thrive the most socially and academically. Ultimately, I chose Stanford as my top school.
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Kimurgor , but you can call me Zinja
Read smart kids! don’t read hard(think over this)...learn more from people than from books...interact more and understand people’s way of thinking. Also do a lot of sport to clear your mind and keep you happy:)
It was heavy..8 subjects.math, 2 languages, 3 sciences, history and business studies.
I prepared my essays early enough. I also did a lot of research on Stanford, and tried to identify the stuff that would make it best fit for me.
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Raushun
Every bad experience is temporary. Just try to relax and it will pass. I guarantee it.
Tough. Took a lot of APs and Honors classes.
Tried to relax mostly. Just kept sending out positive vibes and hoped for the best. Once you submit your application there's nothing you can do except try not to think about it.
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Lauren
Pursue what you’re interested in. Colleges really don’t care about well rounded students so much as students with a demonstrated passion. Also study more for the ACT/SAT portion that is your speciality to showcase your ability. Know what colleges require (like a SAT subject test!) and you will be better prepared for the application process (like take subject tests more than once).
As hard as my school allowed- so ap classes in order from freshman to senior: 0,2,3,5
Took a lot of AP classes, maintain high GPA, college visits, taking SAT/ACT tests, ignore/procrastinate college stress
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Eleanor Schroeder
I'm not saying this due to the fact I got admitted to Stanford, but everything really does work out. Also, there is more than one college you would be happy and thrive at, so don't stress too much about the choice to find your singular path. I am not like anyone from my town so that made getting through every day more difficult, but in fact, that uniqueness is what made me stand out. In the end, all of the hard work will be worth it.
I went to the best high school in my area, but being a large public school, we did not have many driven students or teacher and administrators who pushed us to reach for elite universities. The balance between AP classes and extracurricular activities is nearly impossible, but once you understand how to prioritize your mental health over a grade and emphasize the importance of staying aligned with your beliefs the juggling act becomes routine.
In my application, I did not try to fabricate or lie about who I am. Honestly, I did not change my essays much after I first wrote them because I did not think there was a chance I would ever get in. I think that speaks to the admissions officers' abilities to understand who a student is and what they are passionate about.
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Ilinca Popescu
Be yourself and don’t be afraid to speak up when no one else will
Heavy! But spread out relatively appropriately- all honors and ap (1 ap soph yr, 5 jr yr, 4 sr yr)
I participated in a lot of clubs and organizations that showed my true passions, including an international competition. Also studying for standardized tests and good grades helped
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Lina
Ignore the haters who don’t think you can do it.
5 AP classes per year, plus three hours of extracurriculars every day
Took the SAT/ACT a couple times, nothing much besides that.
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