Getting accepted to an elite university like Stanford involves so much more than simply having exceptional grades and keeping busy with extracurricular activities. So just what does it take?

In our steady work helping students get admitted to Stanford (working with many of them starting in ninth grade), the Blue Stars counseling team has identified these five qualities as the most important features of a successful Stanford applicant and application:

  1. Blue Stars students who were accepted at Stanford had a very focused academic interest, backing it up through their high school experiences – not just through required classes, but educational experiences going beyond the high school curriculum to demonstrate that interest in a concrete way.
  2. Successful students’ essays universally displayed a “sparkling” writing style that carried through to the CommonApp. Essay topics often emphasized exploration in academics, displayed a “confident humility” (no bragging), showed an optimistic approach to the future, and a willingness to change and grow.
  3. Showing initiative and independence goes far with Stanford admits. Rather than joining established clubs, Blue Stars admits initiated new clubs or groups. Typically, 75% of their activities were ones that they initiated and only 25% already existed at school.
  4. Stanford responds well to students who are creative in their thinking, in their lives, and in facing obstacles. Many of our Stanford admits initiated cool projects on their own, came up with the ideas themselves, recruited friends to join them, etc.
  5. This one is tough to describe, but we’ve found that successful Stanford admits possess what we would call an authentic inner core. Looking back at the pool of students we’ve worked with, we can say that each student had a rich resume, but it was not “padded.” Each activity was important to the student, and they’d immersed themselves in their interests and activities, which then came through in the essays, short answers, and activity list. This authentic inner core was further affirmed by letters of recommendations.

While our suggestions relate to Stanford specifically, any college would be receptive to these qualities. Students can’t go wrong when they showcase initiative, independence, humility, creativity and authenticity in their college applications.


As an educational company founded by a philosopher, Dr. Amy Morgenstern, a specialist in ancient Greek studies, the team at Blue Stars can’t stress enough the importance of a vibrant inner life for successful college admissions. When many applicants have similar classes and sports, clubs, etc. the ultimate deciding factor will be who the applicant is – what they think, and how they think. We hope this important component does not get lost in the college planning shuffle. It can make all the difference.

The team at Blue Stars encourages clients to start early. With our help, students can plan and organize their high school journey with a little more breathing room to bring about the best possible outcomes.

Contact us today to find out more.

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