STEP 1: Meet Sarah

Hi! My name is Sarah. I study Political Science at Stanford. Oh, and I love being around the water, whether it’s swimming, kayaking, paddle-boarding or hiking above the blue Pacific Ocean.


Why did you choose Stanford?

I didn’t know precisely what I wanted to study coming into Stanford, but I loved the liberal learning atmosphere and stimulating intellectual culture. Being surrounded by so many eminent professors with careers in academia and government, I quickly got interested in the important foreign policy questions facing our generation, and decided to learn the tools and methods of Political Science in order to tackle them.


How did you find applications?

Don’t take yourself too seriously! Out of all the applications I wrote, Stanford’s allowed me to be the most candid and even a little silly at times. That was and is my favourite thing about the school: people are humble, genuine, and easy-going. Everyone I’ve met has a funny application story – one friend called herself (ironically) an “unfinished masterpiece” in her personal statement, and I personally wrote about the ridiculous antics my high school roommate and I got up to with traffic cones in my housing essay. If it makes you smile, it will probably make your admissions officer smile too.


How is Stanford so far?

My high school’s motto was “Grit and Joy,” and I think at Stanford I’m truly beginning to know what that means. Grit is toughness, perseverance and resolve: setting your goals high and following through on them. I feel it when I wake up early to perfect an essay or challenge myself to speak up in a big lecture. Joy is passion, self-confidence, and gratitude for the inspiration of your peers. Sometimes “grit and joy” can be confused with “work hard, play hard.” It’s not. The latter are independent virtues; one compensates for the other. Grit and joy feed off of and derive from one another: I find joy in the exercise of grit itself and can trace grit in my most joyful accomplishments. That’s what I think makes a Stanford student, and what I think Stanford has made of me.


What is your top tip for applicants?

Humility, honesty, and happiness. Students at Stanford don’t have everything come easily, and are open about that. But at the end of the day there’s a reason we do what we do: passion! We all know we could take it easier somewhere else but choose to challenge ourselves anyway. If you can show in your application that you went above and beyond not because you had to but because you genuinely wanted to, that’s gold!

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