What is Stanford Known For? Is Stanford a Good School?

A private school often confused with an Ivy League university, Stanford University was founded in 1885 as a co-ed and non-denominational school. 

Although it initially suffered several funding and growth problems, Stanford has grown to become one of the most prestigious schools in the world, thanks in part to its proximity to tech capital Silicon Valley.

While that might lead some to picture rows of servers and cold computer labs, the fact of the matter is that Stanford has a famously gorgeous campus. 

With its signature look of sand-colored buildings with red tile roofs, Stanford won acclaim from several high-profile outlets for its campus design.

From this beautiful campus has sprung some of the most important leaders in world history, ranging from President Herbert Hoover, Senator Cory Booker, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to business people such as Peter Theil. 

The school has been involved with winners of nearly every major award, including 85 Nobel Laureates, 296 Olympic medalists, and 29 Turing award recipients.

But perhaps the school’s greatest claim to fame is its focus on entrepreneurship. Stanford alumni have gone on to found companies such as Nike, Cisco, and Hewlett-Packard. 

In fact, total revenue from companies established by Stanford grads is over $2.7 trillion, more than many world economies.

Impressive as those numbers certainly are, they’re just the tip of the iceberg for Stanford. The school is known for outstanding academics, sustained research, and even a history of sports victories.

What Majors & Academics Are Stanford Known For?

Stanford University
Pmlineditor, Stanford University Memorial Court, CC BY-SA 4.0

As you might guess, Stanford’s most notable contributions are in the STEM fields. The school’s computer science program has been a source of groundbreaking research, like Google, Sun Microsystems, and even the basis for the internet itself all got their start at Stanford. 

Computer science remains the most popular major among Stanford students, as many hope to walk in the proud tradition established by those who came before.

The medical and pre-med programs are equally renowned, as the Stanford School of Medicine routinely ranks among the best in the world. 

Part of that success comes from its partnerships with local hospitals in the Stanford Health Care system. 

Through this system, students have the opportunity to work in a level-I trauma center with 620 beds and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, considered by many to be among the best teaching pediatric hospitals in the United States.

While Stanford may be synonymous with science and technology, those are hardly the school’s only areas of expertise. 

Originally founded as a liberal arts school with an emphasis on the humanities and soft sciences, Stanford has a long history of excellence in these fields.

For example, Stanford Law School remains a top choice for future judges and lawyers, often ranking among the top five American law schools. 

It earns this distinction thanks partly to the many innovative research labs it offers, which not only give students a chance to do hands-on work but also influence national policies.

Bringing together its tech and law focus, the Center for Internet and Society studies legal policies related to technology, particularly the internet. 

Professors, students, and legislators work together to develop common-sense approaches to free speech, privacy, and the public commons.

Finally, it should be no surprise that economics remains an important major among Stanford students. 

Thanks to its famous alumni, the School of Business is one of Stanford’s most well-apportioned departments. 

The school maintains connections with companies founded by graduates, including Yahoo!, LinkedIn, and Snapchat, allowing students to get first-hand experience while receiving their education.

Is Stanford a Good School?

By nearly every metric, Stanford is not just a good school. It’s one of the best schools in the country.

That claim is proven by U.S. News & World Report rankings, considered the most reliable outlet on the subject. 

According to U.S. News, Stanford is tied with the University of Chicago for the sixth-best college in the United States, beating out luminaries such as the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, and Northwestern University. 

It does even better on the outlet’s specialized lists, where it gets a ninth place for best value schools, second place in best undergraduate engineering programs, and first place for its computer science program.

Although it uses a slightly different method, Niche.com backs up the findings of U.S. News. Niche gives Stanford an A+ grade, citing especially its top-level academics, its commitment to diversity, and the financial value it offers. 

Stanford also gets the top spot on many of Niche’s specialized lists, earning 1st place on the lists of Best Colleges for Student Athletes in America, Best Schools for Psychology in America, and Best Colleges for Environmental Sciences in America.

Stanford Traditions

Stanford University Campus
Pere Joan, Stanford University – Hoover Tower 1, CC BY 3.0

Unsurprisingly, a school as old and hallowed as Stanford has developed many traditions.

The oldest and most interesting Stanford tradition is Full Moon on the Quad, an event that dates to the university’s earliest years. 

Although the tradition has some unsavory aspects in its original incarnation, it has become one of the most beloved activities for first-year students. Students gather for a giant outdoor festival during the first full moon of the Fall semester. 

Now an official activity organized by the Junior class, Full Moon on the Quad involves musicians and vendors, ensuring a good time for all.

Less organized but equally important is a tradition called “fountain hopping.” Fountain hopping takes advantage of Stanford’s famously beautiful campus by moving from one fountain to another and doing some activity to another. 

The campus boasts 25 fountains, and while some are better known than others – The Claw and the Red Hoop Fountain are the most popular – a true fountain hopper visits all of them.

Another tradition based on campus architecture is the Mausoleum Party, based at the famous Stanford Mausoleum. 

Held at 10 pm on the last Friday or Saturday of October, the Mausoleum party brings in musical acts to perform for students who want to have a spooky good time during the fall semester.

Prominent Clubs & Extracurricular Activities at Stanford

In addition to being a great academic school, Stanford is also famous for being a party school. While that might raise the eyebrows of some readers, it simply means that the school has a vibrant campus culture, thanks to its many clubs and active student life office.

For those who take pleasure in doing good, there’s the Alternative Spring Break club. Part of a larger national organization, the Alternative Spring Break program lets students use their time off to better the community, doing service and learning projects in disadvantaged areas. 

In addition to making a real difference for people, this club allows students to learn about other communities and cultures.

A similar mix of education and fun can be found in the Spoon University group. 

Through Spoon University, students write articles related to health and nutrition, taking advantage of the offerings on their local campus. 

Spoon allows students to develop their writing and marketing skills while also improving their health.

What Sports Are Stanford Known For?

The highest-ranking academic schools often don’t have strong athletic programs. 

But that’s not true of Stanford, which boasts 131 NCAA championships. 

In fact, at least one Stanford Cardinals team has won an NCAA championship for 46 years straight.

The football team plays in NCAA Division I and has played in 30 bowl games. The Cardinals even played in the first-ever Rose Bowl in 1902, even if they were handily beaten by the Michigan Wolverines. 

Since then, the Cardinals have had ample opportunity to redeem themselves, playing in 15 Rose Bowls, the third-most of any school.

The women’s basketball team has its own history of success, winning three national championships, most recently in 2021. 

The team has made the NCAA tournament 28 times and has made it to the championship game five times.

Thanks to efforts by players such as Tiger Woods, the Stanford men’s golf team has won several national championships and set individual records. 

The team has won nine national championships, most recently in 2019. In addition to Woods, the school has had three individual champions in Sandy Tatum and Cameron Wilson.

Why Stanford?

While this article has described many of the wonderful aspects of Stanford, there is one part that may be intimidating. 

The school has a very low 3.95% acceptance rate. The large majority of people who apply to study at Stanford will not be given offers of admission.

For some, that fact would drive them away from even considering Stanford, but that loses sight of all the school has to offer. 

As we’ve seen, Stanford is one of the nation’s best schools for entrepreneurs and computer scientists. 

Those who come to Stanford to study those subjects will be working alongside the people who will shape the future.

But while those may be the biggest majors offered at Stanford, they hardly encapsulate all that the school does well. 

Stanford has some of the nation’s best law and medical programs, filled with resources to train the next generation of lawyers and doctors.

While those are all certainly high-pressure positions, Stanford ensures that students have plenty of ways to blow off steam. 

With its many clubs, activities, and time-honored traditions, Stanford is a place to have fun as much as it is a place to study. 

When you factor in the school’s strong athletic history, it’s hard not to see yourself enjoying your time at Stanford.

Does any of this make that 3.95% acceptance rate any easier? No, but it does show why so many continue the dream of going to Stanford.

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