Palo Alto, CA: A few weeks ago, I visited Stanford University in Palo Alto, California for two days. This “West Coast Ivy” has an enrollment of approximately 13,000 students, divided equally between undergraduates and graduates. Although Stanford is coed, men outnumber women by a 3 to 2 margin.
Admission to Stanford is extremely competitive – only 20% of the applicant pool is accepted. A strong and distinctive secondary school transcript, extracurricular interests including athletics, and high SAT scores (650 V; 700 M) do the best job of impressing the admissions committee.
Upon arriving at Stanford, new students will discover that one third of their classmates are Californians and that Asian-Americans are well represented. Most of the 8,000-acre campus is lovely, with the exception of the graduate housing area. With stucco buildings and Spanish tiling, Stanford is characterized by its Western-style architecture. Many facilities are first-rate, including the eating areas, playing fields, bookstore, and, yes, barber shop. Student life is centered around the Quad, where the administration, some classroom buildings and the Memorial Church are located. Biking is the most popular means of on-campus transportation, and is probably the easiest as well, since many roads have bike lanes, and a biking/jogging trail encircles the campus.
Unfortunately, Stanford is fairly isolated, as the surrounding town of Palo Alto seemed quite uneventful. However, San Jose and San Francisco are both within an hour’s drive. For the less urban types, hiking and camping in the hills of Silicon Valley are more enjoyable than battling city traffic.
Academics at Stanford are of high quality, especially within the sciences and the humanities. All students are required to fulfill strict distribution requirements, and to attend school for 3 out of 4 quarters each year. Stanford students take athletics seriously as well, and enjoy participating in varsity, intramural, and recreational sports. The school’s arch rival is UC-Berkeley, other known as Cal.
Overall, I experienced a mixed reaction to Stanford. The warm weather and relaxed atmosphere are probably the school’s most distinguishing qualities. Perhaps my summer visit was ill-timed, or my expectations were too high, but I found that I would just as soon attend college New England-style. n
Reviewed in 1992