A Student Review of Stanford University

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Lindsey is a New York City tutor and 2011 graduate of Stanford University. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and Italian and tutors many subjects, specializing in Literature tutoring, Public Speaking tutoring, Italian tutoring, and others. Check out her review of Stanford University:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or rural is the campus? Did you feel safe on campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Lindsey: Stanford University’s campus is gorgeous! It is full of greenery year-round, and it has a nice balance between more modern-looking buildings (on the Science and Engineering Quad) and the classic sandstone quad. It is in a suburban environment, near the city of Palo Alto, and it is incredibly safe. Most students bike, because the campus is so large that walking is time-consuming. However, from my sophomore year onward, I actually walked everywhere, and I enjoyed it! Stanford University also has a free bus service, the Marguerite, to take students to the far reaches of campus and nearby places (such as downtown Palo Alto, the Caltrain station, Stanford Shopping Center, and a local Target/Walmart/grocery store). Freshmen are not allowed to bring cars, but after that, students may pay for parking permits; restrictions and prices depend on where you park on campus. I had a car my junior and senior years, and it made life a little more convenient, but it is definitely not a necessity.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Lindsey: They are wonderful! My experience was consistently that the academic staff at Stanford University wanted to see me succeed and be happy, and they were willing to help however they could. Teaching assistants were approachable, and they acted as good intermediaries between students and any particularly intimidating professors. Honestly, I did not find my freshman (general) advising to be useful, but I know most of my friends did. My major advisers were fantastic, and I am still in touch with both of them. I would encourage students everywhere to form close bonds with their major advisers, as well as their favorite professors!

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Lindsey: Stanford University makes a big effort to create community on campus, especially for freshman and transfer students. Something like 95% of undergraduates live in campus housing, and there are a wide variety of options. Freshmen mostly live in all-freshmen dorms, though there are several cultural theme houses that house freshmen and upperclassmen. As a freshman, you are guaranteed to have a roommate; there are no singles. Room size and number of roommates varies based on your dorm and your room in the dorm. I had one roommate in a teeny tiny room, but they have since remodeled the dorm and made the freshman rooms bigger! In upperclassmen housing, there are plenty of options for getting a single room.

Dorm staff are generally incredible people who make a big effort to get to know their residents and plan fun activities. In freshman dorms, especially at the beginning of the year, these activities are usually focused on helping students get to know campus and the surrounding areas (for example, a scavenger hunt in nearby San Francisco). Most dorms also host at least one event per year, and some upperclassmen houses host at least one per quarter. There is not a huge Greek scene at Stanford University, but there are a handful of fraternities and sororities.

There are tons of opportunities for socialization! All dorms have common areas and lounges (most including a television and/or some kind of table game like pool), and these serve as gathering places for residents to socialize informally. Somehow, hallways also end up getting pretty crowded late at night with people just hanging out and taking a study break. Stanford University also has tons of clubs, from sports, to dance, to arts. I made some very close friendships through my extracurriculars, and I would recommend that everyone join at least one student group. 

All dorms are associated with a dining hall, and the food quality is pretty high. There has been a huge push for a wide variety of healthy options, including Kosher and Halal main dishes at every meal. There is also at least one dining hall that is completely nut free for students with nut allergies. All dorms also have laundry facilities (sometimes shared with nearby dorms), and laundry is free for students! 

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Lindsey: Stanford University is gaining a reputation as a science and engineering school, and for good reason. Those departments have superb faculty, do interesting research, and have tons of money. They definitely get the most attention, and that attention is well deserved. However, this sometimes overshadows the quality and variety of Stanford University’s humanities and social sciences majors. I double-majored in Italian and English: Creative Writing, and I felt incredible support from my departments. Both Italian and English were consistently bringing in world-renowned guest speakers, had ample money available to support undergraduate research, and had a distinguished (yet accessible) faculty. What I liked best about being in two comparatively small departments (I was one of two Italian majors, and one of about 30 English majors) was the amount of personal attention and support I got. All my professors knew me by name, understood the body of my work over the course of four years, and knew how to challenge me. They found creative ways to help me get academic credit for internships, and they helped me navigate the web of paperwork when I needed to transfer credits from abroad.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Lindsey: I wish I had taken advantage of the Career Center before my junior year! Though it definitely does skew toward finance, consulting, and technology jobs, they have tons of resources for nonprofits, education, and other “fuzzy” fields. They hold career fairs frequently, at least every quarter, as well as on-campus recruiting sessions. In addition, they have consultation services, such as resume and cover letter review, and they maintain an online database of job and internship postings. I found my first job out of college through them! I would highly recommend that all freshmen meet with a career counselor at their career center, even if they do not know what they want to do after college (I did not until my junior year!). 

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Lindsey: There are many places to study on Stanford University’s campus, from big libraries (that can get a bit over-crowded, especially on weekends) to small, quiet subject libraries (I loved studying in the art library, because it was always empty!). The historic Green Library is beautiful, and it has a “secret” reading room at the very top (the Bender Room), that is great for quiet, individual work. There are ample group study spaces, but you need to reserve most ahead of time.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Lindsey: Sadly, Palo Alto is not really a college town. Though the campus is maybe a mile away, it is not integrated with Palo Alto at all, and students often do not need to leave (campus has almost everything you need). Palo Alto is pretty expensive, and it does not have too many places that offer student deals, but I did enjoy going there to study from time to time, for a change of pace. 

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Lindsey: Stanford University’s undergraduate population is small (for a university so large)—around 7,000, I believe. Most of my classes were small, which is more typical for the humanities. I loved the small class size, and even my “big” lecture classes never had more than about 200 students. All those big classes also had required sections, with approximately 10-12 students. Stanford University feels like a small place, and you can easily find yourself taking classes with the same students all four years. However, if you branch out and take a course outside your major, you will meet tons of wonderful, interesting new people! 

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Lindsey: Oh goodness, I will never forget this! While we were reading a series of Arthurian myths for freshman English, one of the professors compared himself to Lancelot, and his wife’s ex-husband to poor Arthur, who had Guinevere stolen away from him!

Check out Lindsey’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.