What is it Like to Attend Stanford University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences with you as well. Anne is a New York City tutor specializing in Grammar & Mechanics tutoring, Pre-Calculus tutoring, SAT Math prep tutoring, and more. She graduated from Stanford University in 2008 with a degree in Economics. See what she has to say about her alma mater:

VT: How easy or difficult is it to get around on your campus? Is it hilly, do lots of people bike, are there buses, etc.

Anne: Supposedly Stanford has the biggest campus in the country, and there's a reason we call it "The Farm." Everyone has a bike and it's not considered nerdy. From my dorm it was a nice, downhill, 5 minute ride to class - I didn't even have to pedel. For students with disabilities, I believe there are ways to get a golf cart.

To get to Palo Alto, there are shuttle busses, and people are always carpooling to the airport.

VT: How helpful are the academic advisors?

Anne: I know people who were much more in contact with their advisors than I was, but I will say that upperclassmen and dorm staff are always willing to talk to you and provide advice.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life?

Anne: The Stanford social scene is based on dorm culture. The dorm staff is handpicked to be fun, charismatic, and welcoming. RA’s don't police the halls and there's no "being written up." Whether at a dorm social event, on a ski trip to Tahoe, or just chatting around the lunch table, I thoroughly enjoyed talking and getting to know everyone with whom I lived because everyone had something witty or interesting to contribute to a conversation. At Stanford it is nearly impossible to not know everyone on your floor, and extremely common for people to know every single person in their dorm.

Stanford offers a variety of dorm options. Freshmen live in Freshman dorms for the most part (though there are other options, like Freshman-Sophomore College). As upperclassmen, you can live in apartment style living, frats or sororities (about 7% of the school), dorms, co-ops, or what are called "Row Houses" which house about 40 students each and have their own chef, kitchen, and living area.

There are also Culture-Themed houses (Chicano, African-American, Native American, Asian, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Russian), which provide unique opportunity for people of those backgrounds to connect with each other, and also for people not of those backgrounds to learn more about the culture. For example, I lived in the Russian house. We each researched a topic about Russian or Slavic culture and presented it to the whole house, and Slavic Studies professors and students put on special programming for us.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?

Anne: The most common majors are Economics, Human Biology (common for pre-meds), and Psychology. Obviously the Computer Science program is top notch as are most Engineering majors. At Stanford we tend to divide people into "Techies" (science/engineering folk) and "Fuzzies" (humanities peeps), but the truth is that a lot of students straddle the line between both.

There are no "pre-professional" majors at Stanford, which I personally think is great, because it emphasizes exploration and deters people from determining their professional future at age 18.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman?

Anne: Stanford is one of the friendliest places on Earth. It's impossible to walk out of that place without a solid group of friends.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center?

Anne: The Career Center is very good at placing students in Finance, Consulting, and Computer Science/Engineering positions. The Haas Center for Public Service is also very good at connecting people with non-profits or other leadership programs.    

VT: How are the various study areas? Libraries? The Student Union? Dorm lounges?

Anne: There are a bunch of great spots on campus to study. The Bing Room and the Lane Reading Room in Green Library are wonderful, Meyer Library is open 24 hours, and if your goal is more about being seen than actually studying, you go to the CoHo (what we call the Coffee House).

Each dorm has a lounge and a dining area, so many people choose to study there.

Oh, and there's also the outdoors. Which is sunny and nice.

VT: What is the surrounding town like? What are the best local attractions that make it unique?

Anne: Palo Alto is not known for its exciting culture or nightlife, but it's a totally decent town. Stanford students stay on campus for the most part unless they're going out to dinner, shopping, the movies, or going to a local bar. Students take outings to San Francisco quite often and you never know what you're going to experience there. I've been to a Little Mermaid Sing-A-Long in the Castro, Love-Fest (basically a huge dance festival through the streets), the SF MoMA, and the Symphony. Other favorite trips among students are heading out to the beaches in Santa Cruz for overnights.

VT: How big or small is the student body and how does that affect your experience?

Anne: It's under 2000 per class which I thought was just perfect. It meant there were always new and interesting people to meet and the school could support a wide variety of robust academic, athletic, artistic, and social endeavors, but you also weren't just a face in the crowd. By the end of senior year, you realize how much everyone in the school is connected to each other (but not in a scary way), and those connections still are strong today.

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

Anne: One time on an Econ exam, I misread my own handwriting and ended up changing a "Y" to an "X" and then solved the problem, which ultimately meant I got the wrong answer.  I was upset at myself, so I e-mailed the professor to ask him to take a second look because even though I had switch my variables, I solved the problem correctly from that point on. The professor, in a very nice, reasonable way, responded by saying that he couldn't accept the "I'm wrong, but not as wrong as you think" argument because it's an important lesson to learn. That memory sticks out because its a moment that helped me grow and learn to accept my mistakes, which is something essential to learn in the transition to adulthood.

Check out Anne’s tutor profile.

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