Stanford University


Stanford University is a highly competitive private research institution offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. It operates on an academic quarter system (v. semesters) and undergraduate students do not declare a major until the end of their sophomore year. There is no common core curriculum, however students in all majors are required to complete a set of General Education Requirements.

Location: Palo Alto, CA

Number of 1st years: ~1,800

Undergraduates: ~7,000 (Men 52% / Women 48%)

Graduates: ~9,500

Faculty: 2153

For more information, see the undergraduate profile.

First-Year Programs of Note

The following are noteworthy programs that differ from MIT practices. Unless otherwise stated, assumptions should not be made about the effectiveness of these programs.


  • First-year advising at Stanford is dorm-based with oversight by a centralized advising center, the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR). UAR pairs each first-year student with two advisers: a Pre-major Adviser (faculty or academic staff) and an Academic Advising Director in the dorm. Pre-major advisors help students understand the University and are a first point of formal advising contact. The UAR academic advising directors in the dorms provide a more comprehensive understanding of the curriculum.
  • Stanford also provides Expanded Advising Programs (EAP) for URM students and LGBT students. EAP consists of two programs: Partners for Academic Excellence (PAE); and LGBT Community Academic Support & Advising (LGBT-CASA) that provide support groups led by undergraduate and graduate students. Participants spend 1-to-2 hours per week on group activities.

First-Year Seminars and Experiences

  • Introductory Seminars are coordinated through the Stanford Introductory Studies (SIS) program. These are small-group courses taught by faculty to first- (and second-) year students. Seminars are offered in a wide range of disciplines, in more than sixty departments and programs and at all seven schools of the university. First-year students submit a statement of interest for their top-ranked seminars in August and faculty select their seminar participants from these statements.
  • All students are required to take at least one Thinking Matters (TM) course during their first year at Stanford. There are approximately twenty TM courses offered that are co-taught by faculty from different disciplines. These classes are designed to help students understand issues from multiple perspectives and interpretations, think deeply about asking rigorous questions, and approach problem-solving collaboratively.
  • FROSH 101 is a new dorm-based 2-unit discussion style course co-led by student RAs and another upper class students to support first-year students transition to campus life. In Frosh 101, 10-15 first-year students from the same dorm meet weekly for 90-minutes.

Learning Communities

There are two Integrated Learning Environment (ILE) programs that span the entire first academic year . They are both immersive programs housed in themed-based dorms: Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture (ITALIC) and Structured Liberal Education (SLE). About ninety students participate in each program and participation fulfills the Thinking Matters Requirement (see First-Year Seminars and Experiences, above).

Major Exploration and Educational Wayfinding

  • Designing Your Stanford (DYS) is a 2-unit class where students participate in a structured exploration of campus opportunities, resources, and requirements in order to personalize and optimize their college experience.
  • Stanford offers a First Year Reflections Seminar as a one-unit pass/fail course. It is co-facilitated by a faculty member/lecturer, a staff member, and upper class student so students can reflect on and discuss their overall first-year experience, and consider their next steps in college from a holistic perspective.
  • There are several one- or two-unit courses offered for students to explore a variety of topics they may find interesting. These are referred to as “One-Unit Wonders and Terrific Twos.” From culture and world-issues; to careers and computer programming, students have the opportunity to take these courses requiring just 3-6 hours of work each week.


In addition to a variety of on-campus orientation events, students can participate in Stanford Pre-Orientation Trips (SPOT) the week before New Student Orientation. The two SPOT trip types are Basecamping and Wilderness Backpacking.

Other Programs

The following programs are structured and implemented in a manner similar to MIT.

Bridge Programs

Stanford Summer Engineering Academy (SSEA)

Diversity/Global Learning

Engineering Diversity Programs


Undergraduate Research

Stanford offers many research opportunities for undergrads, including independent research through the Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR) office. There are also Summer Research Programs.

Service Learning

There are no first-year specific programs, but there are many opportunities offered through The Haas Center for Public Service.

Writing-Intensive Courses

The Writing and Rhetoric Requirement

Description of Core/GIR Practices

Although there are requirements specified in each of the undergraduate programs at Stanford, there is no common core curriculum. However, in order to graduate, undergraduates must complete the following General Education Requirements:

· Thinking Matters Requirement (See First-Year Seminars and Experiences)

· Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing (Ways) Requirement

· Writing and Rhetoric Requirement (see Writing-Intensive Courses)

· Language Requirement:

The undergraduate engineering curriculum at Stanford is defined by the “Basic Requirements”: 1) Mathematics; 2) Science; 3) Engineering Fundamentals; 4) Technology in Society; 5) Engineering Topics; and 6) Experimentation (for some disciplines).

There is not a prescribed set of “first-year” required courses, but first-year students typically begin with introductory level math, science, and engineering fundamentals courses. The Engineering Fundamentals requirement is satisfied through introductory courses offered through various engineering departments. It is intended to provide students with a breadth of knowledge in the major fields within engineering and allows undeclared engineering students an opportunity to explore a number of courses before embarking on a specific academic major.

First-Year Housing

In addition to two Integrated Learning Environment (ILE) programs, Stanford offers several residence halls with different class populations (e.g. Freshman-Sophomore College (FroSoCo), 4-class housing options, and residence halls that a are exclusively first-year students).