Stanford's Hoover Tower. (Photo by Alyssa Ho)
California School of the Arts

Two Stanford University students share their experience in the application process, campus accommodation

Choosing a major is one of the most intimidating decisions when it comes to applying for college. Of course, one could choose to go to college as undeclared, but little do people know that some colleges require undergraduates to come in as undeclared. Surprisingly, Stanford is one of these colleges. 

Daniella Lumkong, an incoming sophomore at Stanford University, appreciated the chance to explore her interests before having to choose a major. So far, she is interested in Environmental Science, computer science, and product design. Because of these multiple areas she’s gotten to study in, she hopes to use tech to stop climate change. 

“We also don’t have required General Education classes. Instead, we need to take a certain amount of Ways of Thinking classes,” Lumkong said. “I took Sleep and Dreams last semester. It counts as scientific inquiry. I also took an art studio class called Intro to digital physical design. It merges art with tech and we even went to New York.”

Unlike Lumkong, Aiyana Herrera, a sophomore at Stanford, knew from the very beginning of her college career that she wanted to become a mechanical engineer. Therefore, she’s been taking a variety of engineering courses.

However, Herrera also participates in art clubs on campus, creating zines and spoken word collectives in her free time. She’s also taken a class in diversity arts that merges social issues with art.

“Don’t be afraid to explore a little. Look for your passion, but don’t tie yourself down to that one passion,” Herrera said.

Coincedently, both Lumkong and Herrera believed that their similarity of exploring new interests was one of the many qualities that Stanford was looking for in their college applications. 

“There isn’t one thing to get into Stanford, but everyone has such an interesting story to them, so you should always keep an open mind when meeting new people, trying new things, trying new experiences,” Lumkong said.

And just trying, was enough. Both Lumkong and Herrera knew that there was a slim chance they’d get into Stanford but they tossed their hats into the ring anyway. Unexpectedly, because Herrera didn’t think she could get in, she didn’t take the application very seriously.

“When answering my questions, I was very much myself. I didn’t answer formerly. It was more of a humorous application. I was very honest. I wasn’t trying to be someone else. I wasn’t trying to get in,” Herrera said. “I know the application process is stressful, but you shouldn’t do or write things down just to get into college.”

Lumkong added, “Or write something a certain way so the admissions counselor will like you better. I know it’s cliche to be yourself, but if you write yourself as someone else, then you’re not even happy or passionate and it shows.”

Once Lumkong received her letter, she withdrew all her other applications. She knew for sure that she’d choose Stanford over anything else she could have gotten into. It was more difficult for Herrera to accept.

She had always been an advocate for the University of California public school system. Ivy Leagues were for the privileged. However, on a campus tour, she realized that that wasn’t the case. 

“Stanford actually gives a lot of financial aid, and I met so many people from around the world on the tour,” Herrera said. “I made my final decision after I went to a little coffee and bread meet and greet for Latinos on campus. While I was there, I walked into the basement and it smelled like my kitchen at home.” 

Although being accepted to attend Stanford is incredibly difficult, being an undergraduate at Stanford can be just as challenging. The amount of classes and academic level can be very rough.

Unlike other colleges, Stanford has classes all the way up to finals. There is no week off to study. Thus, collaboration is a big part in being successful in class. It’s especially intimidating as a Freshman.

“Dealing with Impostor Syndrome definitely slowed me down. There’s so much expectation and pressure from everyone, because you’re at Stanford,” Here said. “To overcome it, I found a community. You can always find a community here for support. You never feel alone.”

Lumkong also explained that Stanford accommodates for the late study nights. There’s breakfast at midnight offered by the dining halls. During finals, there’s a tradition called the Final Scream.

At midnight, everyone goes outside their dorms and screams into the night. Apparently, Stanford has many other traditions, as well.

There’s an unorthodox band that runs around campus in weird outfits, occasionally jumping into the fountains, while graduation, is an entire other weird costume tradition. 

As Freshman, Lumkong and Herrera participated in their dorm’s traditional scavenger hunt where such goals were pretending to be seals at Pier 39, or protesting that “wax people are people too” in front of wax saws.

“At the end of the day, we’re just 18 and 19-year-olds, who do 18 and 19-year-old things,” Herrera said.