(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Education

High schoolers’ perceptions of Stanford

Some students have varying thoughts on Stanford based on experiences tied to the university.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/julleapowell/" target="_self">Jullea Powell</a>

Jullea Powell

September 19, 2022

High school is romanticized as the party-filled epitome of a person’s life, but every high schooler has the inescapable thought of college hovering over their heads. 

Google searching Stanford results in images of sunny Silicon Valley and articles about prodigious students popping up, making Stanford appear as a utopia, but not all are intrigued.

While edited photos and articles make Stanford look fun and glamorous, do high schoolers agree with this image?

Rising Los Gatos sophomore Alex Bonev of Leigh High School said he recognized Stanford’s shininess since he was four.

However, Bonev was not initially enamored by Stanford’s education, but by a satisfying pizza slice.  

While Stanford’s beautiful campus and world-class education serve as the typical points of interest, some high-schoolers first find appreciation for this university in seemingly unconventional ways.

 Bonev said his first attraction to Stanford came in the form of pizza.

“My earliest recollection of Stanford would likely be eating and absolutely loving the Hawaiian pizza from The Treehouse,” Bonev said. “It was about the 5th grade when I came to the realization that Stanford was not, in fact, a place for amazing pizza, but rather one of the greatest academic establishments in the country, particularly their eminent computer science program. I should note, I still do love that pizza.” 

Bonev’s love for Stanford flourished with time, growing from love at first bite to first sight once he visited Stanford’s “beautifully structured” campus.

Rising freshman Eva Gomes of Valley Christian High School in San Jose, Calif. also expressed great fascination with the Stanford campus. 

“I didn’t even realize I was at Stanford when I got there because it looked like a little town,” Gomes said.

For others, however, Stanford holds the promise of fulfilling their life passion.

Rising junior Maddison Lara of Oakwood School said how her desire to cross-examine in the courtroom coincided with her initial dream to attend Stanford.

“When I was younger, I would talk about how I would attend Stanford on a gymnastics scholarship and later graduate with a law degree from Stanford,” Lara said. “Although I stopped doing gymnastics in November of 2021, I still might apply to Stanford for their world-class law programs, but Stanford Law is very prestigious which is somewhat discouraging.”

Lara’s interest in gymnastics may have faltered, but her determination to attend Stanford has held steadfast. 

Gomes may share Californian roots with Bonev and Lara, but she said she’s more unimpressed with Stanford’s offerings for communications, her field of interest. 

“I’m not planning to apply to Stanford because I’m not looking to study in the majors that Stanford is really strong in so I feel like I would be better off at a different college,” Gomes said.

About a 17 hour flight away in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, rising senior Abdulaziz Elyas of Dar-Al-Fikr School has never set foot on Stanford.

Based on Stanford’s reputation, however, Elyas has already envisioned life at Stanford. 

“I would really like being around high achievers and people with similar interests because that will help me become my best self,” Elyas said. “But I might not enjoy spending most of my time stressed out and barely getting any sleep. I would assume that Stanford students don’t party as much as other students in lower-ranked universities. Not meaning that they don’t have fun, but they just have less time to play around.” 

Bonev has similar thoughts to Elyas about his imagination of his Stanford life.

“I would envision my Stanford life as being very busy,” Bonev said. “I’ve heard more than enough urban legends of the insane work ethic required to stay on top of things.”

Whereas Bonev’s upbringing near Stanford influenced him to say that he will definitely apply to Stanford, Elyas does not plan to apply to Stanford because of the low acceptance rate.

“Stanford is looking for specific students with a life goal to get into Stanford, which is not me,” Elyas said.

Based on Elyas’ interpretation, Bonev and Lara would fit this checkbox. 

Bonev has taken a different outlook to Stanford’s 3.95% acceptance rate

“I wouldn’t particularly say Stanford’s acceptance rate is intimidating,” Bonev said. “I would rather claim that Stanford’s low acceptance rate feels challenging. It may be daunting, but not enough to make me destitute in terms of determination to be accepted. I am definitely planning to apply to Stanford, as Stanford’s eminent computer science program greatly appeals to me.” 

High school students worldwide will be watching “how to get into Stanford” YouTube videos in hopes of cracking the secret code to getting accepted to their dream colleges, whether or not that school is Stanford.

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