Inside Stanford University

Stanford University
Stanford University (Source: King of Hearts)

Source: King of Hearts (Wikimedia Commons)

When railroad magnate and U.S. senator Leland Stanford and his wife Jane founded Stanford University in 1891, little did they know they had created what would become one of the most prestigious universities in the world. The first class consisted of 555 men and women on what was once the Stanfords’ country estate.

Stanford is Niche's No. 1 Best Overall College of 2015.

Despite “Is Stanford Ivy League?” being a common Google search phrase, Stanford has never needed the esteemed designation to make an impression. Many of Stanford’s offerings are the best of the best, including A+ academics, which secured the No. 3 position in Niche’s Best Academics ranking. But because the college demonstrates superiority across the spectrum—in areas like Campus Quality, Diversity, and Technology, just to name a few—Stanford is also Niche’s No. 1 Best Overall College of 2015.

Stanford University Fast Facts

LocationStanford, CA
Founding Year1891
Acceptance Rate7%
Average Net Price$19,109
Size7,003 undergrads
Male-Female Ratio52% to 48%
Famous AlumniJohn Elway, Herbert Hoover, Sandra Day O'Connor, Sally Ride, Sigourney Weaver, Tiger Woods

What Makes Stanford a Highly Ranked College?

Academics: A+Administration: A+Athletics: A+Campus Food: A+
Campus Housing: A+Campus Quality: A+Diversity: A+Drug Safety: C
Greek Life: AGuys & Girls: AHealth & Safety: A-Local Area: B
Off-Campus Dining: AOff-Campus Housing: D-Parking: C+Party Scene: B
Technology: A+Transportation: A-Weather: A+
When it comes to the Best Overall College ranking, Niche ranks colleges according to a variety of factors at which Stanford excels, including Academics (No. 3), Diversity (No. 2), a low loan default rate, a strong Best Athletics ranking, a feasible average net price, and positive student opinions about the overall experience. (View a full explanation of the methodology.)

Aside from brains, Stanford also has good looks going for it. It’s Niche’s No. 3 college for Campus Quality—just another reason why its freshman retention rate hovers around 98 and 99 percent year after year.

What Stanford Students Do & Where They Go
While students generally can’t go wrong with any major at Stanford, the most popular fields of study at this Silicon Valley college include business (4 percent), computer science (3 percent), electrical and electronics engineering (3 percent), and engineering/industrial management (3 percent).

Guarded with a degree from one of the most notable institutions in the United States and smack-dab in an epicenter of technology, Stanford alumni frequently go on to work for innovative companies that Stanford alumni helped found, like Google and Yahoo.

Where Stanford Excels & Lacks

Where It Excels . . .
Where It Lacks . . .
AcademicsDifficult to get into
Affordable price for lower-income studentsExpensive area
Beautiful locationNightlife dictated by Greek life
Near many big companies in Silicon ValleySpotty parking situation
Great for business, computer science, and engineering majorsStrenuous workloads

10 Facts You May Not Have Known about Stanford

  1. Stanford University was named in honor of Leland Stanford Jr., who passed away from typhoid fever at age 15. His parents, founders Leland Sr. and Jane, wanted to use their wealth to help “other people’s” children.
  2. Because it is located on the Stanfords’ country estate, the University has often been dubbed “The Farm,” a term students still use to this day.
  3. An estimated 13,000 bikes are on the Stanford campus every day.
  4. The Stanford campus includes a network of underground steam tunnels, and even though they have been locked shut, students often cut these locks and explore the tunnels for themselves in what is referred to as “steam tunneling.”
  5. “Die Luft der Freiheit weht” is the unofficial motto of the university, translated to “The wind of freedom blows.” Since it’s a German phrase, the university disavowed the motto during World War I, when anything German was speculative.
  6. Stanford does not award honorary degrees. It gives Uncommon Man/Uncommon Woman distinctions instead.
  7. Every year, Stanford throws the Mausoleum Party at the Stanford Mausoleum,  which holds the remains of Leland Stanford Jr. (the university’s namesake) and his parents (founders Leland Sr. and Jane).
  8. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake killed two people on campus and caused financial and structural problems.
  9. At Stanford graduation, the first few minutes of procession include the Wacky Walk, when students march into Stanford Stadium dressed in costume.
  10. Stanford has unique sports traditions. The Stanford Tree is the unofficial mascot of the university, and college teams are referred to as the “Cardinal”—the color, not the bird.