How to Get Into Stanford: Get Accepted in 2024

A month ago I sent out a blockbuster 4,355-word email on tactics I’ve used to write a New York Times bestseller, get hundreds of thousands of readers, and get into Stanford. That email took me over 6 hours to write and, when I sent it out, I got thousands of emails back with questions and awesome feedback.

People said things like:

@ramit not to be a suck up, but I can’t believe you just sent this past earn1k email for free. best. advice. ever. thank you.

@ramit No bs. That was the single best email you have ever sent. Nobody can say Ramit doesn’t add value.

And so on.

How to use the “Failure Expectation” to land a dream job, get into a top university, or meet your biggest role model

I have had the good fortune to do some pretty incredible things in the last few years. At 28 years old, I had the good fortune of writing a blog with 300,000 readers/month, writing an instant New York Times bestseller, and a few years ago, getting into Stanford and winning over $100,000 of undergraduate and graduate scholarships.

Today, I want to share some of the ways that I was able to accomplish these things, and hopefully you’ll be able to apply some of these techniques in your freelance business.

I’ll include specific techniques that allowed me to leapfrog some of my peers and do ridiculous things like getting invited to speak on persuasion in Japan, getting written up in the WSJ at age 22, or getting a highly paid college/summer internship with one phone call.

Below, you’ll see why this is directly relevant to you earning more money.

But what you’ll see may surprise you.

I am not the smartest person. My friends got way better GPAs than I did. I am terrible at math (in fact, I was the only person in my high-school AP math class to fail my AP test…yes, I got a 2). But I am pretty good a few things, which I want to share with you.

First, I don’t come from a wealthy family. My parents are immigrants and we’re very middle class. I say this up front because some people tend to dismiss others who achieve cool things by saying, “Oh, mommy and daddy just bought them [whatever].” Yes, that’s true sometimes (especially here in Manhattan), but the people who lob that insult usually use it as a crutch for not doing interesting things themselves. Get a life.

It’s possible to do amazing things no matter how old you are or how much money you have. But there are some unconventional approaches that can dramatically change how fast you achieve these things.

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1. How to get into Stanford

(This isn’t just about getting into Stanford. It’s about getting into any exclusive organization/university/job/whatever).

Ok, so I went to a public high school in northern California. My friends and I joked that our class, the Class of 2000, was the most competitive..but also the least attractive. Seriously, all the hot people were one year above of us or one year below us.

Anyway, we had a lot of smart people in my class. So when it was time to apply for college, lots of people were set on top-tier schools like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, etc. But then an amazing thing happened.

When the first round of college admissions came in, and some people got in and others didn’t, many of the people who didn’t get in changed their attitudes overnight, saying, “Whatever…I didn’t really want to go there anyway.” I found this really surprising, since I had planned to get rejected from my dream school, Stanford, anyway. (Most of my friends had a higher GPA than I did).

Since I had already assumed that I was going to get rejected, I’d already made plans for what I’d do to get in, despite their rejection. I was going to send them recent updates to my coursework, a few recent press clippings I’d done, and some updates on the business/job I was doing in high school. In short, getting a “no” was only the first step.

When I got in, it was an extremely pleasant surprise. But it was also incredibly interesting to watch the attitudes of some of my classmates — classmates who’d dreamed about attending a particular school — change overnight since they’d been rejected. They really took it personally. For me, I knew that I was a number, and that when I got rejected, I’d simply need to convince them why I deserved to get in.

As for how I got in myself, there were a few key things:

  • I tried lots of things (clubs, sports, etc) rapidly – found out what I liked, and went deeper into them
  • I realized that I couldn’t compete on just grades alone – since I’m not the smartest person, so I went horizontal and did a bunch of interesting things outside of class (and outside of school)
  • I crafted an incredibly good application. In my view, the way you construct your application is hugely important in getting into a top college, getting a great job, etc. Compare this to people who believe, “If I just do great work, they’ll realize it.” No.
  • My applications had a THEME. I was the guy who wanted to do online business, and hey Mr. Application Reader, here’s what I’ve done to show you that I’m serious about this
  • I ASKED A TON OF PEOPLE TO REVIEW MY APPLICATION. I can’t emphasize this enough. I told you how I was horrible at math in high school. Well, I was a pretty good writer. So it surprised me that more people didn’t ask me to review their applications, because I got TONS of outside help. Hey Mike, what do you think about this essay idea? Michelle, what’s more compelling? Etc. So many people lock themselves in their room and come up with an essay topic that’s trite, vapid, and boring. The simple action of asking someone if your idea is compelling forces you to say it out loud — which eliminates at least 25% of bad essay ideas.
  • By the way, I didn’t pay anybody to review my application. If I’d had more money, I would have, but I didn’t. What you realize is that most people will help you out for free.

Key mindset to get into Stanford:

The first “no” is where the discussion starts.

When aiming for a large goal — like a college application, new job, or new city — always visualize what would happen if you SUCCEED (e.g., get admitted) vs. what would happen if you FAIL (e.g., get rejected).

Do this before you get the results, which is an emotional time. I saw people throw away their dream school simply because they got rejected. Read that last sentence again.

Doesn’t it sound ridiculous? OF COURSE you give up when you get rejected.

Well, sometimes it’s true, and society certainly tells us to suck it up and move on. But when it’s some committee making a decision, you don’t have to let that fly. Plan ahead for what you’ll do if you succeed or fail — it will help you stay focused when times get tough.

Key techniques to get into Stanford:

  • First of all, be REALLY GOOD at what you do. If you want to get into a top college or job, you can’t just be average. Why would a very selective institution want you? Ask yourself that and then do remarkable things.
  • Huh? Ramit? WTF does that mean? Being remarkable doesn’t always mean getting the best grades (I certainly didn’t). It can mean being remarkable at volunteering, or starting a side business repairing cars…or whatever interests you. THIS is why being remarkable is so hard — because I can’t simply tell you what to do. You have to decide for yourself. This is why most people, by definition, are not remarkable. It’s hard
  • ASK AT LEAST 10 OTHER PEOPLE TO REVIEW YOUR APPLICATION. Ask them to be brutally honest. AND MEAN IT. If you ever get defensive about their feedback, I will personally find you and hit you on the head with a metal bat.
  • Write at least 5 versions of your essay. I did something like 42 versions. Are you prepared to work that hard?
  • Expose yourself to luck. I have no qualms admitting that a lot of the reason I got into Stanford was luck. It could be a total tossup, or maybe the committee was feeling good, or whatever. However, don’t just count on luck — cultivate it for yourself. Give yourself every advantage.
  • NEVER do the committee’s job for you. It is THEIR job to reject you, not yours. What the hell is wrong with people when they say, “Ehh…I’m not going to apply to [college/job]…I could never get in.” Guess what? You just proved yourself right. It’s not your job to reject/accept you, it’s someone else’s. Let them do their job.
  • Don’t let money get in the way. People are incredibly clueless about finances when it comes to college. First, people will delusionally say, “I’m not going to apply to [expensive college]…I could never afford it.” If you’re good enough to get in, they will take care of you. LET ME REPEAT THAT. Never let money decide where you going to apply.
  • STOP USING MONEY AS AN EXCUSE. A lot of people will say, “Ramit, what about the application fee? It can be really expensive. You’re out of touch with your (book/fancy website/NY & SF apartments/blah blah blah).” Hey whiner. When I was applying, I had no money. Some of the applications can be really expensive. You know what I did? I put a note in there that said, Look I can’t really afford this application fee. If you really need the $50 for the fee, just please let me know and I will find a way to send it. But if not, I hope you can waive the fee for me.” I never heard a peep from them.
  • Ask people who have GONE to your dream schools how they like it. Oh yeah, one more thing…ASK THEM HOW THEY GOT IN. They should be reviewing your application and offering you feedback every step of the way. And yes, you know people there…if you don’t, call the university admissions office and ask to get connected to some students. Everybody loves seniors in high schools who are applying to college because they are so weird/desperate/naive. Everybody helps them. Use this to your advantage.

[More examples and techniques in the original email]

So Now What?

So what are you going to do now?

Are you going to feel inspired for the next 10 minutes and then forget all about it and go back to saving money on $3 lattes?

You can use this same lesson to achieve anything great, whether it’s landing your dream job, getting into a top university school, or even networking with your biggest role model.

If you want to ACTUALLY achieve something great, treat rejection as a normal step in the process. Expect it. Manage it. Take action and the next time you get shot down, remember that means you’re just getting started.

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Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.