Stanford University

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Updated June 10, 2021

In 1876, Leland Stanford, former Governor of California, purchased 650 acres for a country home which later became his famous Palo Alto Stock Farm. Eventually, he purchased 8,000 acres that surrounded his original acreage. Named Palo Alto, which means tall tree, after a giant California redwood that stood on the bank of the San Franciquito Creek, the small town that sprouted around Stanford's ranch grew over the years.

Stanford studied law in New York and moved west after the gold rush, making a fortune in railroads. He was a leader in the Republican party, becoming Governor and then United States Senator. He and his wife, Jane, had only one son, Leland Jr., who died of typhoid fever when he was only 15 years old while the family was traveling in Italy. Upon the death of their son, the Stanford's decided that since they could not do anything to help their own child, the children of California would be their children. They considered many options to memorialize their son and, while visiting the East Coast, visited Harvard, MIT, Cornell and Johns Hopkins about starting a university in California. The couple decided to create to memorials for their son – a university and a museum.

From the beginning, Stanford was different than other universities of its time. They were coeducational during a time when most universities in the country allowed only male students and they were non-denominational, where most higher education institutions were associated with religious organizations. When the doors opened in 1891, one New York newspaper reported that the school would consist of "marble halls with empty benches," a prediction that was quickly disproved when the first student body consisted of 555 men and women. By the second year, the faculty of 15 expanded to 49.

The campus was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect responsible for New York's Central Park. The Stanford's and Olmsted did not always agree on the physical plan, but they finally agreed on an organization of quadrangles on an east-west axis, a design that the administration still tries to follow today when the school expands due to enrollment.

Leland Stanford died in 1893 and the university entered a period of financial uncertainty as his estate faced several federal challenges. Jane Stanford took over growing the new university and, when Leland's estate was released in 1898, she sold her railroad holdings, turning over $11 million to the university. She supervised the construction of the buildings envisioned by she and her late husband, including Memorial Church. By the time of her death in 1905, she had relinquished control of the school to the trustees.

What has become known as the birthplace of Silicon Valley began with two Stanford alumni, David Packard and William Hewlett who established a small electronics company in a Palo Alto garage in 1939. In 1952, professor William W. Hansen unveiled an electron linear accelerator prototype, leading to construction of the Microwave Laboratory the following year.

Stanford has long been a university with strong beliefs. Students were very active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed an overflow crowd in Memorial Auditorium in 1964. In 1965, the campus became the earliest known student group to promote civil rights for gay and lesbians.

Today, there are 7,018 undergraduates and 9,118 graduate students at Stanford, studying in seven schools.

Stanford University Accreditation Facts

Stanford University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. In addition, specific programs at Stanford may be accredited by other accrediting organizations that are directly related to a program of study.

Stanford University Application Requirements

Undergraduate students entering Stanford for the first time must complete an application for admission. In addition, they must provide official SAT and/or ACT test scores as well as official transcripts from their high school. Students must also provide two teacher evaluations. Students who are entering fine or performing arts may submit an Arts Supplement and all students may submit one optional letter of recommendation from someone other than a teacher or counselor.

Students who are transferring from another college or university must provide SAT and/or ACT scores as well as a report from the college they are currently attending. All students must submit an official high school transcript and two academic evaluations. Students entering the fine or performing arts programs may submit the Art Supplement.

Graduate students must have successfully completed requirements for a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited college or university. In addition, students must provide official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test scores. Students for whom English is a second language may be required to submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores. Each graduate program may have additional admission requirements. Students are encouraged to discuss admission requirements with an admissions counselor before applying.

Stanford University Tuition and Financial Aid

Undergraduate and graduate full-time tuition at Stanford University is $15,243 per year. Part-time graduate tuition is $1,016 per credit hour. Law School tuition is $18,956 annually and engineering programs are $16,240 annually.

Financial aid is available in the form of grants, scholarships, federal student loans and work study. Stanford also accepts veterans benefits and employer-funded tuition payments.

Stanford University Online Degrees Available

Mechanical Engineering

The graduate level mechanical engineering degree at Stanford University is available with five different academic themes, including:

  • Biomedicine
  • Computational Engineering
  • Design
  • Energy
  • Multi-Scale Engineering

Students must complete 45 units that are offered online, but if courses are not available online, students may be required to complete their studies on campus. The program prepares students for positions in the engineering industry with human-centered design and sustainability themes that span all programs throughout the department. The program takes between three and five years to complete, but must be completed within five years of starting the program.

International Legal Studies

The Stanford Program in International Legal Studies is designed for the student committed to pursuing a career in teaching, research, the judiciary, public policy or service in government. It emphasizes empirical interdisciplinary research on issues that are often related to public policy and legal reform internationally. Students who successfully complete the program may continue their studies in the Doctor of Science of Law at Stanford.

Bioscience Ph.D

Stanford Biosciences Home Programs connect students to a core group of faculty and postdoctoral fellows who share scientific interests. The program is flexible, allowing students to meet work, family and social obligations while also having access to Stanford's state-of-the-art programs and labs. The program combines the supportive atmosphere of a small program with a larger umbrella program so that students receive a well-rounded, hands-on education.

Stanford University has been an education innovator since the school was founded in the late 1800s in memory of Leland and Jane Stanford's late son, Leland Jr. Today, their online programs continue to offer innovative education to busy adults who want to continue their education in order to advance in a current career or move into a new career.

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