Best Colleges

5. Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA
Value Grade/Ranking Score: A/4.23
Enrollment: 7,063
Net Price of Degree: $168,780
Acceptance Rate: 7%
Average H.S. GPA: 4.5
Avg. Annual Salary Within 5 Yrs: $61,300
Website: stanford.edu/
Princeton Environmental Institute students working in the lab.
Linda A. Cicero—Stanford News

Families named Stanford University as their top dream college in a recent Princeton Review survey—the school they most wished their student could attend if cost and acceptance were not issues. Part of the draw: The faculty features a stunning array of innovative and important thinkers, including 22 Nobel laureates, 27 MacArthur “geniuses,” and five Pulitzer Prize winners.

The educational demands are intense on enrollees, who often describe themselves as “ducks,” because they try to appear serene, but are paddling desperately to keep going. Students also get unusual entrepreneurial encouragement. Stanford provides undergrads with grants to fund research, as well as summer or art projects. The results speak for themselves, especially in nearby Silicon Valley. Stanford alums founded Google, Yahoo, Cisco, and hundreds of other tech companies. On average, recent Stanford grads report earning more than $61,000, a $12,000 premium over similar schools.

The Mission-style campus is vast, and most students use bicycles to get around. An NCAA Division I school, Stanford has a longstanding football rivalry with the University of California-Berkeley. Traditions include the Halloween Mausoleum Party, held at the Stanford Mausoleum, burial site of Leland Stanford Jr., whose dad, a California governor, founded the university in his son’s name after the boy died at age 15.

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