For the first time in years, Stanford University took the top spot in Business Insider’s latest list of the Best Colleges in America, knocking the Massachusetts Institute of Technology down to number two after a four-year reign.
The California college is now also the most selective college in America, as well as the top “dream college” for students applying from high school. To help understand why everyone wants to go to Stanford, here are eight reasons why it’s such an awesome place to go to school:
1. Even though students study a lot, they still make time for an active social life
While Stanford is undoubtedly one of the top academic institutions in the world, that doesn’t prevent students from having fun when they’re not in the library.
Students gather every fall quarter for Full Moon on the Quad — a drunken welcome from upperclassmen to the new freshmen — and check out the Greek scene with Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Back to School kickoff or Kappa Alpha’s roaming Nomad Party.
The school has an active Greek life and on-campus social scene for just about anyone, but students will also explore off campus in the surrounding Bay Area.
2. Stanford athletic teams are dominant in a number of sports
For the 19th year in a row, Stanford took home the NADCA Directors’ Cup last year — given annually to the school with the most overall success in collegiate athletics.
Some highlights from 2013 include Stanford football’s repeat win of the Pac-12 Conference title — in a season that had the Stanford Cardinals dominate rival Cal 63-13 in the “Big Game” — and women’s tennis winning the NCAA national championship.
3. Stanford has one of the most beautiful campuses in the country — and incredible weather year round
Know affectionately as “The Farm,” Stanford’s more than 8,000 acre campus is one of the largest in the United States. Mission revival style architecture dominates Stanford’s landscape, including its historic Main Quad.
Some of Stanford’s most iconic structures include the non-denominational Memorial Church and Hoover Tower, the tallest building on campus.
The California university also has the added bonus of great weather — unlike elite east coast schools, it’s nice out west most every day.
4. Students participate in lots of fun annual traditions
Stanford’s most notorious tradition is probably Full Moon on the Quad, an inter-class kissing event where freshmen and seniors interlock lips on the night of the first full moon. As The New York Times reported last year, students will often wear “bingo boards” to keep track of the various types of kissers they’re seeking out for the night.
The school also has a quirky tradition for its unofficial mascot — a “tree” (pictured above) — that changes every year based on a unique design by a member of Stanford’s marching band.
5. Stanford academics are top-notch and professors are among the best in the fields
Stanford is home to some of the best professors in the world, with top academics in a range of subjects. The university currently counts several Nobel Prize winners among its faculty. Among its best academic programs are computer science, chemistry, and practically every engineering discipline.
In part due to its proximity to Silicon Valley, Stanford sometimes features courses taught by true tech luminaries, such as a current business school class led by ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
6. Stanford offers great value and helps students who need financial aid
Stanford recently placed in the top five for U.S. News and World Report’s latest list of the Top Value Colleges — a ranking that combines schools’ affordability and education quality.
Although the school advertises its total cost at more than $US60,000, with need-blind admissions and nearly 50% of students on some sort of financial aid, Stanford should be affordable for most every student. That is, if you can get in.
7. Stanford does a great job of encouraging student entrepreneurship
When Stanford students have a great idea for the next big company — something they have a history of — they don’t have to look much farther than their own school for help. One avenue for funding is StartX, a Stanford student-started incubator that is now run by the university, offering money and support to accepted startups.
Stanford’s alumni network is solid in pretty much every industry, but might be strongest in nearby Silicon Valley, where recent graduates are behind some of the buzziest companies.
Snapchat started life in CEO Evan Spiegel’s Stanford fraternity house, while Clinkle founder Lucas Duplan had the largest seed round in history while still a student at the school. Stanford alumni are also at the helm of some of the biggest companies in the world, including Google and Yahoo!
8. Stanford alumni go on to make a lot of money.
After graduation, the average Stanford student will take home a salary of $US62,900 in their early career, according to data from PayScale. By comparison, the average starting salary for a recent college grad nationwide hovers closer to $US45,000.
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