Dear Class of 2026 & Transfers,
This is the first of three monthly Academic Advising Newsletters that you will get from your Undergraduate Advising Directors (UADs) this summer!
Summer Advising Newsletter
This monthly Academic Advising Newsletter comes in tandem with the informative Approaching Stanford Newsletter you get every week. Both your UADs and the Approaching Stanford team are part of a single office -- the Office of Academic Advising. Together we're looking forward to guiding you through your Approaching Stanford journey!
What’s a UAD and how can they help me?
But who, you might ask, are your UADs? Great question! Your UADs are professional Academic Advisors who are here to help you get the most out of your undergraduate experience. These include your primary UAD (who will be assigned to frosh in August) who will work with you throughout your first year, as well as our specialized UADs who support your pre-professional goals, and your potential coterminal journey.
But advising at Stanford may be different than academic advising as you have experienced it to date. Your Academic Advisors are not just a source of practical information (though we have plenty of that!). Rather, we’re here to help you figure out how to get the most out of your Stanford educational experience. We can talk to you about your interests, why people study what they study, how to build good academic habits and manage time, how to plan for life or school beyond Stanford, and much much more. We can explain what it means to do research at the university, and help you get involved. We can guide and connect you as you choose a major – and we can help you understand what a major is! We can help you figure out what you should be asking when you aren’t even sure. And we are here to let you know about all the amazing resources at Stanford that you might not even know exist. Because there are a lot of resources and opportunities here, and no one expects you to know what they are before you even get here.
What do I need to do right now?
In future newsletters, we will detail lots of specific resources to help you get started planning your first quarter – and first year – at Stanford.
For frosh, be sure to take a language placement test by July 15 if you plan to continue studying a foreign language during your first year at Stanford. But otherwise, there is nothing you need to be doing right now, at least in terms of academic planning. Stanford is on the quarter system, and our academic year won’t begin until late September. You won’t be enrolling in classes until you arrive on campus for New Student Orientation (NSO). And Explore Courses, Stanford’s course catalog, won’t be updated with the upcoming year’s courses until early August.
For transfers, be sure to review the Transfer Credit Assessment Module in Canvas and continue working with the UAD for Transfers, Alice Petty, on your individual situations. Transfer Visit Day (virtual) is scheduled for July 8 and you are all encouraged to attend.
Enjoy the summer and, for some of you, the end of your high school experiences! You should be spending time with friends and family; or working; or traveling; or whatever else you have going on. You will have lots of time to plan your Stanford academic journey. And we will be here to help you throughout that adventure. But do trust us when we say you have a little time yet before it begins.
What will my education look like at Stanford?
We know that you’re excited to get started. So we did want to talk today, in broad strokes, about the liberal education you will pursue here at Stanford. There are lots of models of undergraduate education out there. Some colleges and universities have a strict set of requirements - very specific classes you have to take. At the other end of the spectrum, others let you take almost anything you want. Stanford’s educational philosophy falls somewhere in the middle. Though you need to choose a major and have an intellectual focus, you can’t take all your classes in just one area. Rather, Stanford requires you to also have breadth across many subjects.
As do all major universities, Stanford provides the means for its undergraduates to acquire a liberal education, an education that broadens the student's knowledge and awareness in each of the major areas of human knowledge, that significantly deepens understanding of one or two of these areas, and that prepares him or her for a lifetime of continual learning and application of knowledge to career and personal life. (Stanford Bulletin, Undergraduate Degrees and Programs, Overview)
"Liberal” here isn’t a political designation. Rather, it means “free and unconstrained.” More specifically, a liberal education is meant to provide students with the knowledge and skills to be productive, engaged members of a free society, able to adapt to a changing world and practice free thinking. Stanford puts it this way in the Bulletin:
The General Education Requirements are an integral part of undergraduate education at Stanford. Their purpose is to introduce students to the intellectual life of the University, to foreground important questions, and to illustrate how they may be approached from multiple perspectives. They are intended to develop a broad set of essential intellectual and social competencies of enduring value no matter what field a student eventually pursues. […] Together with the major, the requirements serve as the nucleus around which students build their four years at Stanford. (Stanford Bulletin, Undergraduate Degrees and Programs, General Education Requirements)
This mode goes back to the beginnings of The Leland Stanford Junior University (that’s the full name of our school!). When the University was founded, its stated purpose was to to provide to its undergraduates:
...the studies and exercises directed to the cultivation and enlargement of the mind;
Its object, to qualify its students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life;
And its purposes, to promote the public welfare by exercising an influence in behalf of humanity and civilization, teaching the blessings of liberty regulated by law, and inculcating love and reverence for the great principles of government as derived from the inalienable rights of man to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (Stanford Founding Grant, p. 4)
And while it didn’t have breadth requirements at the start, University leadership quickly realized that if they were going to reach their goals, they needed students to see a liberal education as a central component of a Stanford education, and not as a “side issue.” From 1920 onwards, every time Stanford has reviewed its undergraduate education program, it has emphasized the importance of this breadth.
Today, that breadth can be found in the new COLLEGE requirement (frosh-only), in the Writing and Language requirements, and in the Ways of Thinking, Ways of Doing requirements. At Stanford we believe that this breadth, alongside your major, will prepare you for the dynamic, exciting, and challenging world of the 21st century. And your Academic Advisors will be here throughout your undergraduate years to help you not only complete your requirements, but to help you understand them and reflect on their purpose as you put together your own Stanford education.