|About the Book|
I love my life, and my work. That’s a sappy enough place to start a foreword to any book. But it’s all true. And I owe almost all of those wonderful feelings to Leland Stanford Junior University. I love what I know and I love how well I was taught to think and learn on the Farm. It is always my pleasure—and maybe, now that I think about it, it’s one of the things I like doing best—to say anything about how much I loved it. So if you’re considering Stanford for college, this is my advice: stop considering and get your materials together. This is a foregone conclusion, the best thing you could do for your future. You have to apply.When I was a teenager I had seen so little of the world. As I suspect many teenagers do, I felt so constricted, so small in my hometown. Surely there was more to explore, more to life, than what I found in the flat, white suburbs of Dallas, Texas. When I got my Stanford acceptance I remember very clearly that my father cried. It weirded me out at the time, but I suspect now that he knew how much—how wonderfully—my life was about to change. Stanford offers each of its students their choice of a thousand paths out into the world. There is no university more rich in resources and in creativity, no university more intent on providing the best opportunities for its students and positioning its graduates to achieve their biggest and smallest dreams.When I arrived in Palo Alto I chose to study English. Which means I came of age as a literary critic and a scholar precisely where I shouldn’t have: in Computer Land. But Stanford has always prioritized—and I suspect will always prioritize—the humanities, those intangibles that provide human life with its deep, irrevocable beauty and value. I took classes from the best writers and scholars in English and other literatures- I completed a creative writing thesis under direction of a short story writer and novelist who had long been my hero. I now study at the graduate level in the best English department in the world—and I can honestly say, from the perspective of a Harvard student, that I miss Stanford more than anything.When I was an undergraduate, my interests in western literature and culture were nourished in the epicenter of technological innovation worldwide. I explored my particular interests in great depth, but I was also encouraged to broaden my intellectual horizons immensely. At every turn I encountered professors and teaching assistants and lecturers who were dedicated, thoughtful educators as well as leading minds in their field. That isn’t the case at every institution—not by a long shot.Of course, anyone you ask about their time at Stanford will also point out one additional quality: life on the Farm is unbelievably fun. At college I fell into a ragtag group of forever friends: a Japanese programmer, a Bangladeshi entrepreneur, a Vietnamese pre-med, a physicist from Kentucky, an aerospace engineer from North Carolina who was also a tuba virtuoso. And we had so much fun that it all seems retrospectively impossible to describe: I have no words for all the sunshine, months of wearing flip-flops, fountains, late-night adventures under the Northern California stars. But we also learned from each other, and discovered untold intellectual wealth at our fingertips. None of my classes would have been as interesting or as engaging without my classmates- none of my interests went without vigorous discussion in dining halls or while seeking the hidden corners of Stanford’s enormous campus or on the quiet shores of Lake Lagunita.Of course, the question you’re already asking is how does a person get into Stanford? Take risks, work hard. And start doing both of those things before your senior year of high school.