Stanford University
#10 Overall Influence#1 Desirability Rank

Stanford University

Private research university located in Stanford, California, United States

By James Barham, PhD

Stanford University was founded by Leland Stanford, a wealthy railroad magnate and erstwhile US Senator from California, as well as a former Governor of the Golden State. He placed the university in an unincorporated area about 30 miles south of San Francisco, adjacent to the town of Palo Alto (which he also founded). The campus lies in what is now known as Silicon Valley, which contributes greatly to the immense intellectual and economic influence of the private, research university that still bears the Stanford family name. Today, Stanford University is perhaps the closest thing to a true Ivy League school on the West Coast.

The university can claim more than 80 Nobel laureates among its alumni and its full-time or visiting faculty, including:

  • Carl Wieman in physics
  • Roger Kornberg in chemistry
  • Thomas Südhof in physiology or medicine
  • Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz in economics

Stanford is also the world-leader in Turing Awards (for computer science) with 27 winners, including such luminaries as:

  • Vinton Cerf
  • Whitfield Diffie
  • Edward Feigenbaum
  • Martin Hellman
  • John Hopcroft
  • Donald Knuth
  • Barbara Liskov
  • John McCarthy
  • Allen Newell
  • Ronald Rivest

Another area of particular academic strength for Stanford is mathematics, as evidenced by the school’s eight Fields Medalists, including Maryam Mirzakhani and Akshay Venkatesh.

However, the particular area of strength that really sets Stanford apart from most other schools boasting similar academic firepower is its contribution to the world of business, especially successful start-up companies. Stanford is the alma mater of 30 living billionaires, including:

  • Sergey Brin
  • Elizabeth Holmes
  • Elon Musk
  • Larry Page
  • Peter Thiel

Its alumni have founded companies which combined have created 5.4 million jobs and generate $2.7 trillion in annual revenue (as of 2011). If these Stanford-connected companies were to join together and declare their independence, the country they would form would have the 10th-largest economy in the world!

Stanford is also the alma mater of many famous people from numerous other walks of life, including:

  • 31st President of the US, Herbert Hoover
  • Nobel Prize – winning novelist, John Steinbeck
  • Philosophers, Michael Dummett, Donald Davidson, & John R. Perry
  • Former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor
  • 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination candidates, Cory Booker & Julián Castro
  • Former astronauts, Mae Jemison, Ellen Ochoa, & Sally Ride
  • TV personality, Rachel Maddow
  • Movie stars, Jennifer Connelly, Sigourney Weaver, & Reese Witherspoon

Finally, with a library whose enormous collection contains more than nine million volumes, Stanford is a major research resource for the entire West Coast region across a wide variety of academic fields.


What does this school look for?

Annual Applications




Graduation Rate


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How much does it cost to attend?

Tuition (in-state)


Fees (in-state)


IncomeAverage Net Cost

After Graduation

Averages for 10 years after enrolling

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Campus Life

What's it like to attend this school?

The People

Full time on-campus stats

Student Body






The Campus

Where will you be attending?


, Stanford CA 94305

What is Stanford University known for?

Our answer to this is to show you the disciplines in which a school's faculty and alumni have had the highest historical influence. A school may be influential in a discipline even if they do not offer degrees in that area. We've organized two lists to show where they are influential and offer corresponding degrees, and where they are influential through scholarship although they don't offer degrees in the disciplines.

Top areas of influence with degrees offered

#2 World Rank #2 USA Rank
Computer Science
#5 World Rank #2 USA Rank
Earth Sciences
#3 World Rank #3 USA Rank
#4 World Rank #3 USA Rank
#4 World Rank #4 USA Rank
#8 World Rank #5 USA Rank
#8 World Rank #5 USA Rank
#11 World Rank #6 USA Rank
#10 World Rank #6 USA Rank
#8 World Rank #7 USA Rank
#8 World Rank #7 USA Rank
Political Science
#15 World Rank #7 USA Rank
#16 World Rank #8 USA Rank
#10 World Rank #8 USA Rank
#17 World Rank #9 USA Rank
#14 World Rank #9 USA Rank
#18 World Rank #9 USA Rank
#24 World Rank #10 USA Rank
Religious Studies
#20 World Rank #11 USA Rank
#33 World Rank #12 USA Rank
#23 World Rank #14 USA Rank

Other areas of influence

#10 World Rank #9 USA Rank
Criminal Justice
#48 World Rank #39 USA Rank
#53 World Rank #45 USA Rank
Social Work

Influential People

Who are Stanford University's Most influential alumni?

Stanford University's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Computer Science, Engineering, and Communications. Stanford University’s most academically influential people include John Steinbeck, Elon Musk, and Dean H. Kenyon.

John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck

American writer

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Elon Musk
Elon Musk

South African-born American entrepreneur

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Dean H. Kenyon

American intelligence design advocate

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Vint Cerf
Vint Cerf

American computer scientist

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Douglas Hofstadter
Douglas Hofstadter

American professor of cognitive science

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Larry Page
Larry Page

American computer scientist and Internet entrepreneur

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Sally Ride
Sally Ride

American physicist and astronaut

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Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel

American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and hedge fund manager

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L. Rafael Reif
L. Rafael Reif

Venezuelan-born American electrical engineer, writer and academic administrator

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Vikram Seth
Vikram Seth

Indian novelist and poet

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Robert Sternberg
Robert Sternberg

American psychologist & scholar

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Clark Kerr
Clark Kerr

American academic

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