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International Students at a Glance

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While not all English language learners at Stanford are international students, this demographic makes up a large part of the ELL population; it is also the body of students that can be more easily identified through admissions data. 

undergraduate student body statistics

Note: The uncommon data set counts "nonresident aliens" only. Residents and citizens whose native language is not English are not counted. Source:

In the 2013-2014 academic year, 565 out of 6980, or about 8%, undergraduates were "nonresident aliens." The percentage of international undergraduates has slowly but steadily risen in the past several years, from 4.7% in 1999-2000, to 5.8% in 2003-4, 6.3% in 2007-8, and 7% in 2010-11.


chart showing grad student stats
chart showing grad student stats
table showing grad student statistics



Undergraduate Admissions

Stanford informs undergraduate applicants, "Fluency in English is a prerequisite for undergraduate admission at Stanford. However, if you attend a school where the primary language of instruction is not English, you will not be at a disadvantage." Applicants' English skills are evaluated primarily through standardized American test scores. International undergraduate applicants, like all other applicants, are required to take the SAT or ACT plus Writing. They are also strongly encouraged, but not required, to submit TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores.

Graduate Admissions

According to the Office of Graduate Admissions, all graduate school applicants must submit TOEFL scores, unless they graduated from a U.S. university or university in a country where all instruction is provided in English: Australia, Canada (except Quebec), New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Applicants from other English-language universities may submit a TOEFL Waiver Request Form. Apparently, however, despite the Office of Graduate Admissions' stated requirement, some departments do not require TOEFL scores. Interestingly, US citizens whose first language is not English must also submit TOEFL scores if they did not graduate from English language universities.

The minimum required TOEFL score is 100 (out of 120 possible points) for doctoral applicants; 100 for Master's in Humanities, Sciences, and Education; and 89 for applicants to Master's in Engineering programs. In the GSB, the average TOEFL score of accepted applicants is 112; in MS&E, it is 111, and Statistics, 109. As a point of reference, the minimum required TOEFL score for graduate student applicants to Iowa State is 71; Michigan State, 80; UCLA, 87; Harvard, 89 (although 109 is said to be strongly recommended by admissions); and Yale, 100. As long as students fulfill the minimum requirement, however, the TOEFL score does not seem to carry much weight in applications (Raghunathan). It should be noted that, as several studies demonstrate, "a successful score on the TOEFL does not guarantee successful communication with native speakers of the language" (Bifuh-Ambe 14). 


Language resources for international students at Stanford are intended almost exclusively for the use of graduate students. The Hume Center, however, is of course available to all students, undergraduate and graduate. In addition to offering one-on-one tutoring sessions and specific topic workshops, the Hume Center offers T.E.A. (Thursday English Afternoons) to all students for conversation practice. Bechtel International Center also offers informal language classes for all Stanford community members, although, in general, graduate students and community members make the most use of Bechtel activities.

Undergraduate Students

There are no ESL or equivalent courses for undergraduate students, although according to the Stanford English for Foreign Students (EFS) site, undergraduates may enroll in graduate student ESL courses "with the consent of the instructor." Outside of EFS, Tom Freeland offers an Oral Communication course, Voice and Articulation Intensive for Non-Native Speakers (OralComm 105). This 1-2 unit course is available for credit/no-credit and is repeatable for credit.

Graduate Students

The EFS Program is built for graduate students specifically (with the exception of TESOL teacher training courses and summer courses for non-Stanford international students). Graduate Admissions requires selected—not all—arriving students to take the English Proficiency exam, which has writing, speaking, and listing components. Because all accepted students are assumed to have extensive experience reading English, there is no reading component. After taking the exam, students are given a list of any required or recommended courses.

Courses in EFS include Interacting in English, Academic Discussion, Oral Presentation, Speaking and Teaching in English, Graduate Reading and Vocabulary, English for Business and Industry, Pronunciation and Intonation, Understanding American Humor, and a variety of writing courses from Writing Fundamentals to Advanced Graduate Writing. EFS also offers intensive summer courses in writing, oral presentation, and speaking for continuing graduate students. 


Bifuh-Ambe, Elizabeth. "Postsecondary Learning: Recognizing the Needs of English Language

Learners in Mainstream University Classrooms." Multicultural Education 19.3 (2011): 13-19.

Raghunathan, Karthik. "Demystifying the American graduate admissions process." (2010). This is a paper written by a Stanford graduate who was a member of the CS admissions committee.