Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Finding Out I Belong Here

Main content start

I found out I was accepted into Stanford by accident. Okay, I know you’re probably doubting me right now but I am very serious about this. Let me set the scene for you. 

It was a Friday night and I had just returned from Jack in the Box with my mom because I was craving their Bacon Cheddar Potato Wedges (which I later discovered have since been discontinued and I really hope they come back). Apparently, I was notified hours earlier that day of a status update to my application portal but I didn’t even realize the application results were coming out that day, let alone that month! I thought Stanford had emailed me to tell me I did something wrong with my application.  Instead I was, at the very least, caught off guard by the ‘Congratulations!’ on the top of my screen. I switched around to look at my mom and just flat out told her, “Um, I just got accepted into Stanford.” I can’t tell you how happy my mother was but not for the reasons you might think. 

I should have begun this story with a little bit about who I am. I’m a first-generation college student with a long list of chronic medical conditions that started shortly before I turned 16 in high school. My parents immigrated from Mexico to the United States years before I was born in search of a better life for their future children. For additional context, my mom and dad didn’t even know what Stanford was– they were just glad I got into college. 

I grew up in a border town called Chula Vista, just 15 minutes shy from the U.S.-Mexico border that despite reports claiming Chula Vista as one of the safest cities in the state with a high median household income, neglect the serious income inequality and overcrowded high schools that exist in my hometown. Although I was fortunate enough to attend high school on the East Side of Chula Vista, my various chronic illnesses caused me to miss a number of days at school and honestly, forget much of what happened during those four years. What I will never forget is being repeatedly told how I needed to have more realistic expectations of what colleges I wanted to apply to, how my test scores wouldn’t be enough for a school like Stanford and later, how I likely only got in because I was Hispanic and disabled. 

You can only imagine the kind of imposter syndrome I had showing up to campus for the first time in January when I attended the Early Admission Reception talking with other early admit students who didn’t grow up or look like me. Truthfully, these feelings persisted all the way until I joined the Structured Liberal Education (SLE) program my freshman year. I met so many students who looked nothing like me but also who looked nothing like each other. I mean, every student in my cohort was literally so different– it was awesome! I met people from public, private, and charter schools and even students who were homeschooled! I met students from all around the world, and even nearby (but that’s another story to tell). Most importantly, I had professors who inspired and cared for me outside of the classroom and who genuinely wanted to see me succeed. 

I remember at the end of my first quarter at Stanford; I started breaking down in my section’s discussion because I confessed to my classmates I felt out of place, and sometimes, not smart enough to be here. To my surprise, everyone began reassuring me that not only did I belong here, I deserved to be here, with them. In that single moment, I knew that committing to Stanford would be one of the best decisions I had ever made. 

I end this story with a message to provide you with the reassurance that regardless of where your journey began and where it is right now, you were meant to join us here, and you are going to do some pretty amazing things whether you believe it or not yet. 

Nathalie Sarai Garcia

Human Biology, Interdisciplinary Honors in Education
Class of 2024

If you have a Stanford Story you would like to share, contact