Chess and Baseball: Angel Villeraldo’s Stanford Admissions Story

“Hearing those words of encouragement every really helped me overcome some hurdles of procrastination of applying to college,” said Angel Villeraldo, a senior at James A. Garfield High School in Los Angeles. With his family’s support, first-generation baseball and chess player Angel got admitted to Stanford University, Class of 2027.

Angel Villeraldo shares his Stanford admissions journey with SocratesPost.

What you’ll learn:

  • What helped Angel’s college essay flow
  • Overcoming insecurities about college applications
  • Getting rejected: what Angel did to deal with college rejections

What got Angel into Stanford

I think what got me into Stanford was the strength of my essays. I highlighted my character, my strengths, my hard work ethic, my passion for baseball, and chess and how that correlates to my future goals as an engineer. I also think that part of the reason I got admitted was because I have connections with academic programs. Thrive Scholars has been around for like 20 years and the program is well known by major universities across the US. And they actively seek and recruit those students.

Angel’s winning college essay  topic

I talked with one of my counselors, and she mentioned how I should talk about something that I’m passionate about, which for me was baseball and chess, which are two things that I really love, and that I do every day. And I just started off with how I grew up as a baseball fan, because of my dad, and how from a young age, it’s always been part of me and playing baseball throughout the years has given me that hard work ethic that drives not only my goals in baseball, but also in life as well. And, and chess, I really love how it makes my brain think outside the box and use my creativity and how that correlates to my goals as an engineer. It just flowed once I talked about what I’m passionate about.

Other colleges Angel highly considered

One of them was Washington University in St. Louis. They had a good engineering program that I really liked, and I felt comfortable on campus. Same thing with Swarthmore College, a little small liberal arts school and in Philadelphia. It was a very small, close-knit community and I felt comfortable there and once again, they had a good engineering program. But for me, what set Stanford apart was obviously its academic reputation. What really set it apart was the fact that they’re next to the Silicon Valley in the Bay Area. And for an aspiring engineer, there’s just a lot of internships and research opportunities in that area that I would like to be a part of.

The part of Angel’s college application he felt most insecure about

Angel Villeraldo, Stanford University admit, is pictured playing baseball.

Yeah, for sure. For me, it was the extracurriculars part. I just didn’t feel like compared to other applicants, my extracurriculars were that strong. I didn’t really do a lot of volunteer work throughout my high school years, and it’s not because I didn’t want to. I love helping others, but it’s just that baseball kind of took up a lot of time:15 hours a week, for like 40 weeks a year. While baseball was a strong extracurricular that I had, it limited my other extracurriculars. And as a result, that part of my application for me felt a little weak compared to other applicants.

What was it like to get accepted into Stanford?

It was a shock. Stanford has one of the lowest admissions rates in the country. And to be honest, in my head, I processed the idea of rejection, and I really expected it. But then when I did open that letter, and I saw that the first thing it said on the top was congratulations, it felt so surreal. For the next week or two, like I still couldn’t believe that I had to like, pinch myself multiple times. And like looked through the applicants for the applicant portal multiple times, just to make sure that they got the name right and everything. Say how it was a big shock. My family was there. And, you know, they were happy for me. And I was really happy, but mainly just shocked. I kind of put away all the doubts I had about myself.

Opening Stanford’s acceptance letter

The week the decisions came out, my friends kept telling me that I looked nervous. I was like, Nah, I’m fine. I’m not nervous for Stanford or anything, like it is what it is. But looking back, I was a little nervous.

I stared at the screen for like, five seconds before I realized that it said congratulations. And then I just started screaming and my family was in another room. My mom came over and she hugged me and everything. And my brothers were there too. Seeing their eldest brother get into a top school like that, I think it motivated them and they were happy for me. And it just felt it just felt like a dream.

Angel’s family’s involvement in college applications

I’m a first-generation student. My parents came to the US from Mexico to get a better life for themselves. I’ve kind of always been on my own for everything for school. They always support me, of course, they do everything they can to support me. But the college application process was mostly just me researching schools applying and them always supporting me. I’m the eldest in my family, but I have cousins who all went to college and growing up they were always they always believed in me from a young age. Hearing those words of encouragement every really helped me overcome some hurdles of procrastination of applying to college.

Myths about getting into college, from Angel’s perspective

The idea of a perfect student with a 4.0 plus is a myth because that’s not guaranteed to get you anywhere. While I did have a 4.0 plus GPA, I don’t think that’s the reason that I got in. Talking to admission representative, I learned that colleges more value you as a person, as a character, because at the end of the day, they look for those students who have that drive to do something at the university and beyond. I had friends who were just like me just as competitive of applicants, and they got rejected to 19 out of 20 top 100 schools. If you apply to multiple, then there’s a good chance that you’ll get into a few. Don’t limit yourself because you think you’re not as talented or as worthy of another applicant. Because in the eyes of others, you probably are so don’t cut yourself short.

How Angel managed rejections from college

I actually only got one rejection. It was from USC. I’m a very stoic person. I don’t really let my emotions get the best of me. I really believe that just because USC didn’t want me, or they deferred my application doesn’t mean that another school doesn’t want me and I just kept my hopes up that one school was excited about me one way or another.

A piece of wisdom from Angel to future college applicants

I’m more than confident that at least one school will accept you. I mentioned this earlier, I had a friend who applied to like 20 or 25 top 50 schools in the nation and all, but one accepted him. All that matters is that one school accepts you. I’m confident that every student who puts time and effort to the application will get into one school that that’s going to be a good fit for them. Seek support from others or from academic programs, such as Thrive Scholars. You really need that outside support from far more experienced individuals to help you such as academic counselors because they know they know things better than you probably do.

Angel’s Academic and Extracurricular Profile

James A. Garfield HS in East L.A.
Ranked #2 out of around 560 students in graduating class
4.275 GPA
Took 8 AP classes out of 14 AP classes offered
SAT score 1360 – applied test optional to all schools

Varsity Baseball Player
UPP Club Volunteer
Justin Rhodes Community Action Team Volunteer
Founder of Chess Club
Engineering Club
Thrive Scholars
Amherst College Summer Student
College Match Los Angeles Student
Church Youth Group Member


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