By Kiana Hui
In his application for Stanford’s Class of 2017, Alex Greene took the Apple motto—There’s an app for that”—to a whole new level.
Greene, a 17-year-old Stanford hopeful from New York, created an iPhone application for the Office of Undergraduate Admission in an effort to demonstrate his passion for computer science, his intended major. His app has prompted features by The Huffington Post and Gigaom, as well as several other technology blogs.
Though the app is not available in the App Store, Greene’s YouTube demo of the app has been viewed more than 15,500 times. In the demo, Greene clicks through the app’s different pages, which describe his interests and make his case for admission.
“Stanford has the most interesting courses I’ve ever seen,” Greene said. “The whole atmosphere seems more laid-back and entrepreneurial. Everyone is doing something cool and creative, and I want to be a part of that.”
Greene said he has been developing apps for three years and made this particular app using Photoshop and Xcode, an iOS development program for iPhone apps. Since he could not submit the app through the traditional Stanford application process, he posted it on Reddit, College Confidential and Hacker News—among other websites—in the hope of attracting Stanford admissions officers’ attention.
“When I saw the first article on it, I was just amazed,” Greene said. “A few days later, it came out on The Huffington Post, and I was just speechless.”
Chris Gerben, a lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, was one of the first at Stanford to take note of Greene’s work, retweeting the Huffington Post article.
“I was really impressed with him,” Gerben said. “It was the fact that he had this idea, he executed it and then he has random people like me finding it online and getting excited about it. That’s the most impressive thing.”
Greene saw that Gerben had retweeted the article and messaged him within minutes.
“Now we have this sort of quasi-relationship,” Gerben said. “The fact that I’m on the record now as sort of endorsing him—I think it’s really savvy the way he’s following the people who are following the story.”
Keith Schwarz ’10 M.S. ’11, a lecturer in computer science (CS), found Greene’s app on Hacker News.
“I thought it was definitely an interesting way to signal that he is interested in Stanford CS,” Schwarz said. “I’m glad that someone is taking the initiative to do something like that.”
Although Schwarz said that Greene “clearly put a lot of time and effort” into the app, he emphasized that there is a difference between making iPhone apps and excelling in academic coursework.
The app has received criticism from YouTube commenters, some of whom have questioned whether or not it is complicated enough to demonstrate skill in computer science. Greene, however, expressed pride in his work.
“The app wasn’t meant to be overly technical—it was just meant to show an interest,” Greene said.
Though the Office of Undergraduate Admission would neither confirm nor deny that it had seen Greene’s app, Director of Admission Colleen Lim M.A. ’80 said that other applicants have submitted apps in the past.
Lim added that because of the high volume of applications that admissions officers receive, they are not always able to look at supplementary information such as Greene’s app.
Whether or not the admissions office has seen the app, Greene expressed gratitude for the coverage it has received.
“I would like to thank all the press and everyone who has commented, positively or negatively, for the feedback,” Greene said. “It’s been pretty awesome whether or not I get in.”