Parents and students have both named Stanford University one of their top dream colleges — schools they wish they (or their student) could attend if cost and acceptance were not issues — for most of the past decade, according to surveys by The Princeton Review.

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Part of the draw: The faculty here features a stunning array of innovative and important thinkers, including 20 Nobel laureates, more than 30 MacArthur fellows and four Pulitzer Prize winners.

Stanford is one of the hardest schools in the country to get into, accepting only about 4% of applicants. Once there, the educational demands can be intense. Students often describe themselves as "ducks," because they try to appear serene while paddling desperately to keep going. (There was even a popular Facebook group a few years back called "Stanford University Places I've Cried," a tongue-in-cheek “tribute to the happiest place on Earth.”)

But the results speak for themselves. Not only does Stanford have a 95% graduation rate, but its former students also founded Google, Yahoo, Cisco and many other tech companies, and the typical student earns at least a six-figure salary 10 years after enrolling. At the same time, Stanford is generous with financial aid, with roughly 60% of students receiving assistance. Additionally, parents earning less than $100,000 are not expected to contribute anything toward their student’s college costs; those earning less than $150,000 aren't expected to pay tuition.

Stanford's Mission-style campus is a vast 8,100 acres, and most students use bicycles to get around. An NCAA Division I school, Stanford has a longstanding football rivalry with the University of California-Berkeley. Campus traditions include the Halloween Mausoleum Party, which is held at the Stanford Mausoleum, the burial site of Leland Stanford Jr. His father, a California governor and railroad baron, founded the university in 1885 in his son’s memory after the boy died at age 15.