I am deep in the heart of essay writing season. My rising seniors focused on their main essay the first half of the summer. Now we are immersed in writing supplemental essays for the colleges that require them. Some of my students are writing fifteen or more, some only have a handful. It just depends on their list.
As we approach this phase of applications, I am always amazed at the variety of questions colleges ask. Some are straightforward, like “Why do you want to attend our school?” or “Why do you want to major in the field you have selected?” But others are far more complex. There is a college that asks two big questions in their prompt: “Why are you interested in XXX University and how do you see yourself contributing to a diverse, inclusive, accessible and respectful campus?” And they want you to answer these two complex questions in a total of 250 words, not easy!
Some colleges give you a choice of two or more essays and allow you to select the one that you would like to answer. Other schools have multiple essays prompts for applicants to answer. There is a public flagship that asks a series of questions that you have to answer in 300 characters or less, basically two tweets!
My favorite essay prompts are from the Virginia Polytechnic University, fondly known as Virginia Tech. I love these prompts for two reasons. First, they are brief, 120 words each! Second, they are so original and they really allow students to share something about themselves. Whenever I have a student writing to these prompts, their answers are revealing and I learn something new about them. So here they are, go Hokies!
- Virginia Tech’s motto is “Ut Prosim” which means ‘That I May Serve’. Share how you contribute to a community that is important to you. How long have you been involved? What have you learned and how would you like to share that with others at Virginia Tech?
- Resilience is defined as the ability to adapt and learn from a difficulty. Reflect on a time that you have exhibited resilience. What growth did you see in yourself after this experience?
- Share a time when you were most proud of yourself either as a role model or when you displayed your leadership. What specific skills did you contribute to the experience? How did others rely on you for guidance? What did you learn about yourself during this time?
- Describe a goal that you have set and the steps you will take to achieve it. What made you set this goal for yourself? What is your timeline to achieve this goal? Who do you seek encouragement or guidance from as you work on this goal?