In what continues to be a challenging landscape for college applicants and their advisers, one ray of light may be the level of effort some colleges appear to be putting into updating their websites with application requirements for 2017-18.
And this includes descriptions of new policies and deadlines as well as posting essay prompts and writing supplements.
In all fairness, it looks like some schools have decided this is not the year to make major revisions in their writing requirements. Bringing on new technology or adding a new application option may be enough for one year.
Nevertheless, it’s helpful for some students, particularly those returning to school early or those with significant fall obligations, to be able to get started on essays sooner rather than later. And with many colleges adding early admission options and/or moving up deadlines to coincide with the October 1 launch of the federal financial aid application, the smallest bit of extra time can only help.
For the record, essay prompts and other application specifications are almost always found on college websites. The Common Application and the Coalition Application have already posted prompts for personal statements, although one sets a 650-word limit enforced by software and the other strongly suggests a 550-word limit not enforced by software.
The Universal College Application (UCA) gives the applicant freedom to write on whatever topic they wish and allows for 650 words. The Cappex Application offers a required 600-word personal statement along with a second optional essay.
For the Common App, the Coalition App and the UCA, member colleges are free to decide whether or not to require a personal statement and many will opt out of this requirement. Supplementary essays will be at the discretion of individual colleges and will either come as questions within the body of the application or as separate writing supplements. Note that the Cappex Application will not include additional writing requirements.
With luck, applicants will find supplementary essay prompts posted in advance of official application launch dates, which appear to vary from college to college. Some launched on July 1, and others won’t launch until October 1, 2017.
Here is a sample of colleges that have already posted their additional essay prompts for 2017-18 (University of Virginia prompts may be found here):
Why have you chosen to apply to Dickinson? (There is no recommended minimum word count, although the Common Application does have a limit of 800 words)
[Y]ou will be asked to respond to the prompts below.
- Beyond rankings, location, and athletics, why are you interested in attending Georgia Tech? (max 150 words)
- Please choose ONE of the following questions and provide an answer in 150 words or less.
- Tech’s motto is Progress and Service. We find that students who ultimately have a broad impact first had a significant one at home. What is your role in your immediate or extended family? And how have you seen evidence of your impact on them?
- Georgia Tech is always looking for innovative undergraduates. Have you had any experience as an entrepreneur? What would you like Georgia Tech to provide to further your entrepreneurial interests?
- We challenge our students to “be comfortable being uncomfortable”. Tell us about a time in high school that you felt outside of your comfort zone and the resolution.
Short Essay: Briefly discuss the significance to you of the school or summer activity in which you have been most involved. (approximately one-half page)
Compose two brief essays (approximately one page single-spaced each) on the topics given below.
All Applicants: As Georgetown is a diverse community, the Admissions Committee would like to know more about you in your own words. Please submit a brief essay, either personal or creative, which you feel best describes you.
- Applicants to Georgetown College: Please relate your interest in studying at Georgetown University to your goals. How do these thoughts relate to your chosen course of study? (If you are applying to major in the FLL or in a Science, please specifically address those interests.)
- Applicants to the School of Nursing & Health Studies: Describe the factors that have influenced your interest in studying health care at Georgetown University. Please specifically address your intended major (Health Care Management & Policy, Human Science, International Health, or Nursing).
- Applicants to the Walsh School of Foreign Service: Briefly discuss a current global issue, indicating why you consider it important and what you suggest should be done to deal with it.
- Applicants to the McDonough School of Business: The McDonough School of Business is a national and global leader in providing graduates with essential ethical, analytical, financial and global perspectives. Please discuss your motivations for studying business at Georgetown.
Johns Hopkins University
Successful students at Johns Hopkins make the biggest impact by collaborating with others, including peers, mentors, and professors. Talk about a time, in or outside the classroom, when you worked with others and what you learned from the experience. (Up to 400 words).
Short answer (1): Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you. (Response required in about 150 words.)
Short answer (2): Please tell us how you have spent the last two summers (or vacations between school years), including any jobs you have held. (Response required in about 150 words.)
In addition to providing a few details, write an essay of about 500 words (no more than 650 words and no fewer than 250 words). Using one of the themes below as a starting point:
- Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.
- “One of the great challenges of our time is that the disparities we face today have more complex causes and point less straightforwardly to solutions.”
Omar Wasow, assistant professor of politics, Princeton University and co-founder of Blackplanet.com. This quote is taken from Professor Wasow’s January 2014 speech at the Martin Luther King Day celebration at Princeton University.
- “Culture is what presents us with the kinds of valuable things that can fill a life. And insofar as we can recognize the value in those things and make them part of our lives, our lives are meaningful.”
Gideon Rosen, Stuart Professor of Philosophy and director of the Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows, Princeton University.
- Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation, title and author at the beginning of your essay.
And engineers: [W]rite a 300-500 word essay describing why you are interested in studying engineering, any experiences in or exposure to engineering you have had and how you think the programs in engineering offered at Princeton suit your particular interests.
You may select one of the following prompts and write an essay of 250-650 words.
We live in an urban-global age with more than half of the planet’s people living in cities. Trinity College is an urban liberal arts college deeply engaged with the local community and committed to making an impact across the world. How do you aspire to use your education to impact local and global communities?
Our mission states: “Engage. Connect. Transform. As the preeminent liberal arts college in an urban setting, Trinity College prepares students to be bold, independent thinkers who lead transformative lives.” Keeping the three pillars of the mission in mind, how do you see yourself contributing to the Trinity community?
University of Chicago
Question 1 (Required): How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to U Chicago.
Question 2 (Optional): Share with us a few of your favorite books, poems, authors, films, plays, pieces of music, musicians, performers, paintings, artists, blogs, magazines, or newspapers. Feel free to touch on one, some, or all of the categories listed, or add a category of your own.
Choose one (required):
Essay Option 1: “The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.”–Joseph Joubert
Sometimes people talk a lot about popular subjects to assure ‘victory’ in conversation or understanding, and leave behind topics of less popularity, but great personal or intellectual importance. What do you think is important but under-discussed?
Essay Option 2: Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History…a full list of unmodified majors ready for your editor’s eye is available here: https//collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/academics/majors-minors.
Essay Option 3: Earth. Fire. Wind. Water. Heart! Captain Planet supposes that the world is made up of these five elements. We’re familiar with the previously-noted set and with actual elements like hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon, but select and explain another small group of things (say, under five) that you believe compose our world.
Essay Option 4: The late New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham once said “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you could do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.” Tell us about your “armor.”
Essay Option 5: Fans of the movie Sharknado say that they enjoy it because “it’s so bad, it’s good.” Certain automobile owners prefer classic cars because they “have more character.” And recently, vinyl record sales have skyrocketed because it is perceived that they have a warmer, fuller sound. Discuss something you love not in spite of but rather due to its quirks or imperfections.
Essay Option 6: In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose your own question or choose one of our past prompts. Be original, creative, thought provoking. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun.
University of Georgia
Here are the five essay questions, with Essay 1 being required and Essays 2-5 being four options from which the applicant selects one.
(Required) The college admissions process can create anxiety. In an attempt to make it less stressful, please tell us an interesting or amusing story about yourself that you have not already shared in your application.
Choose one of the following four:
- UGA’s 2017 Commencement speaker Ernie Johnson (Class of ’79) told a story from his youth about what he refers to as blackberry moments. He has described these as “the sweet moments that are right there to be had but we’re just too focused on what we’re doing …, and we see things that are right there within our reach and we neglect them. Blackberry moments can be anything that makes somebody else’s day, that makes your day, that are just sweet moments that you always remember.” Tell us about one of your “blackberry moments” from the past five years.
- Creativity is found in many forms including artistic avenues, intellectual pursuits, social interactions, innovative solutions, et cetera. Tell us how you express your creativity.
- Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
- Describe a problem, possibly related to your area of study, which you would like to solve. Explain its importance to you and what actions you would take to solve this issue.
- Explain your interest in the major you selected and describe how you have recently explored or developed this interest inside and/or outside the classroom. You may also explain how this major relates to your future career goals. If you’re applying to the Division of General Studies, explain your academic interests and strengths or your future career goals. You may include any majors or areas of study you’re currently considering. Limit your response to 300 to 400 words.
- If you select a second-choice major other than the Division of General Studies on your application, write a second essay explaining your interest in this major, too. Again, limit your response to 300 to 400 words.
Bonus: click here for even more 2017-18 essay supplements!