College admissions counselors try very hard to get to know the students who apply to their university. They truly want to understand what makes each kid tick, what they think about, what is important to them. All these things can be conveyed via the various essays that each school requires.
We’ve been looking at various essay categories in past blogs. Another type of essay tries to discern whether the student has an intellectual vitality, a strong desire to learn and grow. Let’s look at a few examples of this type of essay prompt:
1. Stanford students possess an intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development. (250 words max)
2. What matters to you, and why?
3. Consider the following scenario: You’ve been given the unique opportunity to create a brand new course to be offered at Pepperdine University. You have complete autonomy over the course topic, as well as how and where the course curriculum will be presented. What course would you create and how will it contribute to the academic and co-curricular experience at the University? (300 word limit)
4. What has sparked your curiosity in the past year?
Closely related are essays that gauge a student’s ability to grapple with tough scholarly topics.
In addition to the essay you have written for the Common Application, please select one of the following themes and write an essay of about 500 words in response. Please do not repeat, in full or in part, the essay you wrote for the Common Application.
1. Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.
2. Using the following quotation from “The Moral Obligations of Living in a Democratic Society” 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. “Empathy is not simply a matter of trying to imagine what others are going through, but having the will to muster enough courage to do something about it. In a way, empathy is predicated upon hope.” – Cornel West, Class of 1943 University Professor in the Center for African American Studies, Princeton University
3. 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 at the beginning of your essay.
These essay prompts force students to deal with deep issues and help admissions officers know if kids are ready for the rigor of a particular university. They don’t want to set students up to fail by accepting someone who can’t juggle the intense demands of the school. However, students should also keep in mind that admission officers are not professors. All essays should be written for a lay audience, not a specialist.
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