Every year, our office reviews the freshman application for changes that we would like to see for the next year. During this review, we also look at the short essay questions that are required for First Year applicants. Based on our review of the essays from last year, we are keeping the essay prompts the same as last year. We require one short essay that all applicants must complete, and four additional short essay topics with the applicant selecting to respond to one of these. These two essays should be between 200-300 words and remember to focus on substance and not word count. Before submitting your application and essays, always remember to proofread and edit! The First Year application will be available on September 1, but we thought that some people would want to know the essay prompts earlier than that date. Based on the essays we read last year, we do have one suggestion - Please remember your audience. For some reason, we had a large number of essays about bodily functions this year, and while these might be good stories for late night gatherings with friends, they might not be the best admission essays.
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 from your high school years that you have not already shared in your application.
Essays 2-5, Choose one of the following four:
- “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.
I have also included a sample essay from this past application cycle to give you an example of what we consider a strong essay, and it is from the "character" essay prompt.
It’s unassuming, the tiled top square table with mismatched chairs, its lacquer wearing thin from dishes being passed back and forth, room for four but always crowded by eleven. It may be unassuming but its power is undeniable.
As I grew older, the after-dinner conversations grew more intriguing to me. I began to stay and listen, to the politics I didn’t understand and the adult gossip I shouldn’t have been privy to. The dynamic of the debate shifted almost every time the topic changed, but the one thing that was consistent was that after all the plates were cleared and the chairs were pushed back in, everyone came together for dessert; pizzelles and biscotti. No afterthoughts, no bitterness.
I admire my family's ability to embrace each other for their differences, instead of letting it break us apart. There was no greater example of the lesson in acceptance than when my family learned of the change in sexuality of one of our relatives. After the dissolution of a marriage and a traditional family, the initial resentment towards her for the challenge to our family values was difficult to digest, yet unavoidable. It was the first dispute that ever brought tears to that weathered table with the peeling laquer. Instead of allowing differing lifestyles to drive a wedge between us, our family challenged each other's misconceptions, we discussed, we cried and we accepted.
Being raised in such a racially, economically and religiously diverse community, I am lucky to have developed the skill set to empathize with the people around me and understand that not everyone thinks the same way. In fact life would be pretty boring if everyone acted in uniformity; in a more harmonious world, everyone should be able to voice their opinions and speak their minds, and still come together for dessert. - Micaela B., Gaithersburg, MD