A. Essay (Required)
At the University of Washington, we consider the college essay as our opportunity to see the person behind the transcripts and the numbers. Some of the best statements are written as personal stories. In general, concise, straightforward writing is best, and that good essays are often 300 to 400 words in length.
Maximum length: 500 words
The UW will accept any of the five Coalition prompts.
Choose from the options listed below.
- Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
- Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
- Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
- What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give younger siblings or friends (assuming they would listen to you)?
- Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.
B. Short Response (Required)
Maximum length: 300 words
Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the University of Washington.
Keep in mind that the University of Washington strives to create a community of students richly diverse in cultural backgrounds, experiences, values, and viewpoints.
C. Additional Information About Yourself or Your Circumstances (Optional)
Maximum length: 200 words
You are not required to write anything in this section, but you may include additional information if something has particular significance to you. For example, you may use this space if:
- You are hoping to be placed in a specific major soon
- A personal or professional goal is particularly important to you
- You have experienced personal hardships in attaining your education
- Your activities have been limited because of work or family obligations
- You have experienced unusual limitations or opportunities unique to the schools you attended
D. Additional Space (Optional)
You may use this space if you need to further explain or clarify answers you have given elsewhere in this application, or if you wish to share information that may assist the Office of Admissions. If appropriate, include the application question number to which your comment(s) refer.
Format for the essays
- Content is important, but spelling, grammar, and punctuation are also considered.
- We recommend composing in advance, then copy and paste into the application. Double-spacing, italics, and other formatting will be lost, but this will not affect the evaluation of your application.
- We’ve observed that most students write a polished formal essay yet submit a more casual Short Response. Give every part of the writing responses your very best effort, presenting yourself in standard, formal English.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread!
- Write like it matters, not like you’re texting. This is an application for college, not a message to your BFF. Writing i instead of I, cant for cannot, u r for you are: not so kewl.
Like many other institutions, the university utilizes the “Why X School?” prompt. Similarly, the real reason why schools like SMU use this prompt is because they want to separate applicants that are truly passionate about attending their school. In general, there aren’t many ways to mess up these types of essays, barring major grammatical errors and saying offensive things; however, one thing that distinguishes a mediocre essay from an exceptional essay is specificity. The more specific your response, the more compelling it will be.
Generic statements like “I heard the business program is strong” and “the location is nice” are too broad and could apply to hundreds of universities all over the U.S.
Be specific. Instead of listing a generic statement such as “The business school is strong,” write something specific to SMU that led you to apply there.
For example, you could write:
To be considered for the Hunt Leadership Scholarship would allow me to surround myself with fellow goal-oriented individuals that would prepare me to become an executive of my own business.
In these types of essays, it is important to weave in details about yourself that highlight your unique qualities and ultimate viability as a candidate. In the example above, mentioning the Hunt Leadership scholarship shows that you have researched and taken interest in a particular aspect of the university, as well as indicating that you have leadership experience.
However, it is better to further elaborate on the essay by including specific personal information about yourself that places you in the best light possible. Show, rather than tell, the admissions officers specific things about yourself that highlight traits that would make you a good fit for the college. Be careful when you write that you actually deepen your points. A deceptively weak example of this could be: “The kids I have babysat convinced me that SMU is the best school in the U.S. — I’ve spent many late nights talking about SMU and UT football and hearing about their parents’ experience with the school as well.”
Although this example does show some interest in the school and college admissions process, it could be applied to any school. In this particular example, you should focus on what the kids could have said to convince you that the school was the best school in the U.S., or whatever reason else attracts you to SMU. It’s important here to use strong, descriptive language.
Here is a stronger example that uses a similar concept:
Listening to the children I babysat rave about their parents’ experiencing Boulevarding on game day 30 years later with their freshman roommate, and hearing the parents themselves talk about their jealousy that students would have the chance to debate on economic theory with Professor Santanu Roy, made me excited to attend a school where pride, spirit, and intellectual curiosity run deep.
This example describes specifically what experiences SMU would provide — Boulevarding with your roommates on game day — as well as demonstrate that you are excited to attend the university specifically by mentioning the economics professor, Santanu Roy. Regardless of the school you apply to, you need to add information specific to that school, and in this example, talking about a certain football tradition or economics professor indicates that you are thoroughly interested in the university.
An example like this demonstrates genuine interest and shows why you would be a good fit for the school, while also showing your enthusiasm to attend.
The prompt explicitly says to describe “specific” factors that led you to apply to SMU, so follow directions! Is it family ties? The opportunity to move from your busy city life on the East Coast to a smaller setting in Texas? The more specific you are, the better.