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Type 2: Questions About How You Would Fit Into the Community

Examples: UW-Madison, FIU, UCF

When admissions committees evaluate applicants, they consider how a student would
contribute to the college as a whole. These questions ask you to explain what you
would bring to the colleges community and how you would fit in with its values.
Below is an example from UW-Madison.

Tell us why you decided to apply to the University of WisconsinMadison. In addition,

share with us the academic, extracurricular, or research opportunities you would take
advantage of as a student. If applicable, provide details of any circumstance that
could have had an impact on your academic performance and/or extracurricular
To address this type of prompt, youll want to give specific examples of how you
embody the traits theyre looking for or what benefits youd provide to the
schools community. Some prompts will ask you to address more specific ideas about
the school than others, but it's always a good idea to touch on the individual school's
values or philosophy.

Balancing talking about your experiences and traits with describing what excites
you about the school can be tricky, but it's vital that you touch on both. If you
don't talk about yourself, you're missing your chance to give the admissions committee
a sense of who you are and how you would fit in to their community. And if you don't
discuss the school itself, you risk coming off as uninterested. Make sure to do both.

So you need a clear introduction that gives a pretty clear idea of where you will be going
in the essay and a conclusion that wraps everything up and makes your main point

However, how you approach the middle part is up to you. You could structure your
essay more like a narrative, relating an important experience from your life. You could
use an extended analogy, where each paragraph is a part of the analogy. You want to
adhere broadly to the wisdom that each paragraph should have an identifiable main
idea, but a college essay is definitely a great chance to break free from the five-
paragraph essay.

Have a Standout First Sentence

One thing you can do to give any essay a boost is to make sure that your first
sentence is attention-grabbing. If you can pique the interest of the admissions
counselor right away, youll help keep their attention throughout your essay.
1. Organizing
2. Brainstorming

Think About How You See Yourself

The last brainstorming method is to consider whether there are particular personality
traits you want to highlight. This approach can feel rather silly, but it can also be very

If you were trying to sell yourself to an employer, or maybe even a potential date, how
would you do it? Try to think about specific qualities that make you stand out. What are
some situations in which you exhibited this trait?

Consider Important Experiences, Events, and Ideas in Your Life

What experience, talent, interest or other quirk do you have that you might want to
share with colleges? In other words, what makes you you? Possible topics include
hobbies, extracurriculars, intellectual interests, jobs, significant one-time events, pieces
of family history, or anything else that has shaped your perspective on life.

Unexpected or slightly unusual topics are often the best: your passionate love of
Korean dramas or your yearly family road trip to an important historical site.

3. Picking a topic
4. Making a plan

The best essays are focused, detailed, revealing and insightful, and finding the
right topic is vital to writing a killer essay with all of those qualities.

your topic needs to have had a genuine effect on your outlook

find a short anecdote or single idea to explore in depth.

specific details are what imbue your essay with your personality.

5. Writing a draft

Depending on your topic, it might make more sense to build your essay around an
especially meaningful object, relationship, or idea.

The simplest way to restrict the scope of your essay is to recount an anecdote

Start in the middle of the action. Don't spend a lot of time at the beginning of
your essay outlining background info it doesn't tend to draw the reader in and
you usually need less of it than you think you do. Instead start right where your
story starts to get interesting. (I'll go into how to craft an intriguing opener in more
depth below.)

Briefly explain what the situation is. Now that you've got the reader's attention,
go back and explain anything they need to know about how you got into this
situation. Don't feel compelled to fit everything in only include the background
details that are necessary to either understand what happened or illuminate your
feelings about the situation in some way.

Finish the story. Once you've clarified exactly what's going on, explain how you
resolved the conflict or concluded the experience.

Explain what you learned. The last step is to tie everything together and bring
home the main point of your story: how this experience affected you.

the thematic structure, which is based on returning to a key idea or object again
and again (like the boots example above):

Establish the focus. If you're going to structure your essay around a single
theme or object, you need to begin the essay by introducing that key thing. You
can do so with a relevant anecdote or a detailed description.

Touch on 3 - 5 times the focus was important. The body of your essay will
consist of stringing together a few important moments related to the topic. Make
sure to use sensory details to bring the reader into those points in time and keep
her engaged in the essay. Also remember to elucidate why these moments were
important to you.

Revisit the main idea. At the end, you want to tie everything together by
revisiting the main idea or object and showing how your relationship to it
has shaped or affected you. Ideally, you'll also hint at how this thing will be
important to you going forward.

6. Editing your draft

7. Finalizing your draft

Second Pass

After incorporating any helpful feedback you got from others, you should now have a
nearly complete draft with a clear arc.

At this point you want to look for issues with word choice and sentence structure:
Are there parts that seem stilted or overly formal?

Do you have any vague or boring descriptors that could be replaced with
something more interesting and specific?

Are there any obvious redundancies or repetitiveness?

Have you misused any words?

Are your sentences of varied length and structure?

8. Repeating the process

Prompt 1: A Key Piece of Your Story

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful

they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you,
then please share your story.

What Is It Asking?

This prompt is very broad. Is there something you do or love, or something that
happened to you, that isnt reflected elsewhere in your application but that you feel
is vital to your personal story? Then this prompt could be a good one for you.

The key is that whatever you write about needs to be genuinely important to you
personally, not just something you think will look good to the admissions committee.
You need to clarify why this story is so important that you couldn't leave it out of
your application.

What Do They Want to Know?

This question is really about showing admissions officers how your background has
shaped you. Can you learn and grow from your experiences?

By identifying an experience or trait that is vital to your story, you're also

showing what kind of person you see yourself as do you value your leadership
abilities or your determination to overcome challenges? Your intellectual curiosity or
your artistic talent? Everyone has more than one important trait, but in answering this
prompt, you're telling admissions officers what you think is your most significant

What Kind of Topics Could Work?

You could write about almost anything for this prompt: an unexpected interest, a
particularly consuming hobby, a part of your family history, or a life-changing event.
Make sure to narrow in on something specific, though. You don't have room to tell your
whole life story.

Your topic can be serious or silly, as long as it's important to you. Just remember
that it needs to showcase a deeper quality of yours.

For example, if I were writing an essay on this topic, I would probably write about my
life-long obsession with books. I'd start with a story about how my parents worried I read
to much as a kid, give some specific examples of things I've learned from particular
books, and talk about how my enthusiasm for reading was so extreme it sometimes
interfered with my actual life (like the time I tripped and fell because I couldn't be
bothered to put down my book long enough to walk from my room to the kitchen). Then
I would tie it all together by explaining how my love of reading has taught me to look for
ideas in unexpected places.

What Should You Avoid?

You don't want your essay to read like a resume: it shouldn't be a list of
accomplishments. Remember that your essay needs to add something to the rest of
your application, so it also shouldn't focus on something you've already covered unless
you have a really different take on it.

Also try to avoid generic and broad topics: you don't want your essay to feel like it
could've been written by any student. As I touched on above, one way to avoid this
problem is to be very specific rather than writing generally about your experience as
the child of immigrants you might tell a story about a specific family ritual or meaningful

Prompt 2: Coping With Obstacles

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later

success. Recount an incident or time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure.
How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
What Is It Asking?

This prompt is pretty straightforward. It's asking you describe a challenge or obstacle
you faced or a time you failed and how you dealt with it.

The part many students forget is the second half: what lessons did you learn from
your challenge or failure? If you take on this question you must show how you grew
from the experience and, ideally, how you incorporated what you learned into other

What Do They Want to Know?

This question really raises two issues: how you handle difficult situations and whether
you are capable of learning from your mistakes.

You'll face a lot of challenges in college, both academic and social. In addressing this
prompt, you have the opportunity to show admissions officers that you can deal with
hardships without just giving up.

You also need to show that you can learn from challenges and mistakes. Can you find
a positive lesson in a negative experience? Colleges want to see an example of how
you've done so.

What Kind of Topics Could Work?

Good topics will be specific and have a clearly explained impact on your
perspective. You need to address both parts of the question: the experience of facing
the challenge and what you learned from it.

However, almost any kind of obstacle, challenge, or failure, large or small, can work:

Doing poorly at a job interview and how that taught you to deal with nerves
Failing a class and how retaking it taught you better study skills
Directing a school play when the set collapsed and how it taught you to stay cool under
pressure and think on your feet
What Should You Avoid?

Make sure you pick an actual failure or challenge don't turn your essay into a
humblebrag. How you failed at procrastination because you're just so organized or
how you've been challenged by the high expectations of teachers at school because
everyone knows you are so smart are not appropriate topics.

Also, don't write about something completely negative. Your response needs to
show that you got something out of your challenge or failure and that you've learned
skills to apply to other situations.