As a Senior Associate Director in the Barnard admissions office for eight years, I had the privilege of reading the college application essays of many wonderful Barnard applicants. Those that stood out had a fantastic sense of self, and were able to convey their personality through writing. It truly is a special community where women are encouraged to reach their potential. When writing your Barnard supplemental essays, it’s important to keep these ideas in mind. Here are the essay prompts for this year’s Barnard supplement with some of my thoughts on answering them:
What factors influenced your decision to apply to Barnard College and why do you think the College would be a good match for you? (100-250 words)
This is a standard “Why do you want to attend this college?” type of prompt. Anytime a college asks this type of question, the key to a great answer is to make it personal and specific to you. The college already knows why they are well-regarded, highly ranked, or prestigious and what their top-notch programs are; there is no need to tell them that in this essay. What they don’t know is how you, as a Barnard student, would use those resources. It requires a strong applicant to do her research and relate the classes or clubs they are interested in to their past experiences. Do you have a major in mind? Great! Research the major and name classes you would like to take or professors whose research intrigues you. Are you undecided? Also great, but make sure that undecided doesn’t come across as intellectually unengaged. You may not know your precise major yet, but be sure to convey a few academic areas that are currently piquing your interest. Basically, Barnard wants to know what type of student you see yourself as on their campus.
Pick one woman in history or fiction to converse with for an hour and explain your choice. What would you talk about? (100-250 words)
Barnard is very proud (rightly so!) of its long tradition as a women’s college. As such, they seek to empower young women to be leaders of tomorrow. The question is truly asking about the women who have inspired you in your life. Try to make your choice relevant to your interests. Are you a scientist, a dancer, a writer? Pick a woman who has motivated you in your field, but make sure you say why she is your inspiration. What qualities do you admire about her? What questions would you be dying to ask her? The woman you choose does not need to be a known women’s rights activist (in fact, many applicants pick famous feminists, so that choice may not distinguish you), but they do need to have character traits that you admire and can relate back to your past experiences. For example, if the woman you pick is an excellent public speaker, and you admire that trait because you have developed your speaking skills through your involvement in high school debate, make that connection in this essay.
Barnard women seek to make a difference in their community, whether through the residence hall, classes, clubs, volunteer work or a part-time job they hold. Describe how you make a difference in your community and what you have learned from that experience. In what ways do you see yourself contributing to the community at Barnard, inside or outside of the classroom? (100-250 words)
Barnard is committed to fostering young women who are difference makers, those who see a problem and take action to rectify it. Make sure to answer both parts of this question. First, what have you already done to make a difference in your community, and second, how will you seek to make a difference at Barnard? Again, this essay requires research and thoughtfulness. Great answers do not have to be the traditional community service route (many weren’t when I read!), but often dealt with the impact that a student had on an issue in high school. Think about ways in which you better the activities you are involved in. Are you the organizer, the “rally the troops” type, or the “glue” student that holds everyone else together? Your impact could be in activities, or academics, or in your community, but make sure to convey your role and how you wish to bring that strength to Barnard.
Finally, when you are all done with all three essays, take another look. Stand out supplements often told about several facets of the student’s life, not just one repetitive theme throughout all three responses. One essay might be academic, another more personal, and the third more activities based—but together they gave a fuller picture of the applicant.
Good luck with these college application essay questions, and may you be on your way to becoming your own strong, beautiful, Barnard woman.
Of all the supplemental college essays out there, the “Why Us?” essay is the most difficult to master, especially when you have to write one for each school on your college list. So, how do you convince admissions officers at each college you belong there, while staying true to yourself?
With AdmitSee’s database of successful application files we will show you essay examples that address key elements every “Why Us” supplemental essay should include.
1. Example with a UMich Essay Excerpt
It’s essential to talk about the school you’re applying to. After all, you are answering the question “Why Us”? What makes this specific school you’re applying to stand out from others?
- Talk about your academic interests and how the school you’re applying can help you explore that
- Be specific about the academic programs at the university
- Are these academic programs unique? Are they the best? If there’s other schools have this program, why theirs?
“Throughout high school, I discovered that I enjoy a variety of subjects; therefore, I am entering Michigan with an undeclared major. However, I am not exactly undecided; rather, I am multi-interested. I love the areas of mathematics and statistics, yet the economy and government fascinates me as well. Still, the field of art history beckons me, and luckily the University of Michigan has enough museums to pursue endless hours of thorough art appreciation. Thankfully, LSA allows me to explore a plethora of majors found in the various colleges of the University of Michigan. With forty top ten programs, no matter what major I ultimately chose, I can feel assured that I will be working with the most talented and experienced faculty. In addition, University of Michigan’s research program, one of the best in the United States, will allow me to make discoveries and contributions as an undergraduate student. The University of Michigan is the ideal school for me, and has been my number one since I first saw the maize and blue uniforms take Michigan Stadium by storm.” – MichiganMath, ‘19
In this excerpt, the author starts by talking her interests in a number of fields, thereby leading her to show off her knowledge about UMich’s academic programs. She is concise about how each of her interest can be furthered by the opportunities that University of Michigan can offer her if she’s accepted. In a paragraph, she demonstrated how her interests and resources at UMich are an ideal match without simply regurgitating informative facts about UMich.
2. Example with a Barnard Essay Excerpt
Don’t forget this is a part of your college application! Every supplement you send in should provide another perspective of who you are.
- This is another opportunity for you to highlight something about yourself that you weren’t able to in our common app personal statement
- What other information about yourself will help paint a full picture of who you are in your application?
“Not only is NYC an incredibly diverse place, but Barnard is as well. The unique backgrounds of its community members create a compelling dynamic in and out of the classroom. I grew up in a half French and half Chinese household, which gave me a very different perspective than a lot of my peers. My father grew up in France, then immigrated to San Francisco after living in the Congo. My mother grew up in China, then immigrated to Wisconsin after living in Nigeria. Throughout my childhood, I was lucky enough to be able to learn multiple points of views from my parents because of their unique backgrounds, leading to a fascinating upbringing which I believe Barnard students possess as well.” –ccg32, ‘19
The author of this excerpt draws a parallel between the diverse background of NYC and her own. She uses this opportunity to share how incredibly diverse her family background is and what that has done for her. In fact, she’s able to share this intimate detail to connect to the community of Barnard students, again pointing out she’s an ideal prospective student.
3. Examples with NYU Excerpt
Finally, think about this supplemental essay as a way to express how compatible you are with the college you are applying to.
- You can talk about university programs in relation to your interests, but you can also connect it to something about you.
- This is how you connect point 1 + 2
“Never have I encountered an atmosphere so invigorating and so impassioned as I found during my visit to NYU. It is this passion that unites the urban campus and forms a profound sense of unity within its diversity. I could want nothing more than to one day call myself a part of this motivational community, building relationships with people who share my passion for helping others and who will both value my talents as well as challenge me to grow. As a student at NYU, I could continue my tutoring and mentoring work through the university’s America Reads program or explore my love for travelling while providing invaluable aid as a part of the unique option for alternative breaks. Regardless of what path I find myself taking as NYU opens my eyes to growth and change, I know that an education and an experience spent in such a special community is one that has the potential to change my life and make an everlasting impact.” – Katiedolci ‘19
Here you see the author use the university’s programs and unique offerings to demonstrate the author’s own interests and passion. She explicitly mentions programs that NYU offers to highlight the extracurriculars she’s been involved with. By doing so, she has also subtly emphasized her compassionate nature and desire to help others not only in the area she studies, but in her free time as well.
Want to see more successful examples? AdmitSee has the largest database of successful college application files to help you through the admission season. View full college essays in the context of the rest of their application to better understand how to craft the best version of yours.
About Frances Wong
A math major turned growth hacker, Frances has worked in PR and marketing in Hong Kong, New York and San Francisco. AdmitSee is her third edtech startup, coming from Course Hero and Purpella. Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. Fun Fact: Frances was a certified and licensed EMT during her time at Georgetown.
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