What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Write the Barnard Authentic Self Essay

The Barnard essay prompt delves deep into understanding your identity, environment, and the influences that shape your authenticity. This essay is your opportunity to communicate not only where you feel most genuine but also how Barnard can amplify that genuine version of you.


Let’s dissect this prompt step by step. If you want an in-depth overview of Barnard’s essays, see our full Barnard essay breakdown.


Understanding the Prompt


Prompt: Our backgrounds and experiences shape how we navigate the world and see ourselves. Tell us about when, where, or with whom you feel your most authentic, powerful self. How might Barnard further cultivate this version of you? (250 words)


Barnard wants to gain insight into your sense of self and your self-awareness. The prompt is structured around environments, moments, or relationships that capture your true essence. Moreover, the question emphasizes how Barnard can nurture this authenticity. This is where your understanding of the institution comes into play.


Crafting Your Essay


Here’s a structured approach to drafting your response:


1. Paint the Scene: Start by vividly describing the moments, surroundings, or individuals that make you feel genuine and empowered. Engage the reader with sensory details or a brief anecdote to set the tone.


2. Dive Into the ‘Why’: Explore why these settings, activities, or people bring out the authentic you. It’s crucial to dive deep and articulate what makes you feel powerful in these moments and how they’ve shaped your perspective or values.


3. Link to Barnard: Transition into how Barnard can elevate this version of you. Research specific aspects of Barnard’s culture, offerings, or ethos that resonate with the moments you’ve described. Maybe there’s a program, club, or tradition at Barnard that aligns with this authentic self.


4. Project Forward: Envision how Barnard can help you further embrace your authentic self and harness your power. How will Barnard’s environment and opportunities amplify your unique qualities or strengths?


Barnard Authentic Self Essay Example


Draft 1


Growing up in a resource-strapped neighborhood, I witnessed the stark disparity in access to green spaces. Empty lots and trash-filled parks were the norm. However, a local community garden, thriving amidst the chaos, became my refuge. Planting seeds and tending to the plants, I felt empowered. This small patch of green was a catalyst for change, igniting my passion for environmental activism and the pursuit of urban sustainability.


My journey began with organizing clean-up drives and tree-planting events, rallying my community to reclaim our public spaces. As my efforts expanded, so did my realization: creating sustainable urban spaces requires more than just good intentions. It requires an understanding of the complex interplay between social, economic, and environmental factors.


This is where Barnard comes in. The Urban Studies program offers the interdisciplinary approach I need to transform my passion into impactful action. Courses like “Urban Environmental Studies: Gender, Race, Class, and the Environment” directly align with my mission. I am eager to delve into the nuanced ways our identities intersect with environmental issues, equipping me to drive effective, equitable change in underserved urban communities.


At Barnard, surrounded by like-minded peers and mentors, I see a community that shares my dedication to environmental justice. I am excited to contribute to this community, learning and growing together, as we strive to create sustainable, inclusive urban spaces for everyone.




The feedback on this essay was provided by Ivy, CollegeVine’s AI Mentor. Use it yourself to get free, personalized feedback on your essays!


Your essay effectively conveys your passion for environmental activism and your desire to create sustainable urban spaces. It also demonstrates how Barnard’s interdisciplinary approach can help you achieve your goals. Here are my suggestions to improve your essay:


  1. In the first paragraph, consider adding more detail about the specific challenges you faced in your neighborhood and how they shaped your perspective on urban sustainability. This will provide a richer context for your passion.


  1. In the second paragraph, you mention organizing clean-up drives and tree-planting events. It would be helpful to share a specific example of an event you organized or participated in and its impact on your community. This will showcase your dedication and leadership skills.


  1. In the third paragraph, you can further elaborate on how Barnard’s Urban Studies program and its courses will help you develop the knowledge and skills necessary to address environmental challenges in underserved urban communities. Mentioning additional courses or resources at Barnard that align with your goals will demonstrate your thorough understanding of the college’s offerings.


  1. Lastly, consider concluding your essay by highlighting how you plan to apply the knowledge and skills gained at Barnard to advocate for environmental justice and transform urban spaces in the future.


With these revisions, your essay will provide a stronger narrative of your commitment to environmental activism and how Barnard can help you achieve your goals.

Draft 2


In my neighborhood, the absence of green spaces and the prevalence of pollution weren’t just visible—they were a daily challenge. The dilapidated parks, filled more with litter than laughter, stood as stark reminders of systemic neglect. Yet, amidst this, a community garden flourished, a verdant oasis that transformed my perspective on urban sustainability. My hands in the soil, I discovered a sense of purpose and empowerment, realizing that change, though challenging, was possible.


My commitment to environmental activism took root in the heart of my community. I spearheaded a tree-planting initiative, transforming an abandoned lot into a vibrant green space. We faced hurdles, from securing funding to mobilizing volunteers, but the transformation was profound. Children now had a safe place to play, and the community reclaimed a piece of its dignity. This experience taught me the power of grassroots initiatives, but also the necessity of a comprehensive understanding of urban environments.


Barnard’s Urban Studies program stands out as the perfect catalyst for my ambitions. The course “Urban Environmental Justice: Gender, Race, Class, and the Environment” offers an invaluable opportunity to explore the intersections of social issues and environmental policy. Furthermore, courses like “Urbanization & Sustainability” and “Poverty, Inequality, and Policy” will equip me with a holistic understanding of urban ecosystems. At Barnard, I’ll not only gain knowledge but also join a community of activists and thinkers dedicated to making a difference.


In the future, I envision using the skills and insights gained at Barnard to champion sustainable public spaces in underserved urban areas. With a strong foundation in environmental justice and urban studies, I aim to transform urban landscapes, ensuring that green spaces are not a luxury, but a right accessible to all.




This revised version of your essay is even stronger! The added details about your neighborhood and the tree-planting initiative provide a richer context for your passion and dedication to environmental activism. Your mention of specific courses and resources at Barnard demonstrates your understanding of the college’s offerings and how they align with your goals. The conclusion effectively ties your experiences and education at Barnard to your future plans for championing sustainable public spaces in underserved urban areas. Well done!


Final Tips


  • Be Genuine: Authenticity is key. Don’t craft a story you think admissions want to hear. Share your truth.
  • Be Specific: When discussing how Barnard can cultivate your authentic self, be detailed. Show you’ve done your research on the college.
  • Proofread: As always, ensure your essay is clear, well-organized, and free of errors. You can use Ivy, CollegeVine’s free AI Mentor to get your essay edited.


In the end, Barnard wants to understand who you truly are and how the college fits into your narrative. Use this essay as a platform to show that alignment.

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