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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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A Brilliant Brandeis Essay Example

What’s Covered:


Brandeis University is a close-knit, medium-sized private research university that has a nonsectarian affiliation with the Jewish community. Brandeis is a selective school, so writing strong essays is essential for gaining admission.


In this post, we’ll take a look at a supplemental essay that an accepted student submitted to Brandeis University. We’ll analyze its strengths, ways it could be improved, and how you can use this example to make your own essay stand out. (Note: the names and identifying information of the accepted student have been changed, but all other details are preserved). 


Read our Brandeis essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.


Alexander Oddo, an expert advisor on CollegeVine, provided commentary on this post. Advisors offer one-on-one guidance on everything from essays to test prep to financial aid. If you want help writing your essays or feedback on drafts, book a consultation with Alexander Oddo or another skilled advisor.


Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized.


Brandeis Essay Example – Critical Thinking


Prompt: The Brandeis community is a diverse group of critical thinkers defined by their ability to dive deeper into their learning by questioning, analyzing, evaluating, creating, critiquing and seeking other perspectives. Share an example of how you have used your own critical thinking skills on a specific subject, project, idea or interest. (250 words)


A requirement for graduation at my school is to complete an extensive senior project that includes an in-depth paper, an artistic component, and a presentation at the end of the process. I knew right away that I wanted to write about women’s rights, given my strong passion and advocacy, and I eventually condensed my interest into a project about abortion rights.


Soon after I started researching, I began to feel insecure about picking such a polarized topic. Throughout my process, I have had to learn to navigate being objective regarding a topic that is mainly guided by opinion. Putting my own opinions aside, I embarked on gathering my own data through self-made surveys and interviews. I listened to the voices of people of all ages and identities in order to gain a well-rounded sense of my topic. I now understand that it goes much deeper than just a “red” or “blue” opinion. As a result of my research, I feel comfortable handling such a nuanced and sensitive topic. 


My senior project research has truly challenged me academically and personally, and has taught me some of the essential skills a person interested in politics needs in order to succeed. By seeking other perspectives, I have learned to engage with others’ opinions in an objective way, and feel I now have the tools to educate people on this important topic.


What the Essay Did Well


This essay does a good job of highlighting the writer’s critical thinking skills by showing rather than telling. Instead of restating the prompt and answering it directly, they use narrative to paint a picture of the writer’s thinking with words.


The narrative begins with a hook — that is, an opening that catches the reader off guard. The first sentence of the essay is about the writer’s senior project, which is not the topic you would typically expect a personal essay to start with. Once it captures the reader’s attention, it quickly connects the senior project to the author and sets the stage for the whole essay. This is a great model for how to write an effective, yet succinct introduction.


The next paragraph contains the action of the essay. It lists a series of steps the writer took to dive deep into their learning. Rather than formally restating the prompt with phrases such as, “I questioned what certain age groups thought and then analyzed the data,” the writer uses specific examples to show how they sought other perspectives. Creative language, such as the metaphor of “red” and “blue” opinions, makes these examples come alive. 


Your conclusion should tie back to the introduction, and this essay shows an example of that. The conclusion begins by mentioning the senior project, and then it ends by neatly summarizing the project’s impact on the writer. This is key, since many applicants spend too much time discussing an activity they participated in without relating it back to themselves. This essay, however, is focused on the writer’s thinking skills from beginning to end.


What Could Be Improved


The main issue with this essay is that it does not go into enough detail about what the writer wants to do with their thinking skills in the future. The last sentence of the second paragraph would be more effective if it broached into this. For example, it could be changed to the following: “As a result of my research, I feel more prepared to handle nuanced and sensitive topics as I continue my women’s advocacy work.”


Similarly, the conclusion could be more specific about the writer’s future aspirations. Colleges are not looking for you to know your exact career plan in high school and stick to it, but they do want you to pitch them a rough idea. This essay would benefit from a conclusion that went along the lines of: “My senior project research…has taught me some of the essential skills a person interested in [working for grassroots women’s rights advocacy organizations] needs in order to succeed.”


Where to Get Feedback on Your Essay 


Do you want feedback on your Brandeis essay? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 


If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.