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How to Tackle the Northwestern Supplement Essay for 2014-15
Note: this blog post has been updated for the 2015-2016 application cycle. To view the most recent version, click here.
Featuring six different undergraduate schools, Northwestern University is located in Evanston, Illinois. Home to over 9,000 undergraduates, the Mid-Western school boasts a wide variety of course offerings and top-of-the-field research opportunities. With an acceptance rate of less than 14% and a top 15 ranking according to the Admissions Hero College Rankings list, it’s no wonder that NU is so popular among seniors each year.
Luckily for Wildcat hopefuls who are pressed for time, the Northwestern writing supplement only consists of one question. However, your essay must accordingly be solid in order to gain the attention of admissions officers. Let’s take a look at how to best tackle the NU essay:
What are the unique qualities of Northwestern – and of the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying – that make you want to attend the University? In what ways do you hope to take advantage of the qualities you have identified? (300 word maximum)
Before writing anything, you should first decide where within the university you are applying. The six specific undergraduate schools in question are:
1. The College of Arts and Sciences,
2. The School of Journalism,
3. The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences,
4. The School of Communication,
5. The School of Music, and
6. The School of Education and Social Policy.
Once you’ve made your choice, it’s time to do some research on Northwestern and the specific program you’ve chosen. Try looking at the Northwestern website, visiting the campus, and/or if you are fortunate enough to know somebody who goes there, ask them some questions about their experiences. The end goal is to be able to include explicit evidence in your essay to demonstrate your interest in Northwestern, so if necessary you should take notes as you research.
When writing the actual essay, make sure to interweave your own experiences in Journalism, Music, Engineering, etc. with your knowledge of the school. For example, if your essay talks about how you are the editor of your school newspaper, then you might want to mention how a journalism class at NU perfectly fits your interests because of that one intense journalism incident that happened during second semester junior year. Or if you are interested in Engineering and have done research at a material science lab, you can talk about how Northwestern’s Professor X’s work on finding new polymers for industrial use is particularly intriguing to you.
Feel free to mention multiple aspects of NU that you like—especially for students who have varied interests (for example, music and engineering), you can use this type of “cross-interest” discussion to demonstrate even more knowledge of the school, making you seem like an even better fit for the school.
Finally, remember to keep the essay short—this prompt is still essentially just a “Why Northwestern?” question that is so popular among colleges’ writing supplements. In order to really shine in the admissions process at NU, having a strong Common App essay is imperative.