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How to Write Colgate University’s 2016-2017 Essays



Located in the small town of Hamilton, New York, Colgate University is a top liberal arts college that balances strong academics with exciting extracurricular and social opportunities. Known for its fantastic liberal arts curriculum, Colgate boasts 54 undergraduate concentrations and a stellar faculty committed to providing an undergraduate population of approximately 2,927 students with a top-tier education.


Colgate University also offers spectacular off-campus academic experiences: Roughly two-thirds of students choose to study abroad. This is facilitated in part by the school’s unique offerings of study groups, that allow students to “study off campus for a semester while immersing them in new cultures, perspectives, and experiences.” Each study group is focused on a specific academic subject, and the university offers groups located across the United States and around the globe.


Colgate University also allows students the opportunity to take classes at the nearby Hamilton College, another top-tier liberal arts school. Colgate also has a core curriculum program, which is “recognized as one of the most ambitious and elegant general education programs in the country.” By their sophomore year, students are expected to take the four core classes: Legacies of the Ancient World, Challenges of Modernity, Communities and Identities, and Scientific Perspectives of the World.


In addition to the core curriculum, students must take one of the “Global Engagements” designated classes, which focus on the impact of cross-cultural interaction. And, in order to ensure that students graduate as well-rounded scholars, Colgate has an Areas of Inquiry requirement that ensures that students take six courses in three areas: Human Thought and Expression; Social Relations, Institution, and Agents; and Natural Sciences and Mathematics.


Apart from a strong focus on exemplary academics, the university also has what many students describe as a dynamic social scene. Greek life is big on this campus, and almost half of all sophomores, juniors, and seniors are affiliated with a fraternity or sorority.


Colgate also offers a variety of cocurricular and extracurricular options for students. The school currently boasts 260+ extracurricular organizations, ranging from student government groups to special interest clubs and beyond. The distinctive Colgate Outdoor Education Program allows students of all years and skill levels to get out of the classroom and explore the great outdoors in various capacities.


For these reasons and more, Colgate University is a top choice for many students. However, admission to this liberal arts college is quite competitive. Last admissions cycle, It received 8,394 applicants, and of those, they accepted 28.7%. In order to improve your chances of being accepted, you need a fantastic essay to help you stand out. In this blog post, we’ll be breaking down the Colgate University essay prompt in order to help you maximize your chances at acceptance.


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Colgate University Application Essay Prompt


At Colgate we strive to foster an inclusive community. Please discuss how your life experiences, family background, and/or culture has helped to shape you as a person. It would be especially helpful if you would also reflect on an experience which demonstrated your character and personal values. (Maximum 250 words)


Before we delve into answering this question, it is important to keep in mind Colgate’s identity as a school. It has a great reputation of being particularly open, inclusive, and tolerant. For example, in the past the university has been ranked among the top 100 schools for LGBT+ students.


Given that its culture is known for its tolerance and open-mindedness, it is critical that new additions to this community bear the same kind of cross-cultural respect, willingness to understand, and tolerance for others. These are the kinds of character traits and personal values you want to emphasize in your essay.


That being said, you may be wondering how to elucidate these kinds of traits in the essay itself. Note that Colgate has already outlined the exact kinds of topics they want you to discuss: life experiences, family background, and/or culture.


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The prompt is slightly restrictive in that there isn’t much room to expand on topics outside of these three main subjects; while you can certainly be as creative and interpretive as you see fit, the language used in this prompt doesn’t leave much room for ambiguity. Thus, it’s safest to stick to one or more of these three focuses.


You should also note that the school encourages applicants to discuss how these specific experiences should have demonstrated their character and personal values, not only how they formed them. This is an important distinction to make, as a potential applicant may be initially tempted to only discuss how their specific background allowed them to develop character traits pertinent to the theme of inclusivity.


This is not exactly what Colgate University wants. They are looking to see an experience that has tested, proven, or demonstrated these kinds of character traits or personal values, in addition to learning how your specific background has allowed you to form those values.


In other words, they want to see those values in action. It is not enough to simply tell admissions officers that because you were raised in an immigrant household, today you are a person who is tolerant of individuals from all walks of life. That’s certainly a good starting point, but Colgate wants you to show that tolerance — they don’t just want to hear about it. You need to focus on a time when that tolerance was put to the test or otherwise proven.


For instance, you could focus on a time when you came into contact with someone from a background that was vastly different from yours, and describe how you interacted with that individual in a tolerant and open-minded manner. Then, you could discuss how the reason you chose to interact with that person in this specific, inclusive way was because of your experiences as a child of immigrants, which was formative in the development of the personal values you hold today.


In short, you cannot just say that you are an inclusive, open-minded person. This needs to be clearly shown on the page. This essay should be specific, directed, and as always, personal. Admissions officers want to not only see who you are today, but what specific set of circumstances and experiences have made you that person.


With these tips in mind, you are ready to begin crafting an effective and powerful essay for your application to Colgate University! We at CollegeVine wish you the best of luck!


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Lydia Tahraoui
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Lydia is a Social Studies concentrator at Harvard University who is deeply committed to helping guide students through the college admissions process. In addition to writing for the CollegeVine blog, Lydia enjoys analyzing Middle Eastern and North African politics and keeping up with all things pop culture.