How to Write the American University Supplemental Essay 2020-2021
Just northwest of downtown Washington, D.C. sits a suburban pocket of the city that is home to American University, a private research university that enrolls about 8,200 undergraduates each year. Just a fifteen-minute bus ride away from the downtown area of our nation’s capital, American University offers students the best of both worlds — a suburban campus feel with easy access to a thriving and exciting city.
Given its location, it’s no surprise that American University offers top-notch international relations training, nor that its students are typically considered some of the most politically active in the nation. But AU’s strengths go beyond its ability to leverage its location for the good of its students. As a research university, it emphasizes the stellar research opportunities that it offers undergraduates, and in fact, it encourages all undergrads to make use of its research-related resources to pursue the projects of their dreams.
Ranked at #77 in the 2020 U.S. News and World Report’s National University ranking, American University is one of the nation’s best universities. The acceptance rate for the 2019-2020 cycle was 32%, making AU a selective school.
This year, American University requires one supplemental essay for all applicants, and additional essays for its special programs such as its Honors Program and 3-year accelerated Public Health Scholars Program. These essays must be submitted separate form the Common App, and can only be accessed through AU’s Future Eagle Portal.
Since it is often daunting to approach these essays, we here at CollegeVine have prepared the following guide to help you tackle this year’s main application prompt! Want to know your chances at American University? Calculate your chances for free right now.
How to Write the American University Supplemental Essay
Since this essay is only 150 words, you don’t have much room to add too much structure or detail. However, you should still try to be as specific as possible, rather than giving an overly broad example. For instance, you want to avoid saying something like “American University has an excellent School of Public Affairs.” The admissions team already knows this and this doesn’t tell them why you want to attend the school.
Instead, dig deeper into the School of Public Affairs’ offerings, such as the Certificate Program in Advanced Leadership Studies, which offers students “the experience, skills, and knowledge to prepare them for leadership roles in public service.” Maybe this is perfect for you because you’ve participated in the Youth Senate Program and you want to help push healthcare reform as a public leader one day, as your mother’s hospital bills were exorbitant. The Leadership Program is a resource that shows you’ve done your research and have thought hard about your fit with AU.
The key to “Why School?” essays of this length is to state something relatively unique and specific about the school (at least one academic and one social/extracurricular reason), and provide reasoning for why you want to take advantage of those resources. It’s not enough to simply say that you want to participate in the Kogod Sustainable Business Society to network with sustainability-focused leaders and to host sustainability-focused events. You should also add that this student organization interests you because you want to one day start a zero waste bulk store chain after interning at your local zero waste shop, and this AU opportunity will connect you with mentors and teach you how to host large-scale events.
This reasoning is strong because it not only shares your goals and how you’d take advantage of the AU resource, but also states how your background prepared you to use the resource (interning at the zero waste store). Regardless of which AU aspects you choose to mention, make sure that you have the experiences to back up your selection. For example, don’t say you want to join the orchestra if you’ve never played an instrument before!
Finally, we want to warn you of a common mistake students make in these essays, other than mentioning aspects that are too general, or aren’t backed up by their experiences. This mistake is “name-dropping,” or simply mentioning professors and their research. Many students do this because they think it shows they’ve found something specific about AU, but name-dropping looks disingenuous unless you’re actually interested in the professor’s research, and have experience in that field. Definitely avoid this! Most other aspects are fair game, such as specific courses, clubs, programs, etc. Anything as long as it’s unique to the school!
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