How to Write the Auburn University Essays 2020-2021

Auburn University is located in central Alabama, roughly 2 hours southeast of Birmingham. About 25,000 undergraduate students are enrolled, plus 5,000 graduate students, which makes Auburn the second largest university in the state.

 

Auburn has a history of athletic excellence in the Southeastern Conference. Their football team last won the national championship in 2010, and their basketball team made the March Madness Final Four in 2019. The rivalry between Auburn and the University of Alabama is one of the oldest in college sports, and the two football teams meet annually in the Iron Bowl.

 

US News named Auburn the best university in Alabama in 2020, and the Princeton Review consistently ranks Auburn students among the happiest in the nation. The school had an acceptance rate of 75%, with the middle 50% of students possessing an SAT score between 1150 and 1310 or an ACT score between 25 and 30.

 

Auburn has four supplemental short answer prompts for prospective applicants. Read on to learn how to answer these so that your application stands out. Want to know your chances at Auburn? Calculate your chances for free right now.


Want to learn what Auburn will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering Auburn needs to know.

 

Auburn University Supplemental Essay Prompts

 

Prompt 1: Auburn University has a strong institutional mission of service and community. Briefly describe a group, organization, or community that you have been involved with.

How long have you been involved with this community?

What was your role?

Did you seek assistance or additional information to expand your understanding of and ability to contribute to this community? (100 words)

 

Prompt 2: Briefly describe a situation where you were involved in, or were witness to, an act of discrimination; you or someone else was not being treated fairly.

What did you do at the time and why?

Would you do anything differently if that same situation occurred today?

Has this event impacted or changed who you are now and if so, how? (100 words)

 

Prompt 3: Describe a strong interest or passion of yours.

How long have you had this passion, and why does it interest you?

What have you learned about yourself through your involvement in this activity; how will this knowledge benefit you as a student at Auburn?

Did you have a mentor, support person, or someone who encouraged your interest in this area, and if so, how?

Cite a specific goal you achieved and how you achieved it. (100 words)

 

Prompt 4: Describe an example of a situation where you were given a directive or decision that you disagreed with.

What was your role in this situation; were you in a leadership role, a position where others looked up to you, or a contributing member of this group?

How did you communicate with others about this decision?

What was the outcome? Would you do anything differently? (100 words)

 

All Applicants, Prompt 1

Auburn University has a strong institutional mission of service and community. Briefly describe a group, organization, or community that you have been involved with.

How long have you been involved with this community?

What was your role?

Did you seek assistance or additional information to expand your understanding of and ability to contribute to this community? (100 words)

 

While college applications are largely focused on you, this prompt asks you to expand your focus and discuss the positive influence you have had on the world around you.

 

This kind of “Community Service” supplement is relatively common, so you may have already responded to a similar prompt. Although you can certainly use that response for inspiration, we discourage you from simply editing it to meet Auburn’s word count. If you cut half of a 200 word response, your essay may feel incomplete, which will be distracting for your reader.

 

Regardless of whether or not this is you are familiar with this kind of prompt, however, remember that there are two things you want to keep in mind:

 

  1. The impact your actions have had on your community.
  2. What this experience has taught you about yourself.

 

You want to be sure that whatever community you write about will allow you to showcase both of these things, even with such a restrictive word count. As you think about the various communities you are part of, there are a few questions that can help you figure out which one you should focus on:

 

  • How long have you been a part of this community? Generally speaking, a community that has been important to you for a long time will be a stronger choice than one you just joined, as you will have more experience to draw on.

 

  • What have you accomplished as part of this community? These don’t necessarily have to be tangible accomplishments (“We raised X dollars at our bake sale”); they can also be relationships you have built.

 

  • What have you learned about yourself by being part of this community? Remember that this essay must still teach your reader something about you, and the best way to do that is by showing how your membership in this community has shaped who you are.

 

Once you have selected the community you want to write about, you want to think about how to best construct your essay. With supplementary essays in general, we recommend writing about specific experiences, but because this essay is so short, you may not have the space to do so.

 

You should still make it clear, however, that you have had meaningful experiences as part of this community, even if you don’t go into detail about them. Otherwise, your essay runs the risk of just feeling like a list of what happened, without personal connection.

 

Here are two example essays about your work with a beach cleanup organization.

 

Weak: I’ve spent six years working with Washington CoastSavers. At first, I didn’t really like it, but then my friends started telling me that it’s nice to be able to hang out by the water again without being surrounded by trash. This made me realize that maybe my actions can make a difference after all. Although cleaning up beaches isn’t always the most fun thing to do, it’s definitely rewarding in the end.

 

Strong: For the last six years, I have spent my Saturday mornings dragging half-submerged tires out of freezing water, or squinting at the sand, trying to find microplastics. My work with Washington CoastSavers has given me numb fingers and covered my car in sand, but it has also allowed me to watch seals return to a beach that was once piled high with trash. This sight made the memory of my small discomforts disappear, to be replaced by a sense of pride that it was my actions that had made this possible.

 

The first essay is unspecific, so it’s hard for your reader to visualize what this work looked like, and the takeaways are generic and impersonal. The second essay, on the other hand, uses strong, descriptive language, and communicates a personal lesson that you have learned: the satisfaction of being involved with long-term projects.

 

All Applicants, Prompt 2

Briefly describe a situation where you were involved in, or were witness to, an act of discrimination; you or someone else was not being treated fairly.

What did you do at the time and why?

Would you do anything differently if that same situation occurred today?

Has this event impacted or changed who you are now and if so, how? (100 words)

 

This prompt is likely quite different from others you have encountered, so you want to make sure you give yourself enough time to brainstorm what you want to say.

 

Initially, you may be having a hard time thinking of a moment to write about, as discrimination often refers to outward bigotry, which you may not have been subject to. The prompt gives a different definition, however: a moment of unfairness. This could be a coach benching players who challenged his decisions, or a teacher making fun of a student’s question. You can, of course, also write about a more serious act of a discrimination, if you are comfortable doing so.

 

Once you select a moment to write about, you want to think about what you learned from it. For example, say you are a woman interested in sports, and you asked your school’s football coach if you could work on his staff. In response, he laughed and said there was no way you could help, because girls don’t know anything about football.

 

At the time, perhaps you were too shocked to do anything, so you just left his office. As you reflect, however, you might wish that you had put together a portfolio of articles from the football blog you run, so that he couldn’t ignore your qualifications. You might conclude by saying this event made you realize that sometimes you have to go above and beyond to prove yourself, and although this isn’t fair, it’s a burden you’re willing to accept to get to where you want to go.

 

This example not only shows your ability to self-reflect, but also demonstrates personal growth in response to a moment of difficulty, as you are now more confident and determined than you were before.

 

If you choose to write about discrimination faced by someone else, make sure that you still illustrate how you learned from this experience, as you want your essay to teach your reader something about you, not the other person.

 

For example, say you choose to write about a teammate dealing with inappropriate jokes about his sexuality. If you write about how he responded by working with the coach to put together workshops, so the team could learn why their comments were disrespectful, that tells your reader a lot more about him than about you.

 

Instead, you might write about how, even though you weren’t one of the ones making the comments, you never defended your teammate either, and the workshops still taught you about complicity and how to be a true ally. Now, even though your teammate has graduated, you always speak up when someone on the team says something inappropriate, because you understand how important it is to call out even seemingly small comments.

 

Although being vulnerable in college essays is hard, it’s okay to admit a mistake in your response, so long as, like in the above example, you show what you have learned from that mistake. Everyone has moments where they wish they had acted differently, and owning your past mistake and illustrating your growth shows your reader that you have the maturity to think critically about yourself, as difficult as it is.

 

All Applicants, Prompt 3

Describe a strong interest or passion of yours.

How long have you had this passion, and why does it interest you?

What have you learned about yourself through your involvement in this activity; how will this knowledge benefit you as a student at Auburn?

Did you have a mentor, support person, or someone who encouraged your interest in this area, and if so, how?

Cite a specific goal you achieved and how you achieved it. (100 words)

 

Like the first prompt, this prompt may remind you of another common supplement: the “Extracurricular” essay. Also like the first prompt, the restrictive word count presents a challenge.

 

If you have already responded to a similar Extracurricular Activity prompt, you may know which extracurricular you want to write about, but if you haven’t, here are a few things to keep in mind as you brainstorm.

 

 

  • Focus on meaning, not achievement. Remember that Auburn will also receive your Common App Activities List, where you can list your various accolades. For this essay, an activity that has personal meaning to you and/or has shaped some aspect of your personality is better than one that looks impressive.

 

  • Tangible achievements. All of us have a variety of interests, but some are more casual than others, and it will be hard to write a strong essay about something that hasn’t had much of an impact on your life. If you just like to bake, that won’t tell your reader anything about you. If, on the other hand, your interest in baking has led you to start a club at your school where you share different recipes and host bake sales, that can make for a strong essay.

 

  • Adding to your application. This goes beyond picking something you haven’t already written an essay about. If you have an unusual interest that wouldn’t otherwise show up on your application, this prompt is a great place to share it. For example, you could write about how your love for mystery novels led you to start hosting monthly murder mystery parties with your friends. This kind of topic will help your application stand out, as it’s less likely someone else is writing about the same thing.

 

  • Use the prompt’s leading questions. You don’t have to answer all of the questions Auburn gives you, as you simply don’t have the space to do that well. But as you brainstorm, these kinds of questions–about mentors, accomplishments, and personal growth–can help you determine whether or not a particular activity was genuinely meaningful to you.

 

Once you select your topic, think about what this particular interest shows about you. Your response should illustrate one or two qualities that you have developed as a result of your interest in this thing. It’s incredibly important that this personal connection comes across, as the purpose of this essay is to teach Auburn something about you, not the thing you’re interested in.

 

Here are some examples to illustrate how to write a strong response:

 

Weak: I’ve always loved animals, so when I was fourteen I started working at my local animal shelter. Even though cleaning out the cages could be pretty gross, I absolutely loved the work, because I got to spend so much time with cats and dogs. The adoptions were my favorite moments, because I could tell how happy the animal was to have found a family. This made me realize how lucky I am to have grown up in a loving home, and how important it is to empathize with people who weren’t as lucky.

 

Strong: Ever since my dad gave me a kitten for my third birthday, I’ve loved animals, so I was ecstatic when I began working at the local shelter. But I didn’t anticipate how my heart would break for the lonely animals, still stuck in their cages, watching their friends get adopted. So, to brighten their days, I started baking them treats. Now, the sight of dogs and cats waiting eagerly at the front of their cages to see what I have for them always reminds me the difference even a little bit of empathy can make.

 

The weakness of the first essay is that the writer’s personal connection to her work at the animal shelter doesn’t come across. She spends most of the essay describing the work itself, rather than the impact it made on her. At the end, she tries to show what she has learned, but because the rest of the essay has been more about the work than her, the takeaway comes across as generic and impersonal.

 

The second essay, on the other hand, is focused on the writer and her emotional connection to the work from the very first sentence. Although the takeaway is the same, it comes across as far more genuine, because the reader can ground it in the writer’s vibrant descriptions of her experiences. The first essay just tells the reader that the writer is empathetic, while the second shows why working at the animal shelter has made her so.

 

Because this essay is so short, your descriptions of the interest and your personal connection to it will both be pretty brief. That’s okay—the admissions committee is well aware you only have so many words. The most important thing to remember is that the essay should be about you, not the thing you’re interested in. If you’re tight on space, focus on telling your reader something about yourself, rather than going into detail about the interest itself.

 

All Applicants, Prompt 4

Describe an example of a situation where you were given a directive or decision that you disagreed with.

What was your role in this situation; were you in a leadership role, a position where others looked up to you, or a contributing member of this group?

How did you communicate with others about this decision?

What was the outcome? Would you do anything differently? (100 words)

 

Like the second prompt, this is a more unconventional supplement, so you likely won’t be able to draw on other essays you have already written.

 

As you begin brainstorming, think about times you have been part of a team: this could be sports, a group project in class, or an experience at work. Or, if you are part of more unusual teams, those can often make for even stronger responses, as they are more unique to you: perhaps you are in a band, or often go on backpacking trips with your friends.

 

Hopefully, as you think about the various groups you have been part of, you will also be reminded of contentious moments in these groups. Perhaps your band got into a huge argument about which songs to perform at one of your shows, or your coach called a play at the end of the game that you didn’t think would work.

 

Whatever situation you choose, your response should focus on two things: how you responded in the moment, and what you learned from this experience.

 

Let’s take the band example. Because this essay is so short, you should describe the disagreement itself relatively quickly: the focus of the essay should be on the resolution, not the argument itself. Here’s a sample response:

 

“The first time my band opened a concert, we couldn’t decide what to play. Our guitarist wanted upbeat songs so he could improvise, while I thought my voice was better suited to slow songs. Unfortunately, we ended up sounding totally incohesive, as we were constantly ping-ponging between fast and slow. In hindsight, I wish I had been able to look at the show more objectively, and realize the importance of unity in our set. This perspective may have helped us reach a better compromise, like alternating between faster and slower sets depending on the show.”

 

From this essay, your reader can see that you grew as a result of this experience: you have learned how to be a better bandmate by considering factors other than your own personal interests, which is a skill applicable to many other situations as well.

 

It’s incredibly important that your essay illustrates this kind of personal growth. If you find yourself over the word count, we advise shortening your description of the disagreement as much as possible, rather than cutting from what you have learned, as the admissions committee cares much more about you than the experience.

 

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