How to Write the Boston College Supplemental Essays 2017-2018
Boston College (nicknamed BC) is a private Jesuit Catholic research university located about six miles out of Downtown Boston, in the quaint Chestnut Hill neighborhood. The campus is adorned with beautiful Gothic architecture and features around 9000 undergraduate students, falling in the middle between small liberal arts colleges and large public universities.
Boston College is currently ranked 31st in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report university rankings, and admission is quite competitive, with a current acceptance rate of 29%. Famous Boston College alumni include actress Amy Poehler, former Secretary of State John Kerry, and Heisman award-winning quarterback Doug Flutie. Additionally, sports are a strong pride of point for the university: The men’s ice hockey team has won five national championships in NCAA Division 1.
Boston College requires you to respond to just one of the many essay prompts, all of which are quite thought-provoking. The prompts may seem daunting at first, but we here at CollegeVine are here to help you tackle these essays to the best of your ability.
Boston College Application Essay Prompts
Before looking at any prompts, keep in mind that besides the Common Application essay, this is your only other major opportunity to expound on where you shine as an applicant.
Choose your essay carefully (400 words max), and think about which prompt will allow you to best address critical parts of your identity that have not been talked about in depth in the rest of your application.
This prompt takes two common essay prompt topics — service and creativity — and squashes them together, allowing for a much more nuanced, thoughtful essay.
Since this prompt has two components to it, you can choose which of the two you’d like to write from. If you focus on the “invested in the world” theme first, start by writing about a time where you noticed a societal need, and then describe how you engaged with that problem innovatively. On the other hand, if the “creative best” part speaks to you more, you should brainstorm your creative tendencies and passions first, and then note how you used those to tackle a problem you were passionate about.
Another way to address this prompt is to write about how you integrated disparate parts of your identity to better address a societal need. Is it physics and music? Basketball and education? Poetry and the environment? This is the perfect prompt to describe your multifaceted identity.
This essay prompt gives you the rare opportunity to project beyond yourself to someone whom you admire (of course, you will eventually bring the essay back to yourself). Do you have a specific politician, celebrity, family member, or neighbor you admire who had to go through some tough difficulties? If so, detail their experiences.
It is key to remember that the person you choose to write about will directly reflect back onto who you are. For example, if you choose to write about Elon Musk, chances are the admissions officer will assume that you are someone who cares about big ideas and innovation; writing about Lebron James, however, will say something completely different about you.
Another way to approach this prompt is through looking for an event or decision first. Think big, like the Cuban Missile Crisis (the word “recent event” is purposefully very vague), or relatively small, like a family decision to move to a new city. Think of decisions that someone like you could’ve made, but don’t feel limited by your own age, gender, or race.
After describing the person and event in your essay, talk about the consequences of said decision, being concise as to not detract too much from talking about yourself.
The final part is personal reflection: Does the decision reflect your own character, and why or why not? Feel free to brag a little about talents and skills that you have, whether they be grit, leadership, ambition, humility, compassion, or others. If possible, talk about a similar tough choice you’ve had to make in your own life, and explain why you would or wouldn’t repeat that decision. Place yourself in a position of empathy with the person you are talking about, and make sure to understand his or her rationale before explaining yours.
You want to have enough background information in your essay, making sure that the admissions officer reading it has a firm contextual grasp of the situation.
Here, Boston College is again forcing you to think critically and introspectively at the same time: What are some of the great questions and problems that the world faces today, and what are the specific problems and questions you want to tackle? Don’t feel forced to dig up the greatest problem or the most looming question in this entire world, but rather find an issue, albeit a relatively major issue, and talk about why and how you want to tackle it. This could be the problem of racism, income inequality, climate change, super bacterias, or artificial intelligence, as long as you have some kind of investment into the issue area.
Because you are creating a college course in this essay, talk some more about what specific sub-areas of the problem you would talk about through the semester. It would be a positive if you’ve had some experience dealing with the issue, but don’t be afraid to tackle an issue you haven’t tangibly explored before, as long as you explain why you have chosen the topic you did and why you are invested in it. If you need inspiration, check out online course catalogs for not only Boston College, but all other colleges, many of which are easily accessible.
Here are some additional quick takes on college course titles, which would have to be explored much more deeply in an actual essay:
- The Impacts of Diversity in Education and the Workforce
- Are China and the United States Headed for an Inevitable Clash? A Contextual Analysis
- Alternate Realities? The Workings of Quantum Entanglement
- Computer Environmental Science: Coding to Fight Climate Change
- Is Sasquatch Real? An Sociological Investigation into Urban Legends
In this prompt, admissions officers are looking to both demystify what a Jesuit education is as well as allow you to advocate on behalf of your own values, fitting your personal and academic goals into these Jesuit tenants. “Personal goals and academic interests” are relatively easy topics to approach (just talk about yourself), but fitting that into the Jesuit ideals will be the challenge. The objective of this essay is to move your goals and interests forward into the years you will spend in, possibly, a Jesuit college like BC.
The prompt lists four different subsections, so feel free to touch on one of them or all of them. However, just be wary that if you choose to tackle a multitude of these ideas, your substance and depth may take a sharp hit.
With “the importance of the liberal arts and sciences,” admissions officers want to see a passion for the wide gamut of learning as not just a career preparatory tool, but a rigorous process to tackle the great problems our world faces. If you want to be a chemist and study chemistry, but also want to fully take advantage of a liberal arts curriculum and a more humanistic approach to chemistry, talk about how you are also passionate about classes like Roman Religion and Introduction to African Diaspora Studies, both of which BC offers.
With “character formation,” you could talk about a test of character that you’ve faced or a difficult circumstance you’ve had to overcome. Talk about how that trial influenced your personal goals and academic interests, and how it will continue to do so in college. Maybe you want to major in biology at Boston College because of a close family member that passed away from cancer — you want to fight for not only people like her, but also low income patients in rural areas who may not have access to a state-of-the-art medical facility.
With a “commitment to the common good,” you can easily slide in work that you’ve done to benefit those around you, whether it is through a volunteering organization, a personal project, or an experience away from home. This could then tie into what you want to study and how you want to grow in college to keep pursuing a similar line of work. If you are passionate about education, you could talk about how you want to pursue activities at Boston College like the school’s branch of Project Sunshine, in which you work with kids suffering from medical challenges.
With “living a meaningful life,” think about the values you want to live by. Are they the values espoused by your religion, a personal role model, or your own identity? For example, if you are active in a mosque, talk about how you will join Boston College’s Muslim Student Association to further involve yourself with the Muslim community. Feel free to mention what you want to study and what you want to do after college, as long as you supplement these thoughts with why you want to do them, and what motivated you to do them. Fit these values into the mission of Boston College, and you will be good to go!
The Bottom Line
Boston College is a tough school to get into, period. However, by following these broad guidelines you will be able to better brainstorm your essay and craft a finished piece of writing you are proud of. Answering these prompts is difficult, but ultimately very rewarding, and CollegeVine is committed to helping you along that journey.
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