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How to Write the Brandeis University Essay 2017-2018

Founded in 1948 in Waltham, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, Brandeis University is one of the youngest private research universities in the nation. Despite its relative youth, Brandeis has grown rapidly, providing its 3500 undergraduate students with numerous research opportunities, a tight-knit community, and a strong foundation in the liberal arts.


Although Judaism played an important role in Brandeis’ founding, as evidenced by its namesake Louis Brandeis (the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice), the institution has since become a home for students all around the world. Approximately 20% of its student body hail from non-U.S. countries. Diversity is a major point of pride for the school, which offers a variety of unique, globally-oriented academic and extracurricular programs.


One such program is the Wien International Scholarship, which was established to help financially challenged non-U.S. students establish connections in the Boston area and better understand their American counterparts’ backgrounds. Even though it has become more globalized, Brandeis University has also retained its roots in Jewish learning, evident through its Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and its Institute for Informal Jewish Education.


Academics are further supplemented by Brandeis’ membership in the Boston Consortium, which allows students to attend classes at neighboring institutions, including Babson College, Wellesley College, Tufts University, Boston College, and Boston University. In this blog post, we’ve created a guide to answering Brandeis University’s prompts for the 2017-2018 application cycle. Armed with our guide, you’ll be able to craft unique essays that will set you apart from the competition.


Brandeis University Application Essay Prompt

For International Students Only

Brandeis attracts students from many corners of the world. As an international student at Brandeis, how would you enrich the campus community? (250 words or fewer)

There are many aspects to the Brandeis “campus community.” Here, we will break it down into three areas: cultural, academic, and extracurricular, and provide some suggestions regarding how to address each of these facets of Brandeis in your essay.



Brandeis University prides itself in diversity — 109 countries are represented within the student body. In this prompt, Brandeis asks that you, an international applicant, illustrate your distinct background in relation to the school’s academic and extracurricular offerings, as well as its faculty and student community. Your essay should evoke in the admissions officers an image of you on campus, pursuing your academic and extracurricular passions in a way that motivates other Brandeis students to further their own intellectual endeavors.


Your response can assume a variety of forms, whether it be celebrating your culture through existing programs on campus or raising awareness for your culture by creating opportunities for other students to experience the food, festivals, and clothing in which you feel at home. Be sure to elaborate on how you will enrich the campus culture; do not center your essay around a cultural phenomenon or an activity alone.


The key is how you fit into that culture and how you will make the school a more exciting place because of your background. Regardless, the possibilities are endless. The one thing you must be aware of is Brandeis’ current cultural strengths, or lack thereof. You need to name the programs or activities on campus that you can contribute to with your international background, and specify what you can add to the existing organizations, whether that be ideas, skills, or representation.


Alternatively, you may discuss innovative plans of your own to expand Brandeis’ breadth of intellectual, extracurricular, and cultural experiences. However, be sure to explain why Brandeis needs/would benefit from your ideas.


Besides the cultural aspect of the “campus community” to which you will contribute, you can also discuss how your current aptitude in a particular subject will push Brandeis faculty or students to a new level in academic research and discourse. Quintessentially “Brandeisian” majors and minors are devised with a global mindset, most notably “International and Global Studies” and “Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies.”


While writing about such majors that allow for an individually tailored program (a Brandeis specialty), you could explain how you propose to combine a set of courses into a never-been-done-before curriculum, using a novel mix of disciplines that will inspire others to think of more unexpected programs of study during their own college career. This, of course, means that you need to conduct in-depth research on the course catalog and know a bit about how classes work at Brandeis. That may sound like a lot of work for a 250-word essay, but doing so will demonstrate you unwavering interest to the admissions officers.


For students who aren’t predisposed to the humanities, there is also the 5-Year BA/MA track at Brandeis’ International Business School (IBS), which allows undergraduates to earn their Bachelor of Arts as well as their Master’s in International Economics and Finance in an unusually short amount of time. Keen students with a strong entrepreneurial spirit may choose this path in order to start their own business earlier.


However, when writing about how your unique background meshes with these academic programs, it is paramount that you still discuss how your current abilities, accomplishments, ideas, and presence would further your fellow students’ scholarly pursuits — as this should be the core of your response. Thus, you may consider relating your current coursework with Brandeis’ offerings, in order to draw parallels between your ability to positively influence your peers in high school to your potential to do the same at the university.



Brandeis’ broad array of extracurricular options includes various student-run Arts & Culture and Political & Activism clubs.


Arts & Culture and Political & Activism clubs are equally valued at the school. Be sure to peruse the club websites and events if you wish to make reference to extracurriculars in your essay. Name dropping is an important and often overlooked aspect of writing admission essays. While it is insufficient to list the top 10 most popular student organizations at Brandeis to demonstrate your knowledge of the school, it is paramount that you weave in appropriate references to them.


For example, as an Economics major, while discussing your research on differing psychological mindsets between individuals of French and British descent, you could mention organizing psychological research events for the French Business and Lifestyle club, to further enhance the school’s understanding of the French style of approaching commerce. Alternatively, as a Legal Studies major, you could elaborate on the musings of your reading of U.S. judges’ opinions on immigration cases, and propose to join the fight for immigrants in the Student Association for TRII.


In addition to clubs, Brandeis University offers unique fellowship and internship programs like the Sorensen Fellowship and the Brandeis-India Fellows program. Alluding to the mission of these special tracks provides an opportunity to discuss your professional aspirations and how they relate to what you have accomplished so far.


The Big Picture

Granted, 250 words do not allow enough space for you to cover the cultural, academic, and extracurricular enhancements that you will bring to the Brandeis community. Therefore, use an anecdote or an activity that can represent multiple aspects of what you want to address.


Using a previous example, with the French Business and Lifestyle Club, you can use the “business” aspect of the club to discuss your prowess in economics and entrepreneurship, and use the lifestyle portion of it as an avenue to explicate your familiarity with French culture through your multiple language immersion excursions.


Moreover, keep in mind some of the unique grants Brandeis offers, such as the Maurice J. and Fay B. Karpf Peace Award and Ari Hahn Peace Award. Past winners of these grants have shared their intent to fund a female speaker series or rekindle ties between Brandeis and a school in the Middle East with the money.


If using the wrong tone, writing about potential plans to use these grants to positively influence a demographic may seem a bit presumptuous. However, writing in hypotheticals and discussing the possibility respectfully will impress the admission officers with your vision and ambition.


Hundreds of international students call Brandeis University their home every year and differentiating your vision of the school community can be challenging. We here at CollegeVine would love to guide you through the process if you’d like more hands-on help.


May the odds ever be in your favor, and happy writing!


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