How to Write the Brandeis University Essays 2021-2022

Founded in 1948, Brandeis University is a private research university in Waltham, Massachusetts. The university has a liberal arts-focused curriculum and historically has ranked amongst the top fifty national universities. Since Brandeis is a competitive university, students hoping to secure a spot in the class of 2026 will need to write standout responses to the school’s supplemental prompts.

 

All applicants to Brandeis must respond to a short-answer prompt about critical thinking, in addition to their Common App personal statement. International students, students applying to the BA/MA Program in International Economics and Finance, and students applying to the Brandeis Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program will also need to complete an additional supplement. In this guide, we will walk you through it all!

 

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Brandeis Supplemental Essay Prompts

All Applicants

 

The Brandeis community is a diverse group of critical thinkers defined by their ability to dive deeper into their learning by questioning, analyzing, evaluating, creating, critiquing and seeking other perspectives. Share an example of how you have used your own critical thinking skills on a specific subject, project, idea or interest. (250 words)

 

Required 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)

 

Applicants to the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program Only 

 

Please write a 400-word essay about what makes you a good candidate for the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program. 

 

Applicants to BA/MA Program in International Economics and Finance Only

 

Brandeis International Business School offers a unique Scholars program for Brandeis undergraduates. Upon admission to Brandeis University, Scholars are provisionally admitted to select specialized master’s degrees or considered for fast track admissions to the MBA degree. During their junior year, the student then selects their graduate program of interest and receives a guaranteed scholarship for this graduate program. 

 

How do you feel this Scholars program would be beneficial to you? (100-250 words) 

All Applicants

The Brandeis community is a diverse group of critical thinkers defined by their ability to dive deeper into their learning by questioning, analyzing, evaluating, creating, critiquing and seeking other perspectives. Share an example of how you have used your own critical thinking skills on a specific subject, project, idea or interest. (250 words)

This year, Brandeis is providing students with just one supplemental prompt, so it is imperative that you make it count. This prompt centers around the abstract idea of “critical thinking” so that must be your topic, but the avenue you choose to show off your critical thinking (i.e your subject, project, idea, or interest) is up to you.

 

This supplemental essay will be short, which means that your concept is important. First, consider what comes to mind when you think about “critical thinking.” Some simple questions to consider:

 

  • What have I been critical of in life?
  • What is something other people support that I am not so sure about?
  • When have I challenged the status quo?

 

If a story comes to mind, start there! The goal of your short answer should be to tell admissions officers about either 1) your passion and aptitude for your field of study or 2) your background, personality, and values. 

 

Here are some examples of responses to this prompt that show the applicants’ commitments to their fields of study:

 

  • A student applying to Film, Television, and Interactive Media writing about the movie review blog that they started in middle school and have continued for five years. They watch a movie every Friday night, review (criticize!) it, and then use the lessons they learn when perfecting their own craft.
  • An English major with a passion for Victorian literature writing about how they used close reading and a queer literary lens to analyze the relationship between Jane and Helen in Jane Eyre. This student might draw on queer literary theory, homosocial and homosexual commentary from the classics, and their own personal experiences with and observations of queer relationships to shed new light on this traditional text.

 

Here are some examples of responses to this prompt that show the applicants’ identities, values, and perspectives:

 

  • A student who is very involved in a BLM activism group writing about a time when they challenged their group’s attitude. They noticed others in the community describing members as angry and mean, instead of passionate and empowered. The student held a meeting with their group’s leadership team and emphasized the importance of maintaining a positive reputation if they wanted to achieve their goals. Then, things changed!
  • A student who worked at the same pizza joint throughout high school writing about how, over the years, they noticed that the business’s marketing was not reaching the younger demographic. They provided constructive feedback to the joint’s owner. The owner valued their attention to detail and promoted them!

 

If you are stuck for ideas, you can work backward and think about what you want to tell admissions officers about you, then come up with an example from your life that tells them that, while weaving in critical thinking.

 

You can think critically about anything—that’s part of what this prompt is hinting at. Instead of using a particular story or anecdote to show your critical thinking skills, you could use your 250 words to reflect or muse on something that you aren’t sure your opinions on or a topic where you see “both sides to the story.”

 

Some topics that students could reflect on:

 

  • Balancing Eastern and Western values – we can learn lessons from both!
  • Applications of the grief process in diverse aspects of life (failure, moving, learning)
  • The best and worst aspects of the private education system – everything in life is a trade-off!

 

It’s okay to stretch the definition of critical thinking—and, if well-executed, stretching this prompt might even help you demonstrate your critical thinking skills! Just start thinking, commenting, criticizing, and questioning, and your writing will follow. 

 

You can take a strong stance or you can vulnerably admit your ambivalence. You can tell a story or you can reflect on something random. You can reference the thoughts of others or just describe a critical spiral in your own mind. This prompt is ripe with opportunity!

 

 

Required 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)

Essentially, this prompt asks, what can you contribute?  Brandeis prides itself on its diversity and wants to continue enriching university culture with different perspectives. As an international student, you can share unique experiences and insights with your fellow classmates, and the prompt wants you to give the admissions committee a taste of what those insights may be.

 

Before answering this prompt, you need to do your research. Read up on the major you’re planning to pursue, learn about student organizations that exist on campus, and figure out how you can get involved in campus life. Whichever angle you choose for your response, make sure to reference something specific to Brandeis, whether that’s a club you are eager to join, an accelerated BA/MA business program that perfectly suits your academic goals, or the university’s commitment to volunteering and tracking service hours that inspires you.

 

When it comes to planning your response — a brief 250 words total — you need to first realize that the question does not simply ask how you will get involved at the university. It wants you to emphasize your international perspective.

 

Think about how your life experiences so far can contribute to enhancing Americans’ perspective on the world, on your culture, and on any socio-economic, or political issues.

 

For example, if you are pursuing International and Global Studies, you can write about having lived abroad in the regions you will be discussing in class. You can provide a primary-source perspective on how locals view the issues in question, and the nuances that locals care about that may not be considered in the American curriculum. This gives you a different angle through which to debate pressing policy issues with your American peers. Perhaps your experience studying history and politics in high school in a different language will allow you to provide a different lens on your country’s diplomatic relationship with the U.S.

 

If you are planning to work toward the accelerated BA/MA business degree that Brandeis offers, you can discuss your country of origin’s economic system and fundamental financial practices, as well as the feasibility and potential benefits of such if applied to the American market.

 

If you are a future Studio Art or Theatre Major, you can show how your country’s folklore serves as an inspiration for your work. By sharing images, color schemes, and design philosophies from your native culture with Brandeis students, you can foster collaboration and create unique art or performance pieces that would not be possible otherwise.

 

If you want to focus on your contributions beyond the classroom, spend some time perusing the extracurricular offerings at Brandeis. Perhaps you were heavily involved in your local women’s rights advocacy club back in high school in Taiwan. Write about the challenges you faced in trying to change the perception of women as homemakers that is ingrained in the local culture, and how you addressed them.

 

If religion and spirituality are important to you, see if you can find an organization that practices your faith. Talk about the way your religion’s practices vary from country to country, and the specificities that your country brings to worship. Tell the admissions committee how you will foster a better understanding of your belief system among your peers. Alternatively, if you find that your faith is not well represented at Brandeis, describe your aspirations to start your own organization to bring together a new community of people and educate the rest of the student body about your beliefs. Remember that Brandeis was founded on the spirit of inclusivity!

 

Is your culture represented on campus? Brandeis sports a variety of cultural societies, from the German Club to the Taiwanese Student Association. Do other students who hail from your country of origin have a place to come together and promote their culture? If not, think about creating such a space! You can frame your aspirations in terms of multicultural understanding and dialogue and share some ideas you may have for spreading your culture on campus — whether it is through film screenings, dinners, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

 

Perhaps you come from a country where journalists are marginalized and free press stifled. You may wish to join a media organization on campus to let your voice be heard and to advocate for the maintenance of free speech in the United States. You can educate your classmates about the importance of giving everyone an opportunity to voice their opinions and beliefs by grounding it in your own experiences at home.

 

Although you don’t have a lot of room in your response, don’t be afraid to combine the various academic and extracurricular aspirations you have together to form one cohesive essay. For example, you can first delineate the new insights you will provide for your country’s domestic policy in the classroom, pivot to your plans for joining Brandeis’ Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance to introduce the organization to the gender issues your country of origin faces specifically. Just remember to ground your response in the unique perspective that your origins will allow you to share with other students!

 

Applicants to the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program Only 

Please write a 400-word essay about what makes you a good candidate for the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program. 

The Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program (TYP) is an important manifestation of the university’s commitment to social justice, founded in 1968. Each year 20 students are selected among approximately 200 applicants.

 

According to the program mission statement found on the Brandeis website, the Myra Kraft TYP “is targeted toward students who have developed the skills for college success by practicing leadership in their life experiences.” Typical participants in the Myra Kraft TYP have not had the opportunity to participate in rigorous academic programs such as AP and IB courses while in high school. This program enables these students to enroll in small classes with strong academic support and challenging coursework, and to explore new possibilities in their lives.  

 

The Myra Kraft TYP offers exclusive academic opportunities in writing, quantitative reasoning, science, social science and computer science. Students take a combination of undergraduate courses at Brandeis and non-credit-bearing courses designed for the college level.

 

The key criteria that the program is looking for in its applicants are:

 

  • Showing determination and focus in difficult circumstances
  • Demonstrating leadership potential practiced in life experiences
  • Commitment to the pursuit of a postsecondary education

 

In crafting your response to the program prompt, you want to make sure that the necessary qualities above shine through on your application. This prompt gives you the opportunity to show the adcom why you would be a good fit for the program by highlighting your academic and leadership potential.

 

Don’t worry if you are someone who lacks the conventional list of extracurricular activities and leadership roles. In fact, the Myra Kraft TYP is looking for unconventional students who show promise and potential despite lacking the resources to pursue their interests in high school. When responding to the prompt, think about the character you have developed in high school while challenging yourself to push for higher academic success despite not receiving adequate support to do so. How will this grit you have cultivated help you succeed in college?

 

Below you will find some ideas for how you can best exemplify the above program criteria and discuss them in your essay.

 

Determination and Focus

 

If you are someone who had to take on caretaker duties in your family, such as looking after younger siblings or grandparents while your parents work, you can detail this experience in your response. Highlight the time-management hurdles you encountered while trying to balance your schoolwork and your household duties, and show the admissions committee what you have learned through this experience.

 

For example, you could describe how your study time was compromised because your sister with peanut allergy accidentally ingested peanuts, and you had to take her to the emergency room. Despite your lack of sleep and underpreparedness, you made sure to catch up on the material you missed, so though you did not do well in the quiz the next day, you still aced the final exam. What did this experience teach you? What quality or strength did this train you to have?

 

If you had to work while in high school in order to provide for yourself or contribute to your family’s income, write about this in your response. Your ability to take on adult responsibilities while remaining a full-time student at such a young age will undoubtedly impress the admissions committee, even if your grades may have not been optimal as a result. In fact, describing your commitments beyond the classroom will help to justify your academic performance, if necessary, and make you a stronger candidate for the program.

 

If you or your family are migrants, fleeing poverty, war, or another hardship, this prompt is an opportunity for you to relate your experience to the program admissions. Tell the story of how your life has been affected by the turmoil in your environment, and highlight your determination to receive a quality education in spite of it.

 

For instance, if you have been unable to attend school for long periods of time due to political or economic instability but continued to read and study independently, write about your motivation and explain what drove you to push forward.

 

Leadership Practiced in Life Experiences

 

Leadership does not always mean becoming the captain of a sports team or the president of a school club. Leadership potential can shine through in your daily life.

 

If you had to be a role model for your younger siblings, and guide them through school as your parents were absent, you have shown leadership potential. Discuss all the tasks you performed while caring for your siblings, all the lessons you’ve taught them, and all the guidance you’ve provided. This can be as small as teaching your younger brother to play basketball or helping your sister with homework every day.

 

In a similar vein, if you are someone who comes from an underprivileged community, and you have taken the time to mentor younger kids in your school or neighborhood, then that is also a testament to your leadership qualities. You need not have been a part of an after-school program or a community service organization; leadership doesn’t need to occur in a formal setting. If you’ve helped or pushed others to reach a goal, then you’ve demonstrated the kinds of qualities the Myra Kraft program is looking for in its cohort.

 

Commitment to the Pursuit of Education

 

Even if you are someone who lacked access to rigorous coursework, you can still underscore your commitment to higher education in your response.

 

Think about any interests you have. Have you ever taken the time to research a particular topic you were passionate about? Have you sought out a film screening or an exhibit on something that interests you? Perhaps you frequent the local natural sciences museums because you have always been curious about geology or evolutionary biology. Maybe you never miss an independent film showing in your town because your aspiration is to become a movie director or a set designer in the future. Or are you an avid reader who has read a myriad of political autobiographies in hopes of learning the skills needed to one day lead your community as its mayor or Congressman? Any initiative you have shown beyond the classroom to educate yourself and broaden your horizons is evidence of your passion for education and your desire to keep learning.

 

Another approach to tackling this portion of your response is to browse the Myra Kraft TYP course offerings. Think about the ways that these classes will advance your interests and how the skills you develop there will help you in your future academic career. Read the descriptions carefully and try to connect the offered courses to the academic interests you already have or knowledge you have always wanted, but have been unable to pursue. Tell the program admissions committee that participating in this program will enable you to remain intellectually stimulated and to discover new subjects and disciplines you have never encountered before. Be sure to reference the relevant offered courses directly – this will show the committee that you have thoroughly researched the program and are committed to participating if accepted.

 

As you think about these three key aspects of a Myra Kraft TYP student, remember that the core purpose of this prompt is to understand why you want to be a part of this group of students. Think of this as any other “Why this College?” essay you may have written. Your response should be well-researched, referencing specific aspects of the program that appeal to you and the opportunities it presents to each cohort. Of course, it should also demonstrate why you — with your past experiences, your values and skills — would be a good fit for the program.

 

Applicants to BA/MA Program in International Economics and Finance Only

Brandeis International Business School offers a unique Scholars program for Brandeis undergraduates. Upon admission to Brandeis University, Scholars are provisionally admitted to select specialized master’s degrees or considered for fast track admissions to the MBA degree. During their junior year, the student then selects their graduate program of interest and receives a guaranteed scholarship for this graduate program. 

 

How do you feel this Scholars program would be beneficial to you? (100-250 words) 

Students enrolled in the BA/MA Program in International Economics and Finance undertake a serious five-year commitment. As a result, your essay should demonstrate that you have thought through why this program would specifically benefit your educational goals. 

 

Try and relate your decision to participate in the BA/MA program to your career goals. Discuss one of the BA/MA’s five concentrations and how a specialization would help fully prepare you for your career. How will the approach of a practical learning environment help you develop an analytical understanding of business? Conversely, how will the liberal arts foundation of Brandeis complement the more hands-on training received in the BA/MA program? How will program-specific organizations or events help you develop connections for your future career? How have you already demonstrated interest in topics discussed within the BA/MA program? 

 

For example, a student interested in the marketing specialization could explain how classes in consumer behavior would allow them to better understand their target audience. They could also discuss how a capstone project would allow them to put these skills into action. Meanwhile, an applicant who wishes to specialize in data analytics could talk about how the BA/MA program gives them access to state-of-the-art technology in the Bloomberg Lab which will help them prepare practically for a future career. 

 

For this prompt, you need to get specific about programs, events and specializations. While many people may meet the bare minimum requirements to be considered, only those you can demonstrate commitment to this program and the ability to effectively convey their commitment in writing will ultimately get chosen for the BA/MA program. So, don’t be afraid to do some research and even reach out to program representatives/alumni! The more information you have going in the more prepared you will be to answer this prompt, and to participate in this program.

 

Where to Get Your Brandeis Essays Edited for Free

 

If you’ve already written your Brandeis essays, it is time to get them edited. Having peers read your essays will help you to identify areas for improvement and, ultimately, will help you maximize your chances of getting into Brandeis. By creating a free CollegeVine account, you will have access to CollegeVine resources like our free peer-review service. We’re here to help you put your best foot forward and feel prepared throughout this application season—because we know how overwhelming it can get.

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