How to Write the Brandeis University Essays 2023-2024
Founded in 1948 by the American Jewish community, Brandeis has provided world-class educations to historically-discriminated groups in education like Jews, racial minorities, and women. Despite its religious foundations, the university is non-sectarian and welcomes students of all (or none) faiths. Now, Brandeis is consistently ranked as a top 50 university in the country and is well known for its Heller School of Social Policy and Management.
Brandeis only requires general applicants to submit one essay; however, international students and students applying to the Myra Kraft Achievers Program are each asked to submit an additional essay. Because most applicants will only be submitting one essay, you need to make sure your essay stands out enough to impress the admissions committee. In this post, we will cover how to write each Brandeis essay to maximize your chances of acceptance.
Read this Brandeis essay example to inspire your writing.
Brandeis University Supplemental Essay Prompts
All Applicants: Brandeis was established 75 years ago to address antisemitism, racism, and gender discrimination in higher education, and today, the university remains dedicated to its founding values of inclusivity and justice. How has your educational experience shaped your perspective on these values? (250 words)
International Applicants: What excites you the most about being an international student at Brandeis University? (250 words)
Myra Kraft Achievers Program Applicants: What makes you a good candidate for the Myra Kraft Achievers Program and Brandeis University? (500 words)
All Applicants Prompt
Brandeis was established 75 years ago to address antisemitism, racism, and gender discrimination in higher education, and today, the university remains dedicated to its founding values of inclusivity and justice. How has your educational experience shaped your perspective on these values? (250 words)
Brandeis prides itself on its foundation as an institution that has promoted inclusivity since day one, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their essay question is centered around diversity and inclusion.
Before you begin writing, it’s important to understand the prompt fully. There are two key things to take notice of:
- The first thing is “your educational experience.” This means that you need to draw from your own personal experiences to answer the prompt. It shouldn’t be an English-class style essay picking apart different perspectives on justice—you need to use your own lived experiences to support your opinions.
- The second thing is how the prompt specifically asks for educational experience. Don’t make the mistake of limiting yourself to only experiences in the classroom—educational experiences can take the form of independent research, books, academic extracurriculars, conferences and contests, volunteer work, summer programs, and more.
The other notable phrase in the prompt is “your perspective.” This goes back to the aforementioned idea that you need to draw on your personal experiences to explain your position on the topic of inclusion. Admissions officers don’t want to hear about the dictionary definition of inclusion or how an acclaimed civil rights activist viewed it. They want to hear directly from you.
In this sense, the essay can be thought of like an English-class essay because you are required to take a stance on what values like diversity, inclusion, and justice mean to you, and to support your opinion with evidence from your own experience.
While some students might find it easy to think of an example where they encountered or overcame antisemitism, racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia, other students might not have a personal story come to mind so quickly. However, this essay isn’t optional and for many students it’s the only opportunity for Brandeis to hear their voice directly, so you’ll need to come up with something.
Even if you aren’t directly related to such a situation, think about a time you witnessed the harmful effects of discrimination or the positive effects of inclusion. By engaging in a brainstorming exercise to recall moments involving the topics of the essay, you’ll hopefully be able to trigger memories that are more meaningful to you. If you still have nothing that directly involves you, it’s okay to use a story where you were on the periphery—just compensate for your lack of action in the example with extensive reflection on the situation.
Remember, your educational experience could be in the form of a debate you participated in on the effects of public housing policy on exacerbating racial discrimination, or a book you read about the psychological dynamics behind mass genocides—it doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical interaction you had with others. As long as you communicate that you’ve had some academic exposure that has influenced your perspective, you can choose just about any educational experience to support your essay.
We can’t really tell you how to write about your perspective on Brandeis’s core values because your perspective has to come from you! However, we can give you some tips to keep in mind and things to emphasize in your essay.
- Don’t lie about your opinion. There is no one right or wrong way to approach the nuances of inclusion and justice. Obviously, you should regard inclusion as a good thing—Brandeis doesn’t want to admit closed-minded or prejudiced students—but your take on it could vary from others. Be authentic and true to your beliefs; believe us, it’s easier to tell when someone is lying in an essay than you might think.
- Tie your perspective to the experience you discuss. For example, a student who attended a summer program in another country and experienced what it felt like to be welcomed by people from other cultural backgrounds should share that she thinks inclusion is critical to forming relationships that otherwise wouldn’t occur. It wouldn’t make sense for her to write about her experience and then talk about her views on why religious tolerance is important. Make sure there is a natural logical thread running through your essay.
- It’s better to be more focused. You aren’t expected to provide a dissertation on the importance of all types of inclusion in just 250 words. Home in on a particular issue you feel strongly about that also relates to your experiences. The more focused your topic is, the more detail you can provide and the more your genuine passion for what you’re saying will shine through.
- Highlight how you personally embody the values. Going beyond the experiences that shaped your perspective, demonstrate to the admissions committee that you live by values of justice and inclusion. Explain how simple choices in your life are guided by these values or share how you’ve grown from embracing these values. This will show how ingrained Brandeis’s core values are in you, making you shine as an applicant.
If you have the space at the end of your essay, a nice way to conclude is to explain how you will carry these guiding principles with you to Brandeis. Go deeper than a generic response that says something like, “I will continue to prioritize inclusive communities as a Brandeis student.” Instead, aim for something more descriptive like, “Whether it’s prioritizing minority voices in articles I write for The Justice or inviting all my hallmates to the weekly floor dinners I’ll cook, I’ll strive to make every student feel welcome.”
International Applicants Prompt
What excites you the most about being an international student at Brandeis University? (250 words)
Essentially, this prompt is asking, “Why do you want to attend Brandeis as an international student?” Brandeis prides itself on its diversity and wants to continue enriching its campus culture with different perspectives. As an international student, your admissions reader wants to know why you most want to be a part of that community and to bring your perspectives to Brandeis. In other words, this is essentially a standard “Why This College” prompt with an international twist, meaning a lot of the same advice applies.
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, look into research opportunities, 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 why you want to attend Brandeis, but what makes you most excited to be there.
Think about how your life experiences so far can contribute to the overall Brandeis community and how you feel like your perspective will be represented on campus.
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 share that you feel as though you can provide a firsthand perspective on how locals view the issues in question and that you know that perspective has a place at Brandeis, which places a lot of emphasis on International Studies, both domestically and abroad.
Continuing the above example, you might also write about how Brandeis would provide you with a home base to conduct your studies of globalization, and that the importance that Brandeis places on interning and studying internationally would allow you to continue your understanding of the globe.
If you are planning to work toward the accelerated BA/MA business degree that Brandeis offers, for example, you can discuss your country of origin’s economic system and fundamental financial practices, and describe how learning about the American market at Brandeis through such a specialized program would give you important insight that your peers at home may not have.
Or, if you are a future Studio Art or Theatre Major, you can share how you’re excited to share your country’s folklore through the art you complete in the program. You can get specific about what your country’s culture, art, or history may look like, as well as note exactly which programs you’re excited to participate in. For instance, you can write about how you’re excited to showcase your work in Brandeis’s 10-day Festival of Creative Arts, and to bring your culture to an American audience.
What you’re most excited about may be outside the classroom! Spend some time perusing the extracurricular offerings at Brandeis. And remember, don’t just name-drop—do thorough research on these organizations and write about why they excite you. Consider the following example:
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. Then detail how Brandeis offers a plethora of opportunities to continue helping women, such as Brandeis’s chapter of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, and the International Business Women Leadership and Networking group.
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’re excited to foster a better understanding of your belief system among your peers.
Alternatively, if you find that your faith is not well represented at Brandeis, tell the admissions committee how Brandeis’s spirit of diversity and inclusivity makes you excited to bring your religion to its campus. Talk about how you might start your own religious student organization to bring together a new community of people and to educate the rest of the student body about your beliefs.
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 be through film screenings, dinners, or anything else that strikes your fancy.
Perhaps you come from a country where journalists are marginalized and free press is stifled. You may wish to join a media organization on campus to let your voice be heard and to advocate for the continued protection of free speech in the United States. You can write about how you’re excited to share your perspectives with your classmates and to discuss the importance of giving everyone an opportunity to voice their opinions and beliefs by grounding the discussion 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 excitements you have to form one cohesive essay. Just remember to ground your response in the unique perspective that your origins will allow you to share with other students!
For example, you can first delineate how you’re excited to provide insight into your country’s domestic policy in the classroom, and then pivot to your plans for joining Brandeis’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance to piggyback off your previous experience in your home country.
Myra Kraft Achievers Program Prompt
What makes you a good candidate for the Myra Kraft Achievers Program and Brandeis University? (500 words)
Founded in 1968, the Myra Kraft Achievers Program is an important manifestation of the University’s commitment to social justice. Each year, 20 students are selected from a pool of approximately 200 applicants.
According to the program mission statement found on the Brandeis website, the Myra Kraft Achievers Program “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 Achievers Program 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 Achievers Program 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 admissions committee 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 Achievers Program is looking for unconventional students who show promise and potential despite lacking the resources to pursue their interests in high school.
When responding to this 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 aforementioned program criteria and discuss them in your essay:
Determination and Focus
If you are someone who has 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’ve learned through this experience.
For example, you could describe how your study time was compromised because your sister with a 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 even though you didn’t do well on 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 to 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 will 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’ve been unable to attend school for long periods of time due to political or economic instability, but have 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.
For example, 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’re 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 don’t need to 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 Achievers Program is looking for in its cohort.
Commitment to the Pursuit of Education
Even if you’re 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’ve 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 House representative?
Any initiative you’ve shown beyond the classroom to educate yourself and broaden your horizons is evidence of your passion for education and of your desire to keep learning.
As you think about these three key aspects of a Myra Kraft Achiever, 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, and should reference specific aspects of the program that appeal to you and opportunities they present to each cohort. Of course, it should also demonstrate why you—with your past experiences, values, and skills—would be a good fit for the program.
Where to Get Your Brandeis University Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your Brandeis essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!