How to Write the Colgate University Essays 2019-2020

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Colgate University is a leading private liberal arts university located in central New York. With a 2,872-person student body, a 9:1 student to faculty ratio, and an average of 17 students per class, you won’t be just another number at Colgate. With such a high academic standards comes great admissions selectivity, however—Colgate had a 22.6% acceptance rate for the class of 2022. 


As a liberal arts university, Colgate takes an interdisciplinary approach to even the most technical of subjects. Every student partakes in the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum, which is constantly evolving to reflect global changes. The core explores questions and patterns of thought that form the basis of society. It is interdisciplinary and connects to all majors. 


Colgate is also environmentally conscious, with Green Buildings, a community garden, and locally sourced dining options; in fact, it became the first university in New York to achieve carbon neutrality. 


Are you applying to Colgate University? The supplemental essays are a great place to stand out in a high-achieving applicant pool.


Required for All Applicants

Prompt 1

At Colgate, we believe that a diverse community is a strong community. Reflect on an experience that demonstrates your commitment to inclusion and diversity. (250 words)

Colgate has a great reputation of being particularly open, inclusive, and tolerant. For instance, the university has been ranked among the top 100 schools for LGBT+ students.


Given that Colgate’s culture is known for its tolerance and open-mindedness, it is critical that new additions to this community bear the same kind of cross-cultural respect, willingness to understand, and tolerance for others. These are the kinds of character traits and personal values you want to emphasize in your essay.


That being said, you may be wondering how to elucidate these kinds of traits in the essay itself. Note that Colgate has already outlined the exact kinds of topics they want you to discuss: diversity, inclusion, and community.


You should also note that the school encourages applicants to discuss how these specific experiences should have demonstrated their character and personal values, not only how they formed them. This is an important distinction to make, as a potential applicant may be initially tempted to only discuss how their specific background allowed them to develop character traits pertinent to the theme of inclusivity.


This is not exactly what Colgate University wants. They are looking to see an experience that has tested, proven, or demonstrated these kinds of character traits or personal values, in addition to learning how your specific background has allowed you to form those values.


In other words, they want to see those values in action. It is not enough to simply tell admissions officers that because you were raised in an immigrant household, today you are a person who is tolerant of individuals from all walks of life. That’s certainly a good starting point, but Colgate wants you to show that tolerance — they don’t just want to hear about it. You need to focus on a time when that tolerance was put to the test or otherwise proven.


For instance, you could focus on a time when you came into contact with someone from a background that was vastly different from yours, and describe how you interacted with that individual in a tolerant and open-minded manner. Maybe you helped the new foreign exchange student by sitting with them at lunch and helping them with their English homework. You wanted to give them support because you, too, were the “new kid” once. You also understood the culture shock they must be experiencing, as you’re a first-generation immigrant. Or, perhaps you had to work on an AP Gov project with someone whose political views were on the opposite side of the spectrum from your own. Though it may have been difficult to connect with this person at first, you put in the work and not only sought tolerance, but rather, tried to understand their perspective with a patience many others do not have. Maybe you acted with openness because you follow many politics websites, and it’s saddening to see how derisive comments push people apart and prevent meaningful dialogue.


In short, you cannot just say that you are an inclusive, open-minded person. This needs to be clearly shown on the page. Admissions officers want you to not only show who you are today, but also what experiences have made you that person.

Prompt 2

With over 500 liberal arts and sciences colleges in the United States, what inspired you to apply to Colgate? (260 words)

In essence, this prompt is asking “Why Colgate?”. It is not enough to respond to this prompt with generic sentiments about wanting a smaller class size or the breadth of curriculum offered by a liberal arts and sciences college. To start addressing this prompt, you may have to do some research (the school’s site is a great starting point). 


Dig into programs and extracurriculars that pique your interest, as well as your major’s departmental offerings and available concentrations. If anything catches your eye, explore it further until you feel confident speaking about the opportunity in detail, and how it helps you achieve your goals. 


Here’s a good and bad example:


Bad: Colgate’s amazing biology program appeals to me because I have always been fascinated with the inner workings of marine animals’ cells.


Good: I am really intrigued by Colgate’s freshwater marine biology concentration, especially the hands-on component. I can see myself embarking on investigative research projects to observe the critters at Lake Moraine.


The former response is vague, and the resource mentioned can be found at almost any school. This latter response demonstrates a genuine interest in a unique opportunity while creating imagery that makes the sentence more vivid in readers’ minds. 


A commonly forgotten component of the “Why School” essays are extracurriculars and social life. College isn’t only about academics, but also what you do outside of the classroom. You should also look into extracurriculars or clubs that you would like to join, and tie them into your current interests. This is a way to show genuine interest in Colgate’s specific offerings. For example, you could say something along the lines of: “As someone who is very environmentally conscious, I started a month-long educational initiative at my high school, during which we hosted workshops on how to live more sustainably. Some of my favorite topics were slow travel and how to reduce waste while eating out. At Colgate, I look forward to RecycleMania; participating in this competition will allow me to continue educating others on how to reduce our environmental impact.”


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Optional for Department of Art and Art History Programs

Your artist’s statement should answer the following:

  • Was the piece an assignment?

  • Describe your past experiences with the visual arts including classes taken, dates, and media used.

  • Of the documentation submitted, which piece best represents you as an artist, and why? Include motivation behind this work and/or your art in general.

  • Describe your plans for the study of art at Colgate.

This prompt asks you to address your artistic skill set, in relation to yourself as a person and to Colgate University. To effectively answer this multifaceted question, you must make sure to answer all parts of the prompt in an organized and logical fashion.


First, when describing your past experiences with visual arts, you can offer a straightforward declaration of your past experience. For example, “I have been attending The Orange Studio for about five years now. My work has spanned several mediums, but I specialize in oil painting.” You can also paint a picture of your journey more creatively, showing rather than telling readers how you became involved with art: “Every Sunday, my mom would allow me to turn our driveway into a masterpiece. As I scraped large sticks of chalk along the gritty pavement, the curious neighborhood kids would gather. I loved bringing their imaginations to life through my chalk art.” 


The next part of the prompt asks you to describe which piece best represents you as an artist. Think about your headspace as you were creating each piece and focus on one that you can write about with the most authenticity. Does the vibrant color scheme in that painting reflect your effervescent personality? Does the new shading technique you used in that sketch demonstrate a time in you life when you were making significant changes? Was your latest sculpture a tribute to a loved one? Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and explain the intricate details of your art that provides a window into who you are as a person. 


Finally, when describing your plans for the study of art at Colgate, show what you hope to gain from the experience. Explicitly mentioning programs you wish to join, professors that could be potential mentors, and classes you would love to take shows both your dedication to art and your genuine interest in the university. Interweave your prospective experiences with your current aspirations; for example “Growing up in Venice, I would go to the flea market, intrigued by the locals’ glasswork. However, I never had the opportunity to work with mediums other than paper. At Colgate, I wish to expand my horizons and take glassware classes with Professor Smith. I look forward to engaging with mediums I always admired but never had the resources to pursue before.”


With these tips in mind, you are ready to begin crafting an effective and powerful essay for your application to Colgate University! We at CollegeVine wish you the best of luck! 


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