How to Write the Colgate University Essays 2023-2024
Colgate University offers all applicants three optional prompts. The first asks for your thoughts on diversity, the second asks about your social and intellectual pursuits, and the third involves completing 10 short sentences. Note: the prompts do not appear on the Common Application, but can be found on Colgate’s admissions web page.
Since Colgate receives thousands of applications from academically strong students, your essays are your chance to stand out. In this post, we’ll discuss how to craft an engaging response to each of these prompts, so you can impress admissions officers and maximize your chances of acceptance.
Read these Colgate essay examples to inspire your writing.
Colgate University Supplemental Essay Prompts
Prompt 1: On Colgate’s campus, students engage with individuals from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religions, and perspectives during the course of their educational and social experiences. In 200-250 words, please share the benefits you see in engaging with a diverse body of students, faculty, and staff as part of your Colgate experience.
Prompt 2: Colgate students immerse themselves in social and intellectual pursuits that inspire them. Tell us in 200-250 words what inspires you and why you want to pursue that at Colgate.
Prompt 3: Please complete the following so we can learn a bit more about you. Each response should be no more than 13 words.
- I am fascinated by…
- My favorite book, movie, or television show is…
- My role model is…
- In the future, I hope to…
- One historical figure I would like to meet is…
- My favorite food is…
- One thing I would change is…
- I am most challenged by…
- My favorite place is…
- I am drawn to Colgate University because…
On Colgate’s campus, students engage with individuals from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religions, and perspectives during the course of their educational and social experiences. In 200-250 words, please share the benefits you see in engaging with a diverse body of students, faculty, and staff as part of your Colgate experience.
Diversity is a core value for Colgate, so they want to make sure their students will embrace diverse perspectives, opinions, and ideas. You need to demonstrate the benefits you personally see in a diverse group, and the best way to do that is to use your previous life experiences. While this isn’t a typical diversity essay, you might find some of the tips in this CollegeVine guide helpful.
Although the prompt lists a variety of “traditional” types of diversity, it isn’t an exhaustive list. Diversity can also come in the form of a hobby, a club you’re in, or a unique perspective you have from your lived experiences. Think of a time when you were part of a community of diverse people or one with diverse perspectives and use that to guide your writing.
For example, a student might write about how kids on her soccer team were from a variety of different countries. While the Women’s World Cup was happening, everyone rooted for a different team, but rather than ignoring the other countries, the whole soccer team would watch each match with equal excitement. Through the process of watching other countries play, they picked up on new moves and strategies that they then brought to their own soccer team.
Another student might write about the diverse perspectives on his quiz bowl team. Because they had someone who specialized in math, someone who loved science, someone who handled pop culture, and him—someone who knew everything about history—the team was equipped to take on any challenger. Not only did the diversity in knowledge help his team win, but it also allowed everyone to learn new facts from one another.
As you can see from the two examples, diversity can come in all shapes and sizes, and your previous experiences with diversity can vary greatly.
However, it isn’t enough to just share an example of how you’ve engaged with diversity before. You also need to explain your view of the benefits of diversity. The above examples touch on more of the tangible benefits (learning new soccer moves and winning a quiz bowl), but the more impactful benefits are internal or emotional.
For example, an internal benefit of diversity for the first student is that, through watching matches with her teammates, the student connected with people whom she’d felt she had little in common with. The second student’s internal benefit could be that he gained more confidence to explore new topics when his friends explained their interest in them.
You should conclude your essay by explaining how you will apply the lessons you learned at Colgate. Perhaps you’re now more willing to take a class in a subject you’ve never engaged with before, or maybe you’re going to join a club where you can engage in open dialogue with people from many different backgrounds. Your explanation should be personal and should relate to the benefits you identified from your experiences.
Colgate students immerse themselves in social and intellectual pursuits that inspire them. Tell us in 200-250 words what inspires you and why you want to pursue that at Colgate.
This is a pretty standard “Why This Major” prompt. For this type of essay, there are three key things you need to accomplish:
- Explain your passion and where it came from.
- Demonstrate how you will pursue your passion in college.
- Share your future goals related to your passion.
You don’t have a lot of space to accomplish all three of these things, so let’s dive deeper into each step to make sure you know exactly what to do.
Explain your passion
It’s a safe assumption that you will pick a major that relates to your interests. It’s also okay to not know what you want to study in college yet, and in that case you should take a look at CollegeVine’s guide to writing a “Why This Major” essay if you’re undecided.
While your interest in a subject is obvious to you, it isn’t to the admissions committee reading your essay, so you need to show them what you are interested in. And what’s the best way to do that? Anecdotes!
The most exciting essays often come from students who can craft a story that places the reader in the moment when the student successfully coded their first iPhone game, or a story that makes the reader feel like they’re sitting next to the student intensely researching the ethics of biomedical engineering. You might want to showcase the very first time you engaged with your interest, an independent project you conducted, or a meaningful memory that highlights your fascination with the topic.
It’s important that you go beyond just saying what your passion is and really show the reader why you’re passionate about the subject. Including your inner monologue, your emotional connection to the topic, highly detailed facts about the topic, and the general way the topic makes you feel are all good ways to communicate the why to the admissions officer.
You should spend about 100-150 words on this portion of the essay. Since this section sets the tone of the essay and is the place where you can talk about yourself, don’t rush it. However, remember that you still need space to connect your passion to Colgate, so don’t waste the limited space on an overly descriptive anecdote.
Demonstrate how you will pursue your passion
The second half of your essay will bring Colgate into the picture. Be careful—this is where many students fall short because they aren’t specific enough. Lucky for you, you’ll know how to avoid that pitfall by following these tips.
The key to describing how you will pursue your interests in college is to be as specific as possible. Bring in unique academic and extracurricular resources you can only find at Colgate to demonstrate not only that this is the perfect topic for you to study, but also that Colgate is the perfect place for you to do so.
Here are a few things to focus your research on:
- Look at the course catalog and find classes in your major (don’t just pick Biology 101—the more specific you can be, the better!)
- Find professors in your department and the research they conduct
- Explore unique clubs and extracurriculars that align with your interests
- Look into special programs or centers
- Research Colgate-specific study abroad programs and hubs
Remember: quality over quantity! It’s much better to have two or three resources you connect with than it is to name-drop a dozen things you want to be a part of. We tend to recommend including both academic and extracurricular/social ways you can engage with your passion, but given the fairly limited space, you might only be able to go into one academic and one extracurricular opportunity in depth.
Even students who pick unique, school-specific offerings can still have essays that are just okay, and that’s because they forget to connect the offering back to themselves. Whether you’re talking about how your previous work relates to a professor’s research, or how the skills in a class will be useful to you when you create your own product one day, you need to provide an explanation about why this resource stands out to you.
For example, a student interested in journalism might include his interest in joining Colgate University Television. Rather than just saying that and moving on, he should write something like this: “At Colgate University Television, I’ll get to work hands-on with professional production equipment to learn how best to approach the field interviews I will conduct one day.”
Share Your Future Goals
The final thing to include in your essay is an explanation of your career goals and aspirations. This is where you let the admissions officers know all the great things you plan on accomplishing one day so they feel like they have to have you as a successful alum.
The first two steps are more concrete and should follow a general order, but you can talk about your goals anywhere in your essay. This part doesn’t have to be saved for the end. In fact, it’s actually better to explain how you see your passion manifesting itself in the future earlier on in the essay so that you can talk about it in relation to the resources you mention.
For example, take a student who has experienced food insecurity. They might start their essay like this:
“I couldn’t help the embarrassing rumble of my stomach in Calc. Classmates’ eyes bored holes in the back of my hoodie as I sunk deeper into my chair to avoid the shame of admitting that my family didn’t have enough to cover dinner this week.”
They could then go straight into their future plans right after the anecdote:
“No kid should ever have to go to bed hungry—that is why, when I get elected to the House of Representatives, my first mission will be to pass a food security bill.”
If you are able to seamlessly transition from discussing your interest to sharing how you’ll pursue it to connecting it to your future, you will have a successful essay that thoroughly answers the prompt.
Please complete the following so we can learn a bit more about you. Each response should be no more than 13 words.
These tweet-like questions can be both a blessing and a curse. Each sentence starter allows you to tell the admissions committee a lot about yourself, but there is very little space to elaborate. As you figure out what you want to say, be honest in your responses and be thoughtful with how you use your limited word count.
Also remember that there’s no need to repeat the beginning of the sentence. You already have limited characters, so instead of writing “I wish” again, just dive right into what you wish to do.
Here are short breakdowns on how to approach each prompt.
I am fascinated by…
Be mindful that your response isn’t redundant with what you say elsewhere in your application. If you’ve already said you want to major in anthropology, you don’t want to use this sentence starter to repeat your interest in that same subject. Instead, use this opportunity to share new information.
You can, however, use this as an opportunity to elaborate on your academic interest. Instead of just saying “I am fascinated by anthropology,” you could say something like “I am fascinated by the migration of humans from Asia to North America.”
Your response also doesn’t have to be academic; if there is something else you’re fascinated by that hasn’t come up elsewhere in your application, share it here! This could be anything—how fish swim and sleep simultaneously; the impact of the 3-point shot on the NBA; the acoustics of concert halls; etc. So long as your fascination is genuine, the topic is fair game (but do avoid any inappropriate topics that you would obviously not mention on a college application).
My favorite book, movie, or television show is…
Here, the most important thing is to be honest. If you hated Pride and Prejudice, don’t say it’s your favorite book just because it’s famous. On the other hand, many people have a lot of books and films they like, and picking just one can be hard. We recommend choosing one that illustrates a particular quality you want to share with the admissions committee.
For example, if you like fashion, you could say The Devil Wears Prada. Or, if you love to cook, you could say Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Alternatively, if you do have a clear, all-time favorite book or piece of media, don’t overthink it! Share that one!
We do recommend, however, that you avoid really common books and movies, even if one of them is genuinely your favorite. There will probably be a lot of applicants who say Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, for example. Although these are mentioned often for a reason (they’re great!), you want your answer to stand out from the crowd.
Another thing you shouldn’t overthink is whether or not to choose a book or movie. It might feel more academic to go with a book, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with picking a movie or TV show. After all, it says “movie” and “television show” right in the prompt. Be genuine and be honest!
My role model is…
As with the book question, you want to be honest, while also choosing a name that reveals something important about you.
For example, you might be impressed by Michael Phelps’s athletic achievements. However, if you don’t know anything about who he is as a person, then you probably shouldn’t list him here as your role model. The person you choose should be someone whom you attempt to emulate in your own life.
For instance, perhaps you admire a local artist for their interdisciplinary work in environmental advocacy, as it shows you that art can be used as a vehicle for change. Or, maybe you admire a teacher who always notices when her students are feeling down, and you aspire to be just as empathetic as an educator. You may not have space to explain all the reasons you admire this figure, but be sure to provide some context, especially if the person is not well known.
As with most supplemental questions, there is no singular right answer. However, there are two things we suggest you avoid:
- Clichés. There will probably be thousands of applications that say “my dad,” and you don’t want your answer to blend in with all of these.
- Politics. The people reading your application are complete strangers, and just because you view someone as a political hero doesn’t mean your admissions officer will too.
In the future, I hope to…
This may be an intimidating question, as you likely have no idea what you’ll be doing even one year after college, never mind far in the future. Remember that you aren’t committing yourself to anything here. Even if your plans are up in the air (which is totally fine), you probably still have some things you hope to do, so share one of them here!
Start with a more general goal, and then take it to the next level. Say you love traveling and marine life. Instead of saying “I hope to travel and study marine life,” say “I hope to travel to the Galapagos Islands to study sea cucumbers.” This specificity added to a more general idea will give your reader a better sense of what motivates your desire to travel, and what kinds of things you hope to see in the world. Just saying that you hope to travel doesn’t tell the admissions committee anything about who you are, as a lot of people have that desire.
If you wish to respond with your career goals, be sure to do so in a more personal way. Every profession is full of people with diverse personalities and experiences. Saying that you want to be a doctor or a writer doesn’t tell your reader anything about what makes you distinct from all the other aspiring doctors and writers out there. Instead of writing “I hope to be a doctor,” say “I hope to be a doctor that gives back to the underserved communities I came from.”
Here are some other strong examples:
In the future, I hope to…
- start a community garden and host multicultural cooking nights.
- engineer more carbon-efficient commercial flights.
- run a marathon as a testament to my strength after overcoming obesity.
- curate a collection of essays on the Muslim-American experience.
One historical figure I would like to meet is…
You don’t have to be a history major to come up with a good answer to this question—just about any person from history can work for this answer. However, that does come with a caveat: be smart. It’s probably a good idea to stay away from anyone too controversial, like a murderer, tyrant, or dictator.
We also recommend that you avoid picking generic historical figures like George Washington or William Shakespeare. These aren’t bad answers—after all, thousands of people choose them too—but you want your answer to stick out in the admissions officers’ minds.
A good strategy is to pick a figure who relates to one of your interests. For example, a student interested in genetics might choose Rosalind Franklin, the overlooked scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA. You don’t have to stick to purely academic interests though. Maybe you’re passionate about environmental justice and you want to talk to John Muir, an early environmental advocate. Perhaps you love to read so you want to speak to your favorite historical author, Victor Hugo.
Your historical figure doesn’t have to be someone who is well known. If anything, choosing a person who is less famous but who has made a large contribution to the niche you are interested in will communicate your genuine passion for the person or topic. Just be sure that you include a brief description to contextualize your choice, in case the admissions officer doesn’t recognize the name you choose.
Even if you pick a figure who is better known, it’s a good idea to explain why you chose that person. For example, three students could choose Beethoven, but depending on their explanation, this choice might reveal three entirely different things about each student:
“Beethoven to figure out what addictive properties he imbued into Symphony No. 5.”
“Beethoven, to feel the reverberations of his deepest emotions fill the room.”
“Beethoven, to play my rendition of Piano Sonata No. 14 for him.”
My favorite food is…
For this response, it’s all about the imagery and the story you can craft to demonstrate why you love this food.
A popular route is to pick a food that has a deeper significance to you. Whether it’s a family recipe, or it conjures up a positive memory, picking one of these foods allows you to share the deeper meaning with the admissions committee. For example:
My favorite food is…
- my grandma’s zongzi I only get once a year for the Duanwu Festival.
- sugar coated popcorn—the best accidental invention my dad created.
- steaming matzah ball soup that warms my red, irritated nose.
- pão de queijo that my mom just took out of the oven.
- the celebratory Carvel sundae after every winning basketball game.
Maybe your favorite food doesn’t have a deep cultural or personal meaning; you just like it for the taste! That’s totally fine too. In that case, create some imagery in your response. You have 13 words to express your chosen food, so saying “key lime pie” is a bad use of space. Instead, use sensory descriptors to conjure up the taste, smell, texture, and look of the food: “Mouth-puckeringly sour key lime pie with a frothy meringue topping and buttery crust.”
Here are a few more examples that take the imagery route:
My favorite food is…
- velvety white cheddar mac and cheese with just a hint of powder residue.
- fork-tender Texas smoked brisket sliced paper-thin and smelling of hickory.
- goat vindaloo that makes your eyes water and your tongue catch on fire.
- a bagel with scallion cream cheese and lox as salty as the sea.
- a crunchy ruby red apple that leaks sweet juices down my chin.
If the admissions officer reading your response finishes feeling hungry, you’ve done your job right.
One thing I would change is…
Even though this is still a short response, you may want to do some brainstorming to figure out exactly what you want to say. In this case, the ideas that come to mind first might actually make for weaker responses than other, less obvious options.
You want to think about changes that show your reader how you view the world. At the same time, your answer should reveal something about you, and why this particular change is so important to you.
For example, perhaps you are passionate about environmental work. You might initially be thinking of saying something like “One thing I would change is the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels.” However, although this response identifies an important issue in the world, it’s also quite broad and doesn’t say anything about how this change would impact your own life.
Instead, you could say something like “One thing I would change is the lack of education about recycling in my local public schools.” This response still shows your reader that you’re passionate about green energy, while also illustrating that passion using a tangible, personal example. Grounding your response with an example proves that you are genuinely passionate about this issue, and have spent time thinking about how it affects your community.
Here are some other examples of responses that tie a broader issue to your own life:
One thing I would change is…
- the price of tickets to Broadway shows, to make the arts more accessible.
- the low number of female basketball coaches in my city.
- the distance between my town and the nearest public library.
Your answer also doesn’t have to be serious. If you feel comfortable thinking outside the box or even putting some humor in your answer, these super short prompts can be a great place to get creative.
Here are some more unconventional responses:
One thing I would change is…
- my inability to parallel park.
- how hard it is for me to follow the puck during hockey games.
- the way I constantly confuse Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.
These kinds of responses can be a great way to catch your reader’s eye, and to change up the seriousness of the rest of your application. If you take this approach, however, be careful that you aren’t just expressing a personal preference. Your answer should still tell your reader something about you, even if that something is lighthearted.
I am most challenged by…
College applications are generally focused on your strengths, not weaknesses. Since this prompt requires a shift in focus, give yourself some time to brainstorm what you want to say.
As you brainstorm, there are a couple of questions that can be helpful:
- What experiences have been hard for you? These can be in school, an extracurricular, or your social life. Even though you aren’t actually going to write about any of them, coming up with a list may help you identify similarities in what made these experiences difficult for you.
- What do you struggle with? We all have things we wish we were better at. Perhaps you don’t do well in big groups of people, or you hate having to work right up until a deadline. If you think more deeply about your weaknesses, you may realize the underlying reason these things are hard for you—for example, perhaps you don’t like big groups because it’s hard for you to have meaningful conversations.
In terms of your actual response, the only real requirement is that it’s authentic. For instance, maybe you have trouble trusting others in group projects because of past bad experiences. You might write “I am most challenged by allowing myself to rely on others in a group effort.”
As with the others, you can also take this response in a more lighthearted direction. For instance, you might write: “I am most challenged by keeping my succulent collection alive.” Just make sure that not all of your answers are “fun.” Otherwise, it might seem like you’re not taking this application seriously. After all, you want to show that you’re capable of self-reflection.
My favorite place is…
Similar to the favorite food question, it’s all about the story and imagery you conjure up when describing your favorite place. There are a lot of options and you can choose to be as specific or as general as you want—although we will always advise towards more specificity. Before we look at good examples, here are a couple of places you should avoid writing about:
- Your house. This is a pretty generic response, and for good reason, since most of us feel a sense of comfort and safety in our own houses. This idea doesn’t reveal enough for you to include it in your application. If you have a specific part of your house that you love, like a reading nook if you love reading or your kitchen if you love to cook, that’s okay, but avoid naming your house as a whole.
- A place you’ve only been to once on vacation. Yes, the Hawaiian beaches are gorgeous, but the only thing that such an answer tells admissions officers is that you went on vacation. You should have a deeper personal connection to the place you pick, and odds are you won’t have that type of relationship with a place you’ve only been to once.
As with all these short prompts, your response should reveal something about yourself. You could pick a place related to one of your interests (”center-stage seconds after the house lights dim and the curtain begins to rise”), a place where your personality gets to shine (”the reading chair at Bright Days daycare where I bring Dr. Seuss alive”), or a place that evokes a happy memory (“the front row of Space Mountain, where I’ll forever be an exhilarated ten-year-old”).
Don’t feel like you have to choose a physical location as your place. It could be more of an emotional or theoretical place as well. For example, you might say, “My favorite place is sandwiched between my parents’ arms after dinner every night.”
I am drawn to Colgate University because…
It’s hard to boil down an entire “Why This College” essay into 13 words (or shorter), but you can do it! While we’d normally recommend discussing your interests and the resources and opportunities at the school that will allow you to explore and develop your passions, you simply don’t have enough space to do all that here. Instead, you need to pick something unique to Colgate that aligns with you. This thing could be a department, an extracurricular opportunity, or something more intangible, like the school’s values (see their mission statement and their 13 goals).
You should avoid general statements or emotional appeals like these:
- It felt like home.
- The beautiful tree-lined campus in the autumn is out of a dream.
- The low student-to-faculty ratio will ensure I get personalized attention.
- To study Environmental Science.
- There’s no other place for me to grow and learn like Colgate.
The sentences above are not specific enough to Colgate to demonstrate that you have a special interest in the school. Any college campus can be beautiful and you can find strong academics just about anywhere if you look hard enough. Your response needs to be either more personal to you or more specific to Colgate—or both!
Here are some stronger examples:
I am drawn to Colgate University because…
- I can bring Rome to life with a Latin major and Classics minor.
- Their value of human creative expression aligns with my passion for innovation.
- The Core Curriculum is perfect for an indecisive girl like me!
You want to make sure you have a strong response to this prompt, so take your time brainstorming beforehand. Write down a dozen or more reasons you are interested in Colgate and find ones that are genuine and unique. From there, you can work on narrowing them down to the more specific ones until you find the best response for you. Don’t expect to come up with the perfect answer on the first try—this process takes time, but in the end it’ll be worth it!
Where to Get Your Colgate University Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your Colgate 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!