How to Write the Colorado School of Mines Essays 2021-2022

Colorado School of Mines has two supplemental essays. Although these supplements are technically optional, we strongly encourage you to respond to them. In a college application, you only have so much space to share information about yourself, so you want to take full advantage of every opportunity to do so.

 

Both of these supplements are on the longer side (500 words), so make sure to keep that in mind as you make a schedule for writing and revising your college essays.

 

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Colorado School of Mines Essay Prompts

Prompt 1: Florence Caldwell was the first woman to graduate from Mines. She enrolled in 1895 and found that her fellow classmates discouraged her attendance. She persevered through that discouragement and graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1898. She was described as a problem solver who was loyal, kind and sympathetic to others and displayed unwavering courage. Describe a time when you overcame an obstacle, persevered through a situation or displayed characteristics similar to Florence Caldwell. (500 words)

 

Prompt 2: Please tell us why Mines is the best fit for you or tell us something about yourself that you feel the rest of your application does not communicate. (500 words)

Prompt 1

Florence Caldwell was the first woman to graduate from Mines. She enrolled in 1895 and found that her fellow classmates discouraged her attendance. She persevered through that discouragement and graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1898. She was described as a problem solver who was loyal, kind and sympathetic to others and displayed unwavering courage. Describe a time when you overcame an obstacle, persevered through a situation or displayed characteristics similar to Florence Caldwell. (500 words)

Before you begin brainstorming, we recommend that you read our “How to Write the ‘Overcoming Challenges’ Essay” blog post, if you haven’t already. We’ll recap the most important points here as well, but that post is a great place to start for this kind of essay.

 

The first, and most important, thing to do when faced with this sort of prompt is pick a challenge to focus on. Even though there’s not a person alive who hasn’t struggled, it can be difficult to pinpoint a single challenge you’ve faced, particularly since you’re being asked to get vulnerable with a complete stranger, in a context where you’re trying to come across as impressive.

 

Remember, however, that you have the whole rest of your application to show off, and that it’s up to you to decide how personal you want to get. There’s no need to share the darkest moment of your life, although you are welcome to do so if you feel comfortable. The point of the essay is to showcase your character, so as long as the scenario you pick does that, you’re in good shape.

 

You do want to make sure to avoid generic topics, like being frustrated with not making varsity or doing poorly on a test. While these experiences can be extremely challenging, nearly everyone faces them at some point or another, so your essay won’t feel particularly unique to you.

 

Your challenge should also be genuinely difficult. Nobody will be impressed by an essay about how you got a B+ instead of an A. Remember, they’re the ones who chose this prompt. Sharing a personal struggle is hard, but that’s what they want to see―they’re not going to judge you for going through a hard time.

 

Here are some good examples of things you might write about:

 

  • Switching schools as a junior and struggling to make friends
  • Deciding to learn guitar and finding it much harder than you expected
  • Going on a 2-week canoeing trip without any prior experience in the outdoors
  • Building a treehouse and then having it get destroyed in a storm
  • Missing your older brother’s guidance after he went to college

 

Once you’ve decided on a topic, think about what you want your essay to illustrate about you. The dirty little secret of the “Overcoming a Challenge” essay is that the “overcoming” part is just as important as the “challenge” part. You want to show your reader that you learned something from this experience, and that you will bring those lessons with you into their community.

 

Colorado School of Mines actually gives you a hand here by listing some potential traits to touch on in your response: problem-solving, kindness, sympathy, and courage. The admissions officers are directly telling you they value those things in their students, so a strong response should illustrate how you have embodied at least one of those qualities.

 

Remember that, like any other college essay, you want to show, not tell. Strong anecdotes that illustrate what you are saying will be much more convincing to your reader than general statements they’re just supposed to believe.

 

For example, say you write about the canoeing experience above. You might describe how the first two days were incredibly long, and all you could think about each night was how much your body hurt. 

 

On the third day, however, you noticed one of the other trip members applying ointment to terrible blisters on her hands, and you realized everyone else was struggling just as much as you. You proposed a system where each person got a one-hour break during the day, and during that hour they would lead games or provide encouragement to the people paddling. The group adopted your idea, and you were able to build bonds with the other people that have lasted to this day.


This example shows problem-solving, kindness, and sympathy, and illustrates those qualities through tangible examples that make your essay much more compelling than if you just told your reader you were kind, sympathetic and good at problem-solving. 

 

Finally, since this is a longer supplement, you have the space to show off your writing a little bit. Don’t worry about this on the first or even second draft, but once you’ve written and revised the core parts of your essay, you can afford yourself the luxury of focusing on details. For example:

 

Draft 1: “The first two days, we paddled 15 miles, and as I fell asleep at night, I couldn’t believe how sore I was.

 

Draft 5: “By the end of the second day, pain was rippling up my wrists to my shoulders, and my hips felt as brittle as a twig in winter after squatting on the hard seat for hours on end.

 

Don’t go overboard―you don’t want to get so caught up in competing with Shakespeare that you forget to share what you learned from this experience―but as you polish up your response, detailed, creative descriptions can take your essay to the next level.

 

Prompt 2

Please tell us why Mines is the best fit for you or tell us something about yourself that you feel the rest of your application does not communicate. (500 words)

There are two ways to approach this prompt. First, as a traditional “Why School?” essay. Second, as a completely open-ended prompt―Mines gives you the opportunity to share anything about yourself that doesn’t already come across in the rest of your application.

 

In general, we recommend treating this as a “Why School?” essay. There are a few reasons for this advice:

 

1. The freedom of totally open-ended prompts can be overwhelming for some people, and spending hours thinking about what you want to write about is not the best use of your time

 

2. Writing a strong response to a prompt that is not only open-ended but also on the longer side will take a good amount of both time and creativity

 

3. The Common App already gives you the opportunity to write about the abnormal events of the last year and any extenuating circumstances not reflected by your application, such as illnesses

 

 

That being said, we are not suggesting that no applicants should take advantage of the freedom offered by this prompt. If you are a confident writer and feel like there is something important you have yet to share with the admissions officers, go for it! We will give you some tips later on in this post about how to strategize. 

 

First, however, we will tackle the “Why School?” approach. If you choose to go this route, we recommend reading our general post on “Why School?” essays, if you haven’t already. 

 

Additionally, remember that even if you have already written a “Why School?” essay for some other college, you should not just use that essay as a template to copy and paste “Colorado School of Mines” into. There are over 4,000 four-year colleges in this country, and all of them have different strengths and cater to different kinds of students. Your response should reflect the uniqueness of the experience at Mines.

 

In order to do that, you want your essay to be as specific as possible. As you think about why you’re taking the time to apply to Mines, go beyond broad statements like “I want to go to school in Colorado” or “I want to go to a school with a STEM focus,” as statements like these could apply equally well to many other schools.

 

Instead, try to think about something that you can’t find just anywhere. For example, many schools have outdoors clubs, but Mines offers the even more intense Backcountry Club. Alternatively, Environmental Engineering is a relatively common major offering, but the department minor in Water Sustainability is not.

 

The clubs page, course offerings, and list of majors are good places to find these kinds of specific opportunities. Keep in mind, however, that you shouldn’t just rattle off a list of things that sound interesting. The admissions officers know what their school offers, after all.

 

Instead, show your reader why you are interested in these particular opportunities out of everything offered at Mines. For example, if you were interested in the water sustainability minor, you might write about how growing up in California, and seeing first-hand the impact of droughts, has shown you what a world without enough water looks like, and driven you to make sure that never happens.

 

Since this is a longer essay, you’ll probably want to pick 2-3 opportunities at Mines to focus on, and spend 150-200 words showing how each one connects to your life. What you don’t want to do is pick a bunch of things and then try to manufacture a personal connection. That strategy will likely cause your response to feel forced or generic, which are two qualities you never want to see in a college essay.

 

Now that we’ve covered the “Why School?” approach to this prompt, we’ll give some tips for those who decide to go the creative route. Keep in mind that there’s no one right way to write a response. That’s true of all supplements, but particularly those as broad as “tell us something about yourself.”

 

However, as you brainstorm what you want to say, you do want to pick something to focus on. Being given freedom is not the same thing as being given permission to be chaotic. You still want your reader to come away from your essay learning something about you.

 

That being said, your focus point can be anything, so long as it isn’t already said elsewhere in your application. Repeating yourself would be a waste of a valuable opportunity to share something new. 

 

Remember also that, generally speaking, college applications only get at certain types of activities or interests, and there can be limited opportunities to share things that may be a significant part of your life, but don’t necessarily show up on paper. 

 

These are exactly the kinds of things that would make strong topics here, and we provide some examples below of things in this category. Again, we aren’t suggesting your topic has to be anything like these. These examples are just intended to grease your gears as you start your brainstorming process. 

 

  • Biking from Seattle to Portland every year with your family
  • Learning how to make jewelry from your eldery neighbor
  • Your passion for period dramas
  • Your experience rescuing an injured manatee 
  • Your fascination with the rise of analytics in sports scouting

 

Once you’ve picked a topic, your approach to this supplement will be pretty much the same as for any other college essay. You want to include specific anecdotes that illustrate something tangible about your personality or character to your reader.

 

So, for the biking example above, you might write about how one specific trip was done entirely in the pouring rain, and how this experience taught you to find joy in the people around you even when the circumstances are challenging.

Or, for the period dramas example, don’t just write about how great Pride and Prejudice is, as that won’t tell your reader anything about you beyond your enjoyment of one particular book. Instead, write about how you find that human emotion comes across more viscerally in settings that don’t have the technological distractions of the modern world. That will show them that you have the sophisticated thinking skills necessary to thrive at a school like Mines.

 

Where to Get Your Colorado School of Mines Essays Edited for Free

 

As you get closer to submission day, you will probably have read over your essays dozens of times, and typically the more you read them the harder it is to find anything to improve. That’s why we created our Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. Since they don’t know you personally, they can be a more objective judge of whether your personality shines through, and whether you’ve fully answered the prompt. 

 

You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. We highly recommend giving this tool a try!

 


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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.

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