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How to Write the George Mason University Essay 2021-2022

A relatively young university, George Mason University was established in 1957 as a branch of the University of Virginia, before becoming an independent school in 1972. Today, the Fairfax County, Virginia-based institution has gained recognition as a top research university.


This year, George Mason has one essay prompt for all applicants that is required for students applying test-optional. If you are applying for the prestigious Honors College, you will be asked to choose between two additional prompts.


Keep reading to learn all about the 2021–2022 George Mason essays and how to tackle them.


All Applicants

What is your motivation for pursuing higher education? Why do you believe George Mason University is the right institution for you? (Required for those applying test-optional) (400 words)

While this essay is required for students who are applying test-optional, we recommend that you complete it even if you do submit standardized test scores.


This is a classic “Why Us” prompt, asking you to explain why you’re interested in attending George Mason over other colleges. Remember, however, that it’s not just about the college and the qualities that appeal to you about it — it’s also about you: your personal and professional goals, what you hope to get out of your education, and how George Mason will support you in achieving these goals.


The “Why this college” essay may seem relatively straightforward on the surface, but it requires a certain amount of nuance. It also demands research on your part, in order for you to go beyond surface-level details like George Mason’s proximity to Washington, DC and the opportunities the location provides. It must also go beyond details you can find from a cursory look on the website.


Instead, use specific details, taking a factual approach — which doesn’t mean it should be devoid of feeling — when describing your goals and how George Mason will enhance your journey.


For example, perhaps you plan to pursue conservation as a profession. Because George Mason is home to the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, the only program of its kind in the country, this is an opportunity to describe why this program appeals to you and how your background complements it. 


You might offer anecdotes about your experience working with wildlife — perhaps you volunteered at a zoo in high school or led a fundraiser to support preserving endangered species. Then, draw a connection between your experiences and George Mason’s program, explaining why this is an ideal place to nurture your goals, since you’ll have the opportunity to receive hands-on training from leading Smithsonian scientists toward the goal of supporting a biodiverse planet.

Dig deep, finding specific names of prospective mentors and research or work they’ve done that you admire. Remember to keep connecting your experiences to what George Mason can offer. This essay is about more than why George Mason is the right school for you — it’s also about you.


Honors Applicants

To complete your application to the Honors College, please choose and respond to one (1) of the prompts above in no more than 500 words.

The selective Honors College at George Mason is a prestigious school designed to promote inquiry and critical thinking. If you are applying to the Honors College, you will be asked to respond to one of the following additional prompts, along with writing the essay above.


Honors Applicants, Option 1

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. As a Tier-1 research institution, every day, our faculty, staff, and students work to address unanswered questions, unresolved challenges, and problems that impact a wide variety of populations. In the Honors College, you’ll have opportunities to do this sort of work — and maybe even answer questions and solve problems that matter to you. Tell us about one question, challenge, or problem that you’d like to work to better understand or address during your time at Mason. Introduce this issue, and then explain why it matters to you and why it might matter to others. Feel free to be creative- research and inquiry can exist in unlikely places.

Colleges seek students who will be a credit to their institutions. In other words, they want their graduates to make them look good. This prompt is a version of the archetypal “impact on community” prompt, which asks you to describe how you plan to make a difference to a variety of communities and/or the efforts you’re currently undertaking.


Inquiry is at the heart of the Honors College at George Mason. The school seeks out students who are curious and want to solve problems. This prompt requires real thought and asks that you grapple with the issues that are most important to you. Avoid cliches here — of course you want to solve world hunger and achieve peace in the Middle East. Instead, be specific in pinpointing an issue that really means something to you.


For example, perhaps you’re passionate about children and young adults who attend school while struggling with homelessness. Discuss why this issue is important to you — maybe you volunteered with underserved communities or even have acquaintances struggling with this problem — and why you want to study it further. 


Bear in mind that you don’t have to solve the problem in or with your essay. The adcom doesn’t expect you to have the answers. They want to gain insight into your thought process and how you grapple with particularly challenging scenarios. They also want to see evidence of your own curiosity and desire to work through complex issues.


Discuss some approaches you would take in order to further investigate the problem — the resources you would use, the research you would pursue, and so on.


Again, this is not about answers — it’s about inquiry and curiosity. It’s also about engaging with complex scenarios and the world around you.


Honors Applicants, Option 2

The art we see, the stories we read, and the words we hear have the power to move us and to change us. Tell us about a time that you’ve been moved to act by something you read, a speech you heard, or a work of art that you experienced. What was it, and how did it impact you? What did you do — or what will you do — in response?

This is another spin on the “impact on community” prompt, one that also asks you to demonstrate your interests and reveal your sources of inspiration. 


One danger with this prompt is choosing something that’s cliche. George Mason will almost certainly receive numerous Black Lives Matter-inspired responses, and while the movement is, of course, important, and might have particular importance to you, you want your essay to be unique. Moreover, the prompt asks you to choose a particular work, something more specific, that has an enormous impact on you.


Think outside the box. This doesn’t have to be a weighty book like Caste, which has obvious implications that might compel you to act. Perhaps, for instance, you saw an episode of Law & Order: SVU about child trafficking, and it inspired you to research and get involved with efforts to combat it. 


Spend less time describing the piece and more time explaining the impact it has on you. A lengthy description of the item will take up too much space, and you only have 500 words. Plus, the goal of the essay is not to give a summary of something that inspires you but to demonstrate how and why you’re inspired by it and how it compels you to act. 


Your essay will most likely take a narrative form and should include plenty of anecdotes to engage the reader and bring authenticity to the story. You should show how you feel, why you feel that way, and what your reaction is, without, of course, telling.


Where to Get Your George Mason Essays Edited for Free


After writing your George Mason essay(s), make sure you take the time to edit. Often, other readers will see things in your essay that you don’t and offer feedback that will help you polish your essays. CollegeVine’s free essay peer-review service allows you to get a second (or third or fourth) set of eyes on your writing so you can be sure you’re submitting your best work when the time comes.


All you need to do is create a free CollegeVine account, and you’ll be able to access this and many other resources to support you during the admissions process.


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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.