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How to Write the George Washington University Essays 2022-2023

 

The George Washington University (GW) has an optional supplemental essay prompt for all applicants, with two options to choose from. This essay is your chance to demonstrate your interest in GW, so we highly recommend that you submit it.

 

GW also has required supplemental essays for certain majors (the Journalism and Mass Communication Major and the Political Communication Major) which allow you to show to admissions officers your competency and interest in the respective fields.

 

Also, if you’re interested in applying to the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute, you’ll need to write an essay about how you can contribute to a sense of comunidad within the Institute.

 

Read these GW essay examples by accepted students to inspire your writing.

 

Want to know your chances at GW? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

George Washington University Supplemental Essay Prompts

Optional for All Applicants  

 

Every applicant can choose from one of the following two essay prompts to submit.

 

Option 1: At the George Washington University, our students frequently interact with policymakers and world leaders. These experiences and those of our alumni can shape the future of global affairs. If you had the power to change the course of history in your community or the world, what would you do and why? (500 words)

 

Option 2: The George Washington University encourages students to think critically and to challenge the status quo. Thus, civil discourse is a key characteristic of our community. Describe a time when you engaged others in meaningful dialogue around an issue that was important to you. Did this exchange create change, new perspectives, or deeper relationships? (500 words)

 

 

Honors Program Applicants

 

Prompt 1: As you think about your time at GW, how do you see the University Honors Program shaping your undergraduate experience? What most excites you about joining the UHP? (500 words)

 

Prompt 2: Write a letter to a figure of importance to you (scholar, artist, activist, scientist, politician, etc.). (500 words)

 

 

School of Media and Public Affairs

 

Journalism and Mass Communication Major Applicants: Write a profile of yourself in news or news feature style, as if you had interviewed yourself. (500 words)

 

Political Communication Major Applicants: If you could be any one person who has been active in politics, who would you choose to be and why? (500 words)

 

 

Special Programs

 

Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute Applicants: At the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute, community is central to our approach to leadership. Therefore, Cisneros Scholars are selected as a cohort that navigate their four years at GW together. How would you contribute to a sense of comunidad in your cohort if you were selected as a Cisneros Scholar? (500 words)

 

All Applicants, Option 1

At the George Washington University, our students frequently interact with policymakers and world leaders. These experiences and those of our alumni can shape the future of global affairs. If you had the power to change the course of history in your community or the world, what would you do and why? (500 words)

At first glance, this prompt appears to be eliciting your perspective on and critical analysis of historical events or current affairs. However, the goal of this essay is deeper than that. Remember, admissions essays are pieces of the puzzle that when pieced together, ideally show the admissions committee a comprehensive picture of you. Thus, this question is also seeking to understand what sociopolitical, economic, or environmental issues are important to you, and why.

 

Given the phrasing of the question, this prompt would be essential for applicants planning to major in international affairs or the social sciences. 

 

Here are two interpretations of the prompt: 

 

  • If you could go back in time, what critical local, national, or global historical event would you change? How would you inflict such a change? Why? 

 

  • Currently, what is a problem plaguing our society that you would work to resolve if you had all the power necessary to do so? What actions would you take, why, and how would those actions alter our future?

 

Given the deliberate ambiguity of the question, you can choose either interpretation as your springboard. Just be sure to formulate your opening paragraph in a way that makes it clear how you chose to interpret the question.

 

Regardless of which route you decide on, the objective of your response is to suggest a solution to the problem you deem most critical. You are limited to a mere 250 words, so make sure to establish the context of your chosen issue with brevity and precision in a manner that will frame your solution. Then, get straight to the point: identify the problem or past event that affected the course of human history and suggest a more promising course of action.

 

A few tips and words of caution: 

 

Don’t pick a topic or problem that is too broad. If you are considering present-day issues in your response, don’t discuss something vague like “global poverty” or “illiteracy in developing nations.” No one individual is able to provide a concrete and feasible plan of action to such major problems of international significance, let alone a high school student with 250 words at their disposal. The strategy is to pick a sub-issue of a larger problem that affects a specific population.

 

For example, instead of addressing illiteracy in the developing world, you can delineate a proposal to increase literacy in rural schools with understaffed faculty, and connect it to your own background of growing up in a community where access to higher education and associated economic opportunities was inadequate. 

 

Or, you can suggest a measure to combat food insecurity for low-income students in Native-American reservations and relate that to your experience of witnessing hunger in your school cafeteria. Make your choice of issue specific, and your response to it personal.

 

Don’t bring up a historical cliché. If you are taking the historical route, avoid silly or overused instances. For example, don’t write about going back to the 1930s and killing Hitler in order to prevent WWII. Such responses would show the admissions committee that you are not serious, or worse yet, that your critical analysis is insufficient to provide a more nuanced reflection.

 

Try to think of historical events that were impactful to your personal or family background and are under-reported in the media. If you grew up in a community of interracial children raised by single parents, you may want to draw attention to the unique experiences and challenges this demographic faces in trying to grapple with their whole identity while heavily influenced only by one particular side.

 

Be specific. Give clear examples of actions you would take or policies you would implement in order to affect meaningful change. Don’t write broadly about educating more girls; instead, outline steps the government could take to narrow the gender literacy gap by allocating more funds to local schools or dedicating a certain portion of research grants to underrepresented women.

 

Instead of declaring that you would go back to 18th century United States and eliminate slavery, discuss the logical arguments and personal leverage you would use in lobbying influential generals and statesmen of the time to back a more egalitarian Constitution.

 

Ultimately, the prompt aims to gauge your personal values and determine your ability to think critically, to focus on worthwhile problems, and to propose realistic solutions. The admissions committee is looking to admit students who are passionate about examining pressing issues, quick to identify key stakeholders, and able to imagine plausible alternatives. 

 

 

All Applicants, Option 2

The George Washington University encourages students to think critically and to challenge the status quo. Thus, civil discourse is a key characteristic of our community. Describe a time when you engaged others in meaningful dialogue around an issue that was important to you. Did this exchange create change, new perspectives, or deeper relationships? (500 words)

At its core, this prompt determines your ability to thrive in an intellectual environment punctuated by a diversity of opinions, as well as your capability to enact meaningful change in your community. At a time of increasing politicization, the admissions committee wants to attract students who are able to listen to each other and who can use their powers of persuasion to promote their point of view.

 

You don’t need a dramatic example to highlight your abilities to listen and persuade others. Here are some ideas of the kinds of moments in your life that will highlight the qualities necessary for the completion of this prompt. 

 

If you are an active member or leader of a club, you can invoke a situation in which you and other fellow members disagreed on the action the club should take. 

 

For example, you can write about the time you convinced your classmates to donate a significant sum to a local soup kitchen, instead of retaining it as part of the club budget, by appealing to their emotional side with photos of the people the kitchen is helping, and the statistics of the demographic it would reach.

 

You can also share a story in which you convinced another student of the validity of your point in a classroom debate, formal or informal. 

 

For example, write about the time when you used a compelling example that involved someone your debate opponent related to as you advocated for legalizing gay marriage in your U.S. history class, thus convincing her of LGBTQ individuals’ right to marriage.

 

Alternatively, discuss the challenges of convincing the Board of Education to support your initiative to start a new club. 

 

For example, if you tried to start a Girls in STEM club and were rebuffed by the administration on the grounds that the school already sponsored a Science Club, you could outline the arguments you used and the awareness campaign you launched in order to ultimately secure the necessary funding.

 

No matter what kind of example you choose, don’t forget that the prompt wants you to demonstrate that both you and the other party gained something from the experience. It is not enough to tell the admissions committee about a fight you had with a classmate who didn’t believe in abortion on religious grounds. You need to demonstrate your ability to persuade others, even those with radically different opinions, so dig deep and pick a success story as the example. 

 

Anyone can argue, but not everyone can express their ideas and exchange perspectives in a respectful and productive way. Perhaps you engaged a fellow classmate in a class debate that led you to form a life-long friendship, despite your political differences. Or, maybe you were able to develop a project that others initially opposed and convinced them of its value. Make sure that your response highlights a lesson learned or an impact made. 

 

 

Honors Program Applicants, Prompt 1

As you think about your time at GW, how do you see the University Honors Program shaping your undergraduate experience? What most excites you about joining the UHP? (500 words)

This prompt is rather similar to the common “Why This College?” essay, but it’s specifically tailored to the GW’s Honors Program. The Honors Program is a rigorous addition to your GW education. It was created to probe a wide range of academic interests in an interconnected way so that its students can address issues from multiple perspectives. If you love to learn for its own sake and you’ve always enjoyed dabbling in several disciplines, this program might be perfect for you!

 

Before beginning your response, think about the subjects that interest you most. Perhaps you love biology, linguistics, and math. Once you’ve considered the disciplines you enjoy, explore the Honors Program’s course offerings to find classes that pique your curiosity.

 

Perhaps you’re primarily interested in psychology, especially as it pertains to politics. Your psychology studies would be enriched by the “Control” course in the Origins and Evolution of Modern Thought section of the honors program, as it focuses on classical and modern conceptions of power and control. The course called “The History of Coups d’État in the Twentieth Century: A Comparative Examination of the Nature of Political Power and Violence” would provide you with insight into how political control has been forcibly taken throughout history.

 

Or, maybe you’ve always been self-starting and independent. You might be interested in pursuing an Honors Contract course. This unique opportunity allows you to receive academic credit for academic-focused projects outside of class. You can pursue an internship, undergraduate research project, or research assistantships in a field that catches your eye while getting college credit!

 

Familiarize yourself with the program’s mission and curriculum so you can be as specific and personal as possible in your response. Since you have 500 words to work with, you should discuss your passions and goals, as these can be tied into the Honors Program’s academics, as in the previous examples. Also think about how your passions are linked to different academic disciplines. If your passions can lend themselves to interdisciplinary studies, the Honors Program would be a good fit for you.

 

Perhaps you want to be a pharmacist. While a biology or chemistry degree would go a long way in getting you there, you may want to enrich your learning experience by gaining knowledge of the economics of medicine, the politics of clinical trials, and the history of pharmacology.

 

Honors Program Applicants, Prompt 2

Write a letter to a figure of importance to you (scholar, artist, activist, scientist, politician, etc.). (500 words)

This prompt is a perfect place to really delve into a particular passion of yours. Before you start writing though, there are some questions you should ask yourself to direct your writing:

 

  • What topics do I truly care about? Books, films, visual arts, music, politics, chemistry, psychology, history? What makes me tick?
  • Which figures in the topic I chose are important to me? A particular author, director, artist, politician, scientist?
  • Why is this figure important to me? Did he define a genre? Does her work inspire me? Has his art changed my outlook on the world? Are her films revolutionary? Did this person’s scientific finding alter my life?

 

You should know the answers to these questions before you begin writing so you can craft your letter with a sense of continuity. If you start to ramble randomly with minimal structure, your letter can get messy quickly. Knowing the field you’re interested in, the person in that field who is most important to you, and why this person is so important are essential to the cohesiveness of your letter.

 

Once you have all of these things outlined, you can begin the letter. The most interesting thing about this prompt is how open-ended it is. You can pick any domain and any figure you please, but you can also decide what the letter is about! Perhaps you want to express your gratitude to a scientist for discovering something that changed your life. Or maybe you’d like to ask a politician to bring about a change that would improve your quality of life. There are plenty of fascinating roads to go down with your letter.

 

For example, a student passionate about music might begin to respond like this:

 

Dear Stevie Wonder,

 

I want to thank you for being such a pioneer in music. I have been a musician for years and no one’s music has taught me more about theory than yours. The subtle musical intricacies across your whole discography have inspired me and pushed me to be a better artist. When I first heard that flat VI dominant chord in “Sir Duke,” I was amazed…

 

You can be as personal in your motivations as you’d like! Even though the above example gets a little technical within the domain of music, there is clearly a passion in the writing that the admissions committee is going to notice. One of the essential elements of this prompt is the passion. You should express how much you care about the figure’s work as well as why you care so much.

 

Let’s look at another example of a student talking about a totally different figure in a different domain for a different reason:

 

Dear Prof. Noam Chomsky,

 

I find your work on universal grammar fascinating. I wanted to discuss the role of nurture in language acquisition. It is known that you have long been an advocate of the notion of the innateness of language, but many scholars have argued against this. They note that we have yet to uncover true principles of universal grammar, and that evolution doesn’t really account for the genetic basis of language. What are your thoughts on modern language acquisition theories?…

 

This is another letter that gets deeply into the technical aspects of a topic, but it also shows how passionate and informed the student is.

 

Remember, at their core, supplemental essay prompts are created with the intention of allowing you to reveal something about yourself that is not visible anywhere else in your application. You should seek to show your deep interest in some topic, be it a more academic subject you’ve studied deeply on your own or a less academic subject that you have pursued in your free time. Be sincere in what you write about, and be sure that it reflects one of your interests well.

 

Journalism and Mass Communication Major Applicants

Write a profile of yourself in news or news feature style, as if you had interviewed yourself. (500 words)

To prepare for this prompt, it is a good idea to spend some time reading newspaper articles. Look for feature articles that provide in-depth interviews with individuals—movie stars, politicians, or entrepreneurs—on reputable news sites such as the New York Times, Time Magazine, or The Washington Post. Get to know the style used by professional journalists when profiling subjects.

 

It is important to focus your “interview” on a particular event or achievement in your life. Although the prompt is quite vague in regards to the content of the profile, you don’t want to waste this space by rambling on about a list of your achievements.

 

Instead, think of one particular interest that really defines and shapes you, then come up with “interview questions” that would allow you to speak to that aspect of your personality. 

 

This prompt also gives you an opportunity to highlight an aspect of your profile that the rest of your more conventional application does not showcase. Here are some suggestions for potential topics:

 

If you have a unique skill that you have cultivated outside of your academic and extracurricular life, this prompt is a perfect opportunity to mention it. 

 

For example, if you are an expert juggler who practices new tricks every weekend and can captivate an audience of middle-school children, your profile is a chance to sell the admissions committee on this particular quirk, and your innate passion for the activity that nurtured your skill.

 

If you have an intense interest or passion, however unconventional, you can also use this prompt to demonstrate how it contributes to your skills and personality. 

 

For instance, if you have collected every film produced by your favorite movie director, are capable of reciting obscure trivia about his cinematic achievements, and never miss a chance to learn more about the genre of cinema in which he specializes, talk about it in your profile. This way, you can show that you are intellectually curious and motivated to learn new things about the subjects that inspire you.

 

If you have had a particular experience that served as a defining moment in your life, the newspaper profile is a great place to reflect on it. 

 

For example, if you had spent many months preparing for a half-marathon, working hard to build the stamina and discipline necessary to keep running, you can use this response as a place to reflect on the challenges you faced and what you learned about yourself along the way.

 

One way to help you develop a strong response to the prompt is to ask a friend or family member to interview you. They may be able to come up with interesting questions that you would not otherwise have thought of, the responses to which you can incorporate in your profile.

 

Below are some practical tips for crafting a response in the style of a news piece:

 

  • Refer to yourself in third person. It may feel strange at first, but it is important to remember that the prompt wants you to write a feature as though you interviewed yourself. Pretend you are a reporter who is writing a story about a famous individual and refer to yourself the way you would to your subject.

 

  • Stylistically, journalistic writing differs from academic papers you would typically write in high school. Try to keep both your sentences and paragraphs short and to the point. Each sentence and paragraph should communicate one main idea and include only the information necessary to convey it. Don’t include complicated clauses or overly long, flowery sentences. The purpose of a news article is to convey information effectively and concisely. This prompt seeks to determine whether you are capable of adopting the kind of style necessary to succeed at the School of Media and Public Affairs.

 

When responding to any of the above prompts, it is crucial to reflect on what the question is asking you before launching into writing. In addition, it is always a good idea to have another person look over your responses when you’re done in order to avoid any careless errors and make sure that you are getting your main points across in a clear and engaging manner.

 

Political Communication Major Applicants

If you could be any one person who has been active in politics, who would you choose to be and why? (500 words)

This prompt is meant to separate applicants who have a genuine interest in the world of political communications from those who only have surface-level interest. In order to answer this prompt effectively, you need to be able to pinpoint issues you are passionate about, identify a person active in politics who inspires you, and explain WHY you chose that particular person. 

 

Don’t pick a person whose policies you do not know well. While names like “AOC,” “Bernie Sanders,” “Donald Trump,” “Angela Merkel,” “Modi” and more are in mainstream media, many people only know the SparkNotes version of their policies. The admissions committee wants to see that your specific interest—that could have been shown in your extracurriculars or class choices—is also valued by the person you chose. 

 

For instance, if you have worked at a food bank through your high school career, you could choose to be Congressman Dwight Evans (PA) who spearheaded the “Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act.” 

 

Or, if you want to choose a person who is in mainstream media, try to pick a policy-agenda of theirs that is less-known and connect it back to some of your interests. 

 

For example, if you participated in clubs for mental health awareness in young adults, you could choose to become Elizabeth Warren who co-sponsored a bill to address mental health issues for youth, specifically youth of color. 

 

This major has an additional prompt because the admissions committee wants to choose people who are determined to pursue this educational track. Take time to carefully assess how you can tie your interests from outside of school or extracurriculars to the person you choose to become. 

 

The WHY portion of this prompt is the most important part. Anyone could choose President Obama as the person they wish to become and state a simple reason like: “because he was the first African-American President of the United States and that was an inspiration to me.” However, a more effective answer would elaborate on what impact President Obama had on you beyond serving as an inspiration. 

 

For instance, did Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act inspire you as a female applicant to fight against the wage gap? Or, did Obama lifting a 22-year old ban that restricted people with HIV/AIDS from entering the US impact your decision to write a blog about public health in America? 

 

Making specific connections between the actions or accomplishments of the person you choose and your own accomplishments and goals will make your essay response unique and memorable. 

 

Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute Applicants

At the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute, community is central to our approach to leadership. Therefore, Cisneros Scholars are selected as a cohort that navigate their four years at GW together. How would you contribute to a sense of comunidad in your cohort if you were selected as a Cisneros Scholar? (500 words)

The Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute is dedicated to research that will benefit the Hispanic community. Applicants to this Institute are expected to be dedicated to “community” conceptually, to the Hispanic community, and to the cohort community they will be a part of throughout their college careers.

 

Read more about the Institute’s mission, academic programs, and research before you begin writing. After doing this research on the program, consider your specific reasons for applying to the Cisneros Institute. Think about how you have tangible and intangible connections to the program.

 

A tangible connection involves resources like the academic programs, specific faculty members, and research opportunities. An intangible connection involves things that aren’t physical, such as the program’s culture and its values. Once you’ve figured these things out, you can create a specific plan for how you’ll engage with the program.

 

For example, perhaps you’re drawn to the Cisneros Undergraduate Research Fellowship because you have a research idea that involves studying how Hispanic people are treated based on the intensity of their Spanish accent. You might find ways in which this idea appeals to the members of your cohort, who may know people with strong accents. Conducting a full-length research project with your cohort can contribute greatly to a sense of community within it.

 

You can also think of this prompt as a future-tense version of the community service essay. A typical community service prompt asks how you have contributed to a community in the past. This prompt is asking how you will create a sense of comunidad in the future. One way to start thinking about your response is to look to the past.

 

To do this, ask yourself a few questions: in what ways have you created a sense of community before? What actions did you take? What values did these actions instill in others within that community?

 

Once you have a good idea of how you have contributed to a community in the past, you can apply some of these ideas to your future cohort. Perhaps you will work to help others in your cohort if they start to struggle academically, since you created a helpful study group for your AP Calculus class in high school. Maybe you’re a home cook and know how soothing a familiar recipe is, so you want to organize weekly group dinners at the Casa Cisneros (the living-learning community), where you cook recipes passed down from the families of people in the cohort. 

 

One important program that Cisneros scholar cohorts participate in is Caminos al Futuro, a pre-college residential summer program in which “Caminos scholars examine the social, economic and political transformations affecting the Hispanic/Latino community in a college-like environment.” According to GW, cohorts often serve as counselors and mentors for this program, so you may want to mention how you will serve as a role model for your cohort as well as the program participants in your capacity as counselor.

 

Where to Get Your George Washington Essays Edited

 

Want feedback on your GW essays to improve your chances at admission? After reading your own essay repeatedly, it can be hard to even spot where you can improve. That’s why we’ve created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also sharpen 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!


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