How to Write the George Washington University Essays 2023-2024
The George Washington University has one optional supplemental essay prompt for all applicants, with two options to choose from. While not technically required, submitting a supplemental essay is your chance to distinguish yourself from other applicants, so we highly recommend completing it.
If you’re interested in applying for the Honors Program, you must complete two supplemental essays that showcase how the program would aid your studies at the University. 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.
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: With small classes and a dedicated faculty, the University Honors Program (UHP) embraces the ideals of a liberal arts education. Within the UHP, students take classes in many different academic fields (philosophy, science, history, art, social science, etc.) and hone their critical thinking skills. Explain why, as a member of the UHP, you would value the opportunity to engage with topics outside your major field(s) of study. (300 words)
Prompt 2: The UHP represents a community of scholars at GW. First-year UHP students live and take classes together on the Mount Vernon Campus. Upper-level UHP students remain connected to our community for the remainder of their time at GW through courses, faculty mentoring, advising, research, an optional Foggy Bottom housing opportunity, and our many co-curricular/social activities. How do you see yourself contributing to and/or benefiting from this community as a member of the UHP? (300 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)
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
With small classes and a dedicated faculty, the University Honors Program (UHP) embraces the ideals of a liberal arts education. Within the UHP, students take classes in many different academic fields (philosophy, science, history, art, social science, etc.) and hone their critical thinking skills. Explain why, as a member of the UHP, you would value the opportunity to engage with topics outside your major field(s) of study. (300 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 provide an interdisciplinary education to students so they can address real-world problems in well-rounded ways. If you love to learn for its own sake and you enjoy dabbling in several subjects, this program might be perfect for you!
Before beginning your response, think about your prospective major(s) and career goals and how courses in other fields can support those goals. This prompt is essentially two parts: one, explaining why you value an interdisciplinary education, and two, how UHP specifically can support your goals/education.
For the first part, here’s an example. Say you want to be a doctor. While a STEM degree will give you the scientific foundation and knowledge to go to med school, medicine is an inherently interdisciplinary field; it’s not only scientific but also social, political, and economic. You want to be able to effectively treat patients from different socioeconomic backgrounds and advocate for better healthcare policy, especially as a low-income immigrant child who has experienced barriers to getting healthcare.
As you explain the reasons you value an interdisciplinary education, make sure to also explain your why. Anyone who wants to be a doctor could explain how you need to be well-rounded, but that hypothetical student has a life story that backs up their motivation.
For the next part of your essay, you’ll want to cite specific Honors Program resources that will support your interdisciplinary education. Explore the course offerings to find classes that pique your curiosity. The above student might mention the course Well-Being, which approaches wellness from a wide variety of cultures and philosophies.
They could also mention wanting to pursue 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! This particular student might want to do a contract course focused on public health.
Keep in mind you only have 300 words to work with, and although that may sound like a lot, you’ll quickly find it may be difficult to write about all the various interests within the program you may have. Try to focus on just a couple, but don’t be afraid to mention there are countless others you hope to have time for.
No matter what you decide to write about, be sure to center your response around your passions and goals, this personal aspect is what will ultimately make your essay unique and authentic.
Honors Program Applicants, Prompt 2
The UHP represents a community of scholars at GW. First-year UHP students live and take classes together on the Mount Vernon Campus. Upper-level UHP students remain connected to our community for the remainder of their time at GW through courses, faculty mentoring, advising, research, an optional Foggy Bottom housing opportunity, and our many co-curricular/social activities. How do you see yourself contributing to and/or benefiting from this community as a member of the UHP? (300 words)
At first glance, this prompt certainly seems to have some overlap with the previous question. Both prompts are variations on the “Why This College?” essay, but separates your reasoning into two distinct categories. While you should dive into the course offerings and academics that led you to applying to the Honors Program in the previous prompt, this prompt asks you to explain why this specific community is not only a good fit for you, but why you’ll be a good fit for the community and what you’ll add to it as a whole.
First, make sure you outline what you’re looking for in a college experience outside of the classroom, and how that can support your academic and personal goals. For example, the student who wants to be a doctor may want a mentor (which is especially helpful for pre-professional paths), is interested in hosting study groups (great for STEM classes), and ways to have fun with classmates outside of academics (necessary for a work-life balance).
Next, do some research on exactly what the Honors Program offers students as far as community. The prompt itself gives you a good head start on what your experience will look like as you move through your studies, but a great answer to this prompt will dig deeper.
Starting with the Mount Vernon campus experience, not only will Honors students live in the same residence hall, but they will live on the same two floors, meaning the Honors Program offers a built-in community both in and out of the classroom. Showcasing how this built-in community would enhance your college experience is imperative when answering this prompt. For the pre-med student, they may mention how this dorm experience will make it easy to organize study groups and meetings with peer advisors.
Be sure to also take a look at the co-curricular and social activities that the Honors Programs offers exclusively to their students. The event calendar from previous terms is a great starting place to get a look at some of the past events hosted by the program. From the 2022-23 school year, the Program hosted events such as a Fire Pits on the Quad, Soul Food events, and hikes.
As you discuss the different community resources that interest you, make sure to explain your why and how they’ll support your professional and life goals.
And, make sure to outline how you’ll contribute to the community, not just what it will do for you. If you don’t see any specific events that you’d love to participate in, you can even say that you’d like to organize it yourself.
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!