How to Write the Howard University Essay 2020-2021

Howard University is one of the best-known historically Black universities in the country. Historically Black schools are higher education institutions established before the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and were created to serve members of the Black community. Today, they offer exceptional academic opportunities to students of all genders, religions, and ethnic backgrounds.

 

At Howard University, students have the opportunity to participate in more than 200 clubs and organizations while learning from top professors. With Washington, D.C. just two miles away, students can easily lead an active political, social, or professional life. 

 

Howard University’s acceptance rate is 31.6% and its ranking in the 2020 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best National Universities is #104. Want to know your chances at Howard University? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

Want to learn what Howard University will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering Howard University needs to know.

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (250 words maximum)

This prompt is similar to the Common App activities section, but it’s asking for the details that aren’t possible to explain in 150 characters. This prompt is extremely common, and is known as the “Extracurricular Essay.” The goal is to get a better understanding of your most important activity and how it shaped you. You can see our complete guide on writing the Extracurricular Essay, but we’ll also provide a breakdown here.

 

The first thing to do is to pick an activity. The best activities to pick are:

 

  • Where you have shown the most commitment
  • Clubs or groups you founded
  • Those in which you held a leadership role
  • One that relates to a personal aspect of your life.

 

Howard also asks you to indicate up to 5 activities you might be interested in on their campus. This would be another criteria to consider. Do you have any high school equivalents to the university activities you listed there? If so, you might write about one of those high school activities. In any case, make sure that you choose an activity that has had a large impact on your growth and that you are truly passionate about.

 

Once you have chosen an extracurricular or work experience to write about, describe your topic in a way that is personal and human ─ a story rather than a professional summary. Speak about your accomplishments in terms of how they have shaped and motivated you, not how they’ve padded your resume. Keep descriptions of your activity short as possible and write most of the essay about how your accomplishments in that activity tie into your personal goals and aspirations. Place the focus on you, not the activity itself.

 

To narrow down your topic, think of a specific experience that was impactful in the arc of your activity. Choose an experience that shaped your decision about which academic and professional directions you want to pursue later on. Perhaps you auditioned for the lead role of a play for the first time and felt nervous excitement at first, but later came to love theater and now aspire to become a dramaturge. 

 

With your narrowed down topic, you can begin to write the essay in the format of a one or two paragraph anecdote. Incorporate reflection into your storytelling ─ it’s easy to get caught up in the details of your anecdote without showing how the activity shaped you. Let the Howard admissions readers know what skills you have developed because of your activity, what personality traits you have strengthened, and whether the activity impacts the way you live other parts of your life.

 

Here is an example of an essay that balances out storytelling with substance. The writer explains a specific moment of them playing piano, but goes on to reflect on why the activity is important to them, what it has taught them, and how it relates to their future plans:

 

My fingers raced across the keys, rapidly striking one after another. My body swayed with the music as my hands raced across the piano. Crashing onto the final chord, it was over as quickly as it had begun. My shoulders relaxed and I couldn’t help but break into a satisfied grin. I had just played the Moonlight Sonata’s third movement, a longtime dream of mine. Four short months ago, though, I had considered it impossible.

 

The piece’s tempo was impossibly fast, its notes stretching between each end of the piano, forcing me to reach farther than I had ever dared. It was seventeen pages of the most fragile and intricate melodies I had ever encountered. But that summer, I found myself ready to take on the challenge. With the end of the school year, I was released from my commitment to practicing for band and solo performances. I was now free to determine my own musical path: either succeed in learning the piece, or let it defeat me for the third summer in a row. Over those few months, I spent countless hours practicing the same notes until they burned a permanent place in my memory, creating a soundtrack for even my dreams. Some would say I’ve mastered the piece, but as a musician I know better. Now that I can play it, I am eager to take the next step and add in layers of musicality and expression to make the once-impossible piece even more beautiful.

 

Tips:

 

  1. This supplemental essay is not only an opportunity for the Howard admissions committee to learn more about you ─ it’s also a way to evaluate your writing skills and your ability to directly respond to a given prompt. Always be aware of grammar and spelling conventions, vary your sentence structure, avoid the passive voice, and be creative (although not excessively gaudy) with your word choice.

 

  1. Try to avoid a cliche topic like a sports injury or challenge. These follow the predictable arc of a challenge, working hard to overcome it, and then a success. You can still write about sports, but do so in a way that is more unique. You could even still cover a sports injury or challenge, as long as the plotline is different. For instance, a unique “sports injury story” would be getting injured and deciding to start a podcast while recovering, and how that led to your professional interest in digital media.

 

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