How to Write the Macalester College Essays 2019-2020

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Macalester is a small, selective liberal arts college near Minnesota’s Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, focused on providing students with a global education.


Macalester College is renowned for its low student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1, the quality of its undergraduate teaching, and for promoting opportunities for its students to study abroad. U.S. News ranks Macalester as the 27th in National Liberal Arts Colleges


Notable alumni include Kofi Annan, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former UN Secretary General, as well as Water Mondale, former Vice President of the United States. 


Macalester College had an acceptance rate of 31% for its most recent class of 2023. Given its selective nature, writing excellent essays is crucial to gaining the attention of the admissions officers amongst a large pool of qualified candidates. Want to know your chances at Macalester? Calculate your chances for free right now.

How to Write the Macalester Essays 

Macalester is one of few highly selective liberal arts colleges located in the middle of a metropolitan area. Students benefit from the strong sense of community on campus and opportunities to engage in academic, social, and civic engagement options in the Twin Cities. Have you thought about how Macalester’s location might impact your experience? If so, in what ways? (500 words)

The prompt is the only required supplementary essay for the 2019-2020 applications cycle to Macalester College. Within the Common Application Portal, it is located under a tab entitled “Background Essay,” which may provide some insight into how to approach constructing your response.

As you begin to dissect the prompt above, you will notice it is essentially asking why you want to attend Macalester, focusing your response on the opportunities surrounding the college’s metropolitan location. This means that while you may elaborate on why Macalester’s unique campus culture, traditions, courses, professors or other (academic or non-academic) opportunities attract you to the college, your writing would benefit from relating each reason to Macalester’s location. 


While you should refrain from mentioning location in most “Why this school” essays (it’s a general aspect that can apply to many schools in the area), this essay specifically wants to know how you plan to interact with the surrounding off-campus community. So, you should definitely mention location, but be sure to also describe how you will engage with the opportunities available because of Macalester’s location.


For example, if you are interested in education or community outreach, you could mention your interest in Macalester’s Opportunities Abound: A Partnership for College Access program (which ensures that local, low income High School students in the Twin Cities have access to the information they need in order to make an informed decision regarding their futures).

Alternatively, if for example you are interested in the environment and sustainability, you could mention your interest in engaging with the Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy organisation in Minneapolis during your free time in order to complement your academic studies with impactful action. 

For any “Why School” essay, you goal is to convince the admissions officer that their school is the best fit for you, intertwining your reasons with your unique background and motivations in order to help convey your sincerity and personality. It is therefore crucial to ensure that most of the reasons you provide for wanting to attend the school are (reasonably) unique to Macalester college. Generally, the more specific reasons and examples you provide, the more likely they are to be seen as genuine and well-researched.

If you have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to visit the college before writing your application, then drawing on your own memories and experiences from your visit could enrich your essay.

Regardless of whether or not you have had the opportunity to visit the campus at this stage, your essay will be stronger if it is woven together with personal details that expose your interests, background, personality and thought process. Listing the college’s various accolades or generic well-promoted traits will result in a weak essay – your response must be personal. While college essays are often among the most frustrating, emotional, and challenging to write due to their incredibly personal nature, allowing your personality to shine through your work can create some of the most persuasive and strongest essays.


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Our chancing engine factors in extracurricular activities, demographic, and other holistic details. We’ll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools — and how to improve your chances!

Calculate your acceptance chances

You can also strengthen your essay by researching Macalester College’s core values, and ensuring that the values and traits you reveal about yourself to the admissions officer are aligned with the college’s core values. Simply put, doing a little research can ensure that you avoid emphasizing misaligned values in your essay, which risks potentially alienating the admissions officer. 


For example, Macalester College places a strong emphasis on multiculturalism, so writing an essay on the importance of nationalism may not make the desired impact on your application. On the flip side, perhaps you want to study displaced populations in college, and specifically want to learn more about how refugees integrate into American life. Minneapolis is home to the world’s first Somali culture museum, which would be a perfect place to delve into the stories of this displaced group. This would align with Macalester’s value of multiculturalism.

While Macalester’s supplementary prompt may seem a bit daunting at first, the core of this essay should not be a cause for stress. The first step to writing your response should involve carefully thinking about and clarifying the reasons that you want to attend Macalester College. Then, contextualize each reason through the college’s location near the Twin Cities. 


However you choose to approach your essay, keep in mind that supplemental essays aim to complement your main common app essay, so the goal is to provide new information to the admissions officer rather than rehashing already-used material. 


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