How to Write the Macalester College Essays 2020-2021

Macalester College is a small, selective liberal arts college in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, renowned for its focus on global education and service to society.

 

Macalester is known for its small class sizes, the quality of its undergraduate teaching, and for promoting opportunities for its students to study abroad. U.S. News & World Report ranks Macalester as 25th in National Liberal Arts Colleges.

 

Notable alumni include Nobel Peace Prize Winner Kofi Annan, former U.S. Vice President Water Mondale, and actress Danai Gurira.

 

Macalester College had an acceptance rate of 41% for its most recent class of 2024. Though the essay responses are optional, we strongly recommend you complete them, unless they do not apply to you. Due to Macalester’s 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.

 

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

 

Macalester Supplemental Essay Prompts

 

Prompt 1 (optional): 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 of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Have you thought about how Macalester’s location might impact your experience? If so, in what ways? (500 words)

 

Prompt 2 (optional): Has there been a significant fluctuation in your grades at any point during grades 9-12 (up or down)? If so, please tell us the reason(s) for the changes. (500 words)

 

Prompt 3 (optional): Application forms like this often require people to uncomfortably categorize their race, ethnicity, gender, or other identities by checking boxes. Is there anything about your (or your family’s) background that you would like us to know that is not addressed elsewhere in your application? If so, please elaborate. (500 words)

 

While these prompts are optional, we encourage you to at least answer Prompt 1 to further demonstrate your interest in Macalester. If Prompts 2 and 3 don’t apply to you, you can leave them blank.

 

Prompt 1 (optional)

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 of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Have you thought about how Macalester’s location might impact your experience? If so, in what ways? (500 words) 

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

 

For any “Why this College” essay, your 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.

 

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. Writing about 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. 

Prompt 2 (optional)

Has there been a significant fluctuation in your grades at any point during grades 9-12 (up or down)? If so, please tell us the reason(s) for the changes. (500 words)

Much like other colleges’ “additional information” questions, this prompt is an optional opportunity to explain any deviations on your transcript. While we recommend that applicants answer optional prompts when possible, this question will not apply to everyone. If your grades were relatively consistent throughout high school, you should skip this question. However, if your grades dropped or went up significantly in high school, this is your chance to explain why. 

 

If you choose to answer this question, you can set yourself up for success with these tips:

 

  • Be as direct and concise as possible. In some cases, grade fluctuations are due to factors outside your control, such as health or family issues. Explaining how these situations impacted your grades may be more straightforward. Or, perhaps you wanted a challenge and overextended yourself by signing up for too many AP classes or extracurriculars. 

 

  • Be careful not to make excuses. Admissions officers do not want to hear that you ended up with a C in Algebra II your junior year because you got that math teacher everyone hated. Similarly, stating that your bad grade was due to a teacher’s lack of organization or clarity won’t do you any favors. 

 

  • Show that you have grown and remained resilient. Instead of blaming teachers for your bad grades, a much better approach to this prompt is to talk about how you remained positive and embraced the challenges presented to you. In addition to providing the space for you to explain weak areas in your application, this prompt is an opportunity to give admissions officers an idea of how you respond to challenges and grow from them.

Prompt 3 (optional)

Application forms like this often require people to uncomfortably categorize their race, ethnicity, gender, or other identities by checking boxes. Is there anything about your (or your family’s) background that you would like us to know that is not addressed elsewhere in your application? If so, please elaborate. (500 words)

Just like prompt 2, this is an optional prompt that gives you the opportunity to elaborate on an aspect of your application that both you and the admissions officers might otherwise gloss over. Instead of checking off a box and leaving it at that, you’re given the space to tell another piece of your story. 

 

If you’ve read Collegevine’s post on essay archetypes you may notice that this prompt is a version of the diversity essay. In your response to this prompt you’ll want to show the admissions officers how you might uniquely contribute to Macalester’s community.

 

When deciding whether to respond to this prompt, you should consider what aspects of your identity are most prominent and important to who you are. Which, if any, were you asked to categorize by checking off boxes in your application? Or is there a crucial aspect of your background that you weren’t asked about at all? 

 

If nothing stands out, you probably shouldn’t write a response to this prompt. However, if there’s a part of your story that’s missing from your application, or if you feel like checking off a box didn’t do justice to a part of your background, this is the perfect time to talk about it.

 

Remember to show, not tell sharing an anecdote is the best way to bring your story to life. Think about times when your chosen trait was particularly prominent or relevant. For example, if you were raised in a family that blended multiple cultures, you might talk about how your grandparents visited from Pakistan every summer and gave you clothing as a gift, which helped you stay connected to their culture over the years.

 

Things to avoid:

 

  • Complaining. While discrimination and negativity may be a part of your experience as part of a specific identity group, you don’t want to use this space solely to complain about experiences you’ve had. Frame your experiences as growth opportunities.

 

  • Discriminating against other communities and identities. This is an opportunity for you to showcase what’s important and unique about you. You should not need to put down other people in order to tell your story.

 

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