How to Write the Mount Holyoke College Essays 2023-2024
Mount Holyoke College has one optional essay prompt. You have three options to choose from—you may write about a characteristic about the school that interests you, the community you grew up in, or a “this or that” scenario of your choosing.
Mount Holyoke receives thousands of applications from academically strong students, so your essays are a great opportunity to stand out. In this post, we’ll discuss how to craft an engaging response to each of these three options.
Mount Holyoke Supplemental Essay Prompts
Please select one of the three prompts below. Your essay should be between 250-400 words.
Option 1: What unique characteristic about Mount Holyoke makes you interested in attending? (250-400 words)
Option 2: Every day, our students cultivate the competence, confidence and courage to make an impact — whether on a personal, community or global level. Tell us about the context in which you have grown up, what forms your aspirations and how your community has shaped your outlook. (250-400 words)
Option 3: Early bird or night owl? Sweet or savory? Go out or stay in? Or choose your own “this or that” scenario and make your case! (250-400 words)
What unique characteristic about Mount Holyoke makes you interested in attending? (250-400 words)
This traditional, structured prompt, often called the “Why This College?” prompt, is very common across college applications. If you decide that this is the prompt you want to respond to, be sure to check out CollegeVine’s guide to writing the “Why This College?” essay for in-depth tips and examples!
Also take care not to copy and paste another “Why This College?” essay you wrote for another college. While there probably will be some overlap due to colleges’ competitive resources, you want your response to be unique and clearly tailored to Mount Holyoke.
Specificity is key to a successful “Why This College?” essay. You might want to do some research online to get some inspiration. Mount Holyoke’s website offers an abundance of information about degree programs, specific courses, student organizations, and faculty members. Look around and see what catches your eye or piques your interest. Once you find something, writing more specifically becomes easier.
It’s essential that you explicitly connect your goals to some aspect of the college. The more personal the connection, the better your response will be. Some things unique to Mount Holyoke can include campus culture, particular classes/academic opportunities, specific professors, traditions, or other on-campus programs.
The aforementioned things are tangible ways for you to connect with the college, but if you can, it’s great to express an intangible connection too. Perhaps you have strong religious convictions or value environmental conservation. Does Mount Holyoke or its programs have values that strongly align with yours? If so, mention that in your response!
For example, let’s say an applicant has volunteered at food banks in high school, and she wants to continue working to combat food insecurity in college. Here are two ways she might research her interests and craft a response.
Example 1: “I’ve volunteered at food banks since I was a freshman in high school, and Mount Holyoke’s Food Justice Society would give me an opportunity to keep learning about food insecurity in college. Classes in unusual departments at Mount Holyoke, like the Entrepreneurships, Organizations, and Society department, would also help me expand my abilities to create social change.”
Example 2: “After working at food banks for the last three years, I am certain I want to continue working to fight food insecurity at Mount Holyoke. Clubs like the Food Justice Society would give me an opportunity to target this issue on a grassroots level, as I believe community-based food production systems are less likely to let people fall through the cracks.
However, I believe a multi-pronged approach is the most effective way to enact social change, and courses like ‘Ethics in Entrepreneurship and Business’ would get me to consider what role corporations have in ensuring their workers have enough to eat.”
Notice that the first example just tells the reader about a particular club and department whereas the second describes in detail how the applicant would take advantage of these opportunities to pursue her own goals.
Admissions officers know what their school offers (example 1). What they don’t know is how you see those offerings enriching your college experience. That’s what a strong response should illustrate for them (example 2).
There are a few things you should try to avoid when creating your response.
- Name-dropping some random professors or programs you looked up without saying anything about them.
- Writing effusive praise about the college. Empty flattery is vague and suggests that you have nothing specific to say.
- Naming a general facet that’s common to all colleges. A good location, a strong English program, small class sizes, etc. are not unique characteristics of the school.
- Making Mount Holyoke’s membership in the Five College Consortium (with Amherst, Smith, Hampshire, and UMass Amherst) the focal point of your essay. This community is fine to mention, but you should focus more on aspects within MoHo.
Admissions committees like to see individuality. Be yourself and be sincere in your response, and you will already be on the right track.
Every day, our students cultivate the competence, confidence and courage to make an impact — whether on a personal, community or global level. Tell us about the context in which you have grown up, what forms your aspirations and how your community has shaped your outlook. (250-400 words)
This prompt is a great choice for applicants who want to discuss the impact of their community on their identity. Community, for the most part, can be seen as a byproduct of one’s unique culture, experiences, and environment, so this essay should discuss these influences in the context of their community. This essay should focus on how a particular community—shaped by its unique culture, experiences, and environment—has helped you grow and develop as a person.
The first part of your essay should provide some background on your own upbringing. Ask yourself what makes your culture, experience, or environment unique.
For example, if you’re going to discuss the collaborative environment of your high school, you need to explain the specific situations that demonstrate that, such as having Socratic classroom seminars instead of individual lectures.
Or, if you were raised in a multicultural household, you could talk about the many family holidays and religious events you shared between your Latino father’s and Chinese mother’s sides of the family.
A quick note if you intend to write about your racial background: In June 2023, the United States Supreme Court struck down the use of affirmative action in college admissions. The ruling, however, still allows colleges to consider race on an individual basis, which is one reason many schools are now including diversity prompts as one of their supplemental essay prompts. If you feel that your racial background has impacted you significantly, this is the place to discuss that.
Next, you should explain how your culture, experience, or environment has positively impacted you. To fully answer the prompt, this should not only include how your values, characteristics, and interests have been impacted, but also how your perspectives and worldview have been impacted. Additionally, if these aspects of your identity have grown or changed, you should also include how and why this change occurred.
For instance, if you’re writing about how you grew up in a multicultural family, don’t just write “this environment taught me to respect my culture and value relationships with others.” This line could be written by anyone; it doesn’t tell the admissions officers anything specific or special about you.
Instead, show how your values have changed through anecdotes and indirect details about your environment:
“Almost every month there was a family holiday event during which my mom’s or dad’s family would come together from nearby states to enjoy time together. Smiles crossed our faces when we exchanged red envelopes to wish each other good luck every New Year’s season and happy tears shed when we remembered our ancestors and flipped through old photographs on Dia de los Muertos.
Being raised in a multicultural home meant an almost endless number of parties, which allowed me to learn firsthand how two disparate cultures valued their own respective heritage and celebrated it with the ones they loved.”
Lastly, you should connect the aspects of your identity that were shaped by the culture, experience, or environment you discussed to Mount Holyoke’s community, or to the world at large. Address how your environment has influenced your personal aspirations and shaped your outlook on the future.
You might explain how the values and perspective you’ve gained will allow you to make a positive impact at MoHo. Whether it’s your desire to learn, care for others, collaborate, or advocate, explain how that characteristic will make you a good community member at MoHo.
In the example above, the student may want to work with MoHo’s Office of Community Belonging, an organization at Moho that provides programs that support social justice education, dialogue, celebration, and identity development across several cultural centers, including the Asian Center for Empowerment and Eliana Ortega Cultural Center.
Early bird or night owl? Sweet or savory? Go out or stay in? Or choose your own “this or that” scenario and make your case! (250-400 words)
Many students are reluctant to answer unconventional prompts like these because they don’t fit into the usual essay archetypes, but don’t worry! This is a great opportunity to show off some imaginative thinking. While anyone can choose this option, it’s especially suitable for creative or artistic types. If you pride yourself on your creative writing skills and haven’t been able to show them anywhere else on your application, this is the perfect opportunity to do so.
As you outline your response, think of things you’re passionate about. You might be a proud night owl or you might love sweet food, but you don’t have to use the examples given in the prompt.
Maybe you’re a singer and you’ve argued a hundred times that mezzo-sopranos are more versatile than sopranos. Or, maybe you’re a painter and have always favored surrealism over impressionism. Or, maybe you have strong opinions about something more abstract like how you prefer darker-colored outfits to brighter ones. When picking a topic, consider three things:
- Choose something you know well enough to write about.
- The prompt is asking you to “make your case,” so choose something you feel strongly about; you don’t want to pick a topic that hardly concerns you and get stuck writing a tepid opinion lacking passion.
- Choose something that can lend itself to the binary model proposed in the prompt. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something with only two choices, but there should be two distinct options you can pick (like two styles of art, as stated before).
Note that there are some controversial political topics that are hotly debated. You probably have some strong opinions on some of these topics, but we recommend avoiding them for this prompt. Chances are if you have a strong opinion on a controversial topic, so does the person reading your application.
While MoHo is definitely a liberal school, it’s best to avoid taking the kind of risk that writing about these topics entails. Beyond that, the prompt offers some lighthearted examples, so it’s likely that MoHo is looking for a more lighthearted response.
Structurally, you can go about writing this essay any way you want, but a factual structure lends itself well to the prompt. You only have 250-400 words, so consider simply outlining your first and second options, then immediately making your case for the one you prefer.
Some students opt for unconventional structures. You definitely don’t need to do this, but you might find a non-standard format useful. These structures include movie scripts, song lyrics, poems, news reports, and using other languages.
For example, let’s say a student is bilingual and decides to write about “English or Spanish.” She could talk about how much Spanish resonates with her and defines her identity. She could describe English and how she uses it in English, then do the same for Spanish in Spanish. Then in the part where she makes her case, she can use a mix of the two that gradually utilizes more and more Spanish to symbolize its importance to her identity.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when answering a prompt that encourages you to be creative. Find something you truly care about and let your passion and imagination shine through.
Where to Get Your Mount Holyoke Essay Edited
Do you want feedback on your Mount Holyoke essay? After rereading your essay over and over again, it can be challenging to find places where your writing can be improved. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve 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!