How to Write the North Carolina State – Raleigh Essays 2020-2021
North Carolina State University, located in the heart of downtown Raleigh, is North Carolina’s largest public university. It was founded in 1887 with the goal of making a higher education available to a larger number of students, particularly the children of farmers and mechanics. Today, this research university maintains its strong agricultural program and places an important focus on engineering, teaching, and veterinary medicine, among other subjects, as it works to prepare students for a career after graduation.
NC State is a selective university with a 43.9% acceptance rate for its 2019 freshman class. Notably, it is ranked among the top 10 public universities in the U.S. for best value and ranked #1 for ROI out of North Carolina public universities.
In addition to the Common App or Coalition Application essay, North Carolina State University requires prospective undergraduate freshmen to write two supplemental essays of about 250 words each. Honors and Scholars applicants must write an additional essay of 500 words. CollegeVine is here to provide detailed tips and examples to help you approach the NC State supplemental essays. Want to know your chances at NC State? Calculate your chances for free right now.
Want to learn what NC State will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering NC State needs to know.
NC State Supplemental Essay Prompts
This is the classic “Why This Major?” essay. Reading this prompt, it would be easy to fall into a trap of simply listing extracurriculars that you have done which relate to your intended major. For example, if you want to major in engineering, you would list that you participated in Science Olympiad and other STEM activities. However, avoid the urge to do this.
While you should certainly mention if there is a particular extracurricular that drove you to love this field, do not simply list the things that you have done relating to this major or program. Instead, you want to support your decision with content that the NCSU admissions officers have not yet seen on your application.
For example, you could tell a story about a moment during Science Olympiad when you encountered a project with applications beyond the club. Perhaps you discovered a robotic device to assist others and from that moment, you realized that this was a field where you could make an impact.
It’s okay to be undecided.
One of the wonderful things about college is that it is a time to explore your interests and try new things! With this in mind, if you are not sure of your potential major, then provide examples of things that you want to try out at NC State. You could discuss how you may want to be an engineer but have worked with little kids as a camp counselor and would like to try teaching. For this, the same rules apply as above; do not list, but rather, be specific and tell a story about your background or how you would fit in at NCSU as you try new things and gain value from a multidisciplinary education! Here’s more tips on how to write the “Why This Major” essay if you’re undecided.
An example of what not to do:
I have a passion for learning about different cultures. I have studied French for six years and participated in an exchange trip after my freshman year for two weeks, allowing me to live with a family in Oyonnax, France. This experience, along with continued political discussions in the midst of the French and American elections, has inspired my interest in global affairs. I love communications, diplomacy, and politics. I want to go into international public service with a focus on human rights and be a voice for those who lack one.
One of the main reasons this “Why global affairs?” essay is not as strong is due to its “listiness” quality. Many of the items included in this essay are ones that the admissions office will already have read from the activities list on the Common Application; so, including them here wastes space that could be used to say something new.
How could it be improved? Telling a story and showing why you want to study this major is a good place to start. Focus on what was mentioned in the last sentence: “be[ing] a voice for those who lack one.” Have you had experience with this? Why is this important? Why have you enjoyed it in the past? The focus could also be placed on the part about the French and American elections: What was interesting about these discussions? How were the elections similar and different? Give specific details to strengthen your response. Here is an example:
“Macron a gagné,” my host mom said with a relieved sigh. It was 2017, and I was studying abroad as a homestay student in Oyonnax, France. The murmur of BFM TV became muted as I tuned into my own thoughts ─ I had just lived through my first French election, and it was a fascinating experience!
Since that day, I have been interested in the differences between French and American elections, and most of all, democratic power transitions. Elections to me are a universal human right ─ the peaceful transition of the torch of Lady Liberty, the keys to the kingdom, is a historical marvel. I want to keep democracy alive; by combining what I learned in Oyonnax and in Durham as a poll worker about political accountability, I aspire to start an election monitoring NGO specializing in my mother’s home country of Mali. Majoring in Political Science at NC State, with its unique Honors Program and faculty advisors who conduct comparative elections research, is the best stepping stone I could take to make my goal a reality…
To start this essay, think about the concepts they want you to define: a just and inclusive community, denouncing inhuman treatment. Explain what they mean to you with a story, and connect the two concepts ─ to have a just and inclusive community, we must denounce inhuman treatment. You could begin the essay with first lines similar to the following:
The rain was pouring on us, the wind was gushing. I could barely keep my soaked eyes open, but I could still see the beauty of the moment. Thousands of people of every color and walk of life were marching together to support Black Lives Matter. The Raleigh Convention Center faded behind us as we moved closer to the state capitol ─ closer to progress. That was the day when I truly learned what a just and inclusive community looks like.
A just and inclusive community is one where one person’s struggles and oppression, no matter how different they are from our own, are treated as everyone’s struggles and oppression. This community does not come about, but is created by denouncing inhuman treatment. The arc of the universe bends towards justice, but not without help.
I aspire to bend the arc of NC State’s community towards inclusiveness by…
The next step is to explain how you will contribute to diversity. Here are some tips for if you decide to discuss, at least in part, how you could contribute to the diverse student populus at NC State:
Pick an overarching idea you want to get across.
Doing this will allow you to focus on something that the admissions officers have not yet seen in your application, as well as allow you to provide supporting examples. This is also beneficial because who you are is made up of more than just one experience; therefore, by picking a theme, you can show things in your life that have helped you to become who you are.
For example, you can focus on how in whatever you do, you work to help and be a voice for others. From that, you pick two experiences that would support this ability to empathize with others: your work with a child with autism and being the co-founder of a reading program at the SPCA.
Questions to consider when deciding what makes you different from others.
Use these questions as a basis for figuring out what makes you unique. You can use one as your overarching idea or simply tell a story based off of one of these questions about something important in your life. Also note that you do not have to say, “I am diverse because…”
Your essay will be stronger if you focus on telling a story about the kind of person you are:
- How did the location you grew up in influence your identity?
- Does your family emphasize the importance of religion or culture?
- Did you grow up in an area with a lot of diversity?
- What are some of the things that get you fired up? What are you passionate about?
- Is there something that you could bring to NCSU that they don’t already have? (Example: You are a master at solving Rubik’s Cubes and would love to bring this quality to share with others at NC State.)
Benefiting From Diversity
The admissions officers will gather a lot about how you can contribute to diversity at NCSU. They also want to know how you will benefit from being around so many unique people. Note: It is okay to mention both what you will bring and how you will benefit but, as there is a limited amount of words for this essay, you could also focus on one.
University Honors Program Applicants
The University Honors Program provides a transformative learning experience that empowers students to critically engage meaningful problems in the world. Students in the University Honors Program are capable and motivated students who embrace interdisciplinary coursework and participate in disciplinary based research, scholarship, and creative activities.
The goal of HON seminars is to give honors students an interdisciplinary education based on research and discussion. You will want to start the essay by telling the story of the moment when you realized why such an education is important for the world we live in today. For example, the introduction could be:
We didn’t win the bottle rocket competition in AP Physics by chance. There was something our team had that resulted in the creation of the Velox rocket, a four foot, multi-chambered missile made from Sprite bottles. Our team had José, who laid the blueprints for our rocket with attention to detail. Muhammadu kept the team united and focused with his management skills, while Alexis crunched the numbers to optimize our aerodynamics. I added a Space X-style paint job to the body and fins and wrote our project report. I believe that our rocket soared into the sky on launch day not because each of us was a genius, but because we combined our diverse perspectives and skills with open communication and a passion for research. As our rocket landed on a nearby house, I saw the power of interdisciplinary teamwork.
Interdisciplinary teamwork not only produces bottle rockets, but real rockets. It is crucial for the undergraduate experience today because…
To explain how HON seminars are important to you specifically, think about your goals. What skills and personal values do you want to develop during undergrad, and what are you intellectually curious about? Look into the details of the HON seminars and choose a specific seminar that would help you go beyond your general education and reach your unique goals.
You can begin this part of the essay with a connecting phrase such as “Interdisciplinary teamwork would be crucial for my own undergraduate experience.” Explain how your skills and personal values could benefit from an interdisciplinary environment and learning by doing. For example, if you wanted to develop your leadership skills during undergrad, you could talk about how an HON seminar would allow you to intellectually lead through discussion-based classes and research conducted with a socratic philosophy.
Mention a topic that you would be excited to explore in your chosen HON seminar. Highlight why you have intellectual curiosity about this topic, and what questions you have about it. Show your passion here by probing deep. If you are interested in astrophysics, talk about how you would like your idea of starting an asteroid mining business to be intellectually challenged during the Science, American Style HON seminar.
Conclude by tying your own intellectual curiosity back to the NC State community. Explain how you are ready to meet others who love asking questions, enjoy working with people who have completely different backgrounds and perspectives, and value mind-on learning.
A good start to this essay would be to show, rather than tell, what being a culturally-connected, informed, and engaged citizen means to you. The one thing you do not want to do with this essay is define the terms in the format of a list, e.g. “being culturally-connected means x, being informed means y, and being engaged means z.” Instead, describe moments in your life when you lived out these citizenship values firsthand.
One example could involve being an event planning volunteer at the International Festival of Raleigh. Here you would paint a picture of cultural connectedness using words, like this:
And so, the festival was coming to an end. As I gazed at the country flags on the ceiling of the Raleigh Convention Center, I saw a human story in every one. The flag of Belarus took me back to the first time I tried blini at the food stand, and the flag of Timor Leste reminded me of asking Cidália how the tais cloth at her booth was made. Reflecting on these experiences, I felt culturally-connected─I could attach cultures not to academic ideas or stereotypes, but to complex and authentic human stories.
Continue this model to explain what being an informed and engaged citizen means. To define “informed,” ask yourself what subjects should ideally be considered the most important for students to learn during their K-12 education before entering “the real world.” To define “engaged,” ask yourself what activities are essential to keeping society functioning or making it run better.
Next, connect yourself to the picture with a few sentences such as the following:
I aspire to be an engaged citizen by working to solve my community’s shortage of rare earth minerals ─ now by taking apart old phones, and in the future by mining asteroids. Most of all, I aspire to live life as a leader who gives everyone a seat at the table.
Then explain why you have these goals. Avoid making this part a “Why This Major” essay, and focus your attention on linking your choices to being a culturally-connected, informed, and engaged citizen.
While writing this part, take a look at the University Scholars Program (USP) website. Pull one recent news story, engagement activity, or Scholars Forum topic from the website that interests you and goes along with your goals. Weave this into your explanation of what and who you want to be. Conclude with the message that you hope to emulate the engaged citizenship displayed by the USP activity or graduate you choose as a hopeful USP graduate yourself. Here is an example:
I know that the University Scholars Program is the right program for me because its Scholars Forum speakers gaze at the stars like I do. I am thrilled to see that Christina Hammock was a USP alumna and that the program helped launch her success at NASA. She undoubtedly benefited from the USP’s encouragement of bold intellectual curiosity through its interdisciplinary, research-based education. Just NC State’s electrical engineering and physics programs were able to give Christina the opportunities to research science instrument development, they could afford me hands-on opportunities to build a prototype asteroid mining excavator. I hope to be an engaged citizen by creating the most environmentally friendly solution possible to the rare earth mineral shortage, and most of all, an accomplished USP physics and electrical engineering graduate like Christina.
Good luck on your North Carolina State University application!
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