Northwestern is a premier research university, often considered amongst the top private undergraduate schools nationwide. Located in Evanston, Illinois, just outside Chicago, the purple-and-white school sports a tight acceptance rate of 10.7% and an enrollment of 21,000, and is renowned for their huge emphasis on interdisciplinary research and intellectual growth. In fact, over $600 million is funneled into research annually. With a beautiful location alongside Lake Michigan, 12 schools with thousands of courses to pick from, and over 3000 dedicated faculty, it is no wonder students nationwide dream of being a Wildcat.

The schoolwork is known to be challenging, parking is near impossible, and the winters are harsh, but the student body is known to be overall very happy. The Wildcats you will encounter are motivated, professionally oriented, and diverse. Greek life makes up a large part of the social scene (40%+ of students join sororities and fraternities), and students are fairly involved in and passionate about competitive Big 10 sports – especially football, women’s lacrosse, and men’s soccer.

Northwestern has one small supplement to fill, so to be competitive in this applicant pool, it’s important to differentiate yourself and pen a powerful story.

Northwestern Application Essay Prompt

Other parts of your application give us a sense for how you might contribute to Northwestern. But we also want to consider how Northwestern will contribute to your interests and goals. In 300 words or less, help us understand what aspects of Northwestern appeal most to you, and how you’ll make use of specific resources and opportunities here.

This seems like a typical “Why school” prompt, which primarily asks about how you will contribute to the school, how the school will contribute to your development, and which specific opportunities you are interested in. However, this prompt strongly suggests that Northwestern wants to know why you really like the school. Given the wording of “what aspects of Northwestern appeal most to you,” it’s important to deliver a strong narrative and avoid clichés when explaining why you are drawn to Northwestern. As mentioned before, there is only one supplementary essay for Northwestern, so it’s important to nail this essay. Remember, it is your sole opportunity to express your personality, style, and voice beyond the personal statement included in the Common Application.

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Before you begin to write, ask yourself: why does Northwestern as a whole appeal to me? Chances are, many of the schools you are applying to are ranked amongst the top, have large campuses, and feature similarly strong research and academic programs as Northwestern. So why Northwestern and not the others? It may help to jot down your thoughts, or create a pros and cons list. This is your chance to stand out with a response that demonstrates how much you really want to be there.

The most important thing to keep in mind in order to be successful in your response: be specific. Students’ responses often become generic, especially when applying to several top 20 schools, because all these schools have well-known programs and opportunities. Show that you have done your research and recognize what aspects of Northwestern appeal to you. Once you start writing the supplement, make these aspects the meat of your essay and spruce the language up around it.

It could be the proximity to Chicago and the beautiful Lake right next to campus because you grew up in Kansas and have yet to experience life by the water; it could be the competitive but welcoming athletic culture; it could be the strong research emphasis and a specific professor and research project you would want to work on; it could be Dillo Day and your desire to paint a Lakefill rock; it could be the unique student culture and your desire to be a Wildcat. Whatever motivates you to apply to Northwestern, avoid solely writing that “Northwestern has strong academics and many opportunities” because that can be applied to many schools.

Use proper names when addressing certain aspects about the school, whether that is the Weinberg School of Arts and Sciences or the Systems Physiology (course number 301-0-01) course offered, and prove to the reader that there are unique elements you appreciate at Northwestern. When talking about what specific resources and opportunities you’ll make use of, do your research. This prompt doesn’t need a complex or entirely narrative-driven response, but it does require a lot of attention to detail and knowledge about the school.

Though other aspects of your application reveal much about how you will contribute to Northwestern, it’s important to also address this in your supplementary essay. If you are able to tie your specific goals and interests in programs and research opportunities offered at Northwestern, you can demonstrate to admissions committees not only your interest, but also the contributions you could make to the campus community.


For more tips and tricks on how to master the application process, be sure to sign up for CollegeVine’s personalized application and mentorship services. Good luck, and go Wildcats!

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CollegeVine College Essay Team

CollegeVine College Essay Team

Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process, evaluated upon their skill in writing and knowledge of college admissions. We then train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.
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