How to Write the Northwestern Essays 2016-2017
Northwestern University 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 from which to pick, 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 (over 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 this 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 the university. As mentioned before, there is only one supplemental essay for Northwestern, so it’s important to nail it. Remember, it is your sole opportunity to express your personality, style, and voice beyond the personal statement included in the Common Application.
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.
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, 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 supplemental 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. Good luck, and go Wildcats!
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