How to Write the Pitzer College Essays 2023-2024
Pitzer College has one required supplemental essay prompt with two options, as well as one optional prompt. In the first prompt, the first option asks both what you want from your college experience broadly and why Pitzer specifically is a good fit for you, and the second asks you to reflect on your community involvement and engagement. The optional second prompt invites you to write about the background, identity, or personal interests that you would bring to Pitzer.
Since Pitzer receives thousands of applications from academically strong students, your essays are your best chance to stand out. In this post, we’ll discuss how to craft an engaging response to each of these options. Additionally, although one of the prompts is optional, we strongly encourage you to take this opportunity to teach Pitzer admissions officers something new about you. It’s already hard to fit your whole life into a college application, so any additional chance you have to describe some new side of yourself is one you should seize!
Pitzer College Supplemental Essay Prompts
Prompt 1: At Pitzer College, five core values distinguish our approach to education: social responsibility, intercultural understanding, interdisciplinary learning, student engagement, and environmental sustainability. As agents of change, our students utilize these values to create solutions to our world’s challenges. Find out more about our core values. Please choose from the following prompts and answer below:
- Option A: Describe what you are looking for from your college experience and why Pitzer would be a good fit for you. (650 words)
- Option B: Reflecting on your involvement throughout high school or within the community, how have you engaged with one of Pitzer’s core values? (650 words)
Prompt 2: As a mission-driven institution, we value and celebrate the synergy created by our differences and similarities. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, identity, or personal interests that you would bring to Pitzer, and how you plan to engage in our community. (250 words, optional)
Prompt 1, Option A
Describe what you are looking for from your college experience and why Pitzer would be a good fit for you. (650 words)
This “Why This College?” prompt is a great choice for applicants who are really excited for a liberal arts college experience. Broadly speaking, liberal arts colleges pride themselves on producing well-rounded graduates who have both the qualitative and quantitative tools to understand and analyze events around them.
Pitzer specifically prides itself on educating “engaged, socially responsible citizens of the world.” If you see college as a place to grow and become a positively contributing member of society, then this essay is just the place for you to express that vision.
Of course, the strongest responses to this essay will do more than just repeat the language that Pitzer has on its website. These general ideas about engagement, citizenship, and contribution to society will manifest themselves differently in every person’s life.
Your goal, in this essay, should be to show who specifically you hope to become through your college education. This can mean a number of things—from mapping out the skills or knowledge you hope to gain to describing the social bonds you’d like to form, and from talking about the broad contributions you want to make in the world to stating the specific career path you’d like to pursue. Below, we’ll dig into ways to personalize your response to this very broad question.
Selecting a Topic
In general, brainstorming for this essay will have two parts: you’ll need to think about what you want from your college experience, and then you’ll need to research and decide on which of PItzer’s resources best support that goal. We’ll go through both these phases below!
Phase 1: Thinking about what you want from your college experience.
As you begin to think about what you’re looking for from your college experience, it’s a good idea to organize the results of your brainstorming. One way to do this is to categorize the benefits you’re looking for from your college education. Below we’ve listed four types of goals that you could have for your college education.
- Academic knowledge and skills
- Social experiences and connections
- Career advancement
There are, of course, other goals you might have, too, but using these categories can help organize your essay. A focused, strong response to this prompt will likely:
- Focus on just one or two—or at most three—of the areas listed above.
- Home in on your specific interests within each category.
- Link those interests to your broader goals to create a compelling, holistic picture of who you are.
Phase 2: Thinking about Pitzer’s resources.
Once you’ve decided on your goals for college, you should research which features of Pitzer will help you create your ideal college experience. As you do this research, keep these pointers in mind:
Go beyond what you’ll find in one or two clicks on Pitzer’s website. Though it’s fine to write about easily findable resources, be sure to do a deeper research dive, too. Link these resources to what you’re looking for from college.
For example, if you want to gain research experience in college, a natural choice might be to write about a biology research opportunity. However, don’t just write: “I’m excited about Pitzer’s biology research opportunities.”
Instead, explain what labs you want to work in, faculty mentors you want to collaborate with, or particular topics you want to investigate and associated questions you’d like to answer. You could even give examples of current ongoing research that links to your interests. Describing specific programs and their offerings always shows that you’ve done your due diligence when it comes to getting to know what a college has to offer. Be sure to explain what specific skills or insights you’ll gain from research at Pitzer.
Avoid writing about common college resources in general terms. Along similar lines as our previous point, if you’re writing about an opportunity or resource that most colleges and universities offer, be sure to explain why this resource is distinct and especially exciting at Pitzer.
For example: Almost all liberal arts colleges have an English major. If you’re excited to pursue an English major at Pitzer, be sure to highlight what makes their program stand out—and how it will help you achieve your specific goals. The resources you mention could be anything from creative writing workshops to particular faculty members to specific student groups affiliated with the department.
Some college applicants have clear academic or professional goals, while other students want to explore new areas in college in order to decide on an academic or professional path. Regardless of whether you already have concrete long-term goals or not, this prompt could work well for you. However, you will need to find a way to make more speculative or vague goals feel detailed, personal, and compelling.
Here are some examples of students with less clear goals (example 1) and with more clear goals (example 2), and what they might be able to do to strengthen their respective essays.
Example 1: This writer doesn’t have a clear idea of what subject he wants to study or what career he wants to pursue. However, he does know that he loves art and cares a lot about the climate crisis. This applicant writes about how he wants to explore academically and be inspired and challenged by his peers so that he can discover new ways to deploy his skills to help fight climate change.
In his body paragraphs, this writer could describe specific, interdisciplinary courses and research opportunities he wants to pursue at Pitzer, explaining how his research will build upon what he learns in class to support his overarching goals. Then, in another paragraph, he could write about extracurricular experiences related to his interests that will allow him to engage with peers who can help him continue to clarify his path forward.
Example 2: This student knows that she wants to become a doctor. Her goal as an undergraduate is to get a well-rounded liberal arts education so that she can understand the social and political dynamics that affect health. She also wants to build an excellent foundation of knowledge through her pre-med classes so that she will be a strong, prepared applicant to medical school.
Because this student has very clear, career-oriented goals, she could focus one paragraph on Pitzer’s academic resources, which will give her a broad understanding of social and economic conditions. In another paragraph, she could focus on Pitzer’s pre-med resources. And finally, another paragraph could be about volunteer opportunities that will allow the student to contextualize her medical interests within her broad understanding of the world around her, giving her practical experience that will help her determine how she can best utilize her skills to help others.
Writing Your Essay
Here are a few tips to make your final draft as strong as possible:
Link the things that draw you to Pitzer to your broader goals. It won’t be difficult to identify features of Pitzer that excite you, so long as you do your research always thinking about how particular opportunities align with you goals. Take the time to connect the things you love about Pitzer to your essay’s larger theme (i.e., what you want from your college experience).
Stay focused. You might find yourself tempted to write about fifty wonderful things you’ve heard about Pitzer. However, you should aim for quality, not quantity. An essay that offers an in-depth explanation of how you would use just one or two Pitzer resources would be far stronger than an essay that lists many resources but offers only minimal thoughtful, personal analysis of why those aspects of the school appeal to you.
Avoid name-dropping. It’s easy to cram your essay with the names of distinguished faculty members or prominent research programs. Resist this temptation! Instead, take the time to make sure your reader understands why you’re excited about a particular resource.
- Name-dropping: “In particular, I’m excited to work with faculty members like Professor Smith.”
- Not name-dropping: “Forensic anthropology is a small field, and I have found very few professors working in my area of interest. At Pitzer, I would have the unique opportunity to work with Professor Smith on…”
Prompt 1, Option B
Reflecting on your involvement throughout high school or within the community, how have you engaged with one of Pitzer’s core values? (650 words)
Understanding the Prompt
The phrasing of this prompt may seem like you’re being asked to write about a whole period of your life or general community involvement. However, the strongest responses will focus in on particular “moments” or “experiences” to show:
- That you have thought deeply about the core value in question, and
- That you actually live out or engage with this value in your daily life.
Though it might be tempting to try to show how you live out this value in many different parts of your life, or over the whole course of your whole high school career, a more focused essay will be more compelling. Trying to write an essay that surveys your entire high school career will likely prove stressful and counterproductive, as four years cannot fit into 650 words!
Selecting a Topic
Remember that this essay is ultimately about you and your engagement with one of Pitzer’s values. This means that clubs or activities that you were only involved in as a member or infrequent participant might not be the best choice. Though essays about teamwork or group activities can absolutely be strong, your own voice and role should be clear.
For example, if you want to write about environmental sustainability, you might be choosing between writing about your membership in your school’s sustainability club and a project that you started at your grandmother’s nursing home to reduce food waste. Here, the project you initiated at your grandmother’s nursing home would be a better choice, because it shows your own vision and motivation, rather than describing your more engagement as one member (even if you’re an active member) of a school club.
Finally, remember to avoid the temptation to fit all the times you’ve engaged with Pitzer’s values into one essay. Below are examples of strong topics that stay focused on one particular way that the writer has engaged with one of Pitzer’s core values.
Value: Social responsibility
Essay Topic: Overhauling your baseball team to make it both greener and more integrated into the broader community.
The essay could begin with a paragraph describing how the writer noticed that their baseball team’s games often resulted in large amounts of trash in the field’s bin, and limited community access to a public field. The author could then explain that he realized that his team had a negative impact on the community, and he decided he wanted to change that.
The rest of the essay could describe changes that the writer implemented to make his team’s impact on the community more positive. First, the writer could describe how he got his school to provide reusable bottles to the team, as well as a water cooler. In addition, the writer could describe how the team worked with the league to move their game times, so that a senior softball team could play on weekends, and also started leading fundraisers to support local little league teams.
Strengths of this essay:
- This essay has potential because it focuses on a particular “before and after” situation; the writer clearly shows their feeling of responsibility towards those around them.
- This essay is also quite focused, which will allow the writer to incorporate specific, vivid descriptions of observations and actions, rather than trying to blow through a much longer story at breakneck speed.
Value: Interdisciplinary Learning
Essay Topic: A group science fair project that examined how music helps mice learn.
This essay would focus not only on the project itself, but also on the reason for the writer’s interest in an interdisciplinary project. The writer could begin by describing a discussion she had with a musician friend about the psychological and physiological benefits of music.
The writer could then describe how she shared this discussion with her lab group and how, together, they decided to try to do their own research into the link between music and learning. The essay should not focus on specific experimental methodology (which is not so relevant to the question), but rather on the experience of interdisciplinary work and which lessons the writer took away.
Strengths of this topic:
- This essay clearly shows the student’s love of interdisciplinary work—the science fair project combines elements of psychology, biology, and music, at a minimum.
- This essay shows the writer’s curiosity, motivation, and ability to plan, initiate, and complete a challenging project.
- This essay is focused on a particular experience, and so will likely have depth and detail, providing insight into who the writer is and how she thinks about and approaches problems.
Writing Your Essay
As you begin to write your response to this prompt, keep the following pointers in mind:
Be sure that your essay is clearly focused on one of Pitzer’s values. Though it might be tempting to try to fit in other values, stay focused. It’s fine to hint at other values—for instance, Example 1 above clearly has links to “environmental sustainability” as well as “social responsibility”—but be sure that Pitzer’s admissions committee gets a clear, compelling understanding of what one of their values means to you.
Though your top priority should be making sure that the value you’ve chosen is clear, avoid repetitive or generic language. In particular, many applicants are likely to reuse the language of the prompt (“I have engaged with the core value of social responsibility by…”). Instead, use your own words and link these terms to your own experience (“As I looked at the trash around the field, I realized that my teammates and I did not play a responsible role in our community.”).
Finally as we’ve already noted above, avoid a broad, high-level summary of your life or high school career. Focus on specific moments to show the reader how you have engaged with these values, rather than telling a long-winded, birds-eye view story about what you have done.
As a mission-driven institution, we value and celebrate the synergy created by our differences and similarities. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, identity, or personal interests that you would bring to Pitzer, and how you plan to engage in our community. (250 words, optional)
This is one instance of the very common diversity prompt. When colleges have this kind of prompt, they want to know about your own personal background and how it has influenced your worldview and perspectives.
First, 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, as otherwise schools will be legally unable to factor your race into their admissions decision.
The traditional approach to this kind of prompt is describing what you think is the most important part of your identity, then briefly discussing how that aspect of diversity is relevant to you and your general life experiences.
Such a response might be written about one of the following scenarios:
- Using your fluency in another language to help members of a specific community.
- Interpreting a text in class differently from your classmates because of your ethnic culture.
- Having a friend of a different background who has changed your perspective on something important.
- Having an illness or disability that helps you view accessibility through a different lens than your peers.
- Being part of a niche interest group/fandom and trying to represent the group faithfully when talking to people who aren’t members of it.
Simply listing things that people typically associate with diversity should be avoided. Sure, diversity includes different ethnicities/races, gender identities, sexual orientations, countries of origin, and languages, but writing out a laundry list of how you identify within each of those categories will make your essay feel like a census report, not a personal reflection. Instead, highlight just one thing you feel is especially important, and really let Pitzer’s admissions officers inside your head so they can understand how this particular aspect of your identity has shaped your growth and development.
Also, bear in mind that the traditional markers of diversity aren’t the only ones you can discuss. There are other aspects of identity that can make a campus community diverse, including socioeconomic classes, hometowns, illnesses/disabilities, and even interests or hobbies.
Once you have chosen your aspect of background or identity, describe how it has influenced you and your life. Often, the best way to do this is through a meaningful anecdote. As you brainstorm formative life experiences related to this aspect of your identity, think about the following questions for each experience:
- What happened?
- What was going through your mind and how did you feel as it happened?
- How have your emotions about the event changed over time?
- Have you faced any challenges as a result of membership in this community or your background?
After describing your identity through an anecdote, you need to address how this feature of who you are will allow you to contribute to the Pitzer community. Remember, the more specific, the better. Browse Pitzer’s student organizations and find one that connects to the aspect of your background you wrote about, as that will make your essay cohesive and easy to follow.
For example, a student who has been learning baking recipes from her grandmother since she was little might write about wanting to join the Baking Club to share these delicious desserts with other students.
Or, maybe at home a student was part of a large Jewish community and didn’t have to go out of his way to connect with others, but at college he plans to join Hillel to ensure he has that established community.
To summarize: think of what diversity means to you and what you consider to be a particularly significant aspect of your own diverse background. From there, think of personal anecdotes or stories that show how that smaller piece of you has contributed to your overall growth and development as a person. Finally, write about specific ways in which you intend to use this aspect of identity to contribute to the Pitzer community!
Where to Get Your Pitzer College Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your Pitzer essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. 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!