How to Write the Pitzer College Essays 2022-2023
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Pitzer College has two required supplements, with the second prompt allowing you to choose between two options. As a small liberal arts college in California, Pitzer is highly selective, so your supplements will be essential in making you stand out as an applicant.
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Pitzer College Supplemental Essay Prompts
Prompt 1: Two of our favorite murals on campus have quotes that read, “Be your own weird” and “You are of this place – it is changing you”. If you could add an inspirational quote or art piece to our campus, what would it be and why? (100 word limit)
Prompt 2: 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. (650 words)
- Option A: Describe what you are looking for from your college experience and why Pitzer would be a good fit for you.
- Option B: Reflecting on your involvement throughout high school or within the community, how have you engaged with one of Pitzer’s core values?
Two of our favorite murals on campus have quotes that read, “Be your own weird” and “You are of this place – it is changing you”. If you could add an inspirational quote or art piece to our campus, what would it be and why? (100 words)
The first thing to note about this prompt is that they easily could’ve chosen to cut the first part, but deliberately decided to include it. The prompt would’ve made equal sense had it just asked which inspirational quote or art piece you would include, but the admissions representative wants to see the conclusion you draw from the two murals already on campus.
With just 100 words to work with, this is a great opportunity to show rather than tell. That means you should lead with your quote and then explain why it’s not only meaningful to you but also meaningful to a college campus like Pitzer College.
Both quotes already listed have to do with personal growth and self-assurance. They encourage students to be comfortable with their own skin and be open to change and growth. While your quote doesn’t need to follow this same exact tone, it should definitely fit with the theme of motivation and inspiration.
Maybe you want to include a quote from one of your favorite speakers or leaders, both past and present. Draw on books, speeches, and people you admire to find your quote. Even think about what you or your friends may select for their senior quote in the yearbook, or if you haven’t thought about it just yet, see if you can find a copy of the previous yearbook. This is a great way to get a good portfolio of quotes to choose from that may resonate with you.
Perhaps you are an avid reader and have read a novel that has really stuck with you in high school. Chances are, you won’t know a quote from the novel off hand, but a quick google search will give you a highlight reel of quotes to choose from. Using Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” as an example, one of the most famous quotes is the protagonist’s quote “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”
Write briefly about how you interpret this quote, how it resonates with you, and how you feel it can apply to the wider Pitzer community. In this example, maybe you apply the quote to your own life – feeling as though you do not yet feel like you have the power or ability to change the world or live as an independent, but that you want to take the tools you do have at your disposal to learn and want others to keep the same message in mind to pursue their goals.
If you choose to select an art piece, keep in mind that you can both recreate one or design your own. Because of the short word count, however, try to keep it easy enough to describe.
Perhaps you’re passionate about the environment, which is also highly valued on Pitzer’s campus. You can maybe paint a mural of people across the world doing their part to help the environment – farmers watering and planting, construction workers installing solar panels, people cleaning rivers, and so on. Just like the quote, make sure to also elaborate on why you chose it and include any personal connection to it.
Prompt 2, 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 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 the tools to understand and analyze qualitative and quantitative 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 contributing 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 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 you organize your essay. A focused, strong response to this prompt will likely:
- Focus on just one or two – and at most three – of the areas listed above.
- Hone in on your specific interests within each category.
- Link your various college 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 of Pitzer’s features will create the college experience you want. As you do this research, keep these pointers in mind:
Go beyond what you’ll find with 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 details about 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 lab resources, faculty mentors, or particular topics you want to investigate or questions you’d like to answer. You could even give examples of current ongoing research that links to you interests. Specific programs and their offerings always show that you’ve done your due diligence when it comes to getting to know that Pitzer has to offer for you. And always 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; if you are writing about an opportunity or resource that most colleges and universities schools 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, be sure to highlight what makes their program stand out – and how it will help you achieve your specific goals. The specific resources you mention could be anything from creative writing workshops to faculty members to student groups affiliated with the department.
Some college applicants have clear academic or professional goals; other students want to explore new areas in college in order to decide on an academic or professional path. Regardless of whether you have concrete long-term goals or not, this prompt could work well for you. However, you will need to find a way to make even more speculative or vague goals feel personal and compelling. Here are two examples of responses that can work for students with less clear goals (example 1) and with more clear goals (example 2).
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 how to deploy his skills to help fight climate change. In his body paragraphs, the writer could describe specific, interdisciplinary courses and research opportunities he wants to pursue at Pitzer, explaining how these courses will support his goals. Then, in another paragraph, he could write about classroom and extracurricular experiences that will allow him to engage with his peers.
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 get the pre-med education necessary to gain admission 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-medical resources, and in a final paragraph she could write about volunteer opportunities that will allow her to use both her sociological insights and medical interests to help others.
Writing your Essay
Here are a few tips to make your final product as strong as possible:
Link the things that draw you to Pitzer to your broader goals. It’s easy to list off features of Pitzer that excite you with explaining why those resources are such a good fit for you and your goal. Take the time to connect the things you love about Pitzer to your essay’s larger theme (what you want from your college experience).
Stay focused. You might find yourself tempted to list off all the wonderful things you’ve learned 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 or prominent research programs. Resist this temptation! Instead, take the time to make sure your reader understands why you are 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’ve found very few professors working in my area of interest; at Pitzer, I’d have the unique opportunity to work with Professor Smith on…” (Note that no such professor exists at Pitzer. This is just an example!)
Prompt 2, 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
This prompt is a great choice for applicants who are particularly excited about one of Pitzer’s core values.
The phrasing of this prompt leaves open the possibility of writing about a whole period of your life or general community involvement. However, the strongest answers to this prompt 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, over the whole course of your high school career, a more focused essay will be more compelling. Avoid writing an essay that is essentially a survey of your high school career. 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 and impressive.
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; it shows your own vision and motivation, and will likely be far more compelling than an essay about being a member (even 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 a baseball team to make it greener and more beneficial to the broader community.
The essay could begin with a paragraph describing how the writer noticed that their baseball team’s games reduced community access to a public field and often left large amounts of trash in the field’s bin. After describing these observations, the author could explain that he realized that his team had a negative impact on the community – and that he wanted the team to be a beneficial part of the community.
The rest of the essay could describe changes that the writer implemented to change his team’s impact on their community. First, the writer could describe how he got the school to provide reusable bottles to the team, as well as a water cooler. In addition, the writer could describe the team moved their match times to allow a senior softball team to play on weekends and fundraised to support local little league teams.
Strengths of this essay:
- This essay has strong potential because it focuses on a particular “before and after” situation; the writer could clearly show their ability to reflect on their responsibilities to those around them.
- This essay also will likely be quite focused–the writer can build the essay around specific, vivid descriptions of observations and actions.
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 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 describe how she shared this discussion with her lab group and that, together, they decided to try to do their own research into the link between music and learning. The essay would not focus on specific experimental methodology (which is not so relevant to the question), but rather on the experience of interdisciplinary work.
Strengths of this topic:
- This essay clearly is interdisciplinary–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 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 the writer thinks 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 the admissions committee gets a clear, compelling understanding of what one value 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 re-use 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 realize that my team did not play a responsible role in our community or society”).
As noted above, avoid broad, high-level summary of your life or high school career. Focus in on specific moments to show the reader how you have engaged with these values, rather than telling a general story about what you have done.
Where to Get Your Pitzer College Essays Edited for Free
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