How to Write the Sarah Lawrence College Essay 2023-2024
Sarah Lawrence College has one supplemental essay, with three prompts to choose from. Roughly, these prompts address identity, creativity, and diversity. This post will provide guidance on which prompt to choose, as well as a breakdown of how to write an effective response to each one.
Although this essay is technically optional, Sarah Lawrence receives thousands of applications each year, so you should take advantage of every opportunity possible to distinguish yourself from the other applicants. These prompts give you a chance to do exactly that.
Read these Sarah Lawrence essay examples to inspire your writing.
Sarah Lawrence College Supplemental Essay Prompts
We know that there may be elements of who you are as a person and student that you may not feel are conveyed fully in the other sections of this application. If you wish to showcase a little more about your particular interest in Sarah Lawrence College, please respond to one of the prompts below or select “I will not be submitting this optional essay”. (250-500 words)
Option 1: Sarah Lawrence students are often described as hyphenates: filmmaker-sociologist-historian, environmentalist-photographer, psychologist-novelist, economist-poet. In 250-500 words, tell us about seemingly disparate interests you have brought together, or hope to bring together at Sarah Lawrence.
Option 2: Students at Sarah Lawrence are asked to design their own research questions directly with faculty, and then answer them through intensive semester-long projects that frequently inspire a blend of intellectual rigor and creativity. In 250-500 words, tell us about a text, problem or topic you would love to explore over a semester or a year, and what you would hope to achieve through that work.
Option 3: In the syllabus of a 2023 majority decision of the Supreme Court written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the author notes: “Nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.” Drawing upon examples from your life, a quality of your character, and/or a unique ability you possess, describe how you believe your goals for a college education might be impacted, influenced, or affected by the Court’s decision.
Since the Sarah Lawrence essay is optional, you might be asking yourself, is it worth it for me to even write an essay? Although you won’t be penalized for not submitting an essay, we strongly encourage applicants to do everything in their power to make their application as impressive as possible, which includes submitting essays.
In case you are undecided, some of the benefits of submitting the essay include:
- Demonstrating a deeper interest in the school by dedicating more time to their application.
- Revealing new interesting aspects of yourself to the admissions committee that they wouldn’t learn elsewhere in your application.
- Helping the college differentiate two equally qualified applicants on paper.
- Highlighting your writing skills if you are a strong writer.
- Creating a more complete picture of who you are as a student and person.
Obviously the choice whether or not to write the essay is up to you at the end of the day, but if you are serious about Sarah Lawrence, spend a few hours brainstorming and writing an essay to give your application a boost that might be the difference between an acceptance or a rejection.
Sarah Lawrence students are often described as hyphenates: filmmaker-sociologist-historian, environmentalist-photographer, psychologist-novelist, economist-poet. In 250-500 words, tell us about seemingly disparate interests you have brought together, or hope to bring together at Sarah Lawrence.
Here, the key to a strong response is identifying a combination of interests that is genuinely unique to you. Sarah Lawrence gives you a hand by providing some examples of what they’re looking for. If the combination you’re thinking of writing about is more along the lines of “student-athlete” or “guitar player-piano player,” you should probably select a different prompt. Not that there’s anything wrong with those interests—they’re just relatively common/logical, which just isn’t what this prompt is getting at, so you may want to pivot to another prompt.
If you feel this prompt is a good match for you, however, the next step is identifying anecdotes that clearly show your interest in the topics you have selected. Since this is a relatively long supplement, make sure you can describe these anecdotes in some detail.
For example, say you decide to write about your interests in hiking and cooking. Below are good and bad examples of how you might choose to begin your essay.
Good example: “The day’s last rays of sunlight filled the sky, and Baker Lake’s rumpled surface reflected every incandescent shade of pink, purple, blue, and orange. I could smell the pine trees surrounding the lake, and my fleece was plenty warm enough for a gentle August night. Everything was perfect… except the bowl of mashed potatoes in my lap, which was somehow both powdery and watery, and lacked any and all spices. My parents had also made exactly the same thing for both breakfast and lunch. As I choked down the potatoes by the lake, I began to realize that if I ever wanted better backpacking food, I would have to learn how to cook myself.”
Bad example: “When I was little, I went backpacking every summer with my parents. I really loved the views of mountains, lakes, and valleys, but I was always so hungry after hiking, and my parents weren’t very good cooks. We usually ate dehydrated mashed potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This monotony inspired me to learn how to cook myself, so I could figure out tastier options, even in the backcountry.”
The main difference here is clear: the first response shows, while the second tells. While you should always aim to show, not tell, as noted above this is a longer supplement, so you should take advantage of that extra space to immerse your reader in your story as much as possible. Details, like describing a particular backpacking trip instead of speaking generally, make your passion more believable and convincing.
Note that the prompt allows you to choose interests you have not yet combined. For example, say there is an applicant who also likes hiking and cooking, but, unlike our first applicant, doesn’t have experience cooking in the backcountry. We would recommend this applicant check out Sarah Lawrence’s list of clubs and organizations, and connect her intersecting interests to one or more of the options listed there.
For example, she might write about how the Outdoor Adventure Club would give her an opportunity to cook for her fellow hikers, and how she could then write about her most successful meals in Sarah Lawrence’s food magazine, Salt and Pepper.
These details will not only show your reader that you are truly passionate about continuing these hobbies in college, but also that you have done your research on Sarah Lawrence and would make valuable contributions to their community.
Students at Sarah Lawrence are asked to design their own research questions directly with faculty, and then answer them through intensive semester-long projects that frequently inspire a blend of intellectual rigor and creativity. In 250-500 words, tell us about a text, problem or topic you would love to explore over a semester or a year, and what you would hope to achieve through that work.
While students might feel that this prompt has to relate back to their major, you actually have more freedom here to write about anything you are interested in exploring intellectually. With all that freedom, some students might find this an appealing option, while others might be overwhelmed and prefer to go with a more direct prompt in Option 1 or 3.
However, we would say that the beauty of this prompt is that it allows you to discuss something you are passionate about, without worrying about whether it’s the subject you’ve done the best in or the intended major you’ve listed. The idea is to simply come up with a research project that you would enjoy pursuing.
When it comes to picking a topic, we recommend that you hone into something specific. For example, don’t pick “the Roman Empire” as your topic, but instead focus on “the changing role of women during the transition from the Republic to the Empire”. Below are some more examples of the types of creative and specific research topics you could choose:
- How behavioral psychology influences Super Bowl ads
- The effects of honeybees on global food supply
- Why are revolutions so popular in musicals?
- The connection between dystopian novels and political activism
- The future of organ donations with 3D printers
- Who was the real Great Gatsby?
- Improving infrastructure rehabilitation in the aftermath of war
Once you have a topic in mind, there are four things your essay needs to do. First, explain why you have chosen this particular topic. This is where anecdotes and personal stories will come into play to show the admissions committee how this research question is relevant to your life and your interests. Maybe you want to learn more about one of your favorite hobbies, or maybe you want to combine two of your favorite subjects and see how they intersect. Perhaps you are researching something that has personally affected you or your family, or maybe you want to dive deeper into one of your favorite books or time periods. Make sure to explain what your connection to this topic is, and, more specifically, why that connection is important to you.
The second thing this essay needs to accomplish is actually explaining what your research will be about. Give the reader details on what you are interested in learning, the context you already know about the topic, the type of information you are hoping to gain, and any hypotheses you might already have. Especially if you are choosing something that might be relatively obscure, make sure you detail exactly what you are interested in, so that the admissions committee can easily follow along.
It’s important to note that these two first steps could happen in reverse order. Depending on how you write your essay, it might make more sense to first fill the reader in on what specifically you are interested in, and then explain where your passion for the topic came from. Or, maybe through your story of why you are passionate about the topic, you will reveal information about it, which will naturally transition into explaining your research question(s) in more depth. Either structure is fine! Just make sure your reader can clearly follow your ideas, and that they’re learning both why you’re interested in this topic and what specifically you hope to learn.
The third step, which is included in the prompt, is to explain what you hope to achieve from your research—or, in other words, tell us the broader significance of your hypothetical work. This is where you explain why other people should care about what you care about. Maybe your research will help athletes avoid injuries, or maybe it will shape foreign policy by finding the most effective diplomatic strategies to reduce conflict. Perhaps the impact is less obvious, but that doesn’t make it less important. For example, your research on the stereotypes BIPOC females play on screen could help you become a screenwriter who celebrates minority voices.
Finally, the last thing you should do in this essay is tie your research back to Sarah Lawrence. This is the step most students forget about, and we can’t blame them since it isn’t explicitly stated in the prompt. However, the strongest essays will prove to the admissions committee that the student will only be able to pursue this research at Sarah Lawrence because of the unique opportunities available there.
Just as you would for a “Why This College” essay, you should include specific resources that you will take advantage of on campus to help you successfully complete your research project. This could look like finding professors whose existing research aligns with your interest, or research institutes that would provide an ideal work environment, classes that will broaden your knowledge on this niche topic, or extracurriculars you will join to acquire a more comprehensive understanding of the field and meet like-minded students who can help you research.
However you choose to spin it, if you include specific opportunities you will engage with and explain how they will enhance your research, it will show the admissions committee you have done your research (no pun intended) and you are serious about attending Sarah Lawrence.
In the syllabus of a 2023 majority decision of the Supreme Court written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the author notes: “Nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.” Drawing upon examples from your life, a quality of your character, and/or a unique ability you possess, describe how you believe your goals for a college education might be impacted, influenced, or affected by the Court’s decision.
Earlier this year, 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 in their supplemental essay packages. If you feel that your racial background has impacted you significantly, this prompt is the place to discuss that.
You might consider answering this prompt with what you think is the most important part of your identity, whether that is race or something else, then a small discussion about how that quality is relevant to you and your general life experiences. This prompt goes a step further than a traditional diversity prompt, by asking about how your goals for a college education have been affected by the Supreme Court’s decision. Make sure you answer this question in your essay!
Although most students who choose this prompt will likely discuss their racial background, as that was the aspect of applicants’ identities most directly affected by the Supreme Court’s decision, as noted above you can write about other types of diversity. For example, an LGBTQ+ student might write about how this decision and other recent legal decisions have spurred fear for the future of their community which has strengthened their resolve to go to college and study law so they can fight to protect the rights of all minority groups.
Other effective responses that don’t focus on race could discuss 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 causes you to 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.
Diversity encompasses all of the aforementioned attributes, but whatever you choose, just make sure you showcase individuality and specificity in your response. This prompt, like the other two, is an opportunity to share your unique life perspective(s). You don’t want to waste this opportunity by writing down a bland dictionary definition of “diversity”. Think of what diversity means to you, and what you consider to be a particularly significant aspect of your own multifaceted identity. From there, think of personal anecdotes or stories about how this part of your identity has contributed to your overall growth or development as a person.
Finally, as we noted above, it’s important that you don’t just flesh out how you’ve been affected by your diverse identity, but also explain the interaction of your identity with the Court’s decision. Stay away from expressing your general opinion about the decision, and instead focus on how it has affected you individually, like the LGBTQ+ student who now wants to pursue a career in law, while before she saw herself becoming a vet. This is a great opportunity for you to get personal and share emotional details to help the admissions committee get to know you better, so don’t hold back.
Where to Get Your Sarah Lawrence Essay Edited
Do you want feedback on your Sarah Lawrence essay? 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!