How to Write the Soka University of America Essays 2019-2020
Soka University of America is a private, non-profit liberal arts college in Aliso Veijo, California. It has an acceptance rate of 37% and is nationally ranked as #22 in U.S. News’ National Liberal Arts Colleges List.
With an 8:1 student/faculty ratio and an average class size of twelve, Soka is small and student-focused. It has unique offerings, such as the Learning Cluster program, which is an investigative research project conducted by undergraduates and faculty. Unlike many research programs at other universities, these projects are student-led. Soka is also the first liberal arts university to require a semester studying abroad, and the cost of the experience is included in the tuition.
Soka provides its students with the tools they need to become global citizens. If these opportunities interest you, read on to learn how to write the application essays for this school! Want to know your chances at Soka? Calculate your chances for free right now.
How to Write the Soka University of America Essays
This essay is asking you to demonstrate knowledge of the university beyond a basic level; it is asking you to merge your passions with Soka’s offerings. We highly advise that you do not write this prompt without researching the program on SUA’s website. A description of the Learning Cluster program is available here, where you can see the learning outcomes and even inquire for more information from the university. Some examples of past projects are Aesthetic Theory: NYC vs. LA, and Garbology: Managing Waste at SUA.
A Learning Cluster is a research project conducted in small groups with peers alongside SUA’s faculty. At first, coming up with an investigative question may seem daunting, but you can break the process into smaller steps. First, brainstorm potential investigative questions. You can think beyond subjects you enjoy and explore your multiple identities, involvements, and hobbies. Your cultural heritage, the city you grew up in, and extracurriculars are examples of valid options. Once you narrow it down to a couple of ideas, try crossing over some of your topics to form a research question.
For example, if you are a Latinx girl who is a member of your school’s robotics team, your investigative question could deal with representation of the Latinx community in robotics. If you are an environmentally conscious person and president of your high school’s MUN, your project could revolve around the way diplomacy could be used to mediate international disputes about waste and energy conservation. Or, if you are intrigued by marine animals and technology, your project could investigate current and emerging methods of underwater filming.
Avoid generic platitudes and focus on creating specific details and imagery, as shown below:
Bad: “For my learning cluster, I would like to research the connection between nostalgia and food, as food has been an integral part of my heritage.”
Good: “The smell of spiced beef would waft through the air as my grandmother pressed the perfect amount of her empanada filling into the homemade dough. I would carefully pinch the ends together like she taught me. Though my grandmother has now passed, I still remember the scent of her empanadas, and can still vividly recall the memories that came with making them. SUA’s Learning Cluster will allow me to experientially investigate the connection between nostalgia and olfactory region of the sensory system.”
Your research question can be whatever you want, as long as you speak about it in concrete terms and connect it to your own life. Make sure your response is unique, with specific details connecting the project to your passions, as well as the methods you plan to employ while investigating and solving the issues in question. Remember – with an investigative question, there are no right or wrong answers.
In essence, this prompt is asking “Why SUA?”. It is not enough to respond to this prompt with generic sentiments about wanting a smaller class size or the interdisciplinary curriculum offered by a liberal arts college. To start addressing this prompt, you should do some research (the school’s site is a great starting point).
First of all, it is important to know how SUA differs from other schools. The school only offers one major, a BA in Liberal Arts. This degree has the following concentrations: Environmental Studies, Humanities, International Studies, or Social and Behavioral Sciences.
The prompt specifically asks you for your intention in seeking a liberal arts degree, so you should explicitly address this question, on top of why you want to attend SUA. Along with their concentration requirements, students must fulfill the General Education Curriculum. The general education requirements include courses from across all disciplines, study abroad, and core analytical classes such as The Enduring Questions of Humanity. Students should reflect on how a broader liberal arts education can help them succeed in their goals. Maybe you want to be a doctor, and a liberal arts background will help you be a more well-rounded practitioner, both in terms of how you can interact with your patients, but also how you think analytically. Or, maybe you want to work in publishing, and a liberal arts degree will allow you more flexibility in the subject matter of the pieces you help publish.
Once you’ve established your broader desire to engage with the liberal arts, you can discuss which SUA-specific academic aspects are a strong fit for you. Look into the offerings of your intended concentration, such as courses and resources unique to SUA.
You should also dig into extracurriculars that pique your interest, such as clubs, research, and scholarship/fellowship opportunities. If anything catches your eye, explore it further until you feel confident speaking about how the opportunity fits with your goals and passions. Keep in mind that liberal arts colleges stress an interdisciplinary approach to education, and this should inform the clubs you select and the language you use when writing this essay.
Here are examples of what to do and what not to do:
Bad: SUA is a renowned liberal arts college that appeals to me because I want to take an interdisciplinary approach to my education. I wish to join extracurriculars such as research opportunities and clubs like student government. I believe I will thrive in learning environment provided by the small class sizes.
Good: I am really intrigued by Soka’s concentration in Environmental Studies, especially the hands-on component. Being able to practice organic agriculture in the Soka Instructional Garden facilities would help me better understand sustainable food production. I grew up helping cultivate vegetables on my family’s farm, and I spent weekends selling produce at the farmer’s market. These experiences bred my passion for agriculture and business. At the same time, I consider myself an environmentalist and strive to support sustainable practices. I would like to one day start an environmentally-conscious food production business; Soka’s hands-on agricultural experiences would equip me with a strong foundation of knowledge and skills to achieve my goals.
Furthermore, having a background in liberal arts will allow me to approach my business with a more nuanced perspective. Business is not only technical and transactional; it also requires a strong grasp on what drives people and society. At SUA, I will not only be able to gain real experience in my direct field of interests (environment and agriculture), but I will also develop a strong foundation in relevant fields such as psychology. A liberal arts degree will equip me with the skills to develop multidimensional business solutions in the context of the communities they impact.
The former response doesn’t demonstrate a deeper knowledge of Soka, as it mentions resources that can be found at almost any school. This latter response shows genuine interest in Soka by naming unique opportunities and how they fit in with the student’s goals. Additionally, the student addresses why a liberal arts college in general is a strong choice for them.
A commonly forgotten component of the “Why School” essays are extracurriculars and social life. College isn’t only about academics, but also what you do outside of the classroom. You should also look into extracurriculars or clubs that you would like to join, and tie them into your current interests. This is a way to show genuine interest in Soka’s specific offerings. For example, a student interest in dance and social justice might want to join Hip Hop Congress, a group that promotes positive social change through hip hop culture.
Since you have 500-750 words, you should mention at least two academic and two extracurricular aspects of Soka that interest you, and how they would help you develop your interests and achieve your goals.
While we recommend that you fill out most “optional” essays, this space is truly optional. If you don’t feel that you have any extenuating circumstances, you can leave it blank without penalty. This is your chance to explain anything that hasn’t been addressed in other parts of your application, so if you feel that the parameters apply to you, you should fill this section out. For this essay, it’s better to be straightforward than to use vivid imagery since the content is most likely more serious.
An example of what to include could be something you do that most other students don’t, like having a job: “Because my parents own a small restaurant, it is often my responsibility to watch my younger siblings while they are working, and even help out by doing the dishes or bussing tables in my free time. For that reason, I was unable to join as many extracurriculars as my after school time went towards helping ensure the family restaurant was running smoothly.”
An example of something else that would go in this category is something negative that affected you or a family member: “In the sophomore year of high school, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. This profoundly affected multiple areas of my life, including my academic performance, resulting in a significant dip in my grades during the spring semester of that year.”
You can also briefly state limitations that were specific to your high school. For example, if your school did not have an AP or IB program, you can mention that. Keep in mind that some universities designate regional admissions officers who are familiar with the offerings of your school—this might be something you want to look into before filling out this section.
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