How to Write the Southern Methodist University Essays 2021-2022
Note: SMU’s essay prompts historically do not change very much, if at all. These prompts aren’t yet confirmed for the 2021-2022 cycle, but we expect them to stay the same. Check back in August for any updates!
Southern Methodist University, located in Dallas, Texas, is recognized as a university of increasing national prominence and impact. Offering undergraduates over 106 bachelor’s degrees in 92 fields across its 7 schools, SMU provides a wide range of academic programs for everyone.
Students benefit from small classes and opportunities for research, leadership development, and exceptional learning experiences on campus and around the world. Apart from boasting strong academic programs and southern hospitality, SMU is an excellent value for its price, as roughly 3 out of 4 students receive aid through either need-based financial aid or merit scholarships.
To apply, you can use SMU’s online application, The Common App, ApplyTexas, or the Coalition Application. For each of these, you will need to write two supplemental essays. This post will help guide you through the essay prompts in the Southern Methodist University required writing supplement.
Southern Methodist University Application Essay Prompts
Required Prompt #1
SMU appeals to students for a variety of reasons. Briefly describe why you are interested in attending SMU, and what specific factors have led you to apply. (Response required in 250 words.)
Like many other institutions, the university utilizes the “Why X School?” prompt. Similarly, the real reason why schools like SMU use this prompt is because they want to separate applicants that are truly passionate about attending their school. In general, there aren’t many ways to mess up these types of essays, barring major grammatical errors and saying offensive things; however, one thing that distinguishes a mediocre essay from an exceptional essay is specificity. The more specific your response, the more compelling it will be.
Generic statements like “I heard the business program is strong” and “the location is nice” are too broad and could apply to hundreds of universities all over the U.S.
Be specific. Instead of listing a generic statement such as “The business school is strong,” write something specific to SMU that led you to apply there.
For example, you could write:
To be considered for the Hunt Leadership Scholarship would allow me to surround myself with fellow goal-oriented individuals that would prepare me to become an executive of my own business.
In these types of essays, it is important to weave in details about yourself that highlight your unique qualities and ultimate viability as a candidate. In the example above, mentioning the Hunt Leadership scholarship shows that you have researched and taken interest in a particular aspect of the university, as well as indicating that you have leadership experience.
However, it is better to further elaborate on the essay by including specific personal information about yourself that places you in the best light possible. Show, rather than tell, the admissions officers specific things about yourself that highlight traits that would make you a good fit for the college. Be careful when you write that you actually deepen your points. A deceptively weak example of this could be: “The kids I have babysat convinced me that SMU is the best school in the U.S. — I’ve spent many late nights talking about SMU and UT football and hearing about their parents’ experience with the school as well.”
Although this example does show some interest in the school and college admissions process, it could be applied to any school. In this particular example, you should focus on what the kids could have said to convince you that the school was the best school in the U.S., or whatever reason else attracts you to SMU. It’s important here to use strong, descriptive language.
Here is a stronger example that uses a similar concept:
Listening to the children I babysat rave about their parents’ experiencing Boulevarding on game day 30 years later with their freshman roommate, and hearing the parents themselves talk about their jealousy that students would have the chance to debate on economic theory with Professor Santanu Roy, made me excited to attend a school where pride, spirit, and intellectual curiosity run deep.
This example describes specifically what experiences SMU would provide — Boulevarding with your roommates on game day — as well as demonstrate that you are excited to attend the university specifically by mentioning the economics professor, Santanu Roy. Regardless of the school you apply to, you need to add information specific to that school, and in this example, talking about a certain football tradition or economics professor indicates that you are thoroughly interested in the university.
An example like this demonstrates genuine interest and shows why you would be a good fit for the school, while also showing your enthusiasm to attend.
The prompt explicitly says to describe “specific” factors that led you to apply to SMU, so follow directions! Is it family ties? The opportunity to move from your busy city life on the East Coast to a smaller setting in Texas? The more specific you are, the better.
Required Prompt #2
SMU is a diverse learning environment shaped by the convergence of ideas and cultures. How will your unique experiences or background enhance the University, and how will you benefit from this community? (Response required in 250 words.)
The main purpose of this essay is to get to know you better. Keep in mind that admissions officers only receive the limited information you provide them, so really focus on using these essays to remind them that you are a real person, an individual with tangible aspirations, passions, and potential. Not only that, you need to demonstrate how you can contribute to the culture and community at SMU.
The whole background behind this question is that the school has a very diverse campus with students coming from all over the U.S., and all over the world for that matter. They want to see the different perspectives that their applicants are bringing to the table; admissions officers want to know where you are from, what the community you grew up in is like, and what matters to you.
If you live in Charlottesville, Virginia, you could talk about how the controversial topic of removing Confederate statues affects your life and discuss it with many of your classmates from Texas, a majority-Republican state. If it’s your ability to discuss philosophy well past 2 am, talk about that. Write about something that is meaningful to you.
For example, you could write about an experience you had abroad:
My semester abroad spent in China forced me out of my comfort zone and compelled me to understand the world from different perspectives. By adapting to a different culture and developing completely new relationships, I have cultivated a new sense of intellectual curiosity and independence.
I hope to share my experiences abroad and translate them into decisions that will inspire real change. For example, I would love to conduct research with the SMU psychology department about the cognitive advantages of learning a second language as well as how studying abroad in high school can impact mental development. In turn, I hope to form new connections with students and faculty at SMU, so that I can constantly evolve my perspective.
This response, in addition to avoiding the traditional “I went abroad and learned about culture!” narrative, showcases a sense of independence and maturity that has the potential to create a difference in the world. It shows that you will bring a unique perspective to the campus (as many students probably will not have that experience you do) as well as implies the opportunities that you may choose to pursue while at school. This example demonstrates what you bring to the table and how you will be a force for change on campus.
Overall, this prompt is not meant to fool or trick you — it’s just meant to serve as an extended introduction to who you are. Ask yourself: “What can I contribute to campus, and what will the campus offer me specifically?”
We wish you the best of luck with writing your Southern Methodist University essays!
For information on the application essays for other schools, check out CollegeVine’s database of essay guides.
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