How to Write the Southern Methodist University Essays 2023-2024
Southern Methodist University has two short essay prompts that will allow you to demonstrate your fit with the college community. Since SMU is a selective school, it’s important to write strong, specific responses to help your application stand out.
This post will help guide you through the essay prompts and give you expert tips on what to write, plus what to avoid!
Southern Methodist University Application Essay Prompts
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. (250 words)
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? (250 words)
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. (250 words)
Like many other institutions, SMU has the “Why This College?” prompt. The reason schools use this prompt is because they want to discern which applicants are truly passionate about attending their school.
One thing that distinguishes a mediocre essay from an exceptional essay is specificity. The more specific your response is, the more compelling it will be.
With specificity in mind, you should do some research on SMU before you begin writing. Look into SMU’s academics (specifically programs of study and research centers), student organizations, core values, and faculty. Doing research allows you to get a good idea of what the college is like and what may resonate with you most when you arrive on campus. Finding things that really pique your interest will give you the specificity that your response requires.
You ideally want to show at least a tangible connection to the university. A tangible connection means that you have specific reasons for wanting to attend the university that are unique to that university alone. These can include:
- The campus culture
- Classes or academic opportunities
- Professors or research groups
- Other on-campus opportunities or programs
Be specific. 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.
Instead of making a generic statement like “The business school is strong,” write something specific to SMU that led you to apply there. For example, you could write:
Two years ago, my brother began coding algorithms to model and predict industry trends and market shares. He created a small start-up for this service that is already being used by seven client companies! The problem is that his expertise is entirely in computer science, not business. I love business, and for the last two years I’ve dreamed of helping run this budding start-up while attending college. Seeing the potential for growth we possess has inspired me to educate myself in the business world.
The research workshops at SMU’s Kitt Investing and Trading Center are a unique resource that would help me gain insights into how businesses operate. The Industry and Marketing Research workshop offers access to market research reports and databases that are too expensive to obtain myself. This is exactly the kind of research I need to improve my brother’s algorithms from a business perspective – filling in the start-up’s expertise gap. In addition, the Demographics and Consumer Research workshop will let me help our clients more accurately determine where and with whom they conduct business.
Besides improving research for his algorithms, my brother has expressed an interest in expanding the company’s scope, both in terms of employees and clients. Unfortunately, his lack of business savvy has prevented this from becoming a reality. The Kitt Center’s Accounting workshops will help us achieve this goal, as they will give me the skills I need to determine if we have the resources to hire more employees or onboard more clients.
In this type of essay, it’s important to weave in details about yourself that highlight your unique qualities and ultimate viability as a candidate. In the above example, mentioning the company research workshops offered by the Kitt Investing and Trading Center shows that you have researched and taken interest in a particular aspect of the university, and mentioning the company you’re going to work for shows that you have knowledge about the business world.
You should also express an intangible connection with the university if possible. The intangible connection to the university is a question of whether your values align with those of the university. For example, does the university or a specific program care about interdisciplinarity, helping underserved communities, environmental justice, religious faith, or intellectual creativity? If you find something that resonates with you, be sure to mention that in your response!
For example, a student invested in environmental conservation might express an intangible connection like this:
I grew up in a rural community, which taught me from infancy the importance of conservation and sustainability. Because of this, I want to pursue SMU’s accelerated master’s program that would grant me bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Sustainability and Development, something that truly matters to me.
My family was lucky enough to make ends meet, but I had several neighbors in my community who were clearly struggling. We tried to help them as much as we could, but with the lack of infrastructure in my area and the amount of waste produced because of this, there was only so much any of us could do.
This is one reason I truly admire the S+D Program’s intense dedication to global sustainability efforts, specifically through its collaboration with Kijiji Innovative Sustainable Solutions in Tanzania. Rural poverty is a serious global issue that I have seen firsthand locally. This is my main motivator in choosing to apply to SMU.
I desperately want to be able to improve my community back home with both my education and my activism. Being able to aid in the research projects like the community center in Tanzania would enrich my college experience, and perhaps generate some breakthroughs that I can bring back home to make my neighbors’ lives and homes more sustainable. I am deeply passionate about contributing to the fight against rural poverty, both in my hometown and around the world.
This example describes specifically what experiences SMU would provide — research opportunities in the Sustainability + Development Program — and demonstrates that you are excited to attend the university specifically by mentioning the collaborative research project with Kijiji.
Regardless of the school you apply to, you need to add information specific to that school, and in this example, talking about a certain program indicates that you are thoroughly interested in a tangible part of the university as well as an intangible value you share with 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 the 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. Bear in mind that you only have 250 words to work with, so be succinct and direct in your response.
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? (250 words)
This prompt is a very standard diversity prompt. The main purpose of this essay is to get to know you better. Admissions officers only receive the limited information you provide them with, so really focus on using these essays to remind them that you are a real individual with tangible aspirations, passions, and potential. You also need to demonstrate how you can contribute to the culture and community at SMU. Be sure to check out CollegeVine’s guide to writing the diversity essay for in-depth tips and examples!
The idea behind this question is that the school has a 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’re from, what the community you grew up in is like, and what matters to you.
You should ask yourself a few questions before writing to guide the direction of your essay:
What is a community that you belong to or background that you have that has impacted your development and worldview? This can include your ethnic/racial background, gender identity, sexual orientation, country of origin, language, hometown or neighborhood, income class, illness or disability, or even interests and extracurricular activities.
What is the strongest emotion you feel about your background? Have you discovered or honed a skill or talent because of the part of your background you have chosen to write about? Have you developed or strengthened any personality traits as a result of this background? If so, what are they and how have they changed over time?
Think about any formative experiences you had as a result of your background. Is there a mistake you’ve made before as a result of your background that you know not to repeat? Do you view an institution differently from other people because of some aspect of your identity? For each experience, you should be able to describe what happened, how you felt and what you thought at the time, how your feelings have changed about it since then, and if you’ve faced any subsequent challenges because of it.
A strong diversity essay will incorporate information from the questions above with a focus on the emotions you feel about your identity and any skills/talents you’ve developed because of your background. Given the small word limit, you may wish to zoom in on how you feel about your background and how this background will add to the university’s diverse community.
You should avoid listing every community you’re a part of or every quality that makes you unique. You want to focus on elucidating one quality rather than just making a list of qualities and describing none of them.
You should also try not to talk about an overly-common experience like immigration or a fully negative experience. Of course, not every story has a happy ending, but it’s difficult to execute this kind of essay well when writing only about negative experiences.
- One biracial student might discuss how they grew up in a multicultural neighborhood in NYC, and how the residents put on an international food festival each year. The student got to know families and cuisines from all kinds of cultures, which inspired them to create fusion recipes after visiting some of the families individually and learning their recipes. At SMU, they look forward to joining the club Cooking Up Something Good, where they hope to share their recipes and learn even more ethnic cuisines and cooking techniques.
- One student might be part of the LQBTQ+ community and write about how they have long supported the codification of rights for their community. The student is interested in becoming a lawyer in the future to make a difference in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. They are eager to join the organization SMU Dedman OUTLaw because of its initiatives exploring the intersection of their community and the legal community.
One student might be of both Hispanic and Asian descent, and write something like this:
I am half-Mexican and half-Chinese, which until recently, I didn’t know was as common as it is. Unlike other mixed-race individuals I know, I have never experienced that feeling of being lost in between my two cultures. Somehow I have always been able to balance both halves of my identity, fully embracing the two sides of who I am. I play mariachi guitar for a band on the weekends and teach myself Mandarin after school on weekdays. Some people find it hard to find their identity when they are of multiple ethnicities, but I have found that this life experience defines me in a way that nothing else can…
This student embraces his racial/ethnic identity in a way that emphasizes pride, self-security, and cultural competence. His response shows that he will bring a unique perspective to the campus, as many students probably will not have the background he does.
You should additionally reflect on how you might benefit from the University community. Due to your unique background, you have a lot to offer SMU, but bear in mind that this relationship is reciprocal! SMU has something for every student, so do some research into which resources you may wish to benefit from.
- One student may be passionate about music as a hobby, but not as something to study in college. She could look into joining the Mustang Marching band to really let her childhood trumpet lessons come to life! Or maybe she’d rather join the Belle Tones, SMU’s student-run all-female a cappella group to improve her singing technique.
- Perhaps a student is of Spanish descent but can’t currently travel to Spain. He feels like he would get more in touch with his heritage through visits to the Meadows Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of Spanish art outside of the Iberian Peninsula.
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?” Remember that you are asked both how your background will contribute to the University and how you will benefit from the University community. Be sure to be concise but also comprehensive in your response.
Where to Get Your SMU Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your SMU 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!