How to Write the SUNY ESF Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

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Originally part of Syracuse University, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF), is considered the pioneer college in America devoted to the study of fields related to natural resources and the environment.


The college takes pride in its dedication to improving the world through understanding of the environment and has produced countless alumni who have significantly shaped the field of environmental sciences. Students of SUNY ESF, affectionately referred to as Stumpies, are encouraged to integrate real hands-on work along with their academic studies through the college’s research centers and many affiliated natural parks.


Though the school is focused on environmental discovery, it is closely affiliated with nearby Syracuse University, so students can also broaden their experience by taking classes or getting a joint degree at the sister school.


With an acceptance rate of 52%, SUNY ESF is somewhat selective. Students can apply either via the SUNY-specific portal, or through the Common Application, but all applicants must submit the SUNY ESF supplement via the school website.


CollegeVine is here to give you some tips on how to stand out from other applicants with a great application essay. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the prompts for this application cycle! Want to know your chances at SUNY ESF? Calculate your chances for free right now.

If more than one semester has elapsed, or will elapse, between periods of full-time attendance in high school or college, it is required that you tell us what you have done or plan to do in the interim.


You should only fill out this section if the criteria mentioned in the prompt apply to you. This space is an opportunity for you to explain any extenuating circumstances that may have led to this gap period. There are many reasons one could have a gap period; as such, there is no right or wrong way to answer this prompt. Based on the circumstances, however, you may want to adjust your tone and language accordingly. Below are a few examples:


If your gap has to do with your future career:

If describing an extracurricular activity or program, your response may be more engaging in narrative form; you can incorporate story-like qualities such as figurative language, imagery, and specific details. 


Many students will be tempted to provide a generic response such as the following: “This past semester, I volunteered at my local hospital. It was a great, hands-on experience and I got to meet a lot of new people that forever touched me.” However, this is not enough to captivate readers and set yourself apart from other applicants. 


A good response will narrow in further, giving lots of sensory imagery and detail. Talk about the five senses – touch, smell, sight, taste, and hearing. What did the hospital look and smell like? Was there a particular sound you heard often? Think about a beeping monitor, the sound of your sneakers on the tiles, or the smooth door handle before you entered a patient’s room. Also, focus on the specific people – the ones who made the experience memorable. Was there a particular patient that stood out to you? Talk about their story and your interaction with them. Did you read books to a young patient, help a patient’s loved one find their way around the hospital, or bring an older patient her favorite Jello flavor? Talk about these interactions and the hospital setting at large with vivid imagery, and tie this into your future aspirations by mentioning how now, you can go into undergraduate and medical school with a renewed passion for helping others.


If your gap has to do with extenuating circumstances:

If you have a gap in your education due to circumstances out of your control, you should mention them here. Rather than using imagery and figurative language, it might be a better idea be straight to the point. For example:


“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. This impacted me during high school, as I was unable to join as many extracurriculars as my after school time went towards helping ensure the family restaurant was running smoothly. Now that I will be attending college, and unable to help out at the same level I could before, I have decided to take a gap year in order to help my family with the business in any way I can. By taking care of some things in the present, I am hoping for a smoother transition to higher education in the future.”


A response like this gets your point across, giving detail and specifics while retaining a tone appropriate for a college admission essay. 


What other colleges will you apply to this year?


This is a question that can be uncomfortable, as schools might use it to determine whether you consider them a safety. If they believe that their school is not one of your top choices, they could waitlist or reject you. On the other hand, this question could also be used innocuously to gather data on the school’s competitors, to help improve marketing campaigns. 


In any case, we recommend leaving this question blank, or writing something vague, such as “I’m applying to my state’s flagship university and a few other schools across the country.” You could also pick a broader aspect of SUNY ESF that you like, and say that you’re applying to other schools with that aspect. For example: “I’m applying to other schools with strong programs in Environmental Science.”


The ESF Admissions Committee would like to understand your interest in the college and our programs of study. Please explain why you have chosen the SUNY-ESF majors you selected in the Academic section of this screen and how each would fulfill your educational and career goals? If you are a freshman applicant who has selected ‘Undeclared’ as one of your choices, please tell us which majors you are considering and how they will fulfill your educational and career goals. (250-500 words)

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