How to Write the Texas Christian University Essays 2017-2018
Texas Christian University is a private institution located just four miles downtown from Fort Worth, Texas. With streets lined with live oaks, the respected Neeley School of Business, and the top pre-medicine program in Texas, you might find yourself wanting to become a horned frog.
One confusion that may arise because of TCU’s name is the nature of its connection with a specific religious denomination. TCU is affiliated with, but not governed by, the Protestant Christian denomination, the Disciples of Christ. What this means in practical terms is that there is no direct requirement that students take courses in Christian theology.
Though TCU’s Core curriculum requires one course in “Religious Traditions,” a quick review of the courses that fulfill this requirement shows that many, but not all, are focused on Christianity. Many students are involved in various campus ministries associated with a number of different Christian denominations, and the university sponsors Hillel (a Jewish student group) and a Muslim Student Association.
Admissions are competitive, with only about 43% of applicants receiving an offer, and you will need a strong GPA and test scores to make it in. TCU’s website states that “the Enrolled Student Profile includes a mid-50 percent SAT score range of 1160-1360, and a mid-50 percent ACT score range of 26-30.” However, the webpage also insists that it is looking for more than just test scores:
We’re seeking students who aspire to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community. So when you submit your application, we won’t see it as just a collection of grades, a class ranking, and test scores. Instead, our case-by-case acceptance process allows us to view you as a whole person with the potential to enrich our campus community and go on to change the world.
This is where your essays come in, and the team at CollegeVine has put together a guide to TCU’s essay prompts in order to help you put together a strong application.
TCU Application Essay Prompts
TCU is a selective university, and our Admission and Scholarship Committees review thousands of applications each year. The essay tells us a great deal about our candidates and allows for expression of writing skills, organizational skills, creativity, and imagination. The essay should be 300-500 words in length and legible. Feel free to be serious, humorous, or somewhere in between. Compose your essay on one of the following topics.
Following the pattern established by the prompt, you will want to choose a short mission statement that is no more than a sentence long. The bulk of your essay will be spent parsing that statement and showing how its words are carefully chosen to reflect the way you have moved through the world and what you hope to accomplish.
The important part about this mission statement is not so much the statement itself as how you use that statement as a launching pad to tell the admissions officers a story about your life that they would not be able to get from looking at your activities list and your grades.
To craft the best possible answer to this question, you can brainstorm in two different ways.
First, you can try to think up a mission statement and then reflect on your life and the stories that might support that statement. For example, maybe you can say that “what gets me up every morning is the desire to serve those who have been marginalized.” You might next tell a specific story about how you interned for an organization that was trying to help those who had been released from prison to find employment. What did you learn from that experience, not only about yourself as an individual, but also about the world in which you live?
Maybe after you start writing your story, you will want to go back and change your mission statement to better set up the story you want to tell. For example, maybe you learned that in many states those convicted with felony charges are barred from voting after they have served their sentences. Perhaps learning this fact got you involved in doing more than just trying to help individual former prisoners find jobs; maybe it also lead you to advocate for new laws.
In light of these developments, you might want to go back and edit your initial mission statement a little bit: “What gets me up every day is the desire to serve those who have been marginalized, both by addressing their individual needs and advocating for changing the system that marginalized them in the first place.”
But maybe you do not have any one particular focus that lets you tell a single, coherent story. A second way to approach this prompt is to think about several things that are important to you. Maybe you really love playing flute in your local district orchestra, tutoring kids in math, and also hearing your grandmother tell stories. With some careful thinking, you might see that there is a theme that connects these diverse experiences together. You can write a mission statement that expresses that theme.
After careful consideration, you might notice that all these activities require you to listen, with care and attention. Maybe your mission statement is “listening is an act of love.”
As a musician, you know that you can’t just stare at the page and move your fingers, playing your own part in a perpetual solo — you need to move with others. As a math tutor you know that your job is not just to dispense knowledge from on high but rather to listen to your students and try to figure out why they are having trouble. And maybe you learned the value of listening most of all from your grandmother who would never just “tell” you stories, but would always ask what you thought about the world around you and would listen as you tried to make sense of it all.
Use your essay to explore that theme.
There are a number of different ways to approach this essay. At its core, all of these approaches ask you to tell a specific story where you demonstrate the content of your character through your actions. If you are talking about how a significant person shaped your life, you can write about how that person taught you something that has helped you move through the world.
Notice that the second example from the prompt above can also work for this answer. You can talk about how your grandmother taught you the value of listening carefully to others, and how that has helped you be both a better tutor and a better musician. The only added part for this question is that you might want to talk about how the work you have done listening to others has prepared you for your future career. Maybe you would like to go into music education?
As you think about writing your essay, you will probably notice that the same basic story might work for any number of different prompts. Since you only need to choose one, think about which prompt works best for the story you want to tell.
Another way of approaching this prompt is to talk about how a significant experience shaped your life. Here, the first example from the previous prompt might work well, as you can talk about how your experience interning for a prison rehabilitation program got you focused on the issues of criminal justice. Maybe that experience has convinced you that you need to go to law school in order to become a public defender? But a “significant experience” can mean all kinds of different things; it could simply be as simple as seeing a praying mantis for the first time in your garden.
While your brother ran away, maybe you were transfixed, and from that day forward, you wanted to study entomology. As far as changing your “character,” maybe it was embracing your love of insects that convinced you it was okay to enjoy things that are not traditionally considered “feminine,” and you want to continue looking for ways to get more women involved in science. Or maybe, on a more somber note, you experienced a family tragedy that drew you to study suicide prevention or work to improve car safety.
The third way of approaching this prompt is to talk about a “circumstance.” If you decide to write about an experience, you are probably telling a story about a single event and how it affected you. But “circumstance” suggests you are dealing with an ongoing issue — perhaps a challenge related to disability or your social or economic background. Maybe both of your parents needed to work in the evenings on minimum-wage jobs, so you had to provide care for your younger sister.
What did you learn from that experience? When the prompt asks you to talk about your character, you might think it is asking you to talk about big things like “your commitment to family,” but those big ideas are often best illustrated by focusing on little details like “learning how to multitask, and moving between doing math problems and preparing dinner.”
The prompt seems to suggest a clear story-arc where you advance rather neatly from “failure” to “success.” For a cliché example of how this prompt might work, maybe your soccer team had a really bad season your sophomore year, but then the next year you and your teammates worked really hard and then had a really good season and even won regional championships! That’s a great accomplishment, to be sure, but the best responses to this prompt will dig a little bit deeper.
The key when answering this prompt is to recognize that the essay is less interested in the eventual success than in how you remained resilient, drew on your support network, asked for help or feedback on how to improve, or gathered the courage to try again. As you work on your college entry essays, you may get the sense that you always need to present yourself as skipping from one great accomplishment to the next, but universities are increasingly interested in making sure that its students are capable of facing down challenges and making adjustments when things don’t go right.
As you tell your story, then, you might try to focus on the concrete actions that you took in order to recover from a failure.
For example, maybe you went up to an open-mic night at your local comedy club and didn’t get a single laugh. Who did you go to for feedback in order to learn what might not be working about your act? What did you do in order to practice for the next time? How did you even convince yourself that going up another time would be a good idea? If you went up again and did a great job and then got invited to participate in a weekend showcase event, that eventual success is less interesting than the work you put in on the way to getting there.
Indeed, sometimes the success you achieve after one failure ends up looking very different from the success you pictured before you failed. Maybe after you went up and tried performing standup, what you learned was that your biggest strength lay in comedy writing, not in comedic performance. Maybe you needed to fail onstage in order to learn what your real capabilities were and you started collaborating with some of your friends to write and perform a one-act comedy for your local theater.
Read one way, this question is a different way of phrasing the first prompt. Rather than just stating in general terms what matters to you, this prompt is asking you to tell a specific story (or a set of small stories related to a single theme) that shows what matters to you.
But there is also another possibility that this question opens up, and that comes from focusing less on the question of “what matters to you” and more on the quote from Sue Monk Kidd about how sometimes it is really hard to choose what really matters. Here, you might tell a story about a particularly difficult decision you had to make or a moment when it seemed like some of the different things you valued were in conflict.
For example, maybe you really care about soccer, and you especially value the friendships that you have built up while playing that sport. But you had to quit the soccer team because your mother needed you to stay home and watch your little brother while she was on the evening work shift? Your family might also really matter to you, and you can talk about how much it pained you to give up an activity that you love in order to care for a brother, who you also love.
Sometimes you cannot have it all, and what the university wants to know is whether or not you can navigate those conflicting commitments with maturity and a certain level of emotional honesty.
The Bottom Line
As you work on your TCU supplemental essays, remember to consider how they work in tandem to reflect your identity. Read through the essays and ask yourself if they convey what you want them to about yourself. Be your own skeptic. If you get stuck, we at CollegeVine recommend that you review the previously mentioned strategies and examples in this guide in order to reaffirm what Texas Christian University is looking for.
Best of luck, and happy writing!
Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
Want more college essay tips?
We'll send them straight to your inbox.