How to Write the Texas Christian University Essays 2023-2024
Texas Christian University (TCU) gives students the opportunity to choose whether they want to apply through the Common App or through the TCU website directly. The Common App has two required prompts and one optional prompt. The application through the TCU website consists of one required essay with four prompt options to choose from.
If you choose to apply through the Common App we strongly encourage you to write the optional essay, as this will provide more admissions officers with more background and insight to your personality. Plus it also shows that you are dedicated to the application process and willing to go above and beyond to display your interest in the school.
TCU is a Top 100 University that receives thousands of applications from high performing students, therefore, your essays are your chance to stand out. If you’re planning to apply to TCU, keep reading for an in-depth look at how to write accurate, thorough responses to this year’s essay prompts.
Texas Christian University Supplemental Essay Prompts
Common App Only
Prompt 1: At TCU, it is our vision to be a world-class, values-centered university. We value academics, intellectual inquiry, creative expression, leadership, service, diversity, and the appreciation of the human experience. With which one of TCU’s core values do you most align and why? (200 words)
Prompt 2: TCU is committed to creating an inclusive campus culture for all people. We have a shared responsibility to enhance our community by encouraging inclusive environments through learning opportunities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Describe how you have already contributed to creating an inclusive environment in your community or how you plan to contribute to an inclusive college environment in the future. (200 words)
Prompt 3 (optional): TCU values individuality and believes that students are more than just a GPA and test score. To help us get to know you even better, consider this opportunity to further express yourself. The only limitations are the boundaries of your imagination. Please upload an essay, poem, work of art or a URL that showcases another side of you.
TCU Application Only
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. Feel free to be serious, humorous or somewhere in between. Compose your essay on one of the following topics.
Option 1: At TCU, our mission statement is very important to us. “The mission of Texas Christian University, a private comprehensive university, is to educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community through research and creative activities, scholarship, service, and programs of teaching and learning offered through the doctoral level.” This is integrated into all aspects of the TCU experience. If you were to write a mission statement about your life, what would it be and how does this mission direct your life and goals?
Option 2: Tell us about the most significant person, experience, or circumstance which has shaped your life thus far. How has he, she, or it influenced your character? How might you use what you have learned to achieve your goals?
Option 3: Those we call great will usually point to some failure in their lives as a pivotal moment leading them to their successful path. Tell us about a time in your life in which failure propelled you toward success.
Option 4: In her best-selling novel The Secret Life of Bees, TCU alumna Sue Monk Kidd wrote, “The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.” What matters to you?
Common App, Prompt 1
At TCU, it is our vision to be a world-class, values-centered university. We value academics, intellectual inquiry, creative expression, leadership, service, diversity, and the appreciation of the human experience. With which one of TCU’s core values do you most align and why? (200 words)
The “Why This College?” prompt is a way for admissions officers to learn more about why you are uniquely interested in attending their school. This prompt goes a step further, however, and specifically asks applicants to explain why one of the school’s core values most resonates with them. The first step in answering this question is to dive a bit deeper into each of the TCU core values to provide important context before you begin to formulate your response.
As an academically-rigorous university, it goes without saying that applicants with strong academic backgrounds would be drawn to the university. This value is a strong choice for students who have very specific academic goals that only TCU could support. Examples could include referencing specific majors and programs that are unique to TCU.
Intellectual inquiry is the desire to question everything in order to gain a better understanding of why the world is the way that it is. If you choose this value, make sure to explain how intellectual curiosity differs from your academic interests. Talk about why you are passionate about furthering your education and what about TCU will provide you with the distinctive ability to think critically.
Outside of the classroom, it’s important that applicants display other ways they express their passions. Creative expression can be represented in many forms (not only visual art). Some examples include music, poetry, dance, rap/freestyling, fashion, cooking, acting, and even social media. You may not even realize that you are expressing yourself in a unique and creative way until you reflect on the things in your life that bring you joy.
TCU is not solely looking for students who will keep their heads down and get good grades. Being a leader among your peers and in your community is a distinctive feature that highlights how you are able to use the knowledge you have gained to make an impact on the world around you. A fact about leadership that’s important to remember is that a leader does not always have a specific title or rank; a strong leader is someone who is both a good listener to others and has the influence to make positive change.
As a religious institution, service and community engagement are extremely important values to TCU. If you are someone who is extremely active in giving back to your community or if you are someone who is looking for ways to pay it forward to others, this core value would be an excellent option to illustrate your passions for helping others. If you choose to write about service as the core value that resonates with you the most, make sure that you provide specific examples of how you hope to continue to serve others while attending TCU.
Diversity and inclusion is a topic that resonates with many applicants. Whether it’s a part of your identity/background or a goal to be a more informed ally, diversity can be an extremely powerful and personal value to write about in your essay. TCU describes diversity as follows, “Diversity reflects a broad range of identities and perspectives: race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, nationality, religious beliefs, age, disability status and political perspective.” Due to the wide breadth in which diversity encompasses, it’s crucial that you address which aspects of diversity you most align with and why. Inherently there may be some overlap on the topics you choose such as race and gender or religious beliefs and political perspectives. Exploring the intersectionality of multiple issues is a great way to approach this response while still honing in on specific issues.
Appreciation of the Human Experience
This core value of TCU is arguably the most abstract of the six provided in the prompt. The Appreciation of the Human Experience could be addressed in many different ways, from bonding over a common quality to undergoing a challenge as a community. This value may be a good option if you’ve had experiences that cross cultures, languages, and other differences, and you want to continue to have these experiences at TCU.
By laying out the potential options in the prompt itself, the admissions committee is challenging you to answer the prompt precisely (to avoid blanket responses such as “I align with all of the core values of TCU”). Choosing one core value to reflect on will allow the admissions committee to have a clearer glimpse into your personality, morales, and beliefs.
There is no right or wrong choice when responding to any of these six core values, but you should ensure that your response has two main elements:
- How your past experiences demonstrate an alignment with your chosen value.
- How TCU can support your goals related to that chosen value.
For example, maybe you’ve always been driven to create the best plant-based alternatives to popular dishes and have spent countless hours experimenting in your kitchen since there were no food science courses at your school. You could express alignment with TCU’s value of Academics and express interest in their Food Management major, where you would learn the skills necessary to make the food space more innovative.
Or, maybe you’ve spent a lot of your high school career volunteering to mentor underserved students since you had your own mentor growing up, and they helped you find your voice and passions. You would align most with the value of Service, and you’re glad that TCU offers many service-based clubs, such as A Moment for Magic, that works to improve the quality of life for underserved children in the Dallas/Fort Worth area through facilitating social wellness activities.
This prompt lends itself well to storytelling, so consider beginning your essay with a relevant anecdote before reflecting on your own values and those of TCU.
Common App, Prompt 2
TCU is committed to creating an inclusive campus culture for all people. We have a shared responsibility to enhance our community by encouraging inclusive environments through learning opportunities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Describe how you have already contributed to creating an inclusive environment in your community or how you plan to contribute to an inclusive college environment in the future. (200 words)
As we just learned in the previous prompt, diversity is one of TCU’s core values. The fact that this value has now appeared in two of the TCU prompts should further emphasize the importance of the topic to the university.
The prompt is not asking you a “yes” or “no” question about whether or not you personally value diversity and inclusion. The admissions committee is asking you to describe a specific example of the steps you have already taken to cultivate a more inclusive environment in your community. However, if you have not yet had the opportunity to make this kind of impact in your community they also provide space in this prompt to idealize how you can use the education and resources at TCU to take back to your community and make an impact in the future.
This prompt is an example of the Diversity Essay. Typically, colleges ask this question because they want to build a diverse class with unique perspectives. They also want to understand how your background has impacted your approach to life, and in this case, how your background will impact their college environment.
In this essay, you’ll need to identify how your experiences have equipped you to create an inclusive environment. This begins with identifying the communities you belong to that hold personal significance to you. These communities may include groups who share the same ethnicity, gender, country of origin, language, income class, disability, or hobby, just to name a few.
Since you only have 100 words, you’ll need to choose just one example from your background to highlight in your essay. Once you’ve selected a topic, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the strongest emotion you feel about your background?
- Is there a skill or talent you have developed because of your background?
- Is there a personality trait that has been strengthened because of your background?
When answering this prompt, you should use a few sentences of your essay to explain your background, then use the rest of the essay to explain how your background will contribute to an inclusive college community.
For example, a female student may choose to focus on her background with Women in STEM. She may share her experience of growing up in a single-mother household and watching her mother persevere as an engineer in a male-dominated field to provide for her and her sister. This student may share how her mom’s drive inspired her to pursue a career in STEM as a software developer. Then, this student might talk about her desire to join a network of like-minded women by participating in the “Women in Science and Engineering” group at TCU. As a part of this group, she will share her perspective on what it means to be a woman in STEM to hopefully inspire her peers to stay dedicated to the field.
When writing your essay, avoid making these common mistakes:
- Writing about cliche topics (sports injury, tragedy, immigrant story)
- Making general statements about how you’ll contribute to the inclusivity of the college (like showing kindness, practicing anti-racism, staying open-minded, etc.). Instead, try to specifically tie your background to an actionable step you’ll take in college (joining a group, volunteering, educating yourself with certain classes, etc.)
- Talking about more than one community you belong to (remember, you only have 100 words).
- Writing only about negative experiences. If you do write about a negative experience, be sure to focus on how it inspired positive change.
Common App, Prompt 3 (Optional)
TCU values individuality and believes that students are more than just a GPA and test score. To help us get to know you even better, consider this opportunity to further express yourself. The only limitations are the boundaries of your imagination. Please upload an essay, poem, work of art or a URL that showcases another side of you.
It’s always a good idea to complete all prompts even if they’re optional. Even if your responses to the first two prompts are really strong, completing the optional prompt will show the admissions committee that you are willing to go the extra mile to showcase your dedication to TCU.
In addition to just being a good strategy for your overall application, this prompt provides you with the opportunity to upload something creative that will help illustrate your character to the admissions committee.
This prompt may be extremely straightforward for some applicants, but others may find it more difficult to choose a creative piece to submit. Some applicants may already have a saved file full of poems or lyrics that they can submit with little preparation required. However, it may be a good idea to create something new and special for your TCU application.
Maybe instead of just uploading the file with your poem to your application, you instead film a video of you doing a dramatic reading of the poem. That way viewers will be able to listen to the poem with the correct inflections and passion that you intended. Or maybe if you choose to upload a piece of visual art you could also write a small blurb describing what the piece means to you.
Some of you may be worried when reading this prompt and think,“But what if I have no artistic talent to share with the admissions committee?” Firstly, everyone has some kind of talent or skill that they’re good at or passionate about — so great creative! Here are a few examples of unconventional ways to show your passions:
- An international student is extremely passionate about sharing their culture with the TCU community so they make a brief powerpoint presentation that highlights some of the key holidays, traditions, food, and language of their heritage.
- A student writes a short screenplay about the lives of students pre and post pandemic. The screenplay is meant to be a comedy, but also addresses many of the serious issues that have arisen during the pandemic.
- A student films a short video of themselves cooking one of their favorite meals with a parent. They even go as far as to make it a competition to see who could make the dish the best.
- Another student makes a photo collage of their family, friends, and hobbies outside of school. A picture’s worth a thousand words after all!
- A student films themselves doing a short stand-up comedy bit where they poke fun at themselves while also revealing things about their background.
Whatever you choose to upload, make sure that it’s an accurate reflection of your personality and values. It’s also helpful to use this prompt as an opportunity to showcase a unique side of you that your application didn’t fully capture.
For example, if the majority of your application discussed your interest in becoming a doctor and TCU’s pre-health enhancement program, but you also love to compete in poetry slams, use this as an opportunity to showcase your creative interest in poetry.
As the prompt states, “The only limitations are the boundaries of your imagination.” So really let your imagination run wild on this prompt and allow it to show a different side of yourself than just your academic strengths.
TCU Application, Option 1
At TCU, our mission statement is very important to us. “The mission of Texas Christian University, a private comprehensive university, is to educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community through research and creative activities, scholarship, service, and programs of teaching and learning offered through the doctoral level.” This is integrated into all aspects of the TCU experience. If you were to write a mission statement about your life, what would it be and how does this mission direct your life and goals? (300-500 words)
By providing the TCU mission statement as the introduction to this prompt, the admissions committee is offering you a framework for what your own mission statement might look like. Even though it would be great if your personal mission statement aligned with the values of TCU, you want to avoid simply regurgitating the same mission statement in your response.
The first step in responding to this prompt is reflecting on what motivates you. It could be helpful to look back at other parts of your application and see if you can find any recurring themes, religious values, dedication to bettering your community, a global mindset, leadership, creative outlets, etc. Once you have honed in on a few topics that you feel truly represent your personality and future goals, you can begin to formulate your mission statement:
Example: As a first generation college student, I am empowered by the knowledge I cultivate. I seek to deepen my understanding of global issues through intellectually stimulating conversations that will challenge my current ways of thinking. I am motivated by my faith, strong morals, and an excitement for learning.
Writing your mission statement alone, however, is not enough to fully answer the prompt. The second part of the prompt asks you to describe “how does this mission direct your life and goals?” Writing a compelling mission statement is not enough, you must also be able to explain the meaning behind the statement.
For instance, a student’s mission statement could concisely explain their many different academic/career interests or it could be a reminder for them to stay true to their morals along the way to a successful future. Explaining the purpose behind your mission statement should give the reader a closer look at what drives yourself to becoming the best version of yourself. It’s also okay to include creative anecdotes to explain your mission statement. Maybe there was a defining event in your life that directed you to the path you’re on now.
Example: My mission statement is derived from years of watching my parents work hard, but never quite having the right resources to be truly comfortable financially. The barrier of access to education prohibits so many people from achieving their life goals. I will use my privilege for higher education to not only better my future, but also pay it forward to my community.
TCU Application, Option 2
Tell us about the most significant person, experience, or circumstance which has shaped your life thus far. How has he, she, or it influenced your character? How might you use what you have learned to achieve your goals? (300-500 words)
It may be challenging to pinpoint just one person, experience, or circumstance that has been “the most significant” in shaping your life. For many applicants, a parent or guardian may be the most obvious choice to write about for this prompt. However, as writing about a parent/guardian will likely be a very common response topic, it may be helpful to think outside the box on this one to choose a more unique topic to write about.
If you do choose to write about a parent/guardian, however, try and be as specific as possible when explaining your reasoning. Besides raising you and providing you with a foundation for education and ethics, can you think of a specific example of something that was said or done by your parents that particularly impacted you?
For example, a student could write about their mother who left a well paying job at a fancy law firm to instead pursue a career in the non-profit sector providing free legal advice and representation to those in need. Having a role model who would choose to forgo a larger paycheck in exchange for a more fulfilling career helping others, would likely have a lasting, positive impact on the student’s morals.
Writing about an influential experience or circumstance may be very emotional to reflect on. Although it’s helpful to expose parts of your authentic identity to the admissions committee, it’s also important to tell your story in the way that’s most comfortable for you. If there is an event or circumstance that you know has a significant impact on your life, but you don’t feel comfortable writing about it in your response, focus on expressing the impact of the event rather than on the details of the event itself.
For example, losing a loved one, recovering from a traumatic injury/illness, and being bullied in school are all examples of events that likely contribute greatly to a student’s character, however, these kinds of events may be sensitive to relive while writing your essay response. In these instances, talk about how you grew as a person as a result of these unfortunate events.
Regardless of what you choose to write about, focus on illustrating how the person or occurrence motivates you to further your education and achieve your unique aspirations and goals. For example, a student who got a severe concussion during a car accident could explain how this motivated them to pursue engineering to create vehicles with better safety features to protect drivers and passengers at all times.
TCU Application, Option 3
Those we call great will usually point to some failure in their lives as a pivotal moment leading them to their successful path. Tell us about a time in your life in which failure propelled you toward success. (300-500 words)
This classic Overcoming Challenges Essay prompts applicants to speak transparently about a time where something didn’t go as planned and what they learned from that experience. For many students, a notable failure might be a bad test grade or losing a sporting event. Although these examples may resonate with you, try to avoid choosing cliche topics.
“Failure” can look like many different things, but similarly to the previous prompt option, the focus on this response should be more centered on what you learned from the experience rather than the event itself.
Here are a few examples of failures that would be appropriate for this prompt:
- A student who wanted to start a composting system at her school was upset when the funding request was denied by the district. She almost gave up on the initiative until she realized there were other paths to reducing food waste in the cafeteria. Rather than rely on commercial composting pickup, she approached the Gardening Club to propose a joint fundraiser and initiative to build a composting system in the school’s own community garden. The fundraiser was a big success, and all the discarded food is now turned into nutrient-rich compost that the Gardening Club uses for its projects.
- A student who really wanted to play the lead in the school play spent countless hours practicing his audition lines. He didn’t end up getting cast and decided to write his own one-man show instead. The writing process itself was cathartic, but his friends encouraged him to actually hold the show. So, he built the set from scratch using thrifted materials and held the show for the local community to raise money for a theatre troupe supporting low-income students. He raised $300+ and got a standing ovation for his performance, leading him to write more plays to be put on for the community.
The key to this prompt is to provide just enough background on the failure so that the admissions officers can understand its impact on you, but not too much so that it becomes the focus of the essay. The goal is to show what you learned from the failure and how you picked yourself up from it, so you should spend most of the essay reflecting on these points.
TCU Application, Option 4
In her best-selling novel The Secret Life of Bees, TCU alumna Sue Monk Kidd wrote, “The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.” What matters to you? (300-500 words)
This open-ended prompt gives you the creative freedom to address any topic that has not been previously discussed in another part of your application. Although it’s admirable to be passionate about solving world hunger or climate change, don’t feel pressured to choose a complex global conflict to address.
Sometimes the most compelling essay responses to these kinds of open ended prompts are those that are lighthearted and include a bit of humor. Unlike some of the previous prompt options, this prompt does not ask what matters to you the most, but rather just something that matters to you in general. Understanding this distinction should help you approach this prompt differently than the other prompt options provided previously.
Here are some examples:
- Maybe you really enjoy fudgesicles, and they’ve always been your go-to food when you’re working on a difficult task or have to make a tough decision. You could use your love for fudgesicles to explain your thought process or decision-making process in a few specific experiences.
- You’re always looking to challenge and improve yourself. You could share the story of how you spent nearly every day of your sophomore year winter in the skating rink, working on your double lutz. The feeling when you finally landed it was exhilarating. Now, you’re tackling the triple lutz.
- Sustainability and entrepreneurship matter to you, and it’s one of the reasons you started a podcast interviewing the founders of local, eco-friendly businesses. You could write about the process of setting up the podcast, the people you’ve interviewed, and the lessons you’ve learned.
It’s important to keep this essay very specific to your own experience. By formulating a more niche response, rather than a very general one, the admissions committee will gain deeper clarity on what motivates you as an individual.
Where to Get Your TCU Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your TCU 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!