How to Write the Thomas Aquinas College Essays 2019-2020

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The image in this post is courtesy of Thomas Aquinas College.

 

Thomas Aquinas College is a private liberal arts institution with a strong Catholic identity. On its two campuses—one in California, and the other in New England—there are no majors, minors, or specializations. Instead, students immerse themselves in the full complement of the liberal arts, studying the original writings of great thinkers such as Aristotle and Einstein. There are also no lectures or textbooks at Thomas Aquinas. Instead, the courses consist of tutorials, seminars, and labs, guided by tutors. 

 

Thomas Aquinas consistently ranks within the top fifty liberal arts colleges and best value colleges according to the U.S. News and World Report. Its acceptance rate is around 75%.

 

Thomas Aquinas College does not use the Common Application, so students must apply through the school’s own portal, or by mail/email. To learn how to respond to this year’s supplements, read on! Want to know your chances at Thomas Aquinas? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

Prompt 1

Why do you wish to attend Thomas Aquinas College? What aspects of the College most appeal to you and why? The Admissions Committee is particularly interested in your understanding of the academic program of the College, especially the fully integrated, non-elective character of the curriculum. Please comment as well on your willingness and ability to participate in classroom discussions. (250-500 words)

This prompt combines the “Why School” and “Why Major” elements commonly found in college admissions essays. Thomas Aquinas College has a very unique collegiate program that offers only one degree in the liberal arts and humanities. Your essay should convey that you understand how Thomas Aquinas College academically differs from other universities and why you are a good fit for this program. 

 

This prompt asks why you wish to attend Thomas Aquinas College and what aspects of Thomas Aquinas most appeal to you. Your response should focus on your academic reasons, but you should also mention 2-3 non-academic reasons, such as specific extracurriculars or the college’s commitment to faith. 

 

Your essay should focus on specific and unique aspects of Thomas Aquinas. For example, saying you want to attend Thomas Aquinas to take philosophy classes would not be persuasive because you could take philosophy classes at nearly any college. However, saying you want to attend Thomas Aquinas due to its small classes that focus on Socratic discourse provides a far more persuasive argument. 

 

Your essay should also include your feelings towards the curriculum and classroom discussion per the prompt. What about Thomas Aquinas College’s curriculum appeals to you? Do you value the traditional philosophical experience? Do you have a strong interest in philosophical texts? You can take a look at the complete list of readings to see if anything stands out to you.

 

Regardless of the reasons for your specific interests in the college’s curriculum, your response should clearly convey that you will actively participate in classroom discussion. Classroom discussion is crucial to the Socratic method employed by Thomas Aquinas College, therefore you should affirm that you would contribute to that tradition. 

 

Finally, you should also incorporate 2-3 non-academic reasons for wanting to attend Thomas Aquinas. Do you plan to join the intramural flag football team? Did you grow up in a religious household and want to develop your faith by attending the daily masses? Are you fervently pro-life and want to participate in the annual March for Life alongside your classmates? Look into the traditions and culture at the school, and show how you’d be a good fit.

 

Prompt 2

Please respond to both parts of this prompt; successful applicants generally write 250-500 words per question.

Prompt 2, part A: Thomas Aquinas College is a Catholic college. How do you understand the relation between the curriculum and the Catholic character of the College? (250-500 words)

Thomas Aquinas College’s founders established the school in response to the diminishing opportunities for a traditional Catholic liberal arts education during the early 1970s. The school has an unwavering commitment to the Catholic faith, and your response to this prompt should demonstrate your understanding of this relationship. 

 

Although your response should include the various religious texts studied during your time at Thomas Aquinas College, you should also focus on the broader relationship between the curriculum and Catholicism. How does the study of human experience through seminal Western texts represent the Catholic tradition? How does the study of Christian principles influence the way you read and interpret these seminal texts?

 

For example, you could discuss how studying multiple disciplines could allow you to better understand the widespread governing importance of theology. You could also discuss how understanding Catholicism and Christian principles will allow you to read the classics in a new light. For reference, here’s a list of works read in each year of college. 

 

Prompt 2, part B: Every college has rules governing campus life. Some at Thomas Aquinas College are no longer commonly found at other colleges. There are regulations against consuming alcohol on campus, for example, and visiting residence halls of the opposite sex. There is also a curfew and dress code. How do you think such regulations are related to wisdom and the life of learning? Please comment on your willingness to abide by them. (250-500 words)

While the first portion of this prompt asks you to abstractly explore the relationship between the curriculum and the Catholic roots of Thomas Aquinas College, this portion of the prompt requires a more personal response. Students at Thomas Aquinas are expected to follow a strict code of conduct not found at many other universities. This prompt asks you to explain how you believe this code of conduct aligns with your values, and interest in wisdom and learning.

 

Your response should demonstrate how your personal philosophy towards learning aligns with that of the university. How do you believe that a university free of alcohol or drugs will allow you to gain wisdom? How do you believe a curfew or dress code will contribute to an effective learning environment? 

 

For example, you could explain that you believe Thomas Aquinas College’s rules will allow you to eliminate unwholesome distractions in your life so that you can fully focus on attaining wisdom. You could also explain that being surrounded by other students who share you moral code will allow you to better focus on your studies and feel more supported in your learning environment. 

 

No matter your rationale for supporting the rules at Thomas Aquinas College, you need to affirm that you would follow the rules of the university in your response. 

 

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Prompt 3

 

Successful book essays are generally 500 words in length. Please answer both parts:

Prompt 3, part A: Describe your reading habits and your experience with books. (500 words total for both parts)

Thomas Aquinas College focuses on liberal arts and humanities, so most of your assignments will center around philosophical texts. As a result, your response should confirm that you will be comfortable with the amount of reading and the difficulty level of the reading required to succeed in the program.

 

The first half of this prompt asks about your reading habits. Your answer should be comprehensive. Describe the amount of time you spend reading in a given week and the type of materials that you read. Include academic and non-academic reading. Do not worry about all of your reading being great literary or philosophical works—if you enjoy reading young adult novels, include them in your analysis. 

 

The second half of this prompt asks about your experience with books. The nature of this question is intentionally vague, however you should consider your personal relationship with books. Do you read books to learn more factual information? Do you read books to better understand others or even to better understand yourself?

 

For example, someone with an interest in social justice may enjoy reading books to gain a new perspective on various issues. An avid fiction reader may use books and reading as a way to take solace from the everyday world and explore their own creativity. An aspiring biologist may read scientific journals to learn more information about their desired field. 

Prompt 3, part B: Choose a book you consider to be excellent and write about some important aspect of it. Please do not write a book report: your essay should be neither a summary nor a mere description of your reaction to the book. You should not, for example, simply describe how Huckleberry Finn changed your life or how much you loathe the character of Madame Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities. Rather, if you choose a work of fiction, your essay should deal with some important theme(s) and/or character development(s). If you choose a work of non-fiction, please comment on the author’s argumentation. (500 words total for both parts)

This half of the book essay assesses your analytical reading capabilities. Your response should demonstrate the higher-level thinking capabilities necessary to critically engage with texts. 

 

Book choice is crucial to appropriately responding to this prompt. Avoid selecting a book with controversial themes that will alienate your reader. Remember that Thomas Aquinas College is a Catholic institution with conservative rules of conduct. Books with strong themes of alcohol or drug use, violence, or anti-religious sentiments are not good choices for this prompt. 

 

This essay asks you to elaborate on a key theme within your chosen book. This prompt requires a high-level analysis of your selected topic, so you should not focus on more stylistic aspects such as literary devices like alliteration. 

 

For example, your essay should not primarily focus on how much you enjoyed the stream-of-consciousness writing style found in Catcher in the Rye. Instead, discuss how the stream-of-consciousness writing style helped illustrate a central theme in the book such as the painful nature of growing up. 

 

While the prompt mentions that you should not write a book report, do not be afraid to add some relevant details for context. Approach your essay as if your audience has never read your selected book. For example, although you should not spend three paragraphs describing Holden Caulfield’s travels through New York City, you should mention that Holden is a high-school student returning home after being kicked out of boarding school. 

 

Prompt 4

Please evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the education you have received until now. You may also relate some school experience, or other experience, which was formative for you. (250-500 words)

This prompt asks you to critically reflect on your education to date. You should begin your essay by briefly explaining your current education system. Your answer to this prompt should be specific, but not excessively detailed.

 

For example, you should discuss your average course load as a student at a typical public high school. However, it is not necessary to list every academic class that you have taken over the last three years. 

 

You should then explain the strengths and weaknesses of your present academic program. What do you like about your current education system? Do you enjoy the invigorating group discussions in your English class? Do you like the educational enrichment opportunities such as student government? Does your school have a peer-based tutoring program that you find crucial to your learning?

 

Try to choose aspects you like that align with the education system at Thomas Aquinas College. For example, Thomas Aquinas College does not offer lab-based science classes, so choosing writing about your love for science experiments would not align with the school’s offerings. However, discussing your love for Classics would match a core part of Thomas Aquinas College’s educational system. 

 

Your weaknesses should follow a similar format as your strengths. Do you dislike the large class sizes at your current high school? Does your homeschooled education leave you with little discussion-based opportunities? Once again, these weaknesses should be addressed by an aspect of the education at Thomas Aquinas College.  

 

This prompt also invites you to discuss formative educational experiences. Try to form these experiences in the context of your likes and dislikes. For example, describe how the first time you participated in a group discussion in your English class led you to enjoy a conversation-based education. Alternatively, describe how a routine math test left you feeling like you wanted to understand the subject matter beyond simple rules. 

 

Prompt 5

Describe life within your family. (For example: Do you have brothers and sisters? Are your parents divorced or separated? What interests do you share with other members of your family? What interests do you pursue in your free time?) What challenges or obstacles have you faced in your life and how have you dealt with them? Have you pursued any occupations or careers? If so, please describe your experience. Have you discussed your plans for college with your family? If so, what do they think? (250-500 words)

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