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Vibrant, energetic, and engaging — three words that can only begin to describe the culture of Tulane University. It’s no coincidence that we could use the very same words to describe New Orleans. Primarily situated in the uptown neighborhood of this colorful southern port city, Tulane is deeply embedded in its urban surroundings.

 

Initially founded in 1834, Tulane is a nonsectarian private research university that takes advantage of its distinct location in New Orleans to provide its students with rich learning opportunities and unique access to a young, social, and invigorating city. It is consistently rated highly in the Princeton Review under the categories of “Best College City,” “Best Quality of Life,” and “Happiest Students.” Boasting an extremely flexible and accommodating course of study and stellar locale, these ratings are no surprise.

 

Meanwhile, Tulane University is one of just 62 members of the Association of American Universities, which is a selective group of highly-ranked research institutions. Its serious focus on providing its students with myriad, top-notch research opportunities marries well with its commitment to stressing the importance of community service to teach its students that they are learning and studying at the university, as its motto states, “Non sibi, sed suis” — “Not for one’s self, but for one’s own.”

 

If you are looking to attend a school that so purposefully stresses the importance of learning for the betterment of one’s community rather than one’s self, read on for our guide to writing Tulane’s supplemental essay.

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Tulane University Application Essay Prompt

 

Please describe why you are interested in attending Tulane University (optional). 50-800 words.

 

The Overview

Tulane’s supplemental essay is a classic “Why X School?” question, which asks you to expound on why a given school appeals to you unlike any other. These types of questions are unique in the college admissions process in that they generally have less power to make you and more to break you. In other words, it is rare that something you write in this response will singlehandedly make an adcom grant you admission. 

 

However, if you submit careless work that is poorly written, vague, or even incorrect, it will clearly signify to admissions committees that you do not care deeply about the school they represent, and this is certainly enough to make an adcom dismiss your application. In this vein, before we get around to discussing the content of your response, first things first: a note on that note in parentheses.

 

Thoughts on ‘Optional’ Essays

In the world of elite college admissions, no essay question is “optional.” When you are competing for a coveted spot in the Class of 2021 (or 2022, or beyond), you must keep in mind the thousands of other qualified students vying for the same spot as you. To gain admission at Tulane, you must not only meet academic requirements but also prove that you would be a valuable and energetic addition to their learning community.

 

Thus, you need to take advantage of every possible opportunity you are offered to advocate for yourself. Imagine that an admissions committee is deciding to admit either you or another student with comparable grades and extracurriculars. Whom would they choose? The student who opted out of the opportunity to explain why they love Tulane, or the student who responded to this prompt? Skipping optional questions is never the way to go.

 

The Main Event

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s discuss why you love Tulane and how you’re going to write about it. There are a million reasons to be “interested in attending Tulane University,” and the one or few that you highlight should be as specific as possible and meaningful to you.

 

This type of question calls for a considerable amount of research on your part, because it is unacceptable to write an essay about Tulane that could apply to a number of other universities as well. Praising a school’s “vibrant student body,” “beautiful campus,” or “countless research opportunities” will come off as trite, awkward, and even a little insulting. While most of these things will be a true, they can be said about hundreds of schools across the country. While you should certainly do your own research on the school, here are a few reasons to love Tulane:

 

  • Tulane places serious emphasis on community service and social justice as the first research university in the country to include a service requirement in its undergraduate curriculum. If you care about channeling your studies and research towards bettering your community, Tulane is the place for you! (And if you think you have already demonstrated exemplary commitment to community service, you should consider applying to Tulane’s Community Service Fellowship.)
  • Tulane is rightfully proud of the volume of research it undertakes each year across all disciplines in each of its ten schools, and it offers grants to its undergraduate students to cover the materials and travel they need to bring their research-related dreams to fruition.
  • Tulane’s pre-professional programs are fantastic. In addition to being pre-law, you can also select from several different types of pre-med programs, including pre-vet and pre-dental.
  • The Tulane School of Architecture shot to global prominence for its work in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Its experimental program URBANbuild uses the city of New Orleans as a veritable laboratory to test new architectural methods and cutting edge designs.
  • Tulane makes the most of its location in fantastic New Orleans, a port city that offers unique learning opportunities because of its rich mix of French, African American, Native American, and Creole cultures.
  • That, and its social scene is vibrant and outstanding. The Mardi Gras celebration each year is a blast, and Tulanians have their own traditions in addition to the city’s: they throw beads into a certain tree that sits on the Gibson Quad.
  • That said, the stereotype that all students are party animals with no regard for their academic standing is simply untrue. While students who enjoy celebrating will be drawn to Tulane for its location in a colorful and vibrant city, the school attracts those who are prepared to study and get their work done, have meaningful experiences, make lasting friendships, and give back to their communities as well.
  • Tulanians are by all accounts extremely happy with their quality of life. The food is amazing, the music is fantastic, and the culture of New Orleans is so unique that it makes for an unforgettable and fulfilling four years.
  • Audubon Park, which sits across the street from campus, is worth visiting, if only to peek the golf course and zoo enclosed within.
  • Reily Student Recreation Center is seriously awesome. It features cardio and weight rooms, conference spaces for meetings, squash courts, an indoor track, racquetball courts, a sun deck, a social pool, outdoor tennis courts, multi-purpose fields, saunas, and an atrium with an 80” flat screen TV, just to name some of its many amenities!

 

Let the above list inspire your own more in-depth research. Beyond these bullet points, you can find specific details to discuss in your response by browsing the course catalogue, visiting Tulane’s website, or looking for other department-specific programs that pique your interest or excite you! Likewise, if you know anyone that attends or graduated from Tulane, pick their brains for their favorite aspects of the school!

 





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The Word Limit

The good news is that, once you’ve done the legwork of researching what makes Tulane special and what unique opportunities it can offer you, the writing of this essay should be easy. These questions do not require poetic or artful responses; instead, they should reflect a serious effort on your part to learn about the school and position yourself productively within its community.

 

And yet, you may be wondering: how many words should it take me to accomplish this? That’s a stellar question, and one that Tulane is a little hesitant to answer with a definitive response. With its sprawling range for a word limit — anywhere from 50 words to sixteen times as much — this prompt can seem like a bit of a puzzle.

 

If you’re the kind of person who likes straightforward directions, here is our advice: aim to write a piece that is about 600 words in length. This should give you ample time to discuss what you love about Tulane and demonstrate that you’ve taken the time to both research the school and respond thoughtfully to its prompt. While an extremely short response of 50 words could easily come off as curt or superficial, a long-winded one of 1,000 words runs the risk of rambling, repeating itself, and losing focus. You want to avoid both contingencies.

 

The longer answer to this question is that there is no magic word-count number that will make Tulane more likely to accept you. The most important thing to keep in mind as you write your response is not how many words you use, but rather how you use those words — for an efficient and successful essay, you should try to make every sentence tie into your personal connection to the school.

 

The best way to do this is to avoid expository writing that reiterates information about certain programs at Tulane, since the university already knows all about what it can offer you. In fact, you likely learned everything you know about Tulane from its website. Instead, talk about yourself in relation to these programs.

 

An example is perhaps the best way to explain what we mean here. Consider these two excerpts from a hypothetical essay response to this question:

 

I am particularly energized by the emphasis that Tulane places on research. In reading through your website, I noticed a project that excited me: Prof. X is conducting field work in Florida on x species of fish. I would be thrilled to help and learn on a project like that!

 

As an aspiring marine biologist, I am excited to see the listing for Prof. X’s current project in Florida. With designs to conduct my own field work later on in my career, I’m thrilled to note Tulane’s largely unmatched focus on providing undergraduates with such research opportunities.

 

Notice that the first essay, while full of detail, doesn’t prove much beyond the fact that you clearly read Tulane’s research website — something that you are all but expected to do. Meanwhile, every single sentence in the second essay mentions both a specific opportunity that Tulane offers and why it is useful or exciting to you. Ultimately, the second example more effectively proves that you have not only read about Tulane but envisioned yourself there, and it does so in three less words than the first.

 

And with that, you are all set to write your response to Tulane’s supplement. Good luck and don’t stress! Remember, by starting now — well in advance — you are giving yourself ample time to craft a stellar response to this question, edit it to your heart’s content, and send it off with confidence in the fall. 

 





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Lily Calcagnini

Lily Calcagnini

Lily is a History and Literature concentrator at Harvard University who is doing her darnedest to write a thesis about all of her favorite things at once: fashion, contemporary culture, art journalism, and Europe. A passionate learner, she cares deeply about helping high school students navigate the process of college admissions, whether it be through private essay tutoring or sharing advice on the CollegeVine blog.
Lily Calcagnini