How to Write the UMass Amherst Essays 2020-2021

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is a public research university and the Commonwealth’s flagship campus. The school has a somewhat competitive admissions rate of 64%. The middle 50% of students had a 3.7-4.2 GPA in high school. The middle 50% of students scored between 1220-1380 on the SAT and 26-31 on the ACT.

 

UMass Amherst offers over 100 bachelor’s degree programs and over 200 registered student organizations, including body building club and fly-fishing club. In addition, it is home to Du Bois, the tallest on-campus research library in America. UMass Amherst also has 21 athletic teams competing at the Division I level, including the #1 hockey team in the country. With six galleries and a Fine Arts Center, there are also copious student art and performance opportunities.

 

If you are interested in attending college in idyllic Amherst, read on to learn how to answer UMass’ supplemental response prompts.Want to know your chances at UMass Amherst? Calculate your chances for free right now.


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Prompt 1

Please tell us why you want to attend UMass Amherst? (100 words)

This supplement is an example of a “Why this College?” prompt, which is a classic way for admissions officers to learn more about your interest in their school. Thousands of students apply to UMass, and many have identical GPAs, test scores, and even extracurriculars. Just as you are worried about colleges selecting you, admissions staff are concerned with whether you will choose to attend their school if admitted. This response provides another dimension along which you can distinguish yourself from other candidates and explicitly express your interest in UMass.

 

However, UMass only gives you 100 words to answer this prompt. Therefore, you should narrow down 1-3 specific reasons you want to attend UMass Amherst. This response should be very specific – many students make the mistake of simply listing out general, positive qualities that could apply to any school. Including general information like the strength of an academic department or prime location can actually detract from your application and come across as a lack of interest. A great starting point to research for this prompt is the school’s website, which contains copious information about its values, unique offerings, and campus culture.

 

Also, avoid listing rankings or adjectives praising the school as this can come across as disingenuous. Admissions officers already know their school’s strengths and statistics; they want to learn more about you specifically, and how you plan to take advantage of UMass’ offerings.

 

Because UMass’ other supplemental prompt focuses on why you chose your major, you should avoid any overlap in this essay. But because of the 100-word limit, you should focus mainly on academic offerings such as specific classes, research opportunities, and clubs. Think about what you hope to gain from the college experience at UMass as you select topics to write about.

 

Here are two examples of answers to this prompt:

 

What not to write: “I chose to apply to UMass not only because of the stellar academics, but because of the extracurricular opportunities I will have to learn and grow both professionally and personally. I plan to join the Pre-Law Society to develop the soft and hard skills I need to apply to law school. I also plan to join a dance club as I am passionate about expressing myself through art. Recently, I have become interested in standup comedy, so I plan to pursue that as well. In addition, I look forward to living in and exploring the rural Amherst environment.”

 

What to write: “As a future environmental rights lawyer, I am deeply passionate about gaining the tools to contribute to worldwide sustainability efforts. I look forward to contributing to research projects like developing Professor Lena Fletcher’s Outsmart app. Preventing invasive species’ destructive tendencies through early detection is important to me because my grandparents’ orchard was destroyed by emerald ash borers, so I understand the gravity of this research firsthand. Through courses like “Rethinking US Environmental Policy,” I can delve into the political origins of land and water distribution. Moreover, UMass’ Gardenshare Practicum will allow me to gain hands-on experience in community sustainability.”

 

The first response starts off with a very general sentence that could apply to any higher education institution. The use of adjectives praising the school, like “stellar,” should also be avoided. Because the word count is so limited, you should avoid general language as much as possible and not waste your word count on complimenting the university. 

 

The second response jumps into the applicant’s passions and future goals. It then directly connects a UMass-specific opportunity to fulfilling this goal. This is a much stronger approach that will grab readers’ attention and make your response more memorable.

 

The first response also reads a bit like a laundry list of extracurriculars. Rather than focusing on quantity, you should try to enhance the quality of your response by adding depth through detail. The second applicant not only mentions a UMass-specific offering, but also explains their personal connection to it. Also, their note about the Gardenshare Practicum explains how they will fit into campus culture in their free time. 

 

These inclusions add a layer of authenticity that will make a response more credible to admissions officers. Adding these types of details takes some quick research and can do volumes for the relatability of your essay.

Prompt 2

Please tell us why you chose the Majors you did? (100 words)

A “Why this Major?” prompt is a way for colleges to learn more about you and distinguish you from other candidates with similar academic backgrounds and interests. Admissions officers want to learn more about your current experience with this subject, where your passion comes from, and how you plan to continue pursuing it after college. They can also get a better idea of your interest in UMass and how you plan to use its resources to better facilitate your learning.

 

When brainstorming content for this prompt, think about what initially drew you to the subject. Avoid using general statements like “I want to be a civil engineer because I have always enjoyed working with my hands.” Dig deeper into your passion and give specific details – one applicant might talk about how a Lego set they received for Christmas first sparked their love of building. Another might talk about how they always admired the architectural genius behind their favorite structure in their hometown. 

 

You should also tie your response to future goals you hope to accomplish with this major. A common mistake many students make here is being too general. Rather than using platitudes like “making the world a better place” and “helping others,” talk about specific things you could do to achieve these goals. Though you by no means need to have your career plans figured out, you can explore potential options to add depth to your response. For example, a prospective chemistry major might discuss wanting to invent a non-teratogenic pesticide. Someone applying as a math major might want to develop an online teaching program for students who struggle with the topic and implement it at underprivileged schools. 

 

Another factor to consider is how you plan to pursue this major at UMass, so that admissions officers will have a better idea of how you will fit into the campus culture. If you’ve already mentioned major-specific resources in the first essay, however, there’s no need to repeat yourself. You can instead focus on your interest in the major and your future goals. While you may have already discussed your academic goals in the first essay, consider this an opportunity to expand upon those goals.

 

Either way, you should research specific classes, research, programs, and clubs that tie into your major. For example, a prospective psychology major might discuss how UMass’s specific psychology programs tie into their dedication to activism. A response could go something like this:

 

“Participating in the Black Lives Matter movement has underscored my desire to explore the neural circuitry behind racism. As a psychology major, I plan to pursue this topic within UMass’ Peace and Violence program, by working with Professor Ervin Staub on developing active bystander training for police. I believe this biological approach to activism will go a long way in fomenting sustainable change at the systemic level.”

 

Keep in mind that this is not the full response, but it demonstrates the tone and level of detail you should aim for when writing to this prompt. Adding details like this will lend authenticity to your response and make it more fun to read. Admissions officers want to know why this major is important to you, so let your creativity and passion flow – the possibilities are endless!

 

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