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How to Write the University of Delaware Essays 2017-2018
The University of Delaware is a large public research institution that offers a high-quality and affordable education to a diverse population of students. In 2013, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine rated UD as one of the best values in public higher education thanks to a “high four-year graduation rate, low average student debt at graduation, abundant financial aid, a low sticker price, and overall great value.”
The University encourages its students to give back to the community as volunteers, and expand their horizons by studying abroad (UD piloted the United States’ first study-abroad program in 1923, and to this day, 30% of UD students study abroad).
Because UD is increasingly recognized as offering high-quality and affordable education at a time when many students are worried about accumulating debt, the University of Delaware is also increasingly competitive. Receiving about 25,000 applicants a year, the university admits about 65%. The middle 50% of students receive SAT Reading scores from 540-650, SAT Math scores from 550-650, and SAT Writing scores from 540-640. ACT composite scores are between 23 and 29.
While all UD students fill out the Common App, the school does have a rather distinctive set of short-response essay questions that can potentially push you into some uncomfortable territory. In order to navigate these questions and help you present your best self, the team at CollegeVine has composed the following guide.
University of Delaware Application Essay Prompts
While this essay asks you to “anticipate” what you will be like as a student at UD, that does not mean they are asking for idle speculation. A strong response to this essay will show how your projection connects back to your experiences. Once you start thinking about the question in these terms, then you can use your 200 words to start sharing some things with the admissions committee that they may not have been able to learn from reviewing your grades and test scores.
For example, you might say that you will be excited to start participating in small seminar discussions about literature because all throughout high school one of your favorite activities was going to the science fiction and fantasy book club. Nothing makes you happier than getting into an argument about the racial politics of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (are the orcs really bad guys who can be killed with impunity?). Maybe outside the classroom, you will want to continue volunteering as a reading coach at a local elementary school in preparation for your intended career as a teacher.
As you talk about what excites you inside and outside the classroom, you will want to try to make sure that those two things are related. In the example I’ve been discussing, there is a common theme: a love of reading.
On the whole, you will want to stick to talking about academic and community-service topics. This is not the time to say that you are excited about going to parties and experimenting with alcohol. If the social aspects of college really are part of what quickens your pulse, you can talk about that in a more wholesome manner. Maybe event-planning has always been your passion in high school, and you look forward to organizing student days for UD’s Athletics program.
But there is one more part in this question that adds a considerable amount of depth. UD not only wants to know where you will expect to thrive, but also what kinds of challenges you will expect to face. Here, it is okay to be a little bit vulnerable. It can often seem like the college admissions process is asking you to trumpet an endless line of success stories, but this part of the essay wants to see if you are good at recognizing your own limitations and figuring out ways to manage them.
Maybe you are really close to your family, and you know you will miss being able to spend time with your brothers around the house. Whenever you talk about areas where you will have to stretch yourself, you will probably also want to offer a sentence softening the blow and saying that, even if you know you will be challenged, you are still looking forward to facing that challenge. If you know you are going to miss your family, you can also say that you are looking forward to sharing your college experiences with your little brothers and encouraging them to attend college as well.
Like the previous question, this one is also asking you to be a little bit vulnerable. This question is asking you to both talk about one of your accomplishments at the same time that you talk about a challenge that you encountered.
The first thing to recognize is that this question is asking you to dig a little bit deeper than your activities list. The admissions committee probably already knows that you have won your high school’s community service award or made the varsity baseball team in your sophomore year.
The trick is to focus on one accomplishment in particular, a challenge where you pushed yourself outside of your comfort zone, even if it does not appear on your activities list. For example, maybe you were already a competent trumpet player, but you decided to learn a new instrument and audition for your district orchestra on the french horn. You might talk about putting in extra hours while practicing in the basement and how you had to muffle your sound, or putting in an extra shift at work on the weekends in order to afford French horn lessons. Maybe you made the district orchestra in the end, in which case you can finish your essay on a happy note.
It’s also possible that you didn’t make the district orchestra, but you can still say that you are proud of the time you put into trying something new, and that the extra effort made you a better musician. The point of this prompt is not to add another “achievement” to your activity list, but rather to give the admissions committee a sense of how you challenge yourself and what you do when things get difficult.
One especially important aspect of this prompt is addressing “who or what you turned to for support.” As you probably recognize, your accomplishments are probably not solely the result of your own individual effort. Maybe you had parents who clothed you, maybe a good teacher offered some especially useful feedback, or maybe your friends were there to commiserate when you faced a setback. One of the most important marks of maturity that this prompt is looking for is this: Do you have the capacity to reach out for help and support when you need it?
This is probably the hardest prompt to address because it can be very easy to sound bitter. Everyone suffers setbacks, and we sometimes need to vent when we are just talking amongst our friends. Also, sometimes “anger” might be the appropriate response to injustice. As Audre Lorde says, “Anger is loaded with information and energy.”
But as you answer this question, you should try to put the emphasis on what you did after you were denied an opportunity or were treated unfairly. Maybe you were passed over for a promotion at work, and you needed to go home and blow off some steam so that you could come back the next day and continue to do your job. Or maybe you went home, did some research, and found that your workplace had a history of not promoting people who look like you. However, when responding to this prompt, you want to put the emphasis not on the moment of suffering and grievance, but rather on what you did to regain your own sense of agency and dignity in the aftermath.
You might also interpret this prompt in a slightly more banal way: Maybe you received a bad grade on a paper. You thought you deserved better, but then at home you took a few moments to really look at your essay and realized that there really were some logical gaps. As with the previous example, you want to put the emphasis on what you did after the moment when you thought you were being treated unfairly. Maybe before handing in your next paper, you made sure to ask a friend to read it, and you offered to read their paper in exchange. At UD, you might talk about how you hope to take advantage of the writing center in order to get a fresh perspective on your paper before you turn it in.
It’s also possible that you do not feel like you have ever been treated particularly unfairly. Or maybe you feel like the few moments of unfair treatment you might have received pale in comparison to the injustices suffered by others in your community. If that is the case, you should feel free to talk about the injustice that you see in your own community and what you have done or hope to continue doing to fight it.
Only answer if there really are unique circumstances. This is not the place to air your grievances about a chemistry teacher who “had it out for you” — even if that’s true, you don’t want to draw attention to interpersonal conflicts in your personal essays.
An example of situations in which you want to write a response to this question might include: Your grades were unusually low the fall of your sophomore year because you suffered an especially serious illness that made you miss class for three months. Hopefully after you recovered, your grades did as well.
Also, note that while you have 500 words to respond to this question, you should not feel compelled to use all of that space if you do not need it to give a straightforward account of your situation. If you only have one grade to explain, and you can do so in two brief sentences, you should stop there. With all of your other essays being less than 200 words, a 500-word essay on the special circumstances that led you to get a C in Spanish 2, but an A in Spanish 1 and Spanish 3 will sound strange. You want to minimize the amount that your admissions officers spend focusing on your lower grades.
In this short question, UD is asking you why you would want to attend the school in particular. Though there are only two sentences, you do not want to say something generic like “I am excited about UD because I will get to learn from experienced professors.” The same could be said for just about any university.
One way to approach this question is to focus in on a specific event or club that UD offers. Maybe you are interested in studying urban planning and were excited to learn that the Department of Energy and Environmental Policy recently held a symposium on “Smart Cities and Sustainable Energy.”
Maybe your older brother went to the University of Delaware, and you remember hearing stories about Twilight Induction. Whatever you say in these two sentences, you want to show the admissions committee that you have taken the time to research UD and that you are not just checking the boxes on one more application (even if you really are applying to a number of different schools).
Best of luck writing your essays!
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