How to Write the University of Richmond Essays 2019-2020

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The University of Richmond is a private liberal arts university located in Virginia. It has over 60 undergraduate majors and averages 16 students per class. All students who submit a complete application by December 1st are automatically considered the Richmond Scholars Program, a full-ride scholarship granted to 25 incoming freshmen.

 

Richmond also has a guarantee that states that every undergraduate student is eligible to receive a fellowship of up to $4,000 for a summer internship or faculty-mentored research project. In addition to research, Richmond is also a proponent of continuing higher education, with 20% of students enrolled in graduate school within a year of graduating. 

 

Richmond ranks number 25 in the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of best liberal arts colleges. This past application cycle, it had an acceptance rate of 14%.

 

Hoping to become a Richmond spider? Writing a standout supplemental essay can certainly give you a boost. Read on for our best advice.

 

How to Write the University of Richmond Essays

 

The University of Richmond has one required supplemental essay that should be 650 words or fewer in length. You can choose one of these three prompts:

 

Option 1: What is an urgent global challenge or social justice topic about which you are passionate? What solutions or outcomes do you hope to see?

Option 2: By the time you graduate from college, there will be jobs that don’t exist today. Describe one of them and how Richmond might prepare you for it.

Option 3: You are required to spend the next year in either the past or the future. To what year would you travel and why?

Option 1

What is an urgent global challenge or social justice topic about which you are passionate? What solutions or outcomes do you hope to see? (650 words)

While many challenges might spring to mind, such as world hunger, global literacy, or discrimination, keep in mind that many other applicants might be thinking along the same line. Speaking about these issues broadly or vaguely will read cliché and disingenuous. Make sure you choose a topic that genuinely speaks to you. Once you settle on a topic, you can take several approaches to this prompt to make it uniquely your own.

 

One approach entails thinking of a personal connection to the prompt and building off of your own experience to convey a passion for a global change. You can write about a social justice issue that has specifically affected you or someone you care about, and what you have done or will do to overcome that situation. Start with a personal anecdote, and then bridge out to how this topic is a global issue. Then, using your own experience as a jumping-off point, expand your solution to how you would like it to be implemented on a global scale. Your solution doesn’t have to be planned out step-by-step already, but you should keep it relatively practical and implementable. For instance, don’t say you want to solve world hunger by starting a massive food drive. A more realistic plan might be to first decrease food waste in grocery stores and restaurants, and divert the extra resources to food pantries or homeless populations. 

 

Let’s look at another example. If your topic was colorism, a bad idea would be delving into the history of colorism and speaking about the topic generically, without giving specific examples. Students tend to give platitudes like “Since the beginning of time, colorism has affected copious individuals, allowing for unfair systems and practices to develop that continue to this day.” or “The definition of colorism ‘is prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.’” Students use these time and time again, but they lack the pathos and authenticity of a response that stems from personal experience and passion.

 

A good example will encapsulate your personal experience with the topic while also bringing in logistics. You could start by mentioning a personal encounter with colorism, such as when someone treated you differently because of the color of your skin. You can delve into how you felt and how you dealt with instances like that. You could then explain what systemic changes you want to see to ensure that little children can grow up without having to face the same discrimination as you. Talk about actionable items such as increasing representation in the media, or how you want colorism to be addressed in nationwide elementary school curricula. 

 

Another approach you can take is building off of a community service project or similar projects you have already undertaken. For example, you could mention your Girl Scout Gold Award, in which you held workshops teaching young girls STEM concepts via creative means so that they could feel more confident in their skills. You could link this to the larger global issue of lack of women in STEM and talk about your personal connection to the issue, as well as how you would plan an actionable method of remedying this if you had unlimited resources. Talking about an existing initiative brings your voice into your response and can give it another dimension of credibility.

 

Another tactic is to bring in the University of Richmond and mention how, through your time there, you will solve the global challenge or social justice issue in question. The prompt doesn’t explicitly ask you to do this, so you might not want to center your response around it. However, since you have a 650 word limit, this portion can take up a couple of paragraphs, reaffirming both your authenticity in solving the challenge and your interest in Richmond. 

 

For example, you can mention a specific program or extracurricular that will help catapult this vision of yours to a global scale. A good example will connect your personal past experience or interests with Richmond’s existing programs, and then discuss specific actions you wish to take. This will show, rather than telling your interest, in the college. Here is an example of a good response:

 

“I have experienced firsthand the gender and racial disparity in STEM within the United States. Despite my ideas being discounted and my work receiving less credit than my male counterparts, my passion for STEM has not gone out. Rather, it continues to grow and has even ignited a second, equally strong passion within me – the desire to make STEM spaces more accessible to women and ethnic groups that are typically actively discouraged from participating in STEM. Through Richmond’s Integrated Inclusive Science Program, I can embark on a research project focused on the global gender and racial dynamics of STEM. As I research the cause and repercussions of the gender gap in several countries around the globe, I will have a more informed perspective that will allow me to effect change both in my hometown and on the global level. I plan to publish my findings and bring awareness to them via social media. I plan to help draft legislation combating discrimination, the wage gap, and sexism in STEM for as many countries as I possibly can. My goal is to create a world in which any child, anywhere, can pursue their interests without fear of judgement or discrimination.”

 

No matter what approach you take for this prompt, it is important to make a personal connection and provide examples of specific outcomes you hope to see and implement. Outline initiatives, community service projects, or future laws – actionable items with tangible repercussions. This will tinge your words with more authenticity and show admissions officers you are genuinely passionate about the cause you choose to discuss.

 

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Option 2

By the time you graduate from college, there will be jobs that don’t exist today. Describe one of them and how Richmond might prepare you for it. (650 words)

This prompt is a bit more creative and will require a response that is not cookie-cutter. There are two parts to this prompt – one being the job itself, and the second being how Richmond might prepare you for it. Since it is a very open-ended question, you should brainstorm a list of potential jobs and write out what you could say about each before honing in on one. Choose the one that comes most naturally to you, as this will sound the most genuine.

 

One way to start preparing for this prompt is to research futuristic careers and see which ones align with your interests. If a career comes to mind that piques your interest, try connecting it to existing aspects of your life that relate to it. For example, if you took AP Computer Science and worked in your dad’s auto shop in high school, you might be interested in a career in the self-driving car industry. You can show rather than tell admissions officers about yourself. Talk about that code you wrote for an AI project, or how you were able to fix many friends’ car troubles. Recounting specific instances like this will show, rather than tell, that you are creative and hardworking. 

 

Another example of a career you can choose is a mental wellness coach. With the uptick in mental health awareness, self-care is swiftly moving from social media threads to becoming an established industry with professionals. If you are an empathetic person good at relating to others, you might like a career as a mental health or total wellness coach. Are you the person your friends go when they need a shoulder to cry on or talk out a conflict? Did you teach yourself to meditate before a big test? You can discuss your own self care methods and relationship to mental wellness, as well as how you plan to pursue it as a career. This will allow admission officers insight into your character, especially how you deal with obstacles as a person.

 

This method tells admissions officers about your current passions while effectively answering the prompt. Tying your background into your future career plans gives your essay a foundation and adds authenticity. With this type of prompt, it can be easy to allow hypothetical language to dominate your essay, so be conscious of this and try to ground your topic to the present as well as focusing on the future. 

 

The second part of the essay, how Richmond might prepare you for the job, roughly translates to “Why Richmond?”. To research for this prompt, you should peruse Richmond’s website and look into programs and extracurriculars that align with your hypothetical job. You can also look into program-specific offerings, classes, professors, and research opportunities. This will reaffirm your interest in the school while showing an authentic passion for the career you have chosen to write about.

 

A bad response could entail lauding Richmond’s Computer Science department and making a generic statement such as the following: “I look forward to participating in cutting-edge course projects that will change the world.” Chances are many students will be expressing the same sentiments. Instead, make your response specific to UR and yourself, with a statement such as “I plan to take advantage of Richmond’s Cybersecurity Boot Camp, where I can obtain relevant skills for future projects, such as how to make self-driving cars safe from hackers.” 

 

By connecting the “Why Richmond?” aspect to your future’s job description, your essay will flow more smoothly and make more sense. Make sure your response is detail-oriented and does not contain vague language. The specific details you include will help your response sound authentic and unique. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your response – if your job seems extremely futuristic or even outlandish, that’s fine! This essay should set you apart from other prospective students; the prompt is meant for you to show creativity and there is no wrong answer – just be sure to follow the tips listed above to avoid a response that is too vague.

Option 3

You are required to spend the next year in either the past or the future. To what year would you travel and why? (650 words)

This is a prompt that requires you to exercise your creativity and think critically about a topic you may have not considered before. There are many approaches you can take to effectively answer this prompt. After reading this post, you should brainstorm several options and then work with the one that comes most easily to you.

 

For the past, one approach you can take is historical; if there is an era or a historical event that speaks to you, you can reflect on what you would do if you spent the year in that time. Try to connect your current experiences with how they have been influenced by the past. 

 

For example, you can talk about how as a feminist, you participate in activism at your high school and in your community, and as such, you would want to go back in time to the women’s suffrage movement or the Seneca Falls Convention. You could talk about wanting to meet and engage with key figures such as Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Think critically about how you would connect your own activism to that of the past and how you feel it is both similar and different from the present. 

 

You can also nurture your creative side and make your response one that will make admissions officers smile or even laugh. You could talk about wanting to hang out with dinosaurs, studying them and stoking your passion for biology or evolution. Or, you could make your response more personal – maybe you want to go back in time to meet your great-grandparents, who perfected the empanada recipe that is now a tradition at every gathering. You could talk about going back in time to make empanadas with them, and how the recipe reflects the importance you and your family place on tradition. 

 

Discussing the past offers limitless possibilities, but so does the future. An alternate approach to take is allowing your imagination to run wild, trying to decipher, using the present, events that have not yet happened. 

 

If you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed, try thinking about your long-term goals, aspirations, or potential future careers. For example, you could discuss space travel, and write about being the first person to set foot on a planet in another galaxy. You can discuss your love of space and your fascination with extraterrestrial life. Or, you could mention how, as an aspiring aerospace engineer, you want to invent a plane that is faster and more efficient than current models, to make seeing your cousins in Australia more accessible. If you’re environmentally conscious, you could talk about how you would travel to 2150 and observe/research sustainable inventions of the future, and try to implement them in the present. 

 

Another approach you can take is discussing events during your lifetime as well. One example is going back a couple years to handle a conflict differently to show your maturity and conflict resolution skills. You could also go forward to the birth of a sibling, or future cousin, if you’re excited to be a mentor. You can use your specific passions and life experience to discuss all the lessons you want to share with them. 

 

One thing we do not recommend is to travel forward in the future to you as a student at Richmond. Since this prompt is so creative and open-ended, this might feel like a cop-out to the admissions committee.

 

With all of these prompts, it is important to show, rather than tell admissions officers what are writing about. One way to keep readers engaged is by implementing a lot of sensory imagery and specificity. You should also focus on active over passive voice, centering yourself and using strong verbs. Below are bad and good examples of sentences based on the hypothetical scenarios given above. 

 

Bad: “I want to go back in time to see the dinosaurs because I think it would be an interesting and fulfilling experience.”

 

Good: “I can see myself trekking through a humid jungle, my hand tracing imprints left in the moist dirt by the majestic creatures that have fascinated me since I was five.”

 

Bad: “I would go back in time to meet my great-grandparents and make our family’s classic empanadas with them.”

 

Good: “The smell of spiced beef wafts through the air as my great-grandmother presses the perfect amount of her empanada filling into the homemade dough. I carefully press the ends together and pinch like my great-grandparents taught me. Once I am satisfied with the shape, I hand them to my grandfather, who brushes them gently with egg wash.”

 

Bad: “I look forward to joining lots of extracurriculars in college and being able to pursue my passion for coding.”

 

Good: “As a freshman at UR, I plan to pursue my passion for software engineering by engaging in research opportunities. I look forward to working with professors such as Dr. Krehbiel to explore cutting-edge topics such as differential privacy.”

 

Specific details and imagery are the key to making your essay sound personal and genuine, no matter the topic. With these tips in mind, you are ready to apply to one of Virginia’s top-tier universities. 

 

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