How to Write the University of Richmond Essays 2021-2022

The University of Richmond is a private liberal arts university located in the capital of Virginia. It is one of the country’s best liberal arts colleges, consistently ranking in the top 25, with a competitive acceptance rate of 28% during the 2021 admissions cycle. Students who apply to Richmond by December 1st are automatically considered for merit scholarships and the Richmond Scholars Program, a full-ride scholarship granted to 25 incoming freshmen. The final application deadline for the University of Richmond is January 1. 

 

Hoping to become a Richmond spider? Writing a standout supplemental essay can certainly give you a boost. Through your supplemental essays, you can create a complete picture of who you are and humanize yourself to readers. Read on for our best advice. 

 

Want to know your chances at the University of Richmond before getting started? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

How to Write the University of Richmond Essays

 

The University of Richmond has one required supplemental essay that should be 350-650 words in length. Though you only have to complete one supplemental essay, Richmond gives you three prompts to choose from:

 

Option 1: Tell us about the most unusual talent you have, and how you have made it useful. 

 

Option 2: Spiders are essential to the ecosystem. How are you essential to your community or will you be essential in your university community?

 

Option 3: Please share one idea for actions or policies that you think would begin to address an issue of racial or social injustice.

Option 1

Tell us about the most unusual talent you have, and how you have made it useful (350-650 words). 

This prompt is a great (and flexible!) option for students to show Richmond the aspects of their personality that aren’t covered elsewhere in their application. While you must identify your talent (because it will be the central topic of your response), remember that the readers are more interested in what your talent tells them about you than the specific details of your talent. Your talent is the medium, but your personality should be the message.

 

One way to engage with this prompt is to use your past to explain your present. Maybe you have been making a food that is unique to your culture—arepas, lefsa, samosas, etc.—for over a decade now and you want to relate your talent to your culture and the unique perspective that your cultural upbringing gave you. This sounds like a great foundation for an essay, as relating your cultural or family history to your personal identity is an excellent way for a reader to get to know you! 

 

On the other hand, your talent doesn’t have to be inherently deep. You may want to take your essay in a creative direction by focusing on a more outlandish talent (maybe you can wiggle your ears or unicycle). If exploring a silly talent is your plan, your essay can be a place for introspection, critical reflection, and potentially even some humor (if it works with your narrative voice). 

 

If you choose a silly talent, it is critical that you dive deep with your commentary. Instead of saying that wiggling your ears shows that you are fun-loving or goofy, explain why it matters that you are fun-loving and goofy. Do these qualities come naturally to you? Does your talent bring out a side of you that you are insecure about? For example, a reader is going to be much more interested in an essay about how ear-wiggling helped a student begin a journey of overcoming social anxiety than an essay about how ear-wiggling helped a student to be given the superlative “funniest.” This prompt could present an opportunity to explore your insecurities and how you have worked to overcome them.

 

If getting creative is a bit out of your wheelhouse, you can definitely focus on a more practical talent for your essay. However, if you focus on a practical talent, you may want to take on a more purposeful tone. For example, if you are a super organized person whose talent is creating structure, you need to prove that your structure matters. Instead of explaining how to-do lists have helped you with time management (a rather general concept), you should focus on a specific structure that you have used to help with something that matters to you. Have you organized an event for a cause you are passionate about? Do you help your parents with finances and budgets because family is important to you? An essay about a practical talent should be focused and personal.

 

When writing the talent essay, do not become hyper-focused on the word “unusual.” Your talent does not have to be something that readers have never heard of; it just has to tell them something about you that they haven’t heard yet. If your talent is something that a reader would be familiar with (like pole vault, painting, learning languages, etc.), you can use this essay to provide personalized insights about the importance of your talent for you. What have you learned from your talent? Maybe something about yourself or the world? Why was it important for you to learn that? What does your “normal” talent say about you that is abnormal?

 

Reflective college essays can be intimidating because there are no right or wrong answers, but there are better and worse essays. If trying to connect the past to the present doesn’t work for you, try to be more creative. And if you feel like your voice sounds too gimmicky when being creative, try putting a meaningful spin on a practical talent. This essay can go in many different directions, but don’t be intimidated. As long as you have an interesting and clear voice, the sky’s the limit.

 

Some pointers:

 

  • Don’t spend too much time on the details of your talent. Readers are more interested in details about you.
  • This prompt is two-pronged. Make sure to tell readers about your talent and about why it is useful to you.

 

Option 2

Spiders are essential to the ecosystem. How are you essential to your community or will you be essential in your university community? (350-650 words)

 

This essay is your chance to say “I made [insert community here] a better place and I will make the University of Richmond a better place, too.” In this essay, just like in Option 1, the focus of your writing should be who you are. Specifically, with this essay, you should focus on how who you are contributes to your current community and how that can transfer over to the university community.

 

The first step in answering this prompt is to decide on the community you want to discuss. Keep in mind that the word ‘community’ encompasses many different groups, including communities bound by physical space (e.g. your high school’s graduating class or the families in your apartment building), communities bound by common interests (e.g. a book club, sports team, or group of friends that goes out to brunch every Saturday), communities bound by common goals (e.g. movements or political groups), and communities brought together by circumstances (e.g. a friend group formed because parents work together or a group of people who take the bus at the same time every day).

 

Next, think about your role in these communities and what your role says about who you are generally and who you will be once you are on your college campus. When considering what role you will fill on campus, you may want to consider how you would fit into specific aspects of campus life such as residential/dorm life, academics, extracurricular involvement, or student government/leadership. For example, if you are essential to your apartment community because you help people carry their groceries, you could describe how your willingness to go out of your way for others will lead to a considerate and non-competitive academic community. If you want to argue that you are essential to the community on the F bus at 8am because you greet everyone kindly as they get on the bus, you may want to describe how your “little positivities go a long way” approach will lead to camaraderie in your residential community.

 

While your role in your current community will necessarily be related to the contributions you will make at the university, to keep your writing interesting, make sure that your descriptions of your current role and your university role are not the exact same. It’s not engaging to read that because a student was a leader on their high school’s volleyball team, they will be a leader in their university’s student government. 

 

To avoid this issue, you may want to consider describing your role in your community more specifically. For example, to improve the previous idea, you might choose to write about how you were essential to your high school’s volleyball team because you led warmups each morning, and when you noticed that your teammates were not engaged, you created a system where warmups were also a time for icebreakers and get-to-know-you games. You may then continue on to describe how this role of innovative leadership will translate to campus as you hope to become a spirit leader or residential advisor.

 

The readers want to learn who you are and how you see yourself contributing on campus. The biggest danger with this essay is becoming one-dimensional. If you feel like your essay is dry, focus on a very specific role you currently serve in your community, a related quality to describe yourself, and how that quality will make you valuable on a college campus.

 

Option 3

Please share one idea for actions or policies that you think would begin to address an issue of racial or social injustice (350-650 words).

 

This is a great essay option for anyone particularly passionate about issues involving racial and social justice, including students with specific experiences of injustice. This essay will likely take on a more serious and reflective tone, as compared to the other options, and does not lend itself as easily to humor.

 

It is important to remember that social justice encompasses many different types of identity, including race, age, ability, sexual orientation, gender, income equality, and more. Additionally, social just issues can include topics like climate change, fast fashion, and gentrification, which aren’t directly related to identity.

 

Keep in mind that the University of Richmond is a liberal arts college in the South. While students and staff may be generally more liberal than the surrounding area, admissions officers may be turned off by essays that are “too” liberal or conservative. If this is an issue, you may want to ask yourself whether the school offers the right environment for you.

 

With this essay, readers are looking to see that prospective students are simultaneously informed, interesting, and insightful. Because this prompt is more directly linked to the outside world than the others, you will want to find a way to incorporate information about who you are and what matters to you into your essay. 

 

This prompt has two clear parts: 1) identify an issue of racial or social injustice and 2) share one idea for actions or policies to address that issue. The third part (unwritten in the prompt) is to tell readers something about you—maybe why the injustice you outline matters to you, or what your idea for action says about how you think and how your ideas will contribute to the university community. A common pitfall with a prompt like this is to discuss social justice issues in broad terms, without sharing more of your story, personality, or goals.

 

If you have a social justice issue that you are interested in or that directly affects you, start there. Then, narrow down the scope of your topic—get specific. Narrowing the scope of your topic is important for making your essay personal and focused. At the same time, issues involving injustice are complex, so specificity will also help you more easily identify one action (as the prompt requests). 

 

Examples of getting specific with your issue:

 

  • If you want to talk about gender equality, you could focus on a particular person who you have seen affected by gender discrimination. By humanizing the issue, you will make the essay more personal. This will also be more interesting for a reader who can relate more easily to a person than a list of statistics. Then, you can explain how your proposed action or policy affects individuals.
  • If you want to talk about police brutality, you could focus on your specific city as a microcosm of the larger scale injustice. By assigning a location to your conversation, you will make the issue more tangible. Then, depending on your action or policy, you could argue that large-scale changes affect smaller entities like cities or that small-scale changes in cities are necessary for cultural change.

 

Keep in mind that a personal anecdote could give this response depth and cohesiveness, but it is not a requirement. If you do choose to include an anecdote, remember that the prompt is focused on tangible actions and policies that increase justice and use your anecdote to support your proposed action.

 

With regards to your proposed action itself, your suggestion does not have to be wildly creative, but it does have to be thought out. If your social justice issue is police brutality and you live in a neighborhood with a significant police presence, you could write about an experience that showed you that police are not equipped to handle mental health crises. Your suggested action could be establishing a mental health crisis response team like CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon. This action is tangible and has a history of helping with your identified problem.

 

You may also consider repurposing a solution that has been helpful for another social justice issue if the solution would logically apply to your identified issue. For example, if you are discussing gender discrimination in the workplace, you could write about stories you’ve heard from a female friend and family member who is scared to mention inappropriate workplace comments or advances because she thinks they are minor and says “his comments aren’t that bad.” As a unique application of the anonymous reporting systems typically used in sexual violence care, you could suggest that businesses and institutions be required to have a platform (either private or centralized through a government agency) where employees can address discomforts less formally than filing a complaint.

 

Finally, depending on your field, it might help to think about your issues in relation to your interests and career path (i.e. if you are applying to a university as an economics major, you may want your solution to address the economic component of the problem). For example, if the issue is gentrification, a prospective economics major might suggest a reduction or freeze in property taxes to encourage long-time homeownership. On the same issue, an urban planning major might suggest that cities create categories within their current zoning laws for “residential districts” that prohibit the development of luxury buildings in at-risk neighborhoods. Think about your identified issue from different perspectives until a unique, but thoughtful solution becomes clear to you.

 

Some pointers:

 

  • Be sure not to identify multiple actions or policies. The prompt asks for just one! This will also help you to keep your writing focused and engaging.
  • Do not spend your entire essay explaining hypothetical situations or philosophical commentary. Keep your commentary focused on what your passions and opinions say about you.
  • Cite specific examples so that your reader can follow along with your argument.
  • Get personal, if it feels right and comfortable for you. Because this essay is more structured, you may be tempted to focus more on your opinions than your personality or values. The reader must get to know you.

 

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