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The University of Rochester is a private research university located in upstate New York. While situated only a few miles from the shores of Lake Ontario and minutes away from downtown Rochester, the university is surrounded by a quaint, residential neighborhood. Founded in 1850, Rochester has since become famous for the Institute of Optics, the first place in the world to offer a degree in optics, as well as the Eastman School of Music.

 

Rochester is home to a wide range of majors — from materials science and clinical psychology to financial economics and biotechnology, there should be no surprise that 16,503 applications were submitted for admission to the Class of 2020. Slightly fewer than 6,000 students were accepted, leading to an acceptance rate of 35%. Of the 1,338 members of the class, one-third were accepted early decision.

 

When applying to the University of Rochester, you’ll not only want to have a high-school GPA above the average of 3.8 and ACT or SAT scores above the 90th percentile, but also a stellar application essay. All applicants, whether they apply through the Rochester application portal, the Common Application, the Universal College Application, or the Coalition Application, will need to answer a prompt in 250 words or less. Below, you’ll find the text of the prompt as well as numerous strategies and tips to help you write the perfect supplement!

 

University of Rochester Essay Prompt

As Frederick Douglass Once Said…

Fugitive slave, abolitionist, entrepreneur, feminist, intellectual, and Rochester luminary Frederick Douglass said, ‘Man’s greatness consists in his ability to do and the proper application of his powers to things needed to be done.’

You’re showing us your ‘ability to do’ in this application. Please describe also how you apply your ‘powers to things needed to be done.’ Explain why you want to join our Rochester community of independent thinkers who create positive change and make the world ‘ever better.’

The toughest part of this essay is undoubtedly the word limit — this prompt is not only asking you to explain “Why Rochester?” but also how you use your talents to improve your community and the world around you. With only 250 words, you need to pay special attention to detail to how you organize your response.

 

In order to craft a cohesive essay, you’ll need to weave a common thread between the two parts of the prompt. In other words, as you are describing how you make the world a better place, you need to link your action back to why you’d like to attend the University of Rochester.

 

Choose a Relevant Topic

To answer this prompt effectively, you first will need to decide what you’ll be writing about — of the many activities and community service projects you’ve done throughout the years, which one best exemplifies your passion for improving society? Pick something that is easy to understand (and therefore doesn’t require a lot of explanation), but also something that’s powerful.

 

Alternatively, a great subject for your response can come from unexpected activities as well. For example, while being the drum major in your high school marching band doesn’t immediately seem like a way to improve society, you could explain how you improved your band community by instilling confidence in less-experienced players to discover their motivation for music.

 

If you’ve done any sort of activism (like participating in a political campaign, or lobbying for a cause you believe in) or community service (such as a soup kitchen or pro bono tutoring), you could try to focus in on that. Choose one of your unique talents and explain how that “ability to do” allowed you to thrive in your selected activity.

 

For example, maybe you’re a natural leader, and got a group of friends together to protest the anti-environment policies of a local politician. Or perhaps you’re an avid computer programmer and designed an app to help people quit smoking.

 

Maybe you should consider an entrepreneurial approach: If you realized a previously unmet need of a group of people, and addressed it (like opening and running a school store in your high school to provide low-cost supplies to students), you can certainly utilize it in the essay. As long as you show how your ability/talent helps you to improve the world, you’re sure to impress the reader.

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Relate Specific Examples to Rochester

At the same time, you also need to tie your activism back to the University of Rochester. Check out the university website, and find a program, research opportunity, club, or course that is aligned with what you’ve already been doing to change the world. Explain how you’d take advantage of the resources available at Rochester to continue your quest to improve not only your home community, but the university’s community as well.

 

For instance, if you were very involved with a science research program back in high school, and were developing a device to easily desalinate water for third-world nations, you could explain how excited you are to conduct further research in the department of chemical engineering at the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

 

If you were volunteering for a local campaign during high school, you could write about how you found the syllabus for PSC 237: U.S. Policymaking Process particularly exciting. The more you look into the opportunities available at Rochester, the stronger your essay will be!

 

Or, Align Your Personality with Rochester’s Student Body

Alternatively, another great tactic to use in constructing your essay is to try to connect your own personality to that of the Rochester student body. You want the reader to feel like you belong at Rochester, and that your unique personality would be an asset to the university community.

 

Explain how your upstart, persistent, and hardworking mentality would fit in with what you’ve learned about Rochester through the application process. Don’t worry as much about specifics to the school if using this tactic — the goal is to make the admissions committee believe that you belong, and descriptive, powerful language can certainly accomplish it!

 

The Bottom Line

Hopefully our analysis of the supplemental essay prompt has helped you to fine-tune your plans for your University of Rochester application!

 

Interested in more personal application and essay help? Learn about our College Apps Program and Essay Editing Program.

 

Want us to quickly edit your college essay? Submit it to our Rapid Review program, and we’ll get it back to you quickly with comments from our expert team.

 

Best of luck with your application, and GO YELLOWJACKETS!

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CollegeVine College Essay Team

CollegeVine College Essay Team

Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work. Learn more about our consultants
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