How to Write the University of Rochester Essays 2020-2021

Located in Rochester, New York, the University of Rochester is a private university with a reputation for its excellence in research. With groundbreaking research in nuclear fusion, cancer stem cells, and biomedical engineering, it’s no wonder that aspiring researchers flock to the University of Rochester. 

 

However, you don’t need to be a young researcher to apply—Rochester’s schools in business, music, and education make this small university the top choice of many applicants. The Yellow Jackets also have access to athletic programs, Greek Life, a cappella, and over 250 student organizations. 

 

With an acceptance rate of 29%, getting into the University of Rochester is no joke. Accepted students typically boast 1320-1500 SAT scores and ACT scores in the 30-34 range. 

 

In addition to their test scores, accepted students to the University of Rochester must complete the Common Application and write a strong supplemental essay. Lucky for you, there is only one required supplemental essay on this application for all applicants (phew!). This means, however, that you only get one chance to make an impression with the admissions committee. Don’t worry—that’s where we come in.

 

Additionally, there are two more questions for students of specialty programs and/or students pursuing research that we’ll also take a look at.

 

Want to know your chances at the University of Rochester? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

Want to learn what Rochester will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering the University of Rochester needs to know.

 

University of Rochester Supplemental Essay Prompts

All Applicants 

 

The University of Rochester benefactor, entrepreneur, photography pioneer and philanthropist George Eastman said, “The progress of the world depends almost entirely upon education.” With that statement in mind, how will you use your University of Rochester experience to foster positive change in order to make the world, your community and those around you “ever better?”

 

May respond through Essay Response: Write an analytical or creative response of 250 words or less.*

or

Creative Response: Upload up to three works of your own art (e.g. pictures, video, performances, literary) and use the space below to provide a brief explanation as to how the art is tied to making the world, your community and those around you “ever better.”

or 

Research Response: Upload an abstract describing your own related research and use the space below to provide a brief explanation as to how the research is tied to making the world, your community and those around you “ever better.”

 

Combined Degree Program Applicants

 

(includes Rochester Early Medical Scholars (REMS), Graduate Engineering at Rochester (GEAR), Guaranteed Rochester Degree in Education (GRADE), Health and Epidemiology Advanced Learning (HEAL), Dual Degree With Eastman School of Music (DDE), Dual Degree with University of Rochester School of Nursing (DDN))

 

Prompt 1: What relevant experiences or insight have led to your interest in this particular program? Describe how Rochester’s resources: facilities, faculty, peers and research will meet your academic and personal ambitions. Describe how you see yourself contributing to the challenging field you want to enter as a Rochester graduate.* (500 words)

 

Prompt 2: Are you interested in pursuing research while enrolled at the University of Rochester? If yes, What field/area of study are you interested in researching? (20 word limit)

All Applicants

The University of Rochester benefactor, entrepreneur, photography pioneer and philanthropist George Eastman said, “The progress of the world depends almost entirely upon education.” With that statement in mind, how will you use your University of Rochester experience to foster positive change in order to make the world, your community and those around you “ever better?” (250 words)

There are three different ways that you can answer this prompt. While you can certainly choose the creative or research response (if either applies to you), we are going to focus on the essay response option, since we are essay people over here at Collegevine! 

 

Even though the essay response may seem more “typical” of a college supplement, you should feel free to choose whatever option allows you to most fully express yourself. In fact, try not to think about it. Pick the option that you feel most excited about or that comes most naturally to you. You won’t be penalized for picking the “wrong” one. 

 

This prompt requires a few things of you:

 

  • That you know what you want to study and can discuss it eloquently
  • That you are committed to improving your community 
  • That you are able to synthesize those two ideas

 

Let’s break these down one at a time.

 

1. That you know what you want to study and can discuss it eloquently

 

A good place to start when thinking about this objective is to simply jot down the answers to a few questions:

 

  • What is your intended major?
  • Why did you choose that major specifically at the University of Rochester? 
  • What are some potential paths that your intended field of study could lead to? 

 

You of course do not need to commit to a career any time soon, but having a few ideas might help to frame this essay. Think about how you would answer a “why this major” or “why this college” essay. Don’t write them, but come up with a few talking points you’d want to hit. 

 

You won’t need to go into details about all of these questions (and, with only 250 words, you won’t have time to), but it’s probably a good idea to mention most of these at least briefly.

 

2. That you are committed to improving your community

 

The University of Rochester admissions officers want to get a feel for who you are, what you value, and how you see the world. Everyone has a little bit of “I’m going to save the world” inside, and now is the time to let that shine. 

 

It’s worth noting that “community” can mean just about anything here, from a small town to a college campus to a country or even the world. 

 

That may sound daunting—how do you know what scope to choose for your community? So, perhaps a better approach is to focus on the topic first and go from there. 

 

What’s your thing? Are you super passionate about reducing carbon emissions? Then you might focus on governmental regulations at the state, federal, or global level. 

 

Do you get super upset anytime someone uses the word “gay” or “retarded” as an insult? Perhaps your high school is the community you should focus on. 

 

Or, maybe you’re someone who walks women to their cars outside of the local Planned Parenthood to protect them from potentially violent protesters. In that case, your community is your hometown. 

 

Whatever your thing is, Rochester wants to hear about it! 

 

3. That you are able to synthesize those two ideas

 

This is, naturally, the hardest part of the essay. The first step is to find the link between your education and your desire to save the world. The second step is to write about it.

 

Finding a link may not seem straightforward in some cases. How do you connect your interest in universal literacy to your future as a computer science major? The trick here is to get creative and remember that education is about more than just your prescribed course of study for your degree. Your education is also about the people you meet, the organizations you’re a part of, the research you do, and the experiences you have. 

 

So, maybe the link between universal literacy and computer science is that you will design a website that helps parents teach their children how to read and find age-appropriate books. Now, you just have to think about how the University of Rochester will help you get there.

 

As for actually writing this essay, the prompt clarifies that your response can be analytical or creative. An analytical essay will be more straightforward and answer the prompt head-on without much fluff. It will be more formulaic in structure and factual in content. 

 

A creative response, on the other hand, will be more free-flowing or have a unique structure and should include at least one anecdote. 

 

Think about how outraged you were at the abysmal, abstinence-only sex education in your health class and how you wrote an angry letter to the school board demanding that the curriculum be changed to include information about safe sex practices. Write about that! Take us to that moment and then explain how your time as a University of Rochester biology major aiming to go into medicine and healthcare policy will help improve sexual education and health for those in need.

 

Whichever structure you choose, don’t go too extreme in either direction. If you are writing the analytical essay, you should still write eloquently and choose an anecdote to share. Similarly, if you are writing the creative essay, don’t get so carried away in your creativity that you forget to include all of the pertinent information.

Combined Degree Program Applicants, Prompt 1

What relevant experiences or insight have led to your interest in this particular program? Describe how Rochester’s resources: facilities, faculty, peers and research will meet your academic and personal ambitions. Describe how you see yourself contributing to the challenging field you want to enter as a Rochester graduate.* (500 words)

There is a lot to tackle with this prompt, but rest assured that 500 words is plenty of space. This essay should be roughly the same length as your common application essay. Also, like the common application, you can have a more creative form and narrative structure. The operative phrase here is “show don’t tell!” 

 

Unlike the common application’s essay prompts, which are typically fairly short and open-ended, here you have three specific questions that you have to answer. And, yes, you do have to answer all of them. Let’s take a look at them one at a time.

 

1. What relevant experiences or insight have led to your interest in this particular program?

 

This question is a bit similar to the “why this major” question, and we’ll approach it in a very similar way—referring to it as a “why this program” question. This prompt asks you to describe your interest in your specialty program of choice and cite a few things (“experiences or insights”) that have sparked your desire to apply to this program. The University of Rochester is looking to understand your academic background and what you’re passionate about—specifically as it relates to your academic career. 

 

The first step to tackling this essay is to find an anecdote that demonstrates your emotional connection to whatever program you’re applying to. Don’t be alarmed by the phrase “relevant experiences or insights,” as these can be almost anything as long as they help to explain why you’re passionate about your subject area of interest. 

 

So, let’s take an example of a student applying to The Rochester Early Medical Medical Scholars (REMS) program. The “why this program” is really just as simple as “why medicine” followed by “why does this program help?” 

 

Maybe this student wanted to go into medicine after being inspired by the mentorship of her Principal Investigator while doing research on the role of Vitamin K in the development of osteoporosis. And, perhaps she is applying to the REMS program because not having to apply to medical school down the line will allow her to have a more interdisciplinary education and seek more leadership opportunities during her time as an undergrad. 

 

As we mentioned before, this is the place where “show don’t tell” really comes into play. Pick a specific example of a time that illustrates your passion for your program of choice and share an anecdote about it. This is particularly effective at the beginning of your essay as a tool to draw the reader in. 

 

2. Describe how Rochester’s resources: facilities, faculty, peers and research will meet your academic and personal ambitions.

 

Now the prompt is getting a little more specific. If the last question can be summarized as “why this program,” this question adds the element of “why this program at this school.” 

 

In the example above, an admissions officer might wonder why the student was applying to the REMS program instead of the many other combined B.A./B.S+M.D. programs in the country. What is it that makes the University of Rochester special? 

 

Maybe you already have a great answer to this question. Perhaps you picked the Guaranteed Rochester Degree in Education (GRADE) program because of a connection to a professor whose research you’d like to get involved in. 

 

But this question might require you to do a bit of digging. A quick Google search can get you to faculty profiles (that include research descriptions), class rosters, and a list of student organizations. Another great option is talking to real, live people. If you don’t know anyone at the University of Rochester to talk to, ask your school counselor to connect you to their alumni network.

 

Remember that whatever reason you give should be specific. Don’t just say that there are great extracurricular activities. Tell us about your specific interest in the Meliora Launch Pad and how having the freedom to explore your interests in entrepreneurship will help you to develop and launch your own startup after graduation. Share with the reader how you will combine your extracurriculars with your learning from the Graduate Engineering at Rochester (GEAR) program.   

 

3. Describe how you see yourself contributing to the challenging field you want to enter as a Rochester graduate.* (500 words)

 

So now that we’ve covered “why this program at this school,” this question asks you to look further into the future to describe where you see yourself down the line. Note that there is no specific timeline here, other than that it be post-graduation.

 

You can talk about how you plan to work as a nurse in an underserved area right after graduating from the University of Rochester School of Nursing program. 

 

Or, you can look further into the future and talk about how after graduating from the HEAL program, you plan to work in public health for a few years before applying to law school, where you will spend a career advocating for those who have faced medical discrimination. 

 

As always, be specific. Generality won’t get you far with challenging prompts like these.

 

Although we broke this essay down into three distinct sections, it’s worth reiterating that it is all one prompt. That means that your answers and examples should all flow together. If you’re talking about the REMS program at the beginning, you shouldn’t be talking about contributing to the “challenging field of engineering” by the end of the essay (unless you have a very specific interest in developing medical devices, for example, in which case go for it). 

 

We broke this prompt up to make it easier to understand what each section was asking and what answering it might require. However, it’s probably helpful to think about it as one big prompt when choosing the themes of your response before diving into the specifics of each individual question.

 

As we mentioned before, your essay can be more narrative and creative than you might be used to writing for other supplemental essays. Although these questions are specific (thus requiring facts backed up by research and straightforward language), the 500 word count allows you to get creative with anecdotes. You can choose one specific example to use throughout the essay, or choose something closer to the vignette structure, in which you share small snippets of multiple stories in order to hit home several distinct points.

 

It’s worth noting that the content in this essay might be similar to what you found yourself writing in the main, required essay that we discussed before. We urge you to avoid being too repetitive. Don’t waste your time repeating information that’s already covered elsewhere in your application. Try to find a new angle to discuss your academic interests and new examples to support them.

Combined Degree Program Applicants, Prompt 2

Are you interested in pursuing research while enrolled at the University of Rochester? If yes, What field/area of study are you interested in researching? (20 word limit)

This question is straightforward, and, at only 20 words, there’s nothing else you can do but answer it simply and honestly. Specify what research you are interested in, being as specific as possible without going over the word limit. We recommend that you write in full sentences (more likely one full sentence). 

 

e.g. “Through the REMS program, I hope to research the efficacy of stem cells as a treatment or cure for cancer.”

 

If you have no idea what you’d like to research, take a look at URochester’s research page for ideas. It can help if your intended research is actually related to research already happening, as there’s a clear connection to the school.

 

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