How to Write the University of Rochester Essays 2021-2022

 

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. 

 

Applicants to the University of Rochester must complete the Common Application and write strong supplemental essays. The University of Rochester now has three required supplements, and an additional one for applicants pursuing combined degree programs. A strong essay portfolio is crucial in making an impression with the admissions committee. Don’t worry—that’s where we come in.

 

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

 

Prompt 1: The University of Rochester motto of Meliora – or “ever better” – deeply integrates critical core values into all that we do. These core values of equity, leadership, integrity, openness, respect and accountability define not only who we are, but also who we hope to become. Please use the space below to highlight a time, creative idea or research experience when you put into action one or more of these characteristics in order to make yourself, your community or the world ever better. 

 

 

Prompt 1 Essay Response Option: Write an analytical or creative response of 200 words or less.

 

 

Prompt 1 Creative Response Option: 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.”

 

 

Prompt 1 Research Response Option: 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.”

 

 

Prompt 2: Please select one of the following prompts to respond to in 200 words or less.

 

Prompt 2 Option A: American social reformer, abolitionist, writer and statesman Frederick Douglass said, “Some know the value of education by having it. I knew its value by not having it.” Explain ways in which education has directly influenced you and your ability to do good in the world. How will you use the curricular flexibility and co-curricular opportunities of the University of Rochester experience to grow and to promote positive change for yourself, your community and the world?

 

Prompt 2 Option B: Dr. Donna Strickland, University of Rochester alum and 2018 Nobel Prize winner in Physics said, “There’s no point in me being anything other than me.” The University of Rochester encourages each student to embrace who they are and create their own individual curricular path and experience. How will you use the opportunities here to fully be who you are? What unique perspectives will you bring to our community?

 

Prompt 2 Option C: The University of Rochester benefactor, entrepreneur, photography pioneer, and philanthropist George Eastman said, “What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are.” Looking forward towards your college experience, what do you hope to do outside of the classroom at the University of Rochester that will enhance who you are as a person? How will specific academic and social opportunities here help you grow?

 

Prompt 3: 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 words) 

 

Combined Degree Program Applicants

 

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)

 

 

All Applicants, Prompt 1 (required)

The University of Rochester motto of Meliora – or “ever better” – deeply integrates critical core values into all that we do. These core values of equity, leadership, integrity, openness, respect and accountability define not only who we are, but also who we hope to become. Please use the space below to highlight a time, creative idea or research experience when you put into action one or more of these characteristics in order to make yourself, your community or the world ever better. (200 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. 

 

The central components of this essay are as follows: 

 

  • That you can identify a time where you embodied one of Rochester’s core values
  • That you can eloquently discuss how that instance puts one of their values into action
  • That you can explain how putting their values into action made the world a better place

 

We can go through these one at a time. 

 

  1. That you can identify a time where you embodied one of Rochester’s core values. 

 

The first step to writing this supplement is identifying a time, experience, or moment that embodies one of their values. This will be your jumping off point for a deeper discussion that answers the prompt in its entirety. 

 

Some starter questions to get your brain thinking about possible topics:

  • Have you ever acted when confronted with injustice?
  • Did you ever step up as a leader when others needed you?  
  • How have you used your voice to uplift those who need it? 

 

There are a million different ways to answer this prompt. For instance, maybe you stood up to your school’s administration when they were enacting sexist dress code standards. Maybe you participated in protests for urgent climate action at your Governor’s office. 

 

There is no one right way to answer this prompt, but the most important first step is to ground the response in a guiding example. 

 

Depending how much context your topic requires, this portion of the response will need approximately 25-75 words. The deeper explanation to follow is more important, and thus you should devote the majority of the 200 words to deeper reflections and insights. However, you should not feel bad about including necessary context for the narrative that follows. 

 

  1. That you can eloquently discuss how that instance puts one of their values into action.

 

Once you have an example to motivate the rest of your response, you should make clear how it embodies one of their values. This section will likely require some introspection and soul searching on your behalf. 

 

Note, something you should not do is simply say, “My actions embodied Rochester’s guiding principle of leadership/equity/integrity/etc.” An overly-mechanistic response like this is not what the prompt is seeking. Instead, the way you reflect upon your actions should make clear to the admissions reader that you are acting in alignment with the University of Rochester’s values. 

 

For instance, you might say something like, “It felt uncomfortable to defy my principal’s dress code policies, but I knew I had to take a stand alongside all the girls in my grade who felt uncomfortable that the school would impose punitive standards that blame the victims of sexual violence for their outfits, rather than holding abusers to account. Standing up to their rules was risky, but it taught me how the power of collective action can be used to fight for what is right.” 

 

Including substantive personal reflections will show the admissions officers that you understand the University of Rochester’s values and motto at a deeper level, as opposed to just repeating a slogan that sounds catchy. Your introspection will show them that you are mature enough to be a contributing member of their campus community. 

 

  1. That you can explain how putting their values into action made the world a better place

 

Once you have identified the moment that you wish to highlight, and you have reflected on how that moment relates to the University of Rochester’s core values, the final step is to express the broader significance of your actions. 

 

The whole purpose of this supplement is to ask the applicant how they have made the world a better place. In this portion of the essay, you can answer that question once and for all, having grounded yourself in a central example and reflections on values. 

 

As above, it is best to avoid simplistic language such as “My actions made the world a better place by…” One of the things admissions readers look for is quality of language and sentence construction, so make sure to use some more passionate and descriptive language to make your response truly come to life. 

 

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 actions made the world a better place.

 

Whichever structure you choose, don’t go too extreme in either direction. If you are writing an 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.

 

 

All Applicants, Prompt 2

Please select one of the following prompts to respond to in 200 words or less.

 

Broadly speaking, all three of these prompts are asking similar questions, but each has its own nuances. In general, this prompt is asking you “Why University of Rochester,” but with veiled language and variance in the additional context you provide alongside that central question. 

 

Thus, we will provide advice that broadly applies to all three prompts, as well as some specific advice that addresses the unique nuances of each individual prompt. 

 

Broad Advice

 

Regardless of which prompt you choose, the crucial task when responding to this supplement is to identify specific opportunities at the University of Rochester that will help you achieve your goals, better understand yourself, and make the world a better place. 

 

This will serve not only to show the admissions reader what kind of student you will be at the University of Rochester, but also to demonstrate that you have done sufficient research on the school and its offerings. Instead of simply telling them you are interested in making an impact on campus, your goal should be to show them through your research and personal reflections. 

 

Specificity is always going to be your friend, versus generic statements that don’t tell the reader much about your passions. For example, don’t say something as simple as “I am excited to be a sociology major at the University of Rochester, where I will learn about society and the social relations of the family.” This is not good enough because you could replace “University of Rochester” with any other school name and the sentence would still make sense. 

 

Instead, you should aim to be as specific and detailed as you can be. For instance, rather than speaking about sociology at Rochester broadly, maybe you identify a particular course that sounds engaging: “I am excited to learn about marriage as a dynamic social institution in Rochester’s SOC 2453, which explores the broader issues of diversity within marital and family systems from ethnic, inter-cultural and religious perspectives.” This shows you have done more serious research into the types of courses you will take as a sociology major at Rochester.

 

All Applicants, Prompt 2A

American social reformer, abolitionist, writer and statesman Frederick Douglass said, “Some know the value of education by having it. I knew its value by not having it.” Explain ways in which education has directly influenced you and your ability to do good in the world. How will you use the curricular flexibility and co-curricular opportunities of the University of Rochester experience to grow and to promote positive change for yourself, your community and the world? (200 words)

 

This prompt is more specifically asking about what education means to you and what educational opportunities you will take advantage of at Rochester. As such, this prompt is the most purely academic of the three. However, it also has the added complexity of asking you to connect your academic and co-curricular endeavors to your vision for making the world a better place more generally. 

 

This prompt requires a few things of you: 

 

  • Reflect upon how education has helped you make a positive impact in the past
  • Identify specific offerings at Rochester that would help you in your educational goals
  • Connect those educational opportunities to broader themes of positive change 

 

Let’s take this one point at a time. 

 

  1. Reflect upon how education has helped you make a positive impact in the past

 

This first portion of the prompt is not the most important part, but it does serve an important purpose of grounding your response in your past experiences. 

 

You should do some deep introspection to determine how your education has previously empowered you to create positive change, whether it be for yourself, your community, or the world at large. This portion of your response should draw directly from your own experiences, and it should transition smoothly into the rest of the essay. 

 

For instance, here are some possible models for this portion to get you brainstorming: 

 

  • “Learning about interest groups in my AP U.S. Government class helped me grasp the disproportionate power of large oil corporations in our public policy. This knowledge made me a more informed citizen, capable of advocating for the causes I believe in. I hope to continue learning more about interest groups in politics while at Rochester through courses such as…” 

 

  • “My experiences working in a robotics lab opened my eyes to the potential for automation to upend entire sectors of our economy, allowing us to pursue creative endeavors in our additional leisure time. I am fascinated by these emergent technologies, and I hope to keep developing them as a student at Rochester by…” 

 

Your past experiences should serve to motivate your future aspirations. Once you have a broad idea of what goals you wish to pursue, as well as how education is meaningful to you, the next step is to research how Rochester is uniquely equipped to help you achieve those goals. 

 

  1. Identify specific offerings at Rochester that would help you in your educational goals

 

Much of the advice from above about being specific and well-researched applies to this section. Beyond that, this differs from the others in that it relates to academic and co-curricular opportunities, rather than extracurricular. 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.

 

  1. Connect those educational opportunities to broader themes of positive change 

 

This is, naturally, the hardest part of the essay. The first step is to find the link between your future 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.

 

 

 

 

 

All Applicants, Prompt 2B

Dr. Donna Strickland, University of Rochester alum and 2018 Nobel Prize winner in Physics said, “There’s no point in me being anything other than me.” The University of Rochester encourages each student to embrace who they are and create their own individual curricular path and experience. How will you use the opportunities here to fully be who you are? What unique perspectives will you bring to our community? (200 words)

 

Whereas 2A is focused on how your academic and co-curricular ambitions relate to your desire to create positive change, this prompt concerns your unique self-determination and life perspectives as an individual. 

 

Thus, the primary question you should spend some time thinking about before attempting to write your response is who am I?

 

You might feel like this is a deep, probing question. It sure is! These supplements are meant to be challenging and encourage introspection that you might not feel comfortable with quite yet. However, if you can answer this well, you will show yourself to be a mature, self-aware individual who is ready for the challenges of college life. 

 

Accordingly, here are some questions to consider:

 

  • What were some of your formative childhood memories? 
  • What do you value? 
  • What motivates you? 
  • What significant obstacles have you overcome? 
  • What makes you different? 
  • What culture do you embody? 
  • What communities are you a part of? 

 

There are, of course, many different ways to answer this question. As long as you have done enough soul-searching, and you have settled on some characteristic, attribute, or personal quality as the guiding theme of your response, you will do great. 

 

Once you have determined the bigger picture, your next step is to do the due diligence needed to find the campus opportunities that will help you better thrive as yourself. Whereas prompt 2A was about how educational opportunities will empower you to positively impact the world, this is about how Rochester’s unique opportunities will facilitate self-discovery. 

 

As always, in-depth research and specificity are your friend. Once you have identified an opportunity, the key is then to relate it back to your self-discovery. For instance, you might say something like, “I have come to appreciate that being a lesbian is an essential part of who I am. At Rochester, I look forward to further exploring my sexuality with the support of the Pride Network. Sexuality is complicated, and I am certain that a community of supportive and similarly queer peers will help me grow ever more comfortable in my own skin.” 

 

This is your chance to be unequivocally yourself, so take advantage of it. Show the Rochester admissions committee who you are, and what you’re all about! 

 

 

All Applicants, Prompt 2C 

The University of Rochester benefactor, entrepreneur, photography pioneer, and philanthropist George Eastman said, “What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are.” Looking forward towards your college experience, what do you hope to do outside of the classroom at the University of Rochester that will enhance who you are as a person? How will specific academic and social opportunities here help you grow? (200 words)

 

Whereas prompt 2A is about academics for social good, and prompt 2B is about self-determination, this prompt makes space for your extracurricular involvements. Of the three, this is perhaps the most traditional “why school” prompt, as it encompasses academic and social involvements alike. The only thing you should explicitly omit are courses.

 

This prompt does require you to do some self-reflection as above in prompt 2B, as it also emphasizes that these extracurricular opportunities should contribute towards your unique self-growth. Refer to the section on prompt 2B for advice on how to write about self-growth and personal reflections. 

 

In terms of balancing social and academic opportunities, don’t feel too much pressure to prioritize one category over the other. Maybe you are really interested in joining an acapella group because you want to practice being part of a larger musical group. Maybe you want to join the mock trial team to work on your public speaking and self-confidence. There are countless directions to take this, provided you can establish a clear and cogent connection between the activities you choose, and your own self-growth. 

 

Remember, you could join the school newspaper or softball team at any school. Find names of specific clubs on campus and be sure to explain why that particular organization at this particular school will help your personal growth!

 

 

All Applicants, Prompt 3 

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 words) 

 

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.

 

Combined Degree Program Prompt  

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. 

 

  1. 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.   

 

  1. Describe how you see yourself contributing to the challenging field you want to enter as a Rochester graduate.

 

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 being 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.

 

 

Where to Get Your University of Rochester Essays Edited for Free

Do you want feedback on your URochester essays? After rereading your essay countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. Since they don’t know you personally, other students can be a more objective judge of whether your personality shines through, and whether you’ve fully answered the prompt.

 

You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. We highly recommend giving this tool a try!

 

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