How to Write the University of Washington Application Essays 2018-2019
Located in Seattle, the University of Washington is a large research university that offers 180 majors and operates on the quarter system, giving students an opportunity to experience a large variety of fast-paced courses. UW is ranked as the #20 public school in the United States, according to US News & World Report 2019 Top Public Colleges and Universities.
With 30,933 undergraduates, UW creates a diverse community with representation from 46 states and 56 countries. 94% of freshmen return for their sophomore year, a sign of student satisfaction at the University of Washington.
The University of Washington has seen an increase in competitive applications. The middle 50% of students had a GPA of 3.7-3.95, SAT composite of 1180-1370, and ACT composite of 27-32. If you want to stand out in this competitive applicant pool, read on for advice to tackle your essays.
University of Washington Essay Prompts
All applicants to the University of Washington must answer the following essay questions. We will break down each of these prompts to help you optimize your answers. Here are UW’s instructions:
Main Essay (500 words): At the University of Washington, we consider the college essay as our opportunity to see the person behind the transcripts and the numbers. Some of the best statements are written as personal stories. In general, concise, straightforward writing is best, and good essays are often 300 to 400 words in length. The UW will accept any of the five Coalition prompts.
Short Response (300 words): Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the University of Washington.
Tip: Keep in mind that the University of Washington strives to create a community of students richly diverse in cultural backgrounds, experiences, values, and viewpoints.
Additional Information About Yourself or Your Circumstances (200 words): You are not required to write anything in this section, but you may include additional information if something has particular significance to you. For example, you may use this space if:
- You are hoping to be placed in a specific major soon
- A personal or professional goal is particularly important to you
- You have experienced personal hardships in attaining your education
- Your activities have been limited because of work or family obligations
- You have experienced unusual limitations or opportunities unique to the schools you attended
Additional Space (Optional): You may use this space if you need to further explain or clarify answers you have given elsewhere in this application, or if you wish to share information that may assist the Office of Admissions. If appropriate, include the application question number to which your comment(s) refer.
The main essay shares the same prompts as the Coalition prompts. For help on these prompts, check out our blog post How to Write the Coalition Application Essays 2018-2019.
This question serves two purposes: it gives UW an opportunity to learn more about how you developed your values, and it allows them to consider, from what you describe as your past experience, how you might interact with UW students. It is easy to get mired in focusing on describing your community, but remember, UW wants to learn about you through seeing how your community impacted you. Use a description of your community to frame your essay, but always remind yourself to connect the story back to how it changed you.
UW is fundamentally an institution of learning, and diverse perspectives enrich the learning experience of all students. Once you have framed the essay with a description of who you have become as a result of your community’s impact, be sure to extend this thread to your potential future influence on UW.
Consider UW’s tip: “Keep in mind that the University of Washington strives to create a community of students richly diverse in cultural backgrounds, experiences, values, and viewpoints.” Diversity is not limited to cultural diversity, but also includes life experiences, viewpoints, opinions, and academic, social, or economic ideas.
Recall the experiences your have undergone, events you have witnessed, or articles that you have read that shaped your perspective and values. For example, you could write about how competing in robotics taught you the importance of teamwork and communication, or about how working in a local coffee shop inspired your desire to understand people from all walks of life, and bring a smile to their faces.
There are several ways to interpret community. You could interpret it in the literal sense by explaining how your hometown and family have guided your ambitions. For example, maybe the agricultural focus of your town inspired an appreciation for hard work or the technological atmosphere in the Silicon Valley led you to a love for innovation. Using the overall environment as a springboard, invoke a specific and detailed anecdote that illustrates the atmosphere in your community that you wish to capture.
This prompt also encompasses the people you surround yourself with. You can also write about how your friends from different backgrounds remind you of the importance of understanding or how your family inspires you to work harder.
Although this question is not required, it may be in your best benefit to answer this prompt, especially if you hope to be directly admitted into a specific major at UW. Some majors, like Computer Science, are difficult to get into after freshman year as most students were directly admitted. If you are hoping to get directly admitted to a major, this would be your opportunity to elaborate on your interest in the program. Talk about why you want to major in the subject as well as how you would use the opportunities at UW to pursue your interest.
You can also use this space even if you aren’t applying to any direct-to-major programs. This can be your opportunity to talk about anything else you didn’t have space for in the main body of your application. If you experienced any extenuating circumstances that hindered your academic or extracurricular performance in high school, this would be the place to explain them.
Interdisciplinary Honors Program
Because the Interdisciplinary Honors Program is a specialized program, it also requires specialized prompts. These prompts are incredibly important because they give the Honors Program a chance to learn about your motivations for applying to this program and how you might utilize the opportunities of the program.
Here’s UW’s description of the honors program: “UW Honors collaborates with programs across campus in order to provide a comprehensive Honors experience within all the disciplines. We assist and encourage students to find ways to enrich their education and create an experience that facilitates their long-term goals.”
Honoring the description, keep the emphasis of your essay on interdisciplinary learning to help you reach your academic goals in mind as you answer their questions.
Applicants to the Interdisciplinary Honors Program must answer the following two questions:
- The word “Honors” means different things at different universities. Why do you want to be a part of Interdisciplinary Honors at the University of Washington? (300 words)
- If you could pull together any two living people and listen to their conversation, who would they be and why? (300 words)
A “Why” essay is your chance to establish that you would be a great match for the UW Interdisciplinary Honors program. There are two parts of this prompt: the obvious “Why UW Honors?” and the subtler “Why you?” It is important to establish and connect both aspects of this question. This question is your chance to demonstrate what you will bring to campus. Because you’re applying to a specialized program, this prompt is even more important.
It’s really important that you’re incredibly specific on the “Why Honors?” aspect of this question: think about what makes the UW Honors Program different from the other schools that you’re applying to. If you can replace “UW” with the name of any other university, your essay isn’t specific enough!
For example, it is not enough to just write that the Honors program gives you the opportunity to take small interdisciplinary honors classes: find specific class names, professors, and content that appeal to you and explain why.
Of course, be careful of just “name dropping” benefits of this program: the admissions panel already knows that the honors program is a great opportunity, so they want to know why you think it’s perfect for your academic goals. Connect specific programs to your past academic history and elaborate on how you’ll take advantage of these opportunities.
This question is your opportunity to share what you find interesting or stimulating. The most important part of this question is the “why,” so be careful not to spend your entire essay describing the two people. While it is obviously important to establish who they are, it’s more important to talk about why you find them important. At the end of the day, an admissions officer can google the people, but they can’t google you and your interests.
One approach for this essay is to elaborate on an academic interest. The UW honors program emphasizes interdisciplinary learning by connecting students across disciplines. This question is your chance to demonstrate your interest in interdisciplinary learning in a unique way.
For example, if you’re interested in biomedical engineering, you could combine a researcher discovering new technologies and a philosopher analyzing the ethics of bioengineering. Think about unique parts of the field that you’re interested in that lend itself to interdisciplinary analysis.
You could also use this essay to share an interest in current events. For example, you could talk about an economist and a sociologist and their discussion about welfare. Again, this is a way to showcase your value of interdisciplinary learning and differing perspectives. However, you should be careful to avoid especially controversial topics.
In general, try to keep any analysis of current events to the importance of differing perspectives without saying which one is necessarily right or wrong. This approach could be risky but could really highlight your interest in the world around you.
Remember, your entire essay profile is a balance. If you have already in any way, shape, or form mentioned the two people you have in mind for this essay on other parts of your application, consider choosing different subjects. We want to make sure that the admissions committee has as holistic a picture of you as possible.
At the end of the day, this essay is your opportunity to share what you find uniquely interesting. This is really the prompt that gives you the most room to be creative, so don’t be afraid of it! Share what you are passionate about and what you want to learn more about.
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