How to Write the Villanova University Essays 2020-2021

Villanova is a private, Catholic university located roughly 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. The university takes pride in the fact that it is the only Augustinian university in the United States, as all first year students are required to take a course called “The Augustine and Culture Seminar.” Villanova also has a tradition of athletic excellence, and won the NCAA March Madness tournament in 2016 and 2018.

 

Villanova’s student body consists of approximately 7,000 undergraduates, plus 4,000 graduate students. The acceptance rate is 29%, with the middle 50% of SAT scores for the Class of 2024 falling between 1380-1500, and ACT scores between 31-34. In 2020, the university was ranked #46 by US News.

 

Villanova requires two supplemental essays. Writing strong essays can certainly help your application stand out, and improve your chances of acceptance. Want to know your chances at Villanova? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

Villanova University Application Essay Prompts

 

All applicants:

 

Prompt 1: Please select one of the four essay prompts listed below to fulfill the writing requirement (250 words)

 

  • Option A: What is the truest thing that you know? How did you come to this conclusion?

 

  • Option B: Villanovans are known for “holding doors open” because inclusion is at the core of who we are. Take us on a journey through your background and describe how your life experience has shaped your understanding of the word “inclusion”.

 

  • Option C: Generation Z is arguably the most technologically savvy cohort in history. They find answers to questions, discover troves of new music, or even start the next global social movement, all within seconds. How has this seemingly limitless connectivity influenced the person you have become? 

 

  • Option D: In St. Augustine’s book Confessions, one of the themes is the idea of redemption and second chances. Tell us a story about second chances. It can be your experience or one that you have come across through others or through media.

 

Prompt 2: In addition, the Admission Committee would like to know why you want to call Villanova your new home and become part of our community? (100 words)

 

How to Write the Villanova University Supplemental Essays

 

You should be thoughtful about which prompt you select here. You want to take advantage of the fact that Villanova is giving you some flexibility, particularly since all four options are fairly different from the standard supplemental prompts. 

 

First, read all of the options carefully, even if you think you are sure about which one you will choose. Second, note which one(s) stick outfor example, perhaps Option D reminds you of a meaningful reconciliation with a friend. If you immediately feel an emotional connection to one of the prompts, that can be a good sign that you’ll be able to write a strong response. 

 

Finally, think about how each prompt would add to your application as a whole, and make sure that the prompt you choose won’t lead to redundancies. For example, say you are drawn to Option B. If, however, your Common App essay is about finding a sense of belonging on your volleyball team, you might be better off with one of the other options so you don’t repeat yourself. If you do still choose Option B, make sure that you approach the topic from a new perspective, such as, for example, by describing how being part of a large family has taught you to be empathetic.

 

Prompt 1, Option A

What is the truest thing that you know? How did you come to this conclusion? (250 words)

This may sound more like a question for an upper-level philosophy class than a college essay, but there are a variety of approaches to this prompt, and you definitely don’t have to be Aristotle to write a great essay. If you have a set of core values that are deeply important to you, this prompt provides an opportunity for you to show that.

 

First, of course, you must identify the “truest thing that you know.” This is no small task, so if you choose this prompt make sure you give yourself enough time to brainstorm what you want to say and exactly how you want to say it. We have a few guiding questions that will hopefully help you with your brainstorming process.

 

1. What is important to you? This may seem just as broad as the prompt itself, but listing your values can be a good first step towards developing the more refined statement the prompt is asking for. Try to go beyond the obvious: pretty much everyone values their family and friends, so try to think of things that are more personal. Perhaps you have a passion for photography, or are proud of your sense of humor.

 

2. Which experiences have been most formative for you? This is also incredibly broad, but try to think of moments in your life that stick out as significant, and then go a step further and think about why they were significant. If you have a list of experiences you considered writing about for your Common App, look over that list again.

 

3. Who are your role models? By thinking about what you admire in others, you may realize something about what guides your own life. Again, try to think outside the box. You may admire how hard Beyoncé works on her music, but hard work is a universal value. If you shift your focus to how she uses her platform to raise awareness for issues that are important to her, you are more on track towards something unique to you.

 

4. What are some of your favorite quotes? Although we discourage you from directly quoting someone else, as you should express your truth in your own words, quotes that have impacted you may show you something about how you look at life.

 

Once you have a pretty clear sense of what your truth is, you want to figure out how to say it in a clear, concise way. 250 words isn’t very many, and the bulk of the essay should be focused on how you have learned your truth, not on stating the truth itself. 

 

If turning your ideas into a compact sentence or two sounds daunting, remember the purpose of this essay: to show your reader something about yourself. Nobody is going to get this tattooed, so focus less on sounding wise and more on communicating something you genuinely believe.

 

Here are a few examples of how to go about packaging your ideas:

 

1. Say you’re a photographer, and you value the patience and awareness of your surroundings that photography has taught you. Your truth could be something like “The world would be a better place if we all spent just five minutes a day appreciating the beauty around us.”

 

2. Say there are many people who have made an impact on your life, from your parents and teachers to the residents at the nursing home you volunteer at. You might say that “Nearly everyone you meet can tell you something about the world, so long as you’re open to listening.”

 

3. Say you love to drive, and have gone on a lot of road trips with your family and friends. You could tell your reader that “On the open road, I’ve realized just how big the world is, and how important it is to keep my life in perspective.”

 

Once you have identified your truth, the hard part is over. The rest of the essay should be about specific moments in your life that illustrate for your reader how you learned this truth, and why it is so meaningful to you. Hopefully, all the brainstorming you did will make this relatively easy.

 

Our hypothetical photographer, for example, could write about the time he spent an entire day trying to photograph a bald eagle in the mountains. Even though he didn’t end up even seeing one, he still remembers this day fondly because he got to spend it in a beautiful place.

 

Or our driver might describe a road trip she took with her dog. Partway through the trip, her dog chewed up her hotel bed sheets, and she had to pay to replace them. At first, she was furious with her dog, but by that night she had totally forgotten it even happened: she could only remember the towns she had visited, the food she had tried, and the people she had met.

 

We also want to address a few things not to do with this prompt, or at least to be very cautious about doing.

 

  1. Keep your audience in mind. It’s very hard to predict if humor will land with an admissions officer, who is a total stranger. Say your truth is “The movie Mean Girls taught me to push all of my problems in front of a bus.” Although your friends might find this joke very funny, your admissions officer may have been recently involved in a bad car accident, and you never want any of your essays to offend.

 

  1. Avoid political statements. As just mentioned, you have no idea who will be reading your essay, and if your truth espouses a particular policy, you run the risk that one of your readers will vehemently disagree.

 

  1. Be careful with unconventional approaches. Say your truth is that “LeBron James is the greatest athlete of all time.” This will certainly make your essay stand out, and you may be able to write a great response by describing how watching LeBron has taught you about hard work, leadership, and success. But if your essay ends up turning into an opinion piece about why LeBron is better than Michael Jordan, you should probably start over; this sort of topic focuses too much on other people, and the goal of college essays is to share more about yourself. The bottom line: only pursue unconventional approaches if you’re an extremely confident writer; don’t do it just to be edgy.

 

Prompt 1, Option B

Villanovans are known for “holding doors open” because inclusion is at the core of who we are. Take us on a journey through your background and describe how your life experience has shaped your understanding of the word “inclusion.” (250 words)

If you have a unique aspect of your identity and want to share that with the admissions committee, this is a good prompt for you. Your identifying feature could be your race, gender, or sexuality, or something more unconventional, like your membership in a neighborhood book club.

 

This prompt may remind you of other supplemental essays you have written on diversity, but we strongly discourage you from copying and pasting something you have already written. Villanova wants you to approach diversity specifically from the perspective of inclusion, so while you can reuse parts of a traditional Diversity Essay, you should frame it so it answers Villanova’s prompt specifically.

 

Once you have selected the aspect you want to focus on, you should choose a couple of experiences that illustrate what this part of your identity has taught you about inclusion.

 

For example, let’s take the unconventional example mentioned above: your membership in a neighborhood book club. Perhaps your parents started taking you when you were little and they couldn’t find a babysitter, and initially you felt out of place amongst a bunch of adults reading books way beyond your level.

 

Once you got a little older, however, you started to view these advanced books as a challenge, and you asked your parents if you could read along with them. Your comprehension slowly improved, and eventually you even felt comfortable speaking up during the meetings. 

 

The adults were impressed, and even asked if you had recommendations of books the club could read that you might enjoy more. Over time, other neighborhood kids started to join, and now there are almost as many young people in the club as adults.

 

To conclude, you want to summarize your story with a takeaway message. Be careful not to be too cliche–even if you are expressing a common sentiment, express it in a way that directly connects to your experience. For this example, that might be something like “This experience made me realize that, even when you’re intimidated by trying something new, there are always other people who want to try it too. Sometimes you just have to jump in first.”

 

A final note on this prompt is that many people unfortunately experience more exclusion than inclusion due to certain aspects of their identity. If you are comfortable doing so, you can certainly talk about discrimination you have faced. Although the prompt asks you to write about your understanding of the word “inclusion,” this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write about a time you felt included.

 

For example, say you are in Math Club and also on the soccer team, and have never fully felt like you belonged in either group. Your soccer friends make fun of you for liking math, and your math friends look down on you because you also like soccer, which has made it hard for you to find a supportive friend group.

 

Although you may not have felt included at any point in this particular story, you could still tell your reader what not being included has taught you about true inclusion. For example, your takeaway might be something like “Including someone is about accepting all parts of their identity, not just the ones you share with them.”

 

Prompt 1, Option C

Generation Z is arguably the most technologically savvy cohort in history. They find answers to questions, discover troves of new music, or even start the next global social movement, all within seconds. How has this seemingly limitless connectivity influenced the person you have become? (250 words)

If you are interested in computer science, engineering, or technological development, this is a great prompt for you. This prompt doesn’t require you to be super sciencey, however. As long as you feel that growing up in the Internet Age has shaped who you are, you can write a great response.

 

As the prompt itself says, there are seemingly limitless approaches you can take here. To narrow your focus, you should identify two things. First, a particular technology. This could be anything: Google, FaceTime, Spotify, Twitter, or something else. Don’t hesitate to choose a non-mainstream technology, as that will make your essay stand out, but also don’t pick an obscure app you’ve never used before just to seem uniquepick something that has genuinely influenced your life.

 

The second thing you need to identify is one or two ways this technology has directly impacted you. Of course, technology has impacted many people in similar ways. For example, just about everyone would agree FaceTime helps them keep in touch with their friends. But that’s okay! You don’t have to come up with something crazy, so long as you illustrate technology’s impact on your own life with tangible examples.

 

For example, perhaps your parents’ jobs require your family to move around a lot, so FaceTime has been not only helpful, but actually essential for developing and maintaining friendships. Alternatively, everyone with Spotify has assuredly discovered a new artist thanks to the algorithm. But perhaps some of the new music you discovered inspired you to start writing your own music.

 

Particularly if you’re extremely interested in tech, make sure the personal connection is clear. Perhaps you’re fascinated by the Netflix algorithm, and could easily write a 250 word essay just about its nuances. This essay might be fun to write, but your reader won’t learn anything about you.

 

You can still write about the algorithm, of course, but connect it to your own life. For example, you could write about how the algorithm guides people with similar interests to the same shows, and how you ended up making a new friend when you learned she watched one of your favorite shows.

 

If you would like, and you have the space, you can also talk about how your experience with technology has inspired your plans for college or your career. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a STEM trackas mentioned above, perhaps your love for exploring Spotify has developed into the pursuit of a career in music. It’s completely fine if technology hasn’t impacted your academic or professional plans, but if it has that can be a good way of concluding the essay.

 

Prompt 1, Option D

In St. Augustine’s book Confessions, one of the themes is the idea of redemption and second chances. Tell us a story about second chances. It can be your experience or one that you have come across through others or through media. (250 words)

This prompt is quite different from those you normally come across, so unless you immediately feel a connection to it, it will likely be the hardest to brainstorm for. On the other hand, it gives you a chance to write a genuinely unique essay that can take your application to the next level.

 

If you choose this prompt, the first and most important thing to do is pick the story you want to tell. Notably, the prompt is incredibly open-ended, as the story doesn’t have to be about you, or even someone you know. Below, we will outline three different approaches based on the story you choose: a story about you, about someone you know, or about someone you don’t.

 

If you write about yourself, you don’t have to worry about personal connection, since the story obviously happened to you. Thus, the most important thing is to pick a story that is genuinely about redemption. For example, getting a B+ on one test and an A on the next is not redemption. The prompt is asking you to write about a genuine low point in your life, not a success disguised as a failure. If you’re having trouble being vulnerable because you’re worried about not looking good, remind yourself that you have the rest of your application to show off!

 

Here are some examples of true low points: being overconfident for a debate tournament and not preparing properly, a losing your best friend’s trust, or getting rejected for a job you really wanted. Whatever you choose, you should tell your reader not only what happened, but also what you were feeling: disappointment, frustration, embarrassment, etc. At the same time, pick something you’re comfortable writing about. If your emotions about something are too raw, you probably won’t be able to write a strong essay about it.

 

The second half of your essay is where you show that this story is about redemption, not failure. Show your reader not only what you learned, but also what you did differently with your second chance.

 

Take the example of being overconfident for a debate tournament. Because of the opposing team’s poor reputation, you barely prepared, and fully expected to wing it and win the debate. But your opponent ended up being incredibly skilled, and you stumbled all over your words. As a result of your loss, your team didn’t advance to regionals. While there was nothing you could do about that, you organized a tournament for all the teams that didn’t make it, so your team could still compete. You didn’t win over your teammates quite then, but you came back the next season and fully prepared for each tournament.

 

If you choose to write about somebody you know who isn’t you, most of the essay will be roughly the same. Tell your reader about this person’s mistake or failure, and how they bounced back. For example, maybe your sister accidentally broke your mom’s favorite necklace, and to make it up to her she saved up money for a year to buy her a new one.

 

The key difference is that this didn’t happen to you, so you need to explicitly show what you learned from watching this happen to someone else. Rather than just saying “My sister taught me that we can’t always control what happens, but we can control the responsibility we take afterwards,” tell your reader about a time when you used this lesson in your own life.

 

For example, maybe you did something that really upset your best friend. At first, you were angry at her, but after talking to your sister and being reminded of her experience you realized that you had to take accountability for your actions, so you baked her a cake and took it to her house.

 

This anecdote will likely be short, since you will probably be getting close to the word count, but a specific example will really drive home to your reader that this story made an impact on you, even though it happened to somebody else.

 

If you choose to write about someone who isn’t you and also isn’t anyone you know, the essay structure will be similar as for someone you do know: describe the failure, the rebound, and connect the story to your own life.

 

If you choose this approach, however, it’s extremely important that you know a lot about the person and that their story is important to you. For example, you should only write about Tom Brady’s 25-point Super Bowl comeback if you love the Patriots. Alternatively, you should only write about Taylor Swift’s comeback album reputation if you love Taylor Swift.

 

Otherwise, if you know nothing about sports and try to write about Brady, it will be very difficult to show that you have a personal connection to his redemption. Remember that, although the prompt gives you the option to write about someone else, this still has to be an essay about you. At the end of the essay, you want your reader to have learned something about you, not Brady.

 

Prompt 2

In addition, the Admission Committee would like to know why you want to call Villanova your new home and become part of our community? (100 words)

Although this is a fairly straightforward “Why School?” essay, the 100 word limit is a challenge. Rather than using your limited space to list everything you like about Villanova, zero in on one particular quality, resource, or opportunity that you have a personal connection to.

 

For example, perhaps you have a passion for screenwriting. You could write about how Villanova will allow you to cultivate this passion through its Creative Writing freshman living community, and through particular courses offered in the Creative Writing Department.

 

There are two reasons why this example would make a strong response. First, the opportunities mentioned are specific to Villanova. If you write generally about Villanova’s English department, that won’t tell the admission committee anything about why you want to go to their school, since every school has an English department. Specificity gives the committee a much clearer sense of what you hope to accomplish at Villanova.

 

Now, when you begin brainstorming, you may not know much about the specific opportunities Villanova offers. That’s completely fine! Just hop on the website and do some researchthe student organizations page is often a great place to start.

 

The second strength of the above example is the personal connection. By focusing on screenwriting, something you are genuinely passionate about, and describing how you will pursue it at Villanova, you are showing the committee how you will fit into their community. The focus shouldn’t be on the opportunity itself, but on how you will take advantage of it.

 

This personal connection is what will make your essay stand out, because Villanova receives over 20,000 applications per year. As a result, it’s very likely that someone else is writing about the same thing as you. That’s okay! The committee isn’t reading these essays to learn what opportunities their school offersthey’re reading them to learn about how you specifically will take advantage of these opportunities.

 

In summary, there are two main things to focus on in this essay: specificity to Villanova, and the connection between Villanova and you. And remember, you only have 100 words, so every sentence should be showcasing one of these things. If it isn’t, you probably don’t need it.

 

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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.