How to Write the Wake Forest University Essays 2019-2020

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Located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wake Forest is one of the premier liberal arts universities in the nation. Known for its small classes and faculty engagement, Wake Forest values an education of the entire person, placing a special emphasis on undergraduate teaching.

 

With an undergraduate enrollment just over 5,000 and a strong sense of school pride, Wake Forest fosters a tight-knit community. The university maintains accomplished programs in the social sciences, business, and a variety of other fields. Wake Forest also holds a unique status as a prestigious liberal arts school with a robust research focus.

 

For the class of 2023, Wake Forest accepted just 29% of applicants. With median ACT scores of 29-33 and median SAT composite scores of 1210-1470, Wake Forest’s admissions process is competitive. But beyond test scores and grades, Wake Forest also emphasizes essays as a crucial component of any well rounded applicant.

 

With this comprehensive guide, we will provide you with all the tools necessary to tackle the Wake Forest application essays. Want to know your chances at Wake Forest? Calculate your chances for free right now.

 

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

Required Essay Prompts for Wake Forest

1. How did you become interested in Wake Forest University and why are you applying? (150 words)

 

2. Help us to get to know you better by responding briefly to these questions. No need for research, just be creative and enjoy the process. List five books you have read that intrigued you (title, author, required reading).

 

3. As part of my high-school English curriculum, I was required to read [insert title]. I would have replaced it with [insert title here]. The required book I was most surprised I enjoyed was [insert title here].

 

4. Tell us how a work of fiction you’ve read has helped you to understand the world’s complexity. (300 words)

 

5. What piques your intellectual curiosity, and why? (75-150 words)

 

6. As part of our “Voices of Our Time” series – which allows students, faculty, and staff to hear from some of the world’s leading thinkers – Wake Forest has hosted Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Alexander, Eboo Patel, and Thomas Friedman. If you could choose the next series speaker, who would you pick, and why? (150 words)

 

7. Give us your Top Ten list (theme and then top 10).

 

8. At Wake Forest, we gather our students in “Calls to Conversation,” congregating small groups around dinner tables in faculty’s and administrators’ homes to discuss topics organized around a theme, for example “arts for social change,” “gender in society,” and “leading a meaningful life.” If you could design a theme for a “Call to Conversation,” what would you choose, and why? (150 words)

 

9. We live in an age intensely interested in heroes. Professor Joseph Campbell defines “hero” as “someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Describe a hero in public life and how and why, in your opinion, they meet Professor Campbell’s definition. (150 words)

Prompt 1: How did you become interested in Wake Forest University and why are you applying? (150 words)

Here, we have the first required prompt, which is also one of the more traditional college supplements among Wake Forest’s selection. The question being asked here is twofold yet straightforward. The challenge here comes with execution and providing an adequate response within the word limit. Additionally, you will want to hit the right balance between telling admissions officers how you heard about Wake Forest (an easier and thus shorter task) and why you would like to attend the school. An effective response to this question will accomplish the following: 

 

  • Inform the reader as to how/when Wake Forest entered your college admissions radar
  • Explain to the reader what compels your application to Wake Forest, including some more substantive discussion of what offerings you would pursue if admitted 

 

Addressing the first task should be relatively simple, and as such it shouldn’t occupy too much of the word count. You could think of breaking this down into sections; perhaps around 30-50 words devoted to how you became interested in Wake Forest and 100-120 words devoted to why you are applying is a helpful breakdown. These are rough guidelines, and ultimately you should do whatever is needed to help your own supplement breathe and flow eloquently. 

 

When explaining your interest in Wake Forest, you should make at least some mention of how you first heard of the school, be it through an email, college fair, word of mouth, etc. This tells admissions officers not only a bit more about your own personal college journey, but also which of their outreach tactics are most effective. 

 

If you found Wake Forest during a newfound investigation into liberal arts colleges your junior year, or you’ve wanted to leave your home on the West Coast and explore new parts of the country since middle school, you can tie in your developing interests at that period in your life with your discovery of Wake Forest. This offers admissions committees insight into the process by which you decided to apply, and for how long you’ve been interested in Wake Forest’s unique offerings.

 

The bigger question, then, is why did you decide to apply, a classic college essay prompt. The first thing to do is to identify specific logistical characteristics, course offerings, or other such opportunities available at Wake Forest well suited to your ambitions and course of study. Perhaps you want to conduct research at Wake Forest’s Center for Integrative Medicine as a part of your pre-medical learning experience. Maybe you want to help organize the Wake N’ Shake Dance Marathon as you’ve always loved combining your passion in dance with community service. Whatever your passion, the key to this part of answering the prompt is thorough research. Don’t speak about academic offerings in broad terms or name drop professors for the sake of it. Rather, figure out what is unique to Wake Forest’s programming, and tie it back to your own goals and interests. For example: 

 

“I want to attend Wake Forest because they have a good anthropology department, and I’m really interested in how culture shapes our behavior.” 

 

This is not a good response because it says little to nothing about Wake Forest’s actual anthropology department. While it tells admissions readers a bit about you, it doesn’t indicate that you actually cared enough about the school to look deeply into their offerings. Instead, try something like: 

 

“I would be delighted to participate in my ANT 340 course on Anthropological Theory at Wake Forest, where I will explore how classical anthropological frameworks relate to the growing contemporary field.” 

 

This is better because it shows not only that you’ve looked into Wake Forest’s offerings, but also that you’ve thought about how that relates to your interests and drawn a clear connection between the two. Additionally, this provides more specificity and substance. You should strive to be as detailed as you can within the word count while also covering the main reasons behind your applying to Wake Forest. In a situation like this, word count is currency, and you’ll have to spend carefully. 

 

The more you’ve delved into Wake Forest’s offerings, the broader of a base you’ll be able to pull from when answering this question. Admissions officers will be able to tell that you’ve done your research, so you’d better get to work sleuthing around the website! Beyond that, as long as your response answers all the requisite components of the question, and it does so with clarity and detail, you’ll be in good shape with this prompt.

Prompt 2: Help us to get to know you better by responding briefly to these questions. No need for research, just be creative and enjoy the process. List five books you have read that intrigued you (title, author, required reading).

You have 150 characters for the book title, and separate slots to indicate the author and whether it was required reading; so, you should feel free to provide a brief explanation with the title, especially if the book is more obscure. For example, you could write: “Eat and Run – a memoir and recipe book synthesis of a vegan ultrarunner.”

 

Since the prompt tells you to list whether or not the book was required reading, try to provide three or more books which weren’t required reading for your classes. The books that you read that weren’t required for class showcase a desire to learn and give a better representation of your interests.

 

Don’t worry too much about the rigor of the books that you choose. Admissions officers aren’t looking to see whether you can read difficult books, they are really just looking to see what stimulates you intellectually. Don’t try to impress admissions officers by choosing random books that you’ve never read; the best way to go about this question is by providing books that truly intrigued you.

 

Overall, don’t sweat this one too much. Be genuine with the books that you’ve read, as the admissions officers just want to see that you maintain some literary interests.

Prompt 3: As part of my high-school English curriculum, I was required to read [insert title]. I would have replaced it with [insert title here]. The required book I was most surprised I enjoyed was [insert title here].

Don’t be deceived; this prompt is a simple fill-in-the-blank exercise, nothing more, nothing less. The admissions officers at Wake Forest aren’t looking for anything in particular. There’s no special trick to this or “right answer” you must select. This is here so your admissions reader can get to know you better. 

 

Nevertheless, in telling them more about yourself, you should strive to be conscientious of how this portrays a different side of you. The first blank should most certainly be a work that didn’t resonate with you. Perhaps you select Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms because you found its scarcity of explanation perplexing. 

 

The next blank, then could be quite literally anything of intellectual merit. This is where you’ll display a more unique interest of yours. Perhaps you’d rather have read Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics because you love demystifying strange social phenomena. Maybe as an avid dystopian sci-fi geek, your preference would have been Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Whatever the case may be, don’t hesitate to be yourself and show a side of you admissions readers wouldn’t otherwise see. 

 

And for the final blank, your best bet is just to answer honestly. Again, there aren’t really any tricks to this one! Maybe you found yourself captivated by the plot of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening although it isn’t your prefered genre. Perhaps you don’t usually enjoy allegories, but William Golding’s Lord of the Flies resonated with you. Just try to think through this truthfully, and you’ll find that the answers flow freely. 

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Prompt 4: Tell us how a work of fiction you’ve read has helped you to understand the world’s complexity. (300 words)

If you love reading fiction on your own, this question will likely be a breeze as you can think of endless books that have helped you to understand the complexities of the world. However, if you don’t spend as much time reading on your own, this question could be a bit more difficult.

 

If possible, try to avoid choosing a book that was required reading for class. Many other students are likely going to choose literary classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird or The Scarlet Letter. But, if nothing else comes to mind, don’t be discouraged if you have to pick a book that was required reading for class.

 

Consider that one thing admissions officers look for in this essay is your ability to synthesize abstract information and bring this conceptual understanding to real-world issues. With this in mind, let’s consider the main steps to rocking this essay:

 

  1. Consider books that you have read recently. Feel free to make a list of all of them. Which of these books taught you lessons that still stick with you today?
  2. Choose one that you feel changed your perspective in some way or introduced you to something new and unexpected.
  3. Discuss the impact that the book has had on how you view the “complexities” of the world.

 

An example of the above would be writing about Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. You could describe how the main character’s struggle to find an identity forced you to consider your own role within your culture and the world at large. That is, this work of fiction prompted you to strive to connect with your family in a new way. Another example would be discussing how, through reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, you came to a deeper understanding of the incredible nuances of racial identity.

 

The key here is not to simply discuss the book in depth, but rather to delve into how the book has influenced your world perception. If you are struggling to find an appropriate book, keep in mind that the prompt only asks for a work of fiction, meaning that less conventional options such as a manga or comic could also make for a strong essay.

Prompt 5: What piques your intellectual curiosity, and why? (75-150 words)

Like many supplemental questions, this prompt is designed to help give the admissions officers a more holistic view of you, and how you think. Because this is probing into your “intellectual curiosity,” your answer should be more cerebral and analytical in nature. Nonetheless, your response to this question can truly be anything that fascinates you, so long as you’re able to explain how it jogs your cognitive abilities.  Consider writing about an interest, activity, hobby, idea, philosophical concept, piece of art, or something entirely different. Admissions officers aren’t looking for a specific answer but rather that you can thoughtfully and excitedly discuss a topic of your choice.

 

Below are some questions to get you started on thinking of a subject to write about:

 

  • What do you absolutely love to learn about?
  • What topic can you talk about for hours?
  • What is the last thing you spent time learning how to do outside of school?
  • How has this interest influenced you?

 

Ensure that you don’t spend the entire time explaining simply what piques your intellectual curiosity.  Rather, consider why it piques your interest and how this has impacted you or contributed to your understanding of the world.  So, instead of simply describing your interest in vinyl records, dive into how you love poring through stores to find exciting new pieces of music. You can discuss how this interest has not only brought you new friends and helped you to expand your musical horizons, but also has helped you understand the rhythmic nature of human biology.

 

You can also take this essay as an opportunity to discuss something that is truly meaningful to you.  For instance, a student who is fascinated by Latin American culture could discuss her interest in the Carnival celebrations of Brazil and how learning about these celebrations have helped her to connect with her Brazilian roots, as well as the world history surrounding those roots.

 

Alternatively, a student could use this essay as an opportunity to discuss his favorite hobby.  For example, a student who loves to collect coins could discuss how the sheer volume of coins produced fascinates him, how he’s gotten to meet people across the country because of his collection, and that coins have helped him to develop a deeper understanding of the financial underpinnings of America.

 

Whatever you choose to discuss, make sure to explain why it interests you and how it contributes to your identity, or knowledge of the nuances of the world. If you accomplish that, you’ll be in plenty good shape with this response! 

Prompt 6: As part of our “Voices of Our Time” series – which allows students, faculty, and staff to hear from some of the world’s leading thinkers – Wake Forest has hosted Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Alexander, Eboo Patel, and Thomas Friedman. If you could choose the next series speaker, who would you pick, and why? (150 words)

With this prompt, the admissions office at Wake Forest wants to see that you are cultured, pay attention to current affairs, and have a pulse on how leading voices are impacting society. The purpose of this “Voices of Our Time” series is to convene the Wake Forest community and hear from influential voices on the most pressing national and international issues of our times. With your response, you should strive not only to choose a person of significance, but also to provide a compelling argument as to why they are so influential. In turn, this will demonstrate a proficient understanding of current events and how the world operates socially and politically. 

 

One thing to avoid is choosing a figure who is too “mainstream” just for the sake of their popularity or nominal title of influence, as this will not indicate to admissions readers that you make a serious effort to stay informed. For instance, you wouldn’t want to write something like: 

 

“Michelle Obama would be a great contender for the ‘Voices of our Time’ series. She is an influential leader, talented writer, and as a former First Lady (the first African American First lady no less), she likely has some astute insights about how our society works and what we as citizens should be doing to uphold the values of our nation.” 

 

Although a response like this seems to answer the question in that it names a leader, Michelle Obama, and provides a justification as to why she would be a strong addition, it is insufficient. Michelle Obama is a high profile individual, and as such there will likely be dozens of students who write about her for this prompt. Furthermore, even if you wanted to write about Michelle Obama, you would need to dig a bit deeper about her life experiences and policy stances to adequately explain why she should be a speaker in the series. Consider this more detailed alternative: 

 

“The next speaker in the ‘Voices of our Time’ series should be presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. With a background as an author and long time spiritual adviser, Marianne has developed a fascinating political philosophy that imbues leadership with spirituality and introspection. Her policy platform is unconventional, but it sheds light on some interesting issues such as reparations and the creation of a Department of Peace, in turn bringing topics into the political canon that otherwise never would have seen the light of day.” 

 

Not only is this a stronger response because Marianne Williamson is a lesser known figure (thus indicating that you pay close attention to politics), but it also provides more depth as to why Marianne Williamson is an impactful leader. This response delves more into Marianne’s policy positions and ideology, rather than noting the influence of her title or profession. 

 

Now, you certainly don’t have to write about a political leader, diplomat, or academic for this prompt. You could choose someone a bit more unconventional so long as you provide adequate justification for why your chosen person is influential and worth hearing from. Maybe you want to write about why Lil Nas X should speak for the series, as an LGBTQ+ icon who revolutionized the music industry with his unique marketing strategies, genre blending, and social media presence. As long as you can back up your choice with intelligent reasons, and your choice is intelligent to begin with, you should have no problem writing a wonderful response to this prompt! 

Prompt &: Give us your top ten list. (theme and then top 10)

What a question!  This top ten list can be a bit intimidating at first, but it is also an awesome opportunity to showcase your personality or a unique interest.  Consider if there’s any other dimension of you that you haven’t yet had the chance to highlight. There are so many angles you can take, but I’ve provided examples below:

 

  • Top ten ways that people have misspelled your name
  • Top ten moments that you knew you were the middle child
  • Top ten phrases you say all the time
  • Top ten times you cried while watching a movie

 

Be bold and really go for something unique with this prompt.  Remember that admissions officers reward creativity and innovation. And keep in mind that you can write about anything that interests you, so don’t feel limited in any way by my examples above!

Prompt 8: At Wake Forest, we gather our students in “Calls to Conversation,” congregating small groups around dinner tables in faculty’s and administrators’ homes to discuss topics organized around a theme, for example “arts for social change,” “gender in society,” and “leading a meaningful life.” If you could design a theme for a “Call to Conversation,” what would you choose, and why? (150 words)

 

Similar to prompt 6 with the “Voices of our Time” series, this prompt serves as a great opportunity for you to demonstrate your cultural understanding and social conscience. The main difference, then, is that whereas prompt 6 is centered around an influential leader and their insights, this prompt is centered around a specific issue and why it’s worth discussing through this “Calls to Conversation” program. The key to adequately addressing this prompt is to not only choose a pressing issue, but also to show that you understand its importance when you justify it. 

 

You might be tempted to think large scale and philosophical. Perhaps you want to write about a theme like “addressing the climate crisis” or “free will in the modern world” for your conversation topic. This is certainly suitable, especially if you feel thoroughly prepared to discuss why this is a relevant topic. On the other hand, you might opt to write about something more directed like “the urban/rural divide” or “passion as means of fulfillment.” This is also fine. The key in either case is to provide sufficient explanation as to why this is an important topic, how it impacts people, and what in the real world exemplifies it. 

 

For instance, if you want to write about “the urban/rural divide,” make sure to be robust with your examples and explanations: 

 

“The next ‘Calls to Conversation’ theme should be that of ‘the urban/rural divide,’ as this is a pressing issue that serves to fracture America. Each population has its own distinct needs; often times, rural communities find themselves lacking the sufficient infrastructure to thrive as they once did, yet politicians often neglect rural communities, particularly low income rural communities of color, because they do not have as much sway in the political process. Moreover, people who have grown up in primarily urban settings aren’t aware of the difficulties of rural life, and often view their more insular culture as bigoted and fearful, when this isn’t always the case. There is an inherent disconnect, and our political system grows ever more polarized because of it. In order to restore unity to our population, we need to start brainstorming ways to bridge the gap between urban and rural America.” 

 

This is a strong response because it not only identifies an important issue, but it also explains why this issue is important and how it influences peoples’ lives. The issue you choose can be just about anything, provided it would make for compelling conversation and you’re able to identify why it would do so. 

Prompt 9: We live in an age intensely interested in heroes. Professor Joseph Campbell defines “hero” as “someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Describe a hero in public life and how and why, in your opinion, they meet Professor Campbell’s definition. (150 words)

The task here seems relatively simple: to identify a “hero” and then provide examples/evidence as to why that person has “given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” You might interpret “public life” as having to mean a governmental/political hero, or at least someone high profile. It’s certainly true that your hero should be someone who exists in the “public” world, but they don’t have to be a mainstream celebrity or peacemaker. 

 

In fact, similar to prompt 6, I’d advise against writing about someone too high profile unless you have some darn good reasons for doing so. There will be lots of applicants writing about Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela. You should strive for originality and try to understand how someone’s contributions, though they might be more subtle, made enormous progress towards a broader goal. 

 

For instance, maybe you are passionate about humane working conditions and labor unions. A good choice for you, then, might be to write about Jacob Riis, a late 1800s photojournalist who depicted the squalid living conditions of New York City tenements and slums in his How the Other Half Lives

 

Maybe you’re a prospective math major who likes to think more abstractly. You might write about Karen Uhlenbeck, a former math professor at the University of Texas Austin, who won the Abel Prize for her work in partial geometric differential equations, gauge theory, and integrable systems. With a response like this, you would then discuss how mathematics is a broader idea that provides logical frameworks for scientists to contextualize their discoveries within. 

 

Whatever your choice of hero, the main task here is to substantiate their heroism with examples of legitimate devotion toward a greater cause. As long as you do this, you’re on your way to a strong essay!

 

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