How to Write the Wake Forest University Application Essays 2018-2019

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Situated 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.


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.


Maintaining an acceptance rate of only 29% and median ACT scores of 28-32, Wake Forest’s admissions process is competitive. But beyond test scores and grades, Wake Forest also emphasizes essays.


With this comprehensive guide, we will provide you with all the tools necessary to tackle the Wake Forest application essays.


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. What piques your curiosity? (75-150 words)


2. Discuss the work of fiction which has helped you most to understand the complexities of the world. (100-300 words)


3. Identify a cultural norm or current political reality with which you disagree. How have you sought or might you seek to change it? (75-100 words)


4. Describe an instance in which you observed or exhibited “character.” (75-150 words)


5. Pro Humanitate, which means “for humanity,” is Wake Forest’s motto. If you had a personal motto, what would it be? (100 characters)


6. Kendrick Lamar won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music, becoming the first non-classical or jazz musician to win the award. Whom do you believe will be the next person to break boundaries in artistic, scientific or literary accomplishment? (150 words)


7. List five books that you have read that intrigued you.


8. Give us your top ten list.

Optional Scholarship Essays


Farr Scholarship:


Include a brief letter asking to be considered for the Farr Scholarship, describing how you became interested in entrepreneurship and how you plan to continue these interests at Wake Forest.


Presidential Scholarship:


  1. Please describe the special talent or ability which qualifies you for participation in the Presidential Scholarship program. Discuss a significant experience you have had or something you have read that has influenced the development of your talent. (Response required in 1 page)
  2. Why do you wish to attend a liberal arts university? What do you expect to gain from four years at Wake Forest, and what could you contribute to the University in regards to your area of talent? (Response required in 1 page)

“Curiosity” Essay

What piques your curiosity?  (75-150 words)

Like many supplemental questions, this prompt is designed to help give the admissions officers a more holistic view of you.  Your response to this question can truly be anything that fascinates you!  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 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 and how this interest has brought you new friends and helped you to expand your musical horizons.


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.


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 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.

“Work of Fiction” Essay

Discuss the work of fiction which has helped you most to understand the complexities of the world. (100-300 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 (SparkNotes exists if an admissions officer wanted a summary), 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 other possibilities such as TV shows or movies could make for strong essays.

“Cultural Norm/Political Reality” Essay

Identify a cultural norm or current political reality with which you disagree. How have you sought or might you seek to change it? (75-100 words)

Don’t be afraid of this prompt if you aren’t an avid social activist. Keep in mind when choosing a subject that cultural norms are any form of attitude or behavior that are deemed normal by society. Although this question lends itself well to someone who is passionate about political issues, a great response is still possible if you aren’t fascinated by politics. With this essay, Wake Forest is trying to assess whether you can think critically about social and political issues. No matter what you choose to write about, the best essay will come from you truly being animated about your subject.


A powerful essay could stem from a student’s frustration with the current political gridlock resulting from a lack of honest communication between the two parties. In response, the student could describe how she started hosting an open space weekly where individuals of all political backgrounds could come to discuss important local issues in a supportive environment.


Alternatively, you could discuss how you disagreed with the cliquish nature of your high school and fought against it by promoting school-wide events that everyone would enjoy. The space here is rather short so try to spend more time discussing why you disagree with something and what you’ve done to change this rather than describing the problem.


Admissions officers want to hear about you, so do your best to provide a personal story. For instance, a student could discuss his personal experience of deleting social media in response to an internal dislike of how social media has begun to trump actual social interaction.


One last word of caution: keep in mind that you may want to avoid extremely controversial topics that people have a very visceral reaction to, such as abortion. If you do choose to approach such a subject, take care to approach it tactfully.

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“Character” Essay

Describe an instance in which you observed or exhibited “character.” (75-150 words)

With this prompt, there are two main pathways through which you can formulate your answer. You can either describe an example of how you personally have exhibited character or depict an event where you observed character from someone else. I will describe how to approach the two possibilities independently of each other.


Since the prompt ambiguously uses the term “character,” feel free to define “character” in whatever manner you like within reason. Great responses to these questions are often centered around a story and use that story to define the elusive term of “character.”


Exhibiting Character


This essay provides a perfect opportunity to highlight a time where you showed integrity. Your response truly gains meaning when discussing how you overcame a strong temptation to showcase character. To illustrate, a cross country runner could describe her experience watching the runner ahead of her cutting a corner to extend a lead and feeling intense pressure to do the same in order to catch her opponent. But, due to a sense of righteousness, the runner decides not to cut the same corner and ends up losing the race by half a step. This essay would excel because it delves into the nuances of exhibiting character and tells us a great deal about the runner’s values.


Just as important as describing the event is discussing what you learned from the experience. For instance, the runner from above could describe how losing that race showed her that maintaining character in a difficult situation like that can be the toughest, but most rewarding, decision that you can make. Striking a balance between what happened and what it taught you is vitally important as is tying your experience back to the idea of character.


Observing Character


Keep in mind that you don’t have to personally know the person that you observed exhibiting character. As long as you know the story and can relate how it impacted you, the event can make for an effective essay. Even though the subject of the essay may be someone else, admissions officers still want to hear about you.


For example, a great essay could stem from a student observing a local community leader start a project to provide additional housing to help shelter the homeless population. This student could describe how the community leader’s character inspired him to give back to his community by volunteering at this new homeless shelter every week.


Observing character can also come from a more personal level.  For instance, if your mom embodies the ideal of living with character, feel free to discuss this. A powerful essay could describe how your mom’s relentless self-sacrifice of working full-time while heading back to school all in order to provide for your future has inspired you to seek a career in education where you can similarly inspire and empower youth.

Personal Motto

Pro Humanitate, which means “for humanity,” is Wake Forest’s motto. If you had a personal motto, what would it be? (100 characters)

What even is a motto?


The most simplistic definition is that a motto is a short phrase by which you live your life. The most important thing here is that the motto that you choose is true to who you are. I can’t say this enough: Avoid anything cliche! Things like “be the change that you want to see in the world” or “work hard” are great ways to live your life but not so good for this prompt. Admissions readers will have read those same lines hundreds of times and are itching to read a motto with some personal flair. When choosing a motto, consider what you care about most. Wake Forest rewards students who are reflective in their responses, so take some time to think this one through.


Some questions to ask yourself when trying to think of a motto:


  • What is the one phrase that I constantly say?
  • What do I truly care about?
  • Do I have any pithy sayings that I enjoy?


Students always find this one a little tough so I’ve put some examples below. This is also a chance to take a risk, show your quirky side, or make a clever pun.  Creativity here is greatly appreciated by admissions officers.  Keep in mind that this is an open-ended question, so don’t feel limited in any way by the options below:


  • Always know where the nearest Starbucks is
  • Just be a good dude, honestly
  • Life can be pretty crazy so eat your dessert first
  • Eat, school, sports, sleep, repeat


If there is a certain famous quote or motto that you believe truly does represent you better than anything else, then feel free to use it. Extra tip: You are likely going to have an epiphany and figure out an awesome answer to this one when you least expect it, so give yourself some time!

“Boundary Breaker” Essay

Kendrick Lamar won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music, becoming the first non-classical or jazz musician to win the award. Whom do you believe will be the next person to break boundaries in artistic, scientific or literary accomplishment? (150 words)

With this essay, Wake Forest really wants to learn more about what truly interests you. The following advice might seem strange, but it’s not as important who you choose. Rather, it’s more important why you chose him or her and how that choice reflects upon you and your interests.


Let’s take a quick second to piece together some things you should think about when choosing who to write about:


  1. Are they someone who is challenging the conventional in their field? It needs to be more than just your favorite artist. They should be doing something to break boundaries.
  2. What about their work resonates with you? Has it inspired you in any way?


Although the person can certainly be someone that you know, take care to showcase that this person truly has a chance to break boundaries in their respective field. A great example of someone breaking the boundaries of scientific accomplishment is Andrew Ng. A student could discuss how Ng’s work at Stanford to revolutionize healthcare through the application of artificial intelligence to medicine fascinates him as this provides for vast potential for increases in efficiency. The student could then proceed to describe how Ng’s work has inspired him to explore this relatively uncharted field of computer science and healthcare.


Once you have someone to write about, ensure that you also leave space for discussion about the impact that this individual has had on you. At the end of the day, the admissions officers care a lot less about this individual and a lot more about that individual’s impact on you. This essay provides the perfect opportunity for you to really discuss your interest in a specific field and show how it has influenced you.  

“Five Books List”

List five books that you have read that intrigued you.

Since the prompt also provides you with the option to list whether or not the book was required reading, try if at all possible 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.

“Top Ten List”

Give us your top ten list.

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 possibilities that it is impossible to really describe everything you could talk about, but I’ve provided some possible examples below:

  • Top ten ways that people have misspelled your name
  • Top ten moments that you knew you were the middle child
  • Top ten songs you listen to while singing in the shower
  • 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!

Farr Scholarship

Include a brief letter asking to be considered for the Farr Scholarship, describing how you became interested in entrepreneurship and how you plan to continue these interests at Wake Forest.

The Farr Scholarship is designed for students who have shown great potential and interest in the field of entrepreneurship.  As a university dedicated to providing its students with a variety of opportunities to innovate freely, Wake Forest actively seeks students who can take advantage of its entrepreneurial offerings.  This essay consists of two main components: describing your interest and showcasing how Wake Forest can help you in these pursuits.



Your interest:


Ideally, a student applying for this scholarship has made some significant entrepreneurial pursuit.  But, don’t be afraid to answer this prompt if you haven’t had any direct business experience.  An entrepreneurial approach to an existing problem comes in many different forms. For instance, you could explain how your experiences in Virtual Enterprise, FFA, or software development have led to a desire to launch new programs in these areas.  You should also take the time to describe where you see these entrepreneurial pursuits taking you in the future.  Ensure that you truly demonstrate your passion for entrepreneurship.  This is typically best expressed by discussing through a story your own personal experience doing something, such as starting a local tutoring organization to aid underserved 7th-grade students that you’ve helped slowly expand into five different cities.


How Wake Forest can help:


No matter your experience, ensure that you also emphasize how Wake Forest will help you to bring your ideas into the real world. One of the many ways Wake Forest fosters innovation is through its Center for Entrepreneurship.  Take time to look through and discover how Wake Forest can help you accomplish your entrepreneurial goals.  For example, a student interested in founding a socially aware company that sells reusable straws and donates part of their proceedings to clean up environmental damage caused by plastic could work to refine their idea by working with Deacon Springboard and even pursuing an entrepreneurship minor. The key is to be specific! Wake Forest really wants to see how you plan to take advantage of its entrepreneurial offerings.


By effectively linking your entrepreneurial interests with the diverse opportunities at Wake Forest, you will piece together a powerful essay for this scholarship.

Presidential Scholarship: “Special Talent” Essay

Please describe the special talent or ability which qualifies you for participation in the Presidential Scholarship program. Discuss a significant experience you have had or something you have read that has influenced the development of your talent. (Response required in 1 page)

The Presidential Scholarship is designed only for students who have shown great talent in art, dance, debate, music, or theatre.  So, choosing your topic for this essay shouldn’t be too difficult as you likely have already demonstrated immense talent in one of these fields.  You will also have to submit supplementary materials that showcase this talent to the admissions officers.  With this essay, the admissions officers want to hear about your special skill from your perspective and see how you have developed this talent over time.


This essay can be a bit tricky to write if your personal statement already described this skill in great detail. If this applies to you, take care not to repeat any information and make the content of this essay as original as possible.


The key to this essay is finding a significant experience around which to frame the essay.  Some examples include:


  • Overcoming your initial shyness by entering a speech contest that helped develop your interest in debate
  • Your ballet teacher constantly pushing you to continue with your passion when you felt that you had already given everything you had
  • Seeing Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” in person for the first time and being inspired to represent your own culture through artwork


Once you have decided upon a significant experience, the rest of the essay should flow quite smoothly.  Ensure that you use this significant experience to describe in detail your special talent or ability. Wake Forest is looking for a unique student body so strive to demonstrate what makes your mastery of this ability or talent special.  Also, keep in mind that this essay is still all about you.  Avoid discussion of Wake Forest in this portion as the next essay will provide plenty of room for you to discuss how Wake Forest will help you develop this skill.


Successful essays for this prompt showcase an arc of development.  By demonstrating how the significant experience has played a role in the growth of both your skill and of you as an individual, you demonstrate a maturity that admissions officers love to see.  For instance, a pianist could describe how his first solo performance in front of a crowd electrified him and helped him to fully express himself for the first time.  By finally being able to effectively reveal his emotions, he gained a deeper understanding of the empowering nature of music.

“Why Wake Forest” Essay

Why do you wish to attend a liberal arts university? What do you expect to gain from four years at Wake Forest, and what could you contribute to the University in regards to your area of talent? (Response required in 1 page)

With this essay, Wake Forest gauges how applicants see themselves contributing to the university and how seriously applicants have looked into how they will fit in at Wake Forest. The key here is to showcase to the admissions officers that you see yourself thriving at Wake Forest.  But remember, this question is still about you.  There are two foundational steps to taking on this essay: research and personalize.




For this step, find out as much about Wake Forest as you possibly can. The more that you know about the university, the more easily you will be able to express why you want to be a Wake Forest Demon Deacon. Wake Forest hopes with this essay to find out which students are thoughtful in how they will fit in at the university.


Helpful resources for this include:


  • Family or friends who are either alumni or current undergraduates
  • Campus tours/Information Sessions
  • Their website:


Keep in mind that you will need to address all three parts of the prompt: why you wish to attend a liberal arts university, what you expect to gain from your four years at Wake Forest, and how you can contribute to the university through your talent.  So while researching the university, you should be focusing on these three key points.  Remember, the essential aspect here is to learn how you can apply your talent to help the school while taking advantage of Wake Forest’s opportunities and unique characteristics.  




Your essay should give admissions officers a compelling idea of what you will bring to Wake Forest.  Although admissions officers don’t expect you to necessarily major in something related to your talent, they do expect you to continue to pursue it in some way.  So, one of your top priorities should be describing how you will take advantage of Wake Forest’s offerings to further develop your talent.


Be sure to also discuss your interest in pursuing a liberal arts education.  For instance, a dancer could describe how a liberal arts education would allow her to explore her various interests in biology, literature, and dance.  In order to be even more impactful, choose specific aspects of the university such as certain classes or clubs that interest you.  The student above could describe how the course “Biology and the Human Condition” would allow her to delve into her dual interests of biology and what it means to be human.   The aspects of Wake Forest you choose to hone in on do not all need to be academic. For example, Wake Forest is known for its high-quality athletics and school spirit. A powerful example could describe how an applicant who planned and promoted school events during high school strives to cultivate a school identity wherever she goes.


Wake Forest seeks students who are passionate and authentic. To demonstrate these qualities in your writing, strive to show, not tell. If writing about your interest in Wake Forest’s study abroad program, don’t tell the admissions officers that you like traveling and immersing yourself in foreign cultures. Rather, share an anecdote about how visiting Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London opened your eyes to the role that art plays within society.


Tying it All Together


Start early and give yourself sufficient time to think through these various prompts.  Wake Forest rewards students who are thoughtful in their responses and demonstrate a great interest in their topics of choice.  Wake Forest’s diverse and open-ended essay prompts give you the ability to really make your case for why you are someone they want at their university.


When putting all of these essays together, consider each of the different prompts as a way to highlight a separate aspect of who you are as a person.  Try to avoid writing about the same interest in multiple essays if possible.  In this way, the essays will all meld beautifully together to provide a unique representation of you as an individual.  Take advantage of the opportunity that Wake Forest provides to reveal who you are beyond GPA and test scores.


And above all, be genuine.  Admissions officers reward students who write passionately about what they are interested in, not what they think might interest admissions officers.  Write about what you love, and you will slowly begin to fall in love with the admissions process. Good luck tackling Wake Forest’s application questions. You got this!


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