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How to Write the MLK Scholars Program NYU Essay

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Moriah Adeghe in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info. 


What’s Covered:



The Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Scholars Program at New York University (NYU) has an extra essay with a 200-word limit. The prompt asks:


“In what ways have you enacted change in your community and what has been your motivation for doing so? This can include enacting change globally, locally, or within your family (200 words, optional).”


In this article, we go over the best ways to approach this essay and how to make yours unique. For more information on NYU’s other application essays, check out our post on how to write the NYU supplemental admissions essays.


Approaching the Prompt


The MLK Scholars Program is an NYU program dedicated to educating and empowering students to build an inclusive and civically engaged community of leaders. The prompt for the MLK Scholars’ essay is completely optional, so you only have to write this essay if you want to be a part of the program. 


This prompt is a generic, open-ended question that enables you to respond in many different ways.


As a general tip, your response to this prompt should not only express your interest in the program but also reflect the values that led you to apply. These should align with those of the MLK Scholars Program and how you’re committed to contributing to social justice both inside and outside your community. 


Why You Should Do Your Research 


Before you begin writing your response, you need to research Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his work, and his message thoroughly. This will help you understand which of your values are relevant, what you should highlight, and how you can align your essay with the values that he embodied. You want to prove to admissions officers that your values and characteristics align with the mission and spirit of the program. By doing your research, you can strategically position the experiences that you write about to show that you are the type of student the program is seeking. 


The ideal response to this prompt would include the following information: an experience that sparked your interest in social justice, an issue that you want to tackle, and how being an MLK Scholar will help you reach your future goals and how these goals align with the program’s mission. Including these three topics in your essay will demonstrate why you are a good candidate for the program.


Example Essay


A good way to brainstorm how you want your essay to sound is by reading other students’ essays for inspiration. The following essay was written by an MLK Scholars applicant who was accepted into the program.


“‘No! Por favor!’ I checked the clock. 10:30 a.m. and already the fourth time I’ve heard someone scream from Mr. Wilson’s office. When I accepted a summer internship as a law clerk, I never anticipated 90% of the cases would be deportation based. 


“Nearly every hopeful face I greeted with a smile on the way in, walked out with their head down and their cheek stained with tears. How foolish it was to think that I could make a positive impact on the world this summer when all I do is file paperwork as people’s lives are torn to pieces. While nowhere near the despair the deported clients felt, my personal frustration toward my helplessness manifested into resolve to fix this country’s immigration policies. Instead of working within the restraints of unjust laws, I plan to be leading discussions and writing the language that will help aspiring citizens, not punish them. 


“As an MLK Scholar, my ambitions will be fostered and hopefully blossomed into a reality. I’m eager to work with faculty that will aid my research on immigration policies and other nations during the first-year research seminar. Not only will I have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with immigration lawyers in the heart of New York City, but the program’s travel colloquia will perfectly allow me to get an up-close look at the immigration policies of the countries I researched. While my journey with immigration law had a disheartening beginning, the MLK Scholars Program will turn my dream of justice into a reality.”


The student established an emotional connection to the topic of social justice with their anecdote; they then explained what they hope to change about the world and what they plan to do at NYU to achieve this. This student’s drive and passion for social justice are exactly what admissions officers are looking for. They want students who will be leaders both on campus and beyond. This essay shows the student’s drive, passions, and how they believe that they will be able to make a difference and impact the problems that they are passionate about.