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Purdue Essay Examples: Breakdown + Analysis

What’s Covered:


Home of the Boilermakers, Purdue University was established in 1869 and is steeped in history and tradition. From the first 39 students to attend in 1874, to the 33,000 in attendance today, Purdue is matched in tradition only by innovation. As of 2020, the U.S. News and World Report ranked the university #5 in the United States in innovation improvements in curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology, and facilities. 


Purdue has a 58% acceptance rate, making it pretty selective. The university accepts the Common Application (yay!) and you will choose one essay from several prompts. Your essay is expected to be between 250-650 words, and Purdue offers their own Online Writing Lab to help. 


In this post, we’ll go over two of Purdue’s former essay prompts and what admissions officers are looking for. Then, we’ll share three essays from real applicants, analyzing what they did well, and what they could’ve improved. 


Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 


Purdue Supplemental Essay Prompt #1

Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the major you have selected (100 words)

This prompt is a classic “why this major” question. Most colleges are going to ask you this, so you should be prepared to answer. They’re looking for your academic background, your passions, and your plans for the future. 


To begin, give a brief summary of how your interest in the subject developed. It doesn’t have to be a specific aha! moment, but you should be able to articulate what you like about the major and why.


The more personal, emotional connection you can make with the subject, the better. However, you are limited by this super short word count, so while you should try to include personal elements, you should expect your response to be fairly straightforward given the restraints.


After discussing your interest, you should go into how that major will assist you in your career goals. What do you want to do? How will this major get you to where you want to go? 


Purdue Essay Examples for Prompt #1


Essay Example 1

To most Gen Z, life without computers and smartphones is like life without food: it’s impossible. However, I only started to appreciate the work behind the scenes (and screens) in the summer of 9th grade, when I created a small chatting program to exchange jokes with my sister in the next room. Through programming, I have found a clear and compelling way to reach the world beyond my fingertips. By majoring in computer science, I hope to build a solid foundation in AI, algorithms, UX design and more, with which I’ll help bring society a new generation of digital food.

What Essay 1 Did Well


This student gives a clear moment when they knew what their major would eventually be. Including the creation of the chatting platform makes this student memorable, and gets the reader interested in learning more. It clearly shows why the student loves programming, and why they chose to major in that field. It shows that they are assured, capable, and innovative. 


What Essay 1 Could Improve


While this response is good, the student could have used their word count to focus more on the major, rather than stating a general fact about Gen Z. This student could also be a little more specific on what they want to do beyond university, and how this major will assist them in their goals in the wider world.


The essay is able to come full circle because of the mention of food at the beginning and end, and “digital food” is a clever metaphor, but for a short prompt like this, substance is more important than creative language. 


Essay Example 2 (Prompt 1): 

How much duct tape would my boat need to stay afloat?


I will never forget my first Do-It-Yourself Project of building a boat with cardboard. While the outcome of the project was bitter-sweet as my boat sank, my passion for engineering surfaced. Subsequently, I voyaged across countless pursuits until I reached an epiphany while developing a customized voice assistant for an enterprise; I was fascinated by the multifaceted applicability of technology. Hence, I intend to pursue Computer Engineering because the skills from this major will enable me to pursue my widespread goals of lobbying for technological advancements in under-developed societies.

What Essay 2 Did Well


The student opens with an engaging anecdote, and cleverly uses language associated with boats, such as “my passion for engineering surfaced” and “I voyaged across countless pursuits.” They also give a clear goal that they hope to achieve as a result of this major. 


What Essay 2 Could Improve


The student’s realizations are a bit underdeveloped. They don’t explain how they realized the “multifaceted applicability of technology” or why exactly they want to lobby “for technological advancements in under-developed countries.” They could’ve perhaps been better-served by eliminating the boat anecdote and beginning with the voice assistant story, which would allow them to explain their realization and goals. 


A common mistake students make with this prompt is that they think they have to include the very moment they got interested in the major. You certainly can use this technique, but it may not always be the best way to approach this essay, especially when there is such limited space. Instead of starting with the introduction, students should first focus on writing the reasons they like the major and what they hope to accomplish with it, and find a story or moment that flows with these points.


Purdue Supplemental Essay Prompt #2

How will opportunities at Purdue support your interests, both in and out of the classroom? (100 words)

The second prompt is also a classic that we like to call the “why this college” prompt. Again, this isn’t the school asking for flattery. They know what they’re providing. They have teams of marketing employees dedicated to telling you what they can give, they don’t need you to tell them. What they’re looking for here is: how can you take advantage of the opportunities provided by the school? How can you add to the student body? What can you offer them? 


That’s a hard question, I know. Especially when most people tend to be humble in essays and interviews, it can be hard to just go on and on about how great you are and how much you have to offer. The key here is to be succinct and specific. Don’t use a lot of fluff. You only have a small number of words, so get to the point. You should know about specific clubs, courses, even professors that you are eager to experience at the school. Let them know that you are excited to take the “Spies in the Cold War” history course, or be taught by the Nobel prize-winning professor that you can shout out by name. Then tell them why you’re excited about these things. What will you get out of that course? Why do you admire that professor? These things stand out and keep you memorable. 


What NOT to do here is write about things that could be said about any university. “I like the science department.” “I like the small student-to-professor ratio.” “[Insert school here] felt like home.” C’mon. These could apply to any school! Make it specific. Make it memorable.


Purdue Essay Example for Prompt #2

The Computer Engineering course at Purdue has a dynamic combination of fundamental courses and enthralling electives such as ‘Engineering Environmental Sustainability’, allowing me to apply my engineering proficiency to resolve complex global issues such as technological disparity. Furthermore, by joining the Engineers Without Borders – Purdue organization, I will gain first-hand experience in tackling real-world humanitarian problems and push my intellectual ability to higher stakes. Having followed EWB- Purdue’s pioneering Bolivia project, I aspire to contribute in both the Technical and the Leadership team. Hence, Purdue is the best institution for me to grow as an enthusiastic humanitarian engineer. 

What Essay 3 Did Well


Right off the bat, the student is specifically noting courses the school offers that they are eager to take. This is great! They show that they’ve been following a specific organization within the school, and already have ideas as to how they could contribute. They really specified why they wanted to attend the school, and personalized the essay accordingly. They mentioned what they’d like to do beyond post-secondary school, and how the school will assist them. 


What Essay 3 Could Improve


The main issues in this essay come from minor grammatical mistakes that could confuse the reader. For example, the first sentence covers too much ground: The Computer Engineering course at Purdue has a dynamic combination of fundamental courses and enthralling electives such as ‘Engineering Environmental Sustainability’, allowing me to apply my engineering proficiency to resolve complex global issues such as technological disparity. Instead, the reader should separate these ideas into two sentences. In the first sentence, the student can explain the courses they are interested in, and the second can give reasons why and explain what the student’s career goals are. Overall, it very clearly addresses the prompt, shows the student has done their research, and shows their ambitions after graduation. It is very well done. 


Where to Get Your Essay Edited for Free


It’s vital to get a second set of eyes on your Purdue essay before you submit it, and that really goes for any school! You’re paying to apply, and spending your time on these applications, so you want them to be the best they can be. We do too! That’s why we at CollegeVine have a free peer essay review tool, allowing you to submit your essay and get feedback from another student. Editing other students’ essays will also help you improve your own writing skills. You can get the help you need while helping your peers to achieve their goals. And, guess what? It’s all free when you sign up for an account with us. 


Short Bio
Hi! I’m Cheyenne. I help educational institutions inform stakeholders and the wider public about the offerings available to them.

After graduating with my BA in History, and MA in Teaching, I knew education was my passion. Maverick Educational Copywriting was born out of my desire to make all levels of education accessible to students, families, alumni, and all other potential stakeholders. I believe education is at the heart of a healthy society, and making it understandable is a huge start! When not writing, I am usually spending time with my husband and dog, most likely hiking a new trail!