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2 Rice University Essay Examples

 

Rice University is a highly-selective college, so it’s important to write strong essays to help your application stand out. In this post, we’ll share essays real students have submitted to Rice University. (Names and identifying information have been changed, but all other details are preserved).

 

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. 

 

Read our Rice University essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.

 

Want to know your chances at Rice University? Calculate your chances for free!

 

Example 1

 

Prompt: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

 

It’s family movie night, and we’ve chosen to watch Bird Brain, a nature documentary about birds and their unique abilities. I’m starting to lose interest, but the narrator says something wild that perplexes me: “Some birds have the ability to hold their breath for over 15 minutes underwater.” Well, now I have to know more. 

 

My mom groans as I pause the movie to spend the rest of my night understanding that one statement. I rush to my room and open my laptop, while my fingers type furiously as videos, images, and articles flood the screen. I click on the first site I see: “Emperor penguins dive to catch fish in the ocean, and their bodies begin to metabolize anaerobically after a certain point of being submerged.” But that wasn’t enough. I continue to scroll as my mind hunts for answers. How big are emperor penguins? How cold is the ocean in Antarctica? And what even is anaerobic metabolization? Ahhhhh! I feel like I am going to explode! I have to know more. 

 

This example of the emperor penguin is one of the many instances where I am motivated by the need to question what I hear. I encounter a similar situation on any given day. Whether it’s a quick Google search or an all nighter, I find myself lost in time as the world around me blurs while I unearth its secrets. This love of research stems from my childhood, as I was determined to find my own answers. From conducting at-home plant dissections to confirm what was taught in class, or reading an actual newspaper for the latest reports, nothing was true unless I had found evidence. Soon, this habit became deeply ingrained in my character. 

 

I call moments like these an “internet search spiral.” Part of the reason why these spirals are so captivating is because they can never be boring; it would take me 23.8 million years to go through the 295 exabytes of information on the web. Call me crazy, but I would do it. The never-ending knowledge found within the internet never fails to hold my attention, as my inquiries are like an emperor penguin plunging into the cold Antarctic waters for a swim. Knowing that there’s something I haven’t learned, a skill I haven’t mastered, or an equation I haven’t solved creates a warp in time that transports me to a region where seconds and minutes don’t restrain my knowledge.

 

 Internet search spirals capture every part of me but often leave me seeking additional material. The search for more information not available online connects me with like-minded thinkers, and this connection is what I aim to foster as a student at Rice. This quest for knowledge is more meaningful when I encounter someone whose passion for teaching matches my appreciation of learning. I turn to those who feel compelled to share. 

 

These internet search spirals ultimately transform me into a more mindful person. Every time I understand something new, I feel like a little penguin egg that’s ready to hatch and experience the world in a new way. The feeling of analyzing fresh material is one I will never give up. I don’t feel bound by the restriction of time because somehow my eyes never get tired of scanning endless papers and textbooks. After all, the knowledge I gain is worth it, because every bit of information gives me the chance to be a better individual. The purpose of knowledge is action, and knowledge that is acted on becomes greatness. I aspire to embody that greatness. Whether it’s from a website, a medical textbook, a documentary, or a good-old-fashioned human being, learning frees me from the constraints of time. 

 

So, thank you, emperor penguins, for sparking internet search spirals that push me to be a better individual.

 

What the Essay Did Well

 

This essay does a good job of using an anecdote at the beginning to hook the reader in and then continuing to weave callbacks to the anecdote throughout the essay. Including these callbacks where the student refers to themselves as “an emperor penguin plunging into the cold Antarctic waters” and “a little penguin egg that’s ready to hatch” help make the essay feel more cohesive. The use of the anecdote also allows the student to describe the thoughts that run through their brain while researching penguins, which not only shows how the student thinks, but creates the same feeling of excitement and anticipation the student felt in the moment for the reader. 

 

Another great thing this essay does is reflect on why this activity is so important to who the student is as a person. Although the prompt doesn’t specifically ask for anything more than why the topic is captivating and what do you turn to for more information, providing a reflection on how researching has positively impacted the student to become a better person proves to the admissions committee that this student knows who they are. The student took a passion they have and used it to show their growth as a person through engaging in this activity and how this activity will allow them to achieve their future goals. The last paragraph ties together the essay and takes it a step beyond what was required to elevate the essay.

 

What Could Be Improved

 

One thing this essay could work would be to tell less and show more. It’s cliche essay advice, but for a good reason. A lot of this essay tells the reader about the student’s researching habits without putting the reader in the chair next to the student while they sift through Internet tabs or flip through textbook pages. The anecdote at the beginning shows the excitement and thought process of the student when they are researching penguins which draws the reader in.

 

After the first paragraph the essay relies mostly on telling the reader what the student does and why they enjoy it, rather than using specific experiences and details to describe what was happening and how they felt. An easy way the student could improve their writing to show more would be to include more of their internal monologue while researching. 

 

It should also be noted that this was a Common App essay submitted to Rice that specifically mentioned Rice: “This connection is what I am to foster as a student at Rice.” Common App essays don’t need to be school specific, so including school names can actually be highly risky and costly if you make a mistake. This student could have easily submitted their Common App essay to Rice with another school’s name or with a blank they meant to fill in. The best way to avoid this mistake is simply to not included schools in your Common App, or if you really want to, make sure someone else proofreads your essay before you submit! 

 

Example 2

 

Prompt: Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life for all members of our campus community. The Residential College System and undergraduate life are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What life perspectives would you contribute to the Rice community?

 

One of the many Boarding School rules that I despised at the time but now look back at nostalgically was a 45-minute phone time. So with nothing else to do, our suitemates would gather together after “lights-out” and just talk. Sometimes it would be consoling a friend coming out of a bad break-up, and other times it’d be a serious debate on the merits of Latin honors. Whatever the topic, these conversations were always compassionate, spirited, and a source of familial support. 

 

This camaraderie also made studying with friends profoundly different. My Indian family was always relentless in reminding me to “Forget joy for four years” because delaying gratification was the only way to find “permanent security.” Apparently, in our divine meritocracy, College is just one step on the continual stairway of advancement. I couldn’t disagree more with this notion that an education is simply a means to an end.

 

But, as I studied with my best friends in our hostel, learning and fun were never antithetical ideas. Nights reserved for calculus were always accompanied by ping-pong sessions, but we never intended to sabotage each other in a futile race to the top. Ours was a collaborative family, where instead of selfish opportunity costs, we were driven by brotherly love. No accolade could beat this feeling of security and finding a home — away from home.

At Rice, to build that sense of family, I want to create a discussion group—Night Owls—to gather at night and ponder both the grandiose and whimsical philosophical questions over hot chocolate. Think of these events as a modern version of the infamous Greek Symposia, just without the booze. This combination of conversation, whimsy, and intellectual inquiry is what I want from college. It doesn’t sound very prudential, but it’s surely poetic.

 

What the Essay Did Well

 

The student who wrote this essay did a good job of tying their previous experience to an experience they want to bring to the Rice community. This student pinpointed exactly what they loved so much about living in a community with their peers and how they planned to recreate that experience in college. The descriptions about the types of debates or ping-pong tournaments the student engaged in create an image of an intellectual and supportive environment admissions officers want to see at their college.

 

Additionally, by coming up with a name and a plan for the discussion group, the student’s interest is evident and it shows that they took time to consider genuinely starting this group at college. In general, the student’s writing created a warm sense of family and bonding that displayed some of the student’s key values. This leaves the reader with a positive impression of the type of person this student is outside of the classroom, which was exactly what the prompt was looking to achieve.

 

What Could Be Improved

 

This essay could benefit from a more focused and cohesive story. The way the essay begins describing late night discussions at boarding school, then transitions to a discussion on the student’s family, and then returns back to his school study group is a bit disjointed. The second paragraph adds very little to the essay as a whole and distracts from the sense of community the student was trying to establish in his study group. This student probably felt the need to discuss his family and his Indian heritage to address the “cultural traditions” the prompt mentions, however the experiences studying with his friend are unique and special enough to satisfy the prompt so this was an unnecessary addition. The essay could just describe the late night conversations he had at boarding school and how they created a sense of camaraderie and family among strangers that he wants to bring to college, without needing to bring up his family.

 

The words this student saves by removing the paragraph on their family could be used to create more concrete examples of the types of discussions the student had at boarding school or what they want to have at Rice. Although the essay mentions discussing bad break-ups or Latin honors, adding more detail like a quote said by one of the student’s friends or an introduced idea that made them reflect on the world would help put the reader in the room with the student or gain a better appreciation for the impact of the discussions. 

 

More Free Essay Resources

 

How to Write Rice University Essays: See our in-depth guide of each supplemental essay prompt for Rice University. 

 

All of Our Essay Guides: Don’t miss our essay guides for all of the top schools.

 

How to Write the Common App Essays: Learn how to write a strong Common App essay for each of the prompts, with examples.

 

Free CollegeVine Peer Essay Review: Submit your essay and get feedback from another student. Editing other students’ essays will also help you improve your own writing skills!

 

 


Short Bio
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.