What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

2 Good RPI Essay Examples

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is regarded as one of the best schools for STEM in the country. As such a prestigious school, it’s no surprise that admissions are competitive at RPI. You’ll need more than just a high GPA; you need well-written and compelling essays. In this post, we’ll share real essays students have submitted to RPI, and share what they did well and how they could be made even better (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 RPI essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.


Example 1


Prompt: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.


Junior year was my favorite year since I was accepted into the NASA High School Aerospace Scholars program. From December to March, I completed a 16-week course module of assignments ranging from designing satellites to creating promotional videos. When June came around, I participated in an Engineering Design Challenge called Moonshot that mimicked an Artemis themed space mission. In my team, I took on the role of subtopic manager of Lunar Cargo and Payload, which is responsible for transportation and processes of materials and machines from the Earth to the moon. My job was critical for success; my team’s manager constantly assigned tasks for me to do. Even If I didn’t have the confidence, I turned on my camera and collaborated with my team. I helped the engineering team define the different tools and devices we needed. I talked to a professional engineer about engineering devices, such as using the RFID Enabled Autonomous Logistic Manager Scanner, to detect manifested cargo, and compressed this data into a one-minute presentation. If the simulation was real, all the cargo would’ve been transported to its designated location on the Moon. I felt confident that I could work with some of the greatest mathematicians and scientists in the future. Although the experience itself was enriching, I’ll never forget the times my teammates and I laughed over the stress of the project.


What the Essay Did Well


This student utilized this prompt well by taking the opportunity to clarify one of their extracurricular activities that is hard to sum up in 150 characters. Providing admissions officers with a better understanding of the NASA High School Aerospace Scholars, which is undoubtedly one of this student’s most important extracurriculars, allows them to get a better sense of who this student is.


By honing in on a specific challenge this student participated in, they are able to bring us into the moment and explain what they did, which creates even more appreciation for this activity. Through their description, we also see this student demonstrate multiple admirable qualities. 


For example, they tell us they were a manager and their job was critical for the entire team’s success, demonstrating leadership. They also tell us about how they turned to their team for help and support, thus showing they work well with others. Telling us about reaching out to a professional engineer to learn more about the simulation shows us this student’s academic curiosity and initiative, which are qualities that colleges are always looking for.


What Could Be Improved


The one thing this essay struggles with is telling the reader what they did, rather than showing us. We are told that this student’s job was critical for success, they lacked confidence at times, they helped out their teammates, they talked to a professional engineer, and they enjoyed laughing with their team. However, they don’t show us what any of that looks, sounds, or feels like.


This essay would be stronger if it was told in the moment rather than describing a past event. If the author placed us in the middle of the action, they could describe what they were currently working on and let us feel like we were feeling the pressure of the challenge with them. It could look something like this:


I furrowed my brow, checked my notes again, and started to develop a way to transport this cargo. ‘If we can’t get this material up there, the whole mission will fail.’ The team manager’s words echoed in my ears. I jabbed my teammate with my elbow, and joked that the real Artemis team should’ve hired us. Between fits of giggles and stifled chuckles, we made a list of the tools we needed to transport the material.”


Notice how this example is so much more captivating to read because it places us in the action and we get so see what this student did, instead of hearing about it which is far less exciting.


Example 2


Prompt: Why are you interested in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute?


What’s most exciting to me about Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the focus on undergraduate research, such as the Center for Materials, Devices, and Integrated systems. I believe research will allow me to gain the experience to become a Nanotechnologist. When I was fifteen, I lost my dad to cancer. As I watched him take his last breath, I felt hopeless. My dad was an inspiration for me to pursue engineering since he was a mechanic, but he was a reminder I needed to continue to be a part of my community. I would like to meet the experienced Professor Diana-Andra Borca-Tasciuc and take her course on Radiation Heat Transfer. This interest is important to me because I want to study engineering to research nanotechnology as a method of cancer treatment and therapy for patients. I know this is possible through writing a chemistry research paper that detailed the properties of gold nanoparticles, in which I heavily discussed topics like heat transfer used in nano tools for cancer cell treatment. I would like to work with Dr. Borca-Tasciuc in the research area of materials, materials processing, and controls, and focus on topics such as energy transport at micro and nanoscale. Dr. Borca-Tasciuc is also appealing as a mentor for her thesis supervision of 7 master students, as well as being a woman in STEM, which is encouraging for a Latina like me. I believe teachers like Dr. Borca-Tasciuc will provide an education that is both engaging and practical at RPI.


What the Essay Did Well


This essay has great content that is perfect for a “Why School?” response. This student takes us through the three important stages that are crucial for this type of essay. They tell us the context for why they want to pursue their intended major/career, what they hope to one day achieve in the future, and how attending RPI will allow them to reach their goals.


Right off the bat, this student is open with the reader and let’s us know the reason they want to study engineering is because of their father. Not only do they want to specialize in cancer treatments because they were personally affected by losing a loved one to cancer, but we also learn that their father introduced them to engineering. Having this strong emotional context at the beginning of the essay helps us understand what motivates this student.


Then, they explain how they want to become a Nanotechnologist and use nanotechnology to treat cancer. This future goal directly aligns with the background they provided, so that connection makes for a smooth train of consciousness.


Finally, and most importantly, this student specifically outlines the professors they want to work with at RPI. They picked two professors and discussed their research and how it relates back to this student’s interests and goals. This method of focusing on two specific and unique opportunities at RPI is much more effective at communicating a genuine interest in the school than if the student name-dropped five or six different classes and programs. Being able to hone in on the professors and connect their work to this student makes for a great response.


What Could Be Improved


The biggest improvement this essay would benefit from is more sophisticated grammar and style. The content is great, but the way it’s presented takes away from what the student is saying. A few stylistic changes would allow the content to flow more smoothly and make the whole essay appear more sophisticated.


Firstly, regurgitating the prompt by telling the reader exactly what excites this student about RPI up front is a basic, and frankly boring, introduction. It would make for a stronger hook if the student got rid of the first two sentences and opened up with “When I was fifteen, I lost my dad to cancer.” A first sentence like this immediately catches the reader’s attention — making us want to keep reading to find out how this affected the student — and creates empathy.


Another thing to work on is the repeated use of “I” followed by a verb. Throughout the entire essay, the student just tells us about themselves, whether it’s something they did or felt. Phrases like “I believe”, “I felt”, “I needed”, “I would like”, and “I know” create a very repetitive sentence structure that doesn’t read as very professional. Instead of consistently using this style, the student could switch it up by using participles and saying “Believing,” or “Knowing,”.


Finally, the entire essay is one large block of text, but it could be improved by splitting it up into two or three smaller paragraphs. Although this is a small change, it makes the essay easier to digest.


Where to Get Feedback on Your Essay 


Want feedback like this on your RPI essay before you submit? We offer expert essay review by advisors who have helped students get into their dream schools. You can book a review with an expert to receive notes on your topic, grammar, and essay structure to make your essay stand out to admissions officers.


Haven’t started writing your essay yet? Advisors on CollegeVine also offer expert college counseling packages. You can purchase a package to get one-on-one guidance on any aspect of the college application process, including brainstorming and writing essays.

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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.