How to Write Stanford’s “Something Meaningful” Essay
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Jonathan Patin Sauls in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
Stanford’s third supplemental essay asks the applicant to write about something that is meaningful to them and why. When attacking this prompt, student responses can vary widely in terms of the topics that they choose to discuss. Before you dive into your essay, it’s important to really understand the prompt and ensure that you can answer it in its entirety.
Understanding the Prompt
You can approach this prompt in a number of ways, but regardless of what you choose to write about, it’s important to remember that the prompt has three parts. First, you need to identify the thing. Next, you needt to demonstrate the fact that it’s meaningful to you. And finally, you have to express the why.
While it is important to address each of the three components of the prompt, the why should make up the bulk of your response. This should be the most personal part of the essay and tell Stanford more about who you are and how you align with their culture.
Crafting Your Approach
Deviate from the Traditional Approach
Many students tend to answer this prompt with a traditional argumentative essay. But rather than trying to make someone agree with your point-of-view, consider approaching this a little bit differently. Ultimately, your essay should persuade your reader but not about why your important “thing” should matter to them. Instead the essay should demonstrate the topic’s personal meaning to you using the experiences you describe and your personal reflections as proof. So don’t be afraid to get a bit personal!
One great thing about this prompt is Stanford doesn’t add qualifiers to the question as some other prompts do. This means that you have full ownership over what you’d like to write about, whether it’s a place, an object, really anything you want it to be. So make sure that what you choose to write about does truly have meaning to you and again that you’re really showing your reader why it matters.
Highlight You Personal Values
As you begin to write your initial draft, be prepared to interpret the prompt in a really personal way. Again, this is only the first draft. Give yourself enough time to really explore that topic in a draft and then set it aside. As you revise, begin paring down and polishing those initial ideas you wrote. You’ve only got 250 words so reflect and revise until your response answers the essay comprehensively.
During this phase, you’ll also want to consider what your response is telling your reader about you, both on the surface and at a deeper level. On the surface, your essay may be telling your reader about one thing that has meaning for you, but it’s also telling them about your values and how you think about and relate to the world around you. Did you demonstrate courage or perseverance? Maybe it shows you’re not afraid to try new things. Really reflect on the underlying message you’d like to share with your reader and how (and if) your writing gives them insight about you as a potential member of the campus community.
Looking for more insight as you apply to Stanford? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Applying to Stanford for more stats and admission tips as you begin your application.