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)

Tips for the “Home, School, or Community” Swarthmore Essay

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


What’s Covered:


Swarthmore College asks its applicants to reply to one of three options for its supplemental essay. The prompt for option 1 asks:


Swarthmore students’ worldviews are often forged by their prior experiences and exposure to ideas and values. Our students are often mentored, supported, and developed by their immediate context—in their neighborhoods, communities of faith, families, and classrooms. Reflect on what elements of your home, school, or community have shaped you or impacted you positively. How have you grown or changed because of the influence of your community? (250 words)


In this article, we will discuss how to approach the prompt, some tips for writing your essay and crafting a narrative, and how to ensure your essay is specific and unique.


Approaching the Prompt


The first Swarthmore essay option is about your home, school, and community. This essay is a great fit for students who have an interesting or compelling background. If you are an immigrant or a child of immigrants, this is a great way to delve into your personal history. Anything that makes your upbringing unique is a great topic to write about as the prompt explicitly notes that the worldview of Swarthmore students is often forged by their backgrounds and the mentorship and support they receive from those closest to them. 


A good exercise before you start writing is to reflect and brainstorm about the elements of your communities and how they have shaped your perspective and view of the world. Think about how you have changed and grown from these influences. This prompt is where you want to talk about different aspects of your life that you may not have included in your common app essays. 


Tips for Writing Your Essays 


You should think of your college essays as forming a portfolio. You don’t want to tell the same story in each of your essays. The admissions officers will read each essay, so repeating content wouldn’t benefit your application in any way as you would be wasting valuable space to share new information. Your application should create a story of who you are as a student and the different strengths that you will bring to an institution. 


For this essay, in particular, you want to focus on your home life and the various communities that you might have grown up in. Talk about how your identity was formed through these areas. Keeping in mind the idea of a portfolio, if you have already written about these areas in your common app essay, you do not repeat the topic or stories you used. Instead, talk about other areas of your life that had an impact, whether that was in the classroom or extracurricular activities. Regardless of the topic you choose, your goal with this essay is to tell a compelling story. When you reflect on how your communities have impacted you, focus on how you have changed over time. Think of your life as a movie, and this essay is how you are telling it. 


Creating a Narrative 


With your college essays, you want to create a sense of narrative. This is especially important with these more emotional prompts. Make sure you are describing either a process or story that has a clear structure to it. This will create a flow to your essay and make a more pleasant experience for your readers. Every essay you write doesn’t have to be driven by a narrative or anecdote, but your response should show how your life has changed over a period of time. 


It is also important to have the end of this essay relate back to the Swarthmore community. Colleges often have a tight-knit community that comes from the town and the people in it. Swarthmore is a residential college and the students have a strong sense of connection both to one another and to the campus. When you are writing this essay, look for links between your experiences and how they will translate to your future experience at Swarthmore. The best way to do this in your essay is by being descriptive. 


Why Your Writing Should Be Specific


By homing in on particular moments in your life, you can tell a unique story. One common mistake students make in this essay is by talking too generally about how their communities affected them. When you keep your story vague, you aren’t providing the admission officers insights into your life or personality. Any student can write about how they felt supported in their religion, home, or neighborhood, but only you can tell your life story. Put yourself in the shoes of the admissions officers and think about what you can put into your essay that would make you memorable. This is the best way to stand out from other applicants. 


This essay should be grounded in specific moments and images. By being specific in your essay, you can paint clear images for the reader of your experiences. Through descriptive writing, the admissions officers can immerse themselves in your story, which creates a more compelling and unique essay.