2 Terrific Tulane Essay Examples from an Accepted Student
Tulane is an incredibly selective school, so it’s important to write strong essays that will help you stand out from other applicants with strong grades and extracurriculars. In this post, we’ll share two essays that helped a real student gain acceptance to Tulane, and outlines both their strengths and areas for improvement.
(Names and identifying information have been changed, but all other details are preserved)
Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays, but 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 plagiarize.
Read our Tulane essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.
Essay Example 1 – Why Tulane?
As I led a spoken-word workshop for my school’s newspaper club, my voice trembled. Reciting a poem about the urgency of fighting climate change, I glanced up at my friends, gaining confidence as I felt their support. My apprehension faded as we began discussing strategies to promote sustainability through writing. Realizing that my words can spark meaningful conversations about the environment, I feel driven to express myself creatively to enact social change.
I find inspiration every morning in the Norman Rockwell painting, “Golden Rule,” that hangs above my bed. It reads, “Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You.” When I explored New Orleans, everyone seemed guided by this phrase. When I was visibly overwhelmed by Bourbon Street’s colorful chaos, a musician paused his song to offer me directions. On a haunted tour, my guide rerouted our path to show my family where to find the best beignets. At Newcomb Art Museum, a Tulanian noticed my curiosity about the Transcommunality exhibit, taking the time to describe how Laura Anderson Barbata merged political activism with street theater. New Orleans is a city after my own heart, a community grounded in the “Golden Rule” that guides my daily actions. From my first steps on campus to my hours spent watching Alex Suh’s Tulane Youtube vlogs, I’ve learned that Tulane is woven from the same cloth of selfless service as NOLA. Surrounded by people who seek to better the world through small and large actions alike, I’d feel empowered to fight injustice through self-expression at Tulane.
Envisioning my college experience extending beyond the limits of campus, Tulane’s emphasis on giving back to NOLA excites me. I hope to promote sustainability locally by minoring in Environmental Studies, turning thought into action by volunteering with Trash-to-Treasure and Green Light New Orleans. I also hope to continue harnessing poetry’s power to advocate for climate justice, forming a spoken-word club at Tulane and helping my peers discover the strength of their voices.
Tulane’s commitment to inclusivity supports my work diversifying storytelling. By founding a literary magazine, I developed a platform for teens whose perspective often goes ignored. I strive to continue amplifying overlooked voices by majoring in English and Latin American Studies. Believing that writing can center marginalized stories and broaden narrow minds, I specifically aim to highlight immigration experiences like my mom’s to combat xenophobia. With Tulane’s focus on supporting diverse perspectives, I’d feel equipped to promote equity and understanding through fearless writing. I’m especially interested in researching Hispanic literature with Carolina Caballero, gaining inspiration as I work to self-publish a poetry book during college. Forging friendships within TU Gente, Queer Student Alliance, and Tulane Hillel – I know I’d build a home at Tulane.
As a university devoted to compassionate public service, Tulane reflects the future I want to help create. A “Tulanian” embodies a spirit of purposeful adventure, confronting global challenges head-on to benefit humanity. I imagine becoming one myself, joining a vibrant community grounded in humility, courage, and the Golden Rule.
What the Essay Did Well
The general point of the college essay is to advertise your most desirable qualities to admissions officers, while also showing them that you’re a real person with thoughts and feelings, not just a list of grades and awards. In this “Why This College?” essay, this student does exactly that while reflecting on the power of human connection, particularly through storytelling.
For example, lines like “When I was visibly overwhelmed by Bourbon Street’s colorful chaos, a musician paused his song to offer me directions” and “Believing that writing can center marginalized stories and broaden narrow minds, I specifically aim to highlight immigration experiences like my mom’s to combat xenophobia” show that this student has already spent time reflecting on what they value in a college community, and isn’t just paying lip service to things they think admissions officers will want to hear.
The student also connects their values to Tulane specifically, by describing their plans to form a spoken-word club at Tulane, and their desire to self-publish a poetry book with the help of a Tulane professor.
Beyond their passion for storytelling, the student lays out other goals they have for college–minoring in Environmental Studies, volunteering in New Orleans, majoring in English and Latin American Studies, and joining Latinx, queer, and Jewish clubs–which shows they already have a comprehensive vision of what they hope to achieve in college. That clarity helps admissions officers envision how this student would fit into their school, and gives them confidence that they would hit the ground running upon arriving on campus.
Lastly, they show off a thoughtful, creative voice through lines like “New Orleans is a city after my own heart,” “Tulane is woven from the same cloth of selfless service as NOLA,” and “fearless writing.” These clever turns of phrase make the essay far more vibrant than it would be if the student just said “I love New Orleans” or “Tulane and New Orleans have shared values,” and that liveliness keeps us engaged from start to finish.
What Could Be Improved
This essay is well-written, thoughtfully constructed, and incredibly enjoyable to read. But in the context of the college essay, there’s one more thing you need to worry about: the prompt. Unfortunately, this essay, for all its strengths, largely fails to answer the prompt.
Admissions officers are asking “why you are interested in attending Tulane University,” which means they want to hear about specific resources at Tulane, and how they will help the student pursue their goals. Right now, this essay is primarily about specific features of New Orleans, which doesn’t tell us why the student would prefer to attend Tulane over any other school in or around New Orleans.
To remedy this issue, we recommend a structure where each paragraph focuses on a resource at Tulane and explains how it relates to the student’s goals. This could look like:
- Paragraph 1: Community Resources. The student can keep their anecdote about the art exhibit to introduce the importance of community, but make the discussion more specific to Tulane by describing how excited they are to practice communicating their ideas in informal spaces like the Betsey Stockton Garden and the Rockefeller Dining Hall.
- Paragraph 2: Location. It’s not inherently bad to talk about a school’s location, as long as that isn’t the essay’s primary focus. In this paragraph, the student can include the reflections already included in the essay about how New Orleans influences Tulane’s culture and values.
- Paragraph 3: Diversity Resources. The student can describe their goal of using storytelling to expose people to different perspectives, focusing on the Tulane-specific resources that will help them do so. Instead of being an afterthought, Carolina Caballero and organizations like TU Gente, Queer Student Alliance, and Tulane Hillel would be the focus of this paragraph.
Additionally, this essay’s “hook” could use improvement. It is clearly intended to draw the reader in, but without an effective transition into the body of the essay, it ends up feeling contrived and isolated.
Honestly, nothing in the introduction is necessary to understand the points the student makes throughout the rest of the essay–their compassion and desire to improve their communities comes across clearly in the second paragraph, through their descriptions of interactions they had with people on the streets of New Orleans.
Moreover, the first sentence of the second paragraph, “I find inspiration every morning in the Norman Rockwell painting, “Golden Rule,” that hangs above my bed” is a compelling hook as is–we immediately want to know what about this painting the writer feels so connected to. So, we would recommend cutting the first paragraph entirely, and using the words saved to describe more Tulane-specific resources, as suggested above.
Lastly, this essay could benefit from shorter paragraphs, as large blocks of text, such as the second and fourth paragraphs, are visually daunting. Additionally, one of the strange realities of college essays is that, while you spend many hours writing and revising them, admissions officers have no choice but to read them extremely, because they have so many to get through. Using smaller paragraphs will help your reader digest your ideas quickly, as they won’t have to spend time wondering how several different threads are going to tie together.
For example, a logical place for a break in the second paragraph would be between the sentences “When I explored New Orleans, everyone seemed guided by this phrase” and “When I was visibly overwhelmed by Bourbon Street’s colorful chaos….” Here, the student is switching from an abstract idea to tangible examples of that idea manifesting in the real world, and using separate paragraphs will emphasize that shift.
Essay Example 2 – Diversity
“It’s like Mexican Halloween right?” My friend pointed at the bright marigolds and sugar skulls that turn my home into an explosion of color in early November.
“Something like that,” I hurriedly replied.
I had always misunderstood my family’s dedication to Day of the Dead. Growing up, I perceived our elaborate ofrendas, or altars, as extensions of Halloween – a morbid celebration of death and the supernatural. Gliding through the incense smoke that clouded my vision, I looked past the black and white photographs of ancestors I had never known grinning in sombreros and thick shawls. Living miles away from their home in Mexico, I felt no link between myself and the unfamiliar ghosts of a distant past. Up until my grandfather’s passing, I believed the boundary between life and death was insurmountable.
Years had passed since I last visited him in Mexico as a young child, back when my Spanish consisted mostly of stammers. When he suddenly passed away in 2019, I felt I still had more to learn from him. As November rolled around, I cherished the opportunity to connect with him once more. Sharing stories about times when he made us smile with his wisdom and jokes, my mom and I set down offerings to symbolize nature’s elements: water, wind, fire, and earth. Lighting a candle and placing warm pastries beside his photograph, hazy recollections faded into my view: us playing traditional card games tense with militant strategy, flashes of wild laughter when we played tag, bear hugs so tight I felt I would implode. Though I’ve never been superstitious, I’ve learned that on Day of the Dead, the souls of the departed do return to Earth – if only in our loving memories. My relationship with my abuelo and my Latine roots remains vibrant through remembrance.
By asking questions about my heritage, I’ve strengthened my sense of self and honored those who have worked to provide me with opportunities they didn’t have access to. I’ve discovered that my great-grandpa Enrique was a farmer, my great-great grandma Maria worked as a tailor, and my other great-grandpa Pablo organized workers’ strikes in Mexico City. With my ancestors’ sacrifices motivating me in times of stress, I’ve realized that memory is a powerful force.
Day of the Dead fuels my desire to ensure that unknown individuals throughout history have someone to tell their stories. The more internet rabbit-holes I go down, the more I learn how many meaningful experiences are buried by time. Using writing to preserve memories, I create poems about my family and articles about events that are excluded from many history books – such as the Chicano Movement and Mexican-American Repatriation during the Great Depression. At Tulane, I also hope to develop a podcast that highlights the artistic contributions of Latina women across history – adopting Day of the Dead’s beautiful celebration of life even in death. I strive to continue unearthing “Hidden History” through storytelling, fighting cultural erasure and keeping lost legacies alive.
What the Essay Did Well
In a “Diversity Essay,” you want to do two things: highlight a particular aspect of your identity, and explain how that aspect would make you a valuable addition to a college campus. By thoughtfully and humbly reflecting on her Mexican heritage, this student not only accomplishes both of those things, but also demonstrates that they are mature, honest, and open-minded, all qualities that admissions officers value highly.
For example, lines like “I had always misunderstood my family’s dedication to Day of the Dead,” “Up until my grandfather’s passing, I believed the boundary between life and death was insurmountable,” and “Though I’ve never been superstitious” show that the student is willing to admit their imperfections and work towards improving them. That humility gives admissions officers confidence that they will be able to both share their own experiences with their peers and learn from Tulane’s diverse student body.
At the end of the essay, lines like “By asking questions about my heritage, I’ve strengthened my sense of self” and “I’ve realized that memory is a powerful force” show the student’s capacity to not just reflect on the past, but take away meaningful lessons from it as well.
To shift focus slightly, one of the most common mistakes in writing a “Diversity Essay” is just talking about a diverse part of your identity, and failing to show how it shapes your actions and outlook on the world more broadly. This student masterfully avoids that error by describing tangible steps they have taken to accept their Mexican heritage, such as learning about their ancestors.
They even go a step further and tell us about things they hope to do in the future, specifically at Tulane, to continue to improve their understanding of who they are. The concrete details of both past actions and goals for the future prove to us that the student is serious about valuing diverse perspectives, and not just paying lip service to something admissions officers care about.
Finally, this student’s writing is outstanding. They form beautiful images in the mind of the reader that make us empathize with them and invest in their story. These include:
- “It’s like Mexican Halloween right?” My friend pointed at the bright marigolds and sugar skulls that turn my home into an explosion of color in early November.
- Lighting a candle and placing warm pastries beside his photograph, hazy recollections faded into my view: us playing traditional card games tense with militant strategy, flashes of wild laughter when we played tag, bear hugs so tight I felt I would implode.
- I’ve discovered that my great-grandpa Enrique was a farmer, my great-great grandma Maria worked as a tailor, and my other great-grandpa Pablo organized workers’ strikes in Mexico City.
What Could Be Improved
This essay is personal, precise, and compelling, and thus does not need much improvement. That said, there is one moment when the student’s writing becomes confusing. As they describe the effects of their grandfather’s death on their connection to Mexican culture, they write:
“Years had passed since I last visited him in Mexico as a young child, back when my Spanish consisted mostly of stammers. When he suddenly passed away in 2019, I felt I still had more to learn from him. As November rolled around, I cherished the opportunity to connect with him once more.”
The mix of ways the student lays out the timeline, from “years had passed” to “2019” to “as November rolled around,” makes it difficult for us to anchor ourselves. While the sentences are pleasing to read, sometimes clarity needs to take priority. If admissions officers feel confused about something basic like when an event happened, they won’t be able to appreciate your excellent writing. Here, the student may have been better off with something simpler, like:
“When my grandfather passed away in February of 2019, I was shocked to realize the last time I had seen him had been four years earlier. So, when November rolled around, I decided I would cherish the opportunity to connect with him once more.”
Another area for improvement for this student is sentence structure. While their sentences read very nicely, an inordinate number of them begin with dependent clauses, specifically gerunds (words that end in -ing):
- Gliding through the incense smoke…
- Living miles away from their home…
- Sharing stories about times when…
- Lighting a candle and placing warm pastries…
- Asking questions about my heritage…
- Using writing to preserve memories…
While this structure allows them to include extra details and paint a complete picture of what’s happening, it also means we frequently have to wait to figure out what their main point is, which at points makes the essay feel somewhat bloated. The essay would flow better if the student mixed in a few more sentences with simpler, more traditional structures.
Where to Get Feedback on Your Essay
Want feedback on your Tulane essays before you submit? That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!