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A 200+ Word “Why Major” Essay Example and Analysis

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

 

What’s Covered:

 

 

In this article, we will focus on a prompt from Duke University that is specific to the Pratt School of Engineering.

 

If you are applying to the Pratt School of Engineering as a first year applicant, please discuss why you want to study engineering and why you would like to study at Duke. (250 words). 

 

As opposed to a 100 word essay, 250 words gives you a little more space to write about your interests. Another thing to note about this prompt is that it is asking two questions: “why do you want to study at this school in particular?” and “why do you want to study engineering?” 

 

The extra words give you enough room to talk about the type of engineering you’re interested in, Duke specific resources, and how you grew your interest in engineering over time.  Here we will go through an example of a response to this prompt. Then for each paragraph, we’ll analyze what the essay does well and where it could be improved.

 

250 Word Essay Example

 

“One Christmas morning when I was nine, I opened a snap circuit set for my grandmother. Although I had always loved math and science. I didn’t realize my passion for engineering until I spent the rest of winter break creating different circuits to power various lights, alarms, and sensors. Even after I outgrew the toy, I kept the set in my bedroom at home and knew I wanted to study engineering.

 

Later in high school biology class, I learned that engineering didn’t only apply to circuits, but also to medical devices that could improve people’s quality of life. Biomedical engineering allows me to pursue my academic passions and help people at the same time. Just as biology and engineering interact in biomedical engineering, I am fascinated by interdisciplinary research in my chosen career path. 

 

Duke offers unmatched resources, such as DuHatch and The Foundry, that will enrich my engineering education and help me practice creative problem-solving skills. The emphasis on entrepreneurship within these resources will also help me to make a helpful product. Duke’s Bass Connections program also interests me; I firmly believe that the most creative and necessary problem solving comes by bringing people together from different backgrounds.

 

Through this program, I can use my engineering education to solve complicated societal problems, such as creating sustainable surgical tools for low income countries. Along the way I can learn alongside experts in the field. Duke’s openness and collaborative culture span across its academic disciplines, making Duke the best place for me to grow both as an engineer and as a social advocate.” 

 

Start with an Anecdote, but Avoid Cliches

 

“One Christmas morning when I was nine, I opened a snap circuit set for my grandmother. Although I had always loved math and science. I didn’t realize my passion for engineering until I spent the rest of winter break creating different circuits to power various lights, alarms, and sensors. Even after I outgrew the toy, I kept the set in my bedroom at home and knew I wanted to study engineering.”

 

This first paragraph does something excellent, which is it starts with an anecdote. In the introductory anecdote, the author mentions specific things like alarms, lights, and sensors, so the reader can really visualize what’s happening. 

 

Another strength of this excerpt is that the anecdote moves through time very quickly. It starts with Christmas morning, progresses to the rest of winter break, and then finally ends by discussing after the author outgrew the toy. That temporal growth is good because it gets a reader in and out of the anecdote quickly while feeling nostalgic. It makes the reader feel connected to the writer.

 

One weakness of this paragraph, however, is that the last line is a little too much; it hits you over the head with “I want to study engineering.” Admissions officers know that one experience from when you were nine years old may be too much to ascribe your passion for engineering to, so this doesn’t feel believable. Instead, this instance can be framed as a spark that ignited your passion for engineering or made you interested in learning more about engineering.

 

Include Smooth Transitions and Be Specific

 

“Later in high school biology class, I learned that engineering didn’t only apply to circuits, but also to medical devices that could improve people’s quality of life. Biomedical engineering allows me to pursue my academic passions and help people at the same time. Just as biology and engineering interact in biomedical engineering, I am fascinated by interdisciplinary research in my chosen career path.” 

 

This paragraph does a really good job of transitioning from the anecdote to the writer’s specific and current interest in biomedical engineering. However, there are a few drawbacks from this excerpt. 

 

One weakness from this paragraph is that helping people is a trope that is really overused when talking about an interest in health and healthcare. You can help people in a variety of careers, so it is a bit naive to say that the only way you can help others is by pursuing a particular path. Instead, you want to make the essay sound more genuine by displaying the heart of your passion. What particular types of medical devices and interdisciplinary research is the student interested in? Which intersection of fields is the most interesting to them and why? Giving more details or even specific adjectives here would help the essay sound more informed and robust.

 

Another aspect of this essay that could be improved is that the author mentions their ideal career path but doesn’t elaborate on this beyond biomedical engineering as a field of study. There are many different paths you can take after studying biomedical engineering. You could go into the research and development of products, or medicine, or the research behind patient-facing studies. What about your ideal career makes you excited to pursue that given field or major?

 

Do Your Research and Avoid Overusing Phrases

 

”Duke offers unmatched resources, such as DuHatch and The Foundry, that will enrich my engineering education and help me practice creative problem-solving skills. The emphasis on entrepreneurship within these resources will also help me to make a helpful product. Duke’s Bass Connections program also interests me; I firmly believe that the most creative and necessary problem solving comes by bringing people together from different backgrounds.”

 

This paragraph takes on the question in the second part of the prompt by explaining explicitly why they want to study biomedical engineering at Duke. One thing this essay does very well is that it brings up Duke specific resources and opportunities – DuHatch, The Foundry, and Bass Connections. They also mention the spirit of entrepreneurship that is ingrained in the teaching at Duke and how this is important to the design process in engineering. By connecting to Duke’s academic philosophy, this shows the admissions officers that this student not only did their research but also shares values with the school itself. 

 

One of this paragraph’s weaknesses, however, is that the student mentions that “Duke offers unmatched resources, which is quite cliche and generic. Duke already knows that they are well regarded in the engineering field, so this is a waste of words in this essay. 

 

Another aspect of the essay that could be improved here is the vague and undeveloped idea of creative problem solving skills that would be honed by attending Duke. The author uses the phrase “problem solving” a couple of times and wastes some space on two transition sentences. Overusing this phrase detracts from the power of the language and weakens the general cadence of your essay.

 

Be Concise and Emphasize School Fit

 

“Through this program, I can use my engineering education to solve complicated societal problems, such as creating sustainable surgical tools for low income countries. Along the way I can learn alongside experts in the field. Duke’s openness and collaborative culture span across its academic disciplines, making Duke the best place for me to grow both as an engineer and as a social advocate.” 

 

This final paragraph is a strong conclusion because it is succinct and ties together all of the previous paragraphs. It makes the essay feel complete by the time the reader reaches the end. Combining engineering and social advocacy is also a great thought. It is in line with the rest of the essay and shows that this student is person-minded and not machine-minded. It demonstrates a dedication to community, which is something that Duke values as well.

 

However, if the author had incorporated these ideas of social advocacy earlier in the essay, this would have emphasized their fit with Duke and made the essay even stronger. Additionally, the specific idea of creating sustainable surgical tools for low income countries is very unique and would have been more powerful if it had been mentioned earlier; here it simply feels like an afterthought.

 

The conclusion also includes awkward wording in some of the phrases like “Duke’s openness and collaborative culture,” which could be reworded as “Duke’s open and collaborative culture.” By reducing some of the awkward phrasing, the author would have had some more space to play around with their specific interests in biomedical engineering and Duke’s programs.

 

Is Your “Why Major” Essay Strong Enough?

 

Essays account for around 25% of your admissions decision, as they’re your chance to humanize your application and set yourself apart from other applicants with strong profiles. 

 

The “Why Major” essay is especially important, as it allows you to reflect on your unique interests and fit with the school. Your supplement needs to demonstrate your interest in the major and paint a picture of how you’ll contribute to their program.

 

To understand if your essay is strong enough, we recommend using our 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. This tool will make it easier to understand your essay’s strengths and weaknesses, and help you make your writing even more compelling.

 


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