1. The deep philosophical question
2. The experiential question
3. The "Why do you want to go to our school?" question
The Philosophical Question
Gary Gaffney, ’69MS, began doctoral work in mathematics at Notre Dame but left to become an artist, eventually earning two degrees in fine art. His poem “Mil Preguntas (a meditation in 1000 questions)” explores a myriad of topics, using queries both whimsical and profound. Some of our favorites are:
• What is consciousness?
• What is your deepest mystery?
• What’s the last honest question you asked yourself?
• How often has humanity led you to forgive?
• What makes you dream?
• Is being ordinary a failure?
• What can’t you live without?
• Who convinced you about God?
• Can you tell the story of faith put to the test?
• Why should you care about the rings of Saturn?
• What will you never believe?
• What will you always believe?
Provide your own answer to one of the author’s inquires and be sure to tell us which question you select.
How to pick? This is actually pretty simple. Mindful Writing starts with a ten or fifteen minute brainstorming session, to see what your initial thoughts and reactions are. I guarantee you will find yourself reacting to one or two of the options.
Make sure you write about yourself, your qualifications, and why you want to go to the specific school you are applying for, even as you attempt to answer the philosophical question.
The Experiential Question
If given a choice between philosophical or experiential questions, I advise students to pick the latter. In any essay you want to offer details about yourself, and it is easier to stay focused on that task when writing about your experience.
It is important to pick an experience that was meaningful or transformative for you. Do not write about something just because you think it is what selection committees want to hear. Examples of meaningful experiences range from dealing with illness or death, living abroad, winning or losing, creating something, a hobby or interest, or a relationship.
The "Why Our School?" Question
If you are writing the essay for your top choice, it should not be too difficult. You can mention visiting the campus, what the university means to your family, or how its programs and resources would support your future aspirations.
If you are not writing for your top choice, you need to do some research on what the college offers and why it would be a good fit for you.
It's important to remember that there are many equally qualified applicants vying for a limited number of spots at the college of your choice. Not only do you need to write well, but also, you need to write strategically, to have an advantage over other students.*
Graduate school applications require a slightly different kind of strategy, which I will cover in an upcoming post.
*If you need help writing strategically for college admissions essays. contact me about working together. I can help a client get organized in terms of forming a list of schools to apply to, preparing application essays, and looking at available scholarships.