In order to write this essay, it is helpful to take a step back from the sometimes panic-inducing task of focusing on your college applications and instead look around. As you go about your day, maintain awareness of things that ordinarily seem insignificant, to the point that you may be taking them for granted.
For instance, remind yourself of the neighborhood you wake up in every day, the foods available to you for breakfast, and how you feel as you pass through your community on your commute to school. Reflect upon the impact your surroundings have on your day-to-day life and the ways in which they have fostered your personal development. You are probably familiar with your surroundings, to the point where they don’t seem particularly remarkable to you, but you are trying to introduce yourself to an admissions committee that probably knows very little about your hometown.
After reflecting on this exercise, you might realize that your work ethic stems from your gratefulness for the sacrifices your immigrant parents have made in order to give you a chance to succeed, or it could take the shape of your precocious desire to study geriatric medicine and hearing-loss pathologies because you have grown up in a town where the majority of your community is of advanced age.
This thought experiment is the perfect way to start dissecting what it is about your surroundings that has shaped you into the person you are today. Most importantly, it will show your essay reader that you have matured enough to be able to speak about yourself in a frank and vulnerable way. As long as you speak your truth, there is no wrong answer.
That being said, as you tell your story, you will want to avoid clichés and stay true to the complexity of your experience. If you have struggled to overcome obstacles, you don’t need to present yourself as a heroic individual that has achieved success because of your own grit and determination. You can acknowledge the bonds of friendship or family that helped you hold yourself together during tough times. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, and indeed having the courage to reach out and the humility to acknowledge your support network is one way to demonstrate maturity.
If you needed to watch after your father while he was suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s, you might talk about how you had to work with your sister to watch him in the evening, and how sometimes you needed to get out of the house and play soccer with your friends in order to be able to come back inside and commit yourself to the work of care all over again. Maybe that experience is part of what made you want to get into nursing, not only to help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, but also to encourage patient’s family members to take care of themselves.
If you describe poignant tales of overcoming hardship and obstacles in your response, that is fine, as long as it is the truth. Some applicants might think that exaggerating their tales will score with admissions officers, but admissions officers are not judging your essay based on the level of hardship you have overcome. Rather, the question they will ask is what you’ve learned from your experiences and what kind of person you will be when you join the Texas A&M community.
One last word: As we’re revising this guide for the 2017 application season, the rains have only just barely stopped falling after Hurricane Harvey. The environmental, economic, and political dynamics of this disaster will be thought about and debated in the coming years as people try to rebuild more resilient cities in a changing climate. The students, faculty, and staff at Texas A&M will be taking part in this conversation.
If you were affected and feel so moved, you can certainly talk about your experience of the storm in your essay, even if you think that a lot of other applicants will also be talking about the storm as well. A major disaster contains a multitude of narratives, and if you focus on the particularities of your experience — what you lost, what you saw, how you imagine going forward — you will be making a contribution to a conversation about Harvey that will continue for years to come.
This prompt represents a common category of supplement prompts that ask you why you want to study a specific program at a specific school. The main purpose of these “Why Us?” essays is to show the school why you are interested and why you are a good fit.
This is done in two parts: 1. why you want to study what you have indicated and 2. why you want to study it here at this specific school. Make sure to do some research so you can provide more than generic examples like “I want to go to a big school“ or “I like sports” that could apply to many other schools. To learn more about “Why Us?” type essays, read our essay guide, “How to Write the “Why Us?” College Essay.”
When you start to write this essay, you first want to develop why you wish to study what you have indicated on your application. An anecdote is often the most effective means of accomplishing this. You could recount how your time in physical therapy, love for your biology class, and long history of playing sports fueled your passion to learn more about the human body and how it moves. This perfectly lines up with the field of Kinesiology.
Next, you need to demonstrate why Michigan is the perfect place to study what you have selected. Continuing with the Kinesiology example, you could talk about its excellent reputation and some specific classes you really look forward to taking.
With preferred admission applications, it is important to discuss your future goals as well as past experiences that make you sure you will want to be a part of this program. For example, if you apply for the Pharmacy program, you will want to discuss why you are interested in pharmacy and detail the moments in your life that have led you to this decision. Perhaps you have always had a passion for chemistry and helping others, and hearing from your friend’s mom about her career in pharmacy was consistently one of your favorite parts of your weekly hangouts.
With dual-degree programs, the key is not only discussing why you want to pursue a degree in each of them, but why you think the combination is especially important for you.
For example, if you are applying to the dual-degree Ross School of Business and College of Engineering program, you could discuss your dream of beginning your own tech startup and needing both the technical engineering knowledge and business savvy. You could write about how you first came up with your idea and when/how you realized Michigan’s dual-degree program would be the perfect place to bring it to life.