Guidelines for Writing your Research Application Essay
Essays should be a maximum of 1,250 words and a maximum of four pages. Do not exceed either 1,250 words or four pages. Essays should be double-spaced, in 12-point font or equivalent size with standard margins. In-text citations are not included in the word limit, but are included in the page limit. You may include one additional page for references, images, or figures, if applicable; this one additional page of supplementary material is not included in the word limit or page limit.
The following are guidelines for writing your Research Scholarship application essay. These ideas will help you to think about how to structure your essay and what to include in it. They are not meant to be step-by-step instructions, nor are they given in any particular order of importance. If there is anything unusual about your timeline, project, or circumstances, please talk about this as well. In addition to reviewing these tips, you may wish to attend an information session before writing your essay.
Write your essay in your own voice
It is very important that reviewers get a sense of your passion and understanding for your project. Do not cut and paste from papers or other proposals – it will be obvious to reviewers if you do and it will not convey your own understanding of your research. Write clearly and in your own voice describing your project and its relationship to research in your field of study.
Balance your essay
Be sure to talk about the project itself as well as the educational benefits of the research. As you are writing the personal side of the essay it may help in your draft to tell the story of your motivations for getting involved. But in your final essay, pull out only those points that are relevant to your current experience.
Be specific about your role in the research
It is important that reviewers learn how you are contributing to the research, particularly if you have a role in a larger, ongoing project.
Describe how your faculty mentor guides/supports your growth and learning
If your research is of your own design, be sure to include how your faculty mentor helps you to make progress in your work. How does your mentor guide you so that you gain the perspective of the larger project as you contribute your work to it?
Describe how your research fits into a bigger picture
Include enough detail to convey your knowledge of the topic and so that reviewers can imagine what you are doing. Reviewers will be from a variety of fields, so it is best to address your essay to an intelligent non-expert. Define field-specific terminology and be sure to give the big picture of your research area. It will also be important to include enough detail that someone in your discipline will have confidence that you understand the field in which you are working well enough to be able to contribute to the project in a meaningful way.
Show your enthusiasm and commitment to the work
Your essay should convey an interest and commitment to the research. Awards cover either a six or nine month period – be sure that your essay provides evidence that you will stick with the project for that period of time, and that the project has enough depth to keep you engaged during that period. Reviewers will find your interest or passion in the research compelling, so find a way to convey that in your essay.
Talk about the impact of the research experience on your education, and describe any challenges to your participation in research
One of the goals of the Mary Gates Endowment is to invest in scholarships that help students to achieve their educational goals. Your essay should describe how the research will help you to further your own goals, and how it may help you address any difficulties you face in achieving those goals.
Properly cite the figures, graphs and/or images that you refer to in your essay
If you refer to a figure, graph or image in your essay that is not your own, be sure to credit the source. Essays with figures, graphs or images lacking proper citations will be marked down by reviewers. Information on proper citation format can be found at:
Please refrain from citing excessive sources not relevant to your project.
Ask your faculty research mentor and someone who is not involved with the research to review your essay
Your mentor will provide you the best feedback on your essay’s representation of the research you are doing and how it fits into a larger framework. Someone else – a peer, another instructor, or adviser – will be able to tell you if your essay is clear to an intelligent non-expert, and if you have conveyed a sense of enthusiasm and commitment for the work you describe. Be sure to leave yourself enough time to get feedback from these key people before submitting your application.
Additional Information for Previous Awardees
We expect that previous awardees have a deeper than average understanding of their research, are working at a high level, and can clearly articulate previous accomplishments as well as opportunities for new learning and achievements during a second award period. We also expect a strong connection between the research and a student’s longer-term goals.
Acknowledge your prior award and cite the major learning goals and/or accomplishments you achieved under that award
Reviewers will want to know what you have already accomplished, as well as your plans for the new award period.
Describe what challenges you currently face, and how this new award will help you to take the next steps in your education
Be sure to describe your role in the research, and how it may have changed since your prior award. What new challenges do you need to overcome to take your work to a higher level? Will you be taking on additional responsibilities? If you are starting a whole new project and/or working with a new mentor, you may want to address the reason for the change, how the new experience will provide new opportunity for learning, and how your new mentor will contribute to that learning.
My UW essays
Here are all the essays I wrote for admission to the University of Washington. The UW application actually did not allow unicode characters like smart quotes and em-dashes, nor did it accept italics, so the essays as displayed here are in their intended form, not as they were submitted. Note that I don’t necessarily agree with all of what’s said below anymore (hence the belief tag).
Thanks to KL for the extensive feedback I received while writing these essays. I also received minor feedback from others.
General admission essays
Prompt B. Tell us a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
Having lived both in the United States and Japan, I have suffered the common problem of balancing one’s identity: whether to stay essentially in one land and occasionally poke one’s head out to say hello to the other; whether to play the eclectic magician and pull from both roots the cure to the disease of nationalism; whether to proclaim one’s allegiance to humanity and humanity alone, thus avoiding the question altogether. It would be wholly dishonest to say I have dealt with the problem well; but in my personal experience I have seen transformations of my thought, whose culmination isn’t so trite as “I have gained useful experiences from both cultures”!
But allow me to declare that I will approach this topic from the more fragile, Japanese side. My childhood, from years three to ten, was spent in Japan. Strangely, though I lived in Tōkyō—the center of action—my mind recalls almost a pastoral perfection from this period. This does not imply any geographic quality, but rather that life, because of my innocence, seemed detached: the summertime fireworks, with the delicious smoke, were severed from the piling of dark leaves and playing with sticks, and both of these were separate from the long walk along the river with friends, chasing after a milk bottle cap.
Fly forward five years from my last year in Japan, and we are three years behind the present: there is a change; I live in Bothell; the mind is forming an opinion. During a summer visit to Tōkyō, I saw the sultry streets of my old home clearer than in any previous year, with all its ugly connectedness obvious: the odor of cigarettes and urine painted on every surface; people lined up to feed the machines of pleasure with their overtime pay; everyone buying a train ticket to go nowhere and do nothing, only to find a nervous comfort in their own nests again. This impression, almost oddly artistic by now, so thoroughly shattered the idyllic vision of my childhood city that despite the urgings of my family, I did not return to Japan the following year.
Though I would not discover the works of the author Ōe Kenzaburō until much later, I can see now that I was in the process of being uprooted by what Ōe calls the Ambiguous: a dissonance engendered by two contradictory impressions. This particular incarnation of the Ambiguous occupied me for two years, and for these years my only contacts with Japan were conversations with my Japanese mother, and the Japanese school that I attended on Saturdays, which was steadily becoming for me an annoyance. But (if the continued anachronism is to be pardoned) Ōe had spent his life in Japan, so for him the Ambiguous was unavoidable; for me, the situation was quite different: having spent half of my life in the US by this time, I saw myself a refugee, a vehement critic of that derelict nation, who through reason alone had justified the superiority of the country with the global language.
But a slower change came in the autumn of last year: I began to renew my interest in Japan. It is difficult for me to ascertain exactly what caused this change, but two possibilities seem the most likely. First, my increasing frustration with one of my passions, mathematics, convinced me to find an alternative topic of research, so that I could shift back and forth. Second, my interest in literature as an art led me to an obvious starting point: works written in Japanese. But by now the obstacle is obvious: my ability to use the language had thinly escaped destruction. Thus began my intense study of Japan. And here I am, one year later: I am still reading Ōe; I have returned to Japan; I am unsure what the solution is, but endurance—what Ōe calls nintai—is my tentative answer.
Word count: 648/650.
Prompt 1. The University of Washington seeks to create a community of students richly diverse in cultural backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints. How would you contribute to this community?
The word “contribute” invokes in me a discomfort. On the surface, I see zealous students eager to spread their message, and demanding adults prodding them. And below, there is universal indifference, a kind of despair. But I cannot hold inside of me such ostentatious deceit—at least, not for long. For if I value one thing, it is small honesty.
I like to see myself as a stone, sunk at the bottom of a deep and sedulous river. I am breathless, and yet I ever so slightly hold back the current. This current—call it “intolerance” or “apathy”—swims in each of us, and, if we are unlucky, overtakes us. It cannot but seek the lowest elevation. On this riverbed, I am, by any definition, insignificant: I am just a small salience stuck in the mud. But I shall stand resolutely, open to any lifeless provocation; and given time, some others may join, forming a diminutive dam of detritus. No doubt some will become dislodged, and no doubt of those that are left, each of us is unimportant individually. But there is a chance, perhaps, that a fisherman on the bank will notice the current slowing; if not, all is well: the debris can feel it slowing.
Can one observe this river in reality? To be sure, the river exists, but its current is more chaotic; it is harder, then, to spot a pronounced thread. But one context in which I daily encounter it is what may be termed “educational desperation”. Being at times slightly better at navigating class material, I am sometimes asked questions. It may be a quick clarification for a passage in a novel, or an explanation of some concept in chemistry, or tips in computing a tricky integral. The current of questions is strong, and although I want to help, I know that answering these questions will have no effect on the current. To fight the current, one must strive for true understanding, not just a number. Curiosity is a requirement.
At times also I read a Japanese book at school. Then, occasionally, someone will ask me questions: “What language is this?” “So are you reading Sartre in Japanese?” “And which way do the words go?” Most of the time, the conversation will end quickly, and the inquirer will leave with nothing more than the added knowledge that some languages are written in different directions. But even this I find superior to helping with schoolwork, for I respond to a specific curiosity. These questions, moreover, can turn into more: it can propel someone into a promising study of Japanese writing or culture; this is the “true way”, in Kafka’s sense.
By being a stubborn stone in the river, that is, by quietly assisting those wanting to discover and understand, I believe I accomplish something important. In this sense, “contribute” becomes genuine, and becomes something I want to do in high school, university, and beyond.
Honors 1. Why do you want to incorporate our interdisciplinary liberal arts curriculum into your undergraduate experience? What contributions will you make to our community?
Bertrand Russell wrote in the prologue to his Autobiography of three passions that guided his life: love, intellectual curiosity, and pity for the suffering. In educating oneself, although all three of these passions are important, one’s focus does become more intellectual. What is essential, then, is to allow oneself the freedom of moving between passions while also focusing on specific goals.
Even within intellectual pursuits there are perceived categorizations that can severely limit self-actualization. One such categorization is between the humanities and the sciences. I have always focused my studies on one or the other: when engrossed in the abstract beauty of set theory, I am less aware of literature; when I am engaged in studying James Joyce’s works, I do less mathematical proofs. A certain shift in focus is healthy, but a total severance is catastrophic, for being too narrow renders the mind provincial.
The other harmful categorization I see is between absorption and creation. Intellectual curiosity can mean seeking useful information; however, research is only half of the experience. It is important also to use one’s creativity, to apply one’s learning to bring about something new. Creativity is not simply completing assigned work: it means reading a mathematical proof and trying to attain a more general result; it means reading Joyce and trying to emulate his interior monologues.
Although creativity need not be public, I believe by projecting my work outward I can most contribute. Authors like Ōe Kenzaburō masterfully quote other writers in their works, spreading important insights. But sharing need not be as elaborate; it can be simple, like the illumination of a line of verse, or an obvious yet ingenious trick in proving a theorem. Learning, I believe, is the constant exchange of useful information: one cannot do it alone, for knowledge must be shared.
“Lost its meaning” essay
Honors 2. Identify a word or phrase in common use that you believe has, “lost its meaning.” Explain what you think accounts for the loss of meaning and what might be done to restore appropriate meaning to the word or phrase you have identified.
No word in the English language has more exponentially deteriorated than the word “math”. The word generates an infinite conflict, for its whole geometry is false, and this can be proven algebraically. There are a few factors, but first we must ask “What do we now mean by ‘math’?” The conventional meaning is easy, for we all do “math”: we sit in a “math” class, listen to the teacher talk, scribble with a pen (hello Vi Hart!), “peruse” the “math” book. Now examine the inverse: who are the “mathematicians”? Do they go around reciting the digits of e or solving for the roots of a cubic function? Certainly not: that would be irrational.
The problem is that most people haven’t a clue what “math” really is. People think “math” is what they learn at school. But what they learn at school is … “computation”, which is what computers do (not humans). Real math isn’t a formula; it is an exploration. It is art in its highest form. Real math requires inquiry: how does a computer handle ones and zeroes? How can one deduce an optimal diet? Why does multiplication work in the first place? And so on: all questions that inspire curiosity.
What is in our power to solve this grave matter? To be perfectly honest, there is only an infinitesimal chance that we can contribute. But here is something that almost surely anyone can do: before spitting out, “I’m doing math” (with contempt), ask: “Am I really exploring ideas I am curious about?” If the answer is “No”, stop! Say “I’m doing some computations”. But most importantly: explore! Find an incongruity; seek, and sedulously pursue it. Don’t give up. Report to a friend your progress, and repeat ad infinitum!
I believe these were limited to 100 words each.
Seattle Japanese School and Studying Japanese. I have attended the Seattle Japanese School since fifth grade. I have consistently earned good grades, and have also participated in school-wide events like the annual Sports Festival. However, as the school alone is inadequate for leaning Japanese, I also read Japanese literature to increase my knowledge. Most recently, I have been reading the works of Ōe Kenzaburō. It has been stunning to see that the literary techniques I had learned for English could be replicated in Japanese. As Ōe often writes about post-WWII Japan, I have also been influenced by his thoughts on psychological confinement and humanism.
Independent study of mathematics. Not being satisfied by mathematics at school, I have been dedicating my time to understanding the reasons why various concepts in mathematics work. To understand why addition and multiplication work consistently, I read and did exercises in Terence Tao’s Analysis I; to see why numbers could be defined as sets, I began reading Bertrand Russell’s philosophy of mathematics and Paul Halmos’s Naive Set Theory; to understand why material implication is defined the way it is, I spent two years reading blogs, PDFs, and various books on logic. Through this, I have trained my mind to be methodical but also creative.
Aikido. I have been participating in the Japanese martial art of Aikido. My current rank is 5th Kyu. Training with the people in my Aikido class has increased my strength and awareness, and practicing the moves in the art has allowed me to react to the various attacks. Psychologically, it has also alleviated my phobias of eye- and bodily-contact. Furthermore the experience has enriched my life even outside of the class. When walking around at school, for example, or when I am in very crowded places, I have an increased awareness of my movements.
Tutoring (various). I have tutored people on various occasions. Last year in school, I tutored students studying Japanese. It is difficult to say how much impact I had, but I was able to help them complete their homework. This year in school I have been tutoring (in Spanish) students that recently arrived from Mexico. Since my command of Spanish is weak, the experience has been refreshing as I fumble for the desired expressions. Outside of school, I have volunteered for the Study Zone program at my local library. Through this I have helped the community by making homework a little more bearable.
Trail party at the Soaring Eagle Park. On three separate occasions, I helped out within a trail party at the Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish. The work consisted of various trail- maintenance tasks, such as digging trenches to carry eventual rain off the trail, clearing the foliage of a fallen tree, and replacing mud puddles with fresh soil. Learning about trail-maintenance and connecting with the other people there was enlightening. Moreover the raw physical exhaustion on all three days was intoxicating. Philosophically, knowing that all of my accomplishments would soon be washed clean by the rain was disconcerting but also oddly pleasing.
- A few people I know have similarly posted their college application essays online, including Brian Tomasik.
To the extent possible under law, Issa Rice has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to the content on this page. This work is published from: United States. See the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication for more information.
How to write a great college essay
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Think about how many college-entry essays are read each year by admissions counselors. Imagine how their eyes must glaze over after they’ve read a few dozen essays. You don’t want yours to sound like everyone else’s.
The people reviewing the essays are looking for a better understanding of you than they can get from your GPA, your SAT scores or other information on your application. A good essay can raise a so-so application higher, and a poor essay can diminish an otherwise stellar application.
These pointers will help you make your essay stand out from the crowd.
- Tell a story. Make your point by telling a story about something that has happened to you or that made an impression on you. A vivid telling of an important moment in your life is far better than listing all your accomplishments (which will be in the rest of the application, anyway).
- Capture the reader’s attention. Pay particular attention to the beginning of your essay. Hints of something dramatic or unusual to come later in the essay will help keep your reader’s interest.
- Be yourself. Don’t try to sound like a college student. Sound like yourself. No one expects you to be perfect or brilliant. The university is interested in who you are and how you think.
- Set the tone. Your essay should be friendly, but not too casual. Use complete sentences, and don’t resort to slang. Clear out all the clichés. A clever turn-of-phrase or metaphor is appreciated by the committee members. But don’t over-do the comedy; a little humor goes a long way.
- Be concise. Write in as few words as possible. Take out words and phrases that don’t add anything to a thought. Be on the lookout for too many adjectives.
- Use active voice. Search through your essay for variations of the verb “to be.” Change these passive verbs to active verbs. Moving the subject to the beginning of the sentence also helps to eliminate passive voice.
- Be specific. Rather than this: “I want to help people.” Try this: “I want to be like my mom, who is the first person you think of when you’re hurt, feeling down or in trouble.”
- Don’t try to impress. Long sentences and big words do not enhance your essay — especially if you use a word incorrectly. Stick to words you’re sure of; it never hurts to look them up to make sure they mean what you think they mean.
- Take “I” out. If you write “I” more than a few times, go back and rewrite to eliminate most of them. It’s difficult, since you are writing a personal essay, but too many “I’s” are a sign of a poor writer.
- Proofread and revise. Ask your parents, teachers and friends to read your essay and tell you frankly what they think. They may have specific grammar or spelling corrections, or suggestions about the direction of your story. Or they may be able to point out anything that’s not clear. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice, of course, but if a criticism rings true, pay attention.
- Let it simmer. After you’ve finished your essay, set it aside for a few days, and then read it again. Coming back to it after an absence will allow you to read it fresh, just the way the admissions committee will. You’d be surprised how often a paragraph that seemed perfect last week will seem muddled or overly dramatic this week.
Writing your personal statement
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You are required to complete a Personal Statement as part of your freshman application. This is a critical part of your application, both for admission and scholarship consideration. Here are some tips on how to write a great college essay.
Personal statement (max 600 words)
Content, as well as form, spelling, grammar, and punctuation, will be considered. You should write your statement first in a word processing program (such as Word) or a text editor, and then copy/paste it into the application text box. Formatting such as italics and underlines may be lost.
The Personal Statement is our best means of getting to know you. The Personal Statement is a very important part of the application for admission to UW Tacoma.
Students must choose one of the following prompts:
1.) Tell us a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
2.) Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
3.) An essay topic of your choice. If you have written another admissions essay that captures what you want the UW Tacoma Admissions Committee to know about, feel free to share it with us. Be sure to include the topic or question you answered.
Other comments (optional)
If there is anything else you think we should know, you can include that in the “Other Comments” section of the application.
Freshman Application Materials
Take note of our deadlines and decision plans. Submit the following to apply:
1. Admissions Application
UW–Madison does not prefer one application over the other. Please choose only one application and use only that application all the way through to submission.
Please note that we do not start processing fall term applications until September 1.
Applicants will be asked to identify both a preferred and alternate major or field of study when completing the application for admission. If we are unable to offer you admission to your preferred major/field of study, your alternate choice will be considered in our application review to assess interest and preparation. Due to the competitive nature of some of our programs, admission expectations may be different for students pursuing majors in business, engineering, dance, and music. We encourage you to visit our direct entry page to learn more.
2. Application Fee
The application fee is $60.00 US and is non-refundable.
Electronic payment is preferred. If you apply using the UW System Application, the fee can be paid by check or money order, drawn on a US bank and payable to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Send the check or money order to the Office of Admissions and Recruitment. Please include the applicant’s name with payment. Do not send cash.
Application fee waivers are available for applicants with financial hardship. Students who apply using the UW System Application can print this form and submit it to their school official for verification of hardship and signature. Send the completed form to the Office of Admissions and Recruitment. Students who apply using the Common Application may request a fee waiver while filling out their application. Your counselor must validate and approve your request for a fee waiver, and then our office will review it and a decision will be made regarding waiver of the fee. If the College Board or the ACT grant you a fee waiver, we will accept it.
3. Official Transcripts
We require transcripts for all high school and college-level work. Official transcripts should be sent directly from each school attended.
Electronic transcripts must be sent through a secure document sending service. Transcripts sent through email, as an attachment, will not be accepted as official. Paper transcripts sent to our office must bear an official school seal or be printed on the school’s custom watermarked/security paper.
If you earned your General Educational Development (GED) certificate or a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED), submit your official score report in addition to all high school or home school transcripts.
4. Official Test Scores
Scores from either the ACT or the SAT are required and must be sent directly from the testing agency. We do not require the writing portion of either the ACT or the SAT. Our test code is 4656 for the ACT and 1846 for the SAT. Do not send your results rush (SAT) or priority (ACT); we receive all scores electronically on a daily basis so there is not an advantage to rush or priority delivery.
To assure consideration in our Early Action competition, students are encouraged to take the ACT or SAT no later than the end of September. For consideration in our Regular Decision competition, students are encouraged to take their test no later than the end of December.
Freshman applicants from non-English speaking countries must submit a TOEFL or IELTS score, unless English was the language of instruction for all courses in all years of secondary school. Our TOEFL test code is 1846. TOEFL must be submitted electronically from the testing service. We do not accept the IELTS electronically. Please have a paper copy of your results sent to our office through the mail. If you feel that you qualify for a TOEFL or IELTS waiver, please send an email to our office and a counselor will determine if the waiver criteria are met.
5. Two Essays
If you apply using the Common Application, you will be asked to respond to one of the freshman Common Application essays. If you apply with the UW System Application, you will need to answer the following prompt:
- Consider something in your life you think goes unnoticed and write about why it’s important to you.
All applicants will also need to respond to this prompt:
- Tell us why you decided to apply to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition, share with us the academic, extracurricular, or research opportunities you would take advantage of as a student. If applicable, provide details of any circumstance that could have had an impact on your academic performance and/or extracurricular involvement.
Review our list of tips for the essays as you prepare your responses.
6. One Required Letter of Recommendation
We require you to submit one letter of recommendation written by someone who can attest to your academic ability, such as a teacher, school counselor, or faculty member. If you choose, you can also submit another letter of recommendation from an additional source, such as an employer, coach, research mentor, community leader, or clergy. Students with an interest in engineering are encouraged to obtain a letter of recommendation from a math or science teacher. Remember to have a discussion with your chosen recommender first to see if they are willing and able to provide a letter.
We encourage applicants who have been away from formal classroom teaching for an extended period to request a letter of recommendation from someone who can speak to their academic potential, such as an employer, (preferably a supervisor or manager), a program or departmental trainer, or some other individual in an official instructional capacity.
If you apply using the UW System Application, your recommender can use our online recommendation form. Those who apply using the Common Application should request a recommendation through that system. Recommendations that are mailed to our office must include your full name, birth date, and campus ID number (if known). Additionally, letters of recommendation from a school staff member may also be sent through Naviance.
Even after your application is complete we may request additional supporting materials such as self-reported grades, academic performance statements, and course change documentation.
Applicants are expected to self-report their mid-year grades when prompted by email during the application process. To ensure a possible future admit decision is not in jeopardy of being cancelled, applicants must report their grades exactly as they appear on an official transcript or grade report that was issued by their school.
Academic integrity is valued in our community and in the admission process. By signing your application, you certify that it is complete and accurate. We hold you accountable to ensure the authenticity and honesty of your application, essays, and additional materials subsequently submitted.
All applicants must write a personal statement and submit it with the application for admission.
The personal statement should be a comprehensive narrative essay outlining significant aspects of your academic and personal history, particularly those that provide context for your academic achievements and educational choices. Quality of writing and depth of content both contribute toward a meaningful and relevant personal statement.
I. Address the following topics:
A. Academic Elements (required)
- Academic History
- Tell us about your college career to date, describing your performance, educational path and choices.
- Explain any situations that may have had a significant positive or negative impact on your academic progress and/or curricular choices. If you transferred multiple times, had a significant break in your education, or changed career paths, explain.
- What are the specific reasons you wish to leave your most recent college/university and/or program of study?
- Your Major and/or Career Goals
- Tell us about your intended major and career aspirations.
- Are you prepared to enter your intended major at this time? If not, describe your plans for preparing for the major. What led you to choose this major? If you are still undecided, why? What type of career are you most likely to pursue after finishing your education?
- How will the UW help you attain your academic, career, and/or personal goals?
B. Personal Elements (required)
- Cultural Understanding
- Thoughtfully describe the ways in which culture had an impact on your life and what you have learned about yourself and society as a result. How has your own cultural history enriched and/or challenged you?
- NOTE: Culture may be defined broadly. Cultural understanding is often drawn from the ethnic background, customs, values, and ideas of a person’s immediate family, community, and/or social environment in which they live.
- Educational Challenges / Personal Hardships (if applicable)
- Describe any personal or imposed challenges or hardships you have overcome in pursuing your education.
- Examples: a serious illness, a disability, first generation in your family to attend college, significant financial hardship or responsibilities associated with balancing work, family and school.
- Community, Military, or Volunteer Service (if applicable)
- Describe your community, Military, or volunteer service, including leadership, awards, or increased levels of responsibility.
- Experiential Learning (if applicable)
- Describe your involvement in research, artistic endeavors, and work (paid or volunteer), as they have contributed to your academic, career or personal goals.
Additional Comments (optional)
Do you have a compelling academic or personal need to attend the Seattle campus of the University of Washington at this time? Is there anything else you would like us to know?
II. Personal Statement Format
Content as well as form, spelling, grammar, and punctuation, will be considered. Suggested length is 750-1000 words.
- Online: You should write your statement first in a word processing program (such as Word) or a text editor, and then copy/paste it into the text box provided. All line breaks remain. However, some formatting may be lost, such as bold, italics and underlines. This will not affect the evaluation of your application!
- PDF: Type or write your statement on 8.5×11” white paper. Double-space your lines, and use only one side of each sheet. Print your name, the words “Personal Statement,” and the date at the top of each page, and attach the pages to your application.
How to apply
Autumn applicants, follow this checklist to make sure you have everything you need to submit a complete application for admission.
1. Create your Coalition Account
The University of Washington is a one of 133 public and private universities across the U.S. that comprise the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, a college planning and application platform.
2. Add UW to your College List
3. Opt-in to sharing your contact information with UW
Be sure to opt-in to sharing your contact information with the UW. This will allow us to notify you with any updates and help you complete the application before the deadline.
4. Complete the Coalition Profile (80% of the application)
The Coalition Profile is always open! You can complete your profile at any time, even before the UW application opens.
Once you’ve created your Coalition account, you’ll see sections to complete like the screen shot below. The UW admission application requires the following Coalition Profile sections:
The English Proficiency section is only required for international applicants. U.S. applicants do not have to complete this section.
The Financial Aid section is only required for U.S. applicants. International applicants do not have to complete this section.
The Coalition application requires you to report the course work you’ve completed in high school.
See our special instructions for the self-reported coursework section if your high school coursework falls into one of the following categories:
5. Complete the UW Questions (20% of the application)
The UW questions are required in addition to the Coalition Profile. These additional questions include two essays, demographic information, and your intended major. If you plan to apply to the Honors Program, you’ll find the Honors application here, which is required in order to be considered for freshman admission to the Interdisciplinary Honors Program.
6. Pay the application fee
U.S. freshman students
The application fee is nonrefundable, and must be submitted each time you apply for admission. It cannot be transferred to another quarter, campus of the UW, or to another student. Application fee waivers available.
- Summer/Autumn 2018 application fee: $80
International freshman students
The application fee is nonrefundable, and must be submitted each time you apply for admission. It cannot be transferred to another quarter, campus of the UW, or to another student.
- Winter/Spring: international freshman applications not accepted
- Summer/Autumn 2018 application fee: 90 USD
7. Send test scores
U.S. freshman students — SAT/ACT
Scores from SAT or ACT are required for admission and must be sent directly from the testing agency. The UW accepts the SAT and ACT equally. There is absolutely no advantage in submitting one test over the other.
International freshman students — English proficiency
International students must submit English proficiency test scores that meet the minimum requirement for admission at the Seattle campus of the University of Washington.
The SAT and ACT exams are not required for international students, but we recommend applicants interested in an Engineering or other STEM-related major (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to submit SAT or ACT math scores.
8. Send transcripts?
Do not send high school or college transcripts until you receive a request from the Office of Admissions. The Coalition application asks you to provide a detailed account of your academic coursework, and that’s all we need to review your application. However, if you have attended a school outside of the U.S. that follows a national compulsory curriculum, you are required to upload an unofficial scanned copy of the transcript(s) for grade levels 9 and higher.
Schools outside the U.S. that follow a national/local curriculum
If you have attended a school outside of the U.S. that follows a national compulsory curriculum, you are required to upload an unofficial scanned copy of the transcript(s) for grade levels 9 and higher.
9. Apply now
The freshman application for summer/autumn 2018 closed Nov 15.
The University does not consider the following in the review of applicants:
No interviews/demonstrated interest
The UW does not conduct formal interviews or consider demonstrated interest in the admission decision.
No letters of recommendation
We ask you not to send letters of recommendation or other supplemental materials such as drawings, CDs, DVDs, books, or other portfolio type items. We will learn everything we need to know about you through your essay responses and Coalition Profile, so it is not necessary for you to submit any other supporting documents.
How to Write the University of Washington Application Essays 2016-2017
Check out the University of Washington Application Essays 2017-2018
University of Washington, located in Seattle, is a stellar public university with a strong commitment to affordable education. Despite its high rankings and impressive financial aid packages (almost a third of students are eligible for free tuition), UW is only moderately selective; over half of all applicants receive offers of admission.
Although the University of Washington has a reputation as a research university, it caters to far more than just STEM students. The university’s three most popular majors are social science, biology, and business, so whatever your area of interest, you’re sure to find like-minded students there.
UW doesn’t use the Common App, although its application is structured similarly. More surprisingly, it refuses to consider letters of recommendation in its admissions process; your essays are the only way for admissions staff to get a sense of your personality.
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University of Washington Application Essay Prompts
You can think of this essay as a slightly shorter Common App essay — the goal is for the reader to get a broad overview of who you are as a person. Depending on which prompt you choose, your response may wind up being very similar to your Common App essay. However, pay close attention to how the prompts differ, and make adjustments as necessary.
Choose one topic from the list below (max 550 words)
Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
If you’ve already responded to Common App prompts 1, 2, or 5, you may be able to use the same story here (check whether your original essay discusses your character). If not, this is a great prompt to let your creative side shine; UW actually encourages applicants to write stories rather than essays.
When choosing an experience to write about, try to pick something that ultimately casts you in a positive light. If you want to demonstrate your character, think about times you acted in a way you’re particularly proud of. Putting forth your best effort in a game against a much stronger opponent, persuading your class to give its senior trip money to classmates in need, and staying calm in an extremely stressful situation are all examples of great topics.
If you decide to write about a character-shaping experience, it’s fine to talk about a time you acted in a less-than-admirable fashion — just make sure that the second half of your essay discusses what you learned and how you’ve changed. For example, if you write about refusing to share a toy in kindergarten, make sure you explain how your friend’s disappointment taught you the importance of generosity, and give examples of how you currently apply that lesson in daily life.
While you can write about observing someone else’s good or bad deed, remember that this essay is supposed to be about you, and devote most of your space to your own thoughts, revelations, and subsequent actions.
Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
This is a great option for a service-oriented student, although there are a few other situations that might fit this prompt (for example, voluntarily allowing your understudy to take your spot in the final performance of a play due to a sore throat). When choosing what to write about, make sure the topic addresses both “a meaningful contribution to others,” and “the greater good was your focus.”
In the context of this prompt, “challenges” can refer either to difficulties in accomplishing your contribution, or personal hardship you endured as a result of your actions. Either approach is valid, although, due to space limitations, you should address only one type of challenge. It is better to discuss one or two experiences in depth than it is to mention every challenge you faced in little detail.
While it might be tempting to say “their gratitude was its own reward” or something similar, you should instead go into more detail about what you personally gained from your experience. Did you feel the entire atmosphere of the nursing home improve? Did you watch one of the students you helped go on to replicate your program at another school? Have you become more comfortable reaching out to strangers?
Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
At first glance, this sounds almost identical to the third Common App essay option. However, there’s an important difference: this prompt is about something external challenging your own belief, rather than you challenging someone else’s belief. As a result, it will likely be challenging to adapt the Common App response to this prompt; writing an entirely new essay is probably the better choice.
If you have experienced a significant challenge to a core belief, this prompt should be easy to answer. For example, perhaps you’d always thought that good grades were just a function of effort until you tutored a classmate with dyslexia. Just make sure to address all three of the questions presented, and avoid describing situations that make you sound intolerant or close-minded. If you’re having trouble coming up with a situation that fits this prompt, you should choose a different question instead.
What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give younger siblings or friends (assuming they would listen to you)?
This prompt is similar to the fifth Common App question, although you’ll need to significantly condense your Common App essay to make room for the advice portion of your response.
In responding to this prompt, avoid inappropriate topics; even though your advice is meant to be geared towards pre-teens, you should feel comfortable with an adult reading your essay. Similarly, try not to come across as whiny or entitled. This topic is rife with potential pitfalls, so make sure to carefully plan your essay if you choose this prompt. Examples of safe responses include the frustration of not being able to vote in such a heated election year and the freedom of receiving your driver’s license.
Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.
This is a great option for students who have already written a fantastic essay, but on a topic that doesn’t fit any of the other choices. Don’t submit an unaltered Common App essay, as that signals a lack of interest in UW. If you pick this prompt, remember that your essay should still showcase your personality and interests.
Even if you don’t have a pre-written essay, this prompt might still be a good match for you. If you’re not enthusiastic about any of the other options, think about a topic you are eager to write about. Are you extremely passionate about organ donation? Did a particularly engaging class project inspire your interest in cultural studies? You can also read through other universities’ applications for topic ideas.
Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the University of Washington. (max 400 words)
If you’re a minority or first-generation immigrant student, your topic will be relatively straightforward; just make sure not to caricaturize or stereotype your family or community. When describing how you’ll contribute to the UW’s diversity, keep in mind that simply having a different heritage isn’t a contribution on its own — the way you share and communicate that heritage is key.
If you don’t consider yourself culturally or ethnically diverse, try to think of other ways you might be unique. For example, perhaps your sports team has a tradition of never outscoring your opponents by more than a certain margin to avoid humiliating them, or perhaps you’re one of ten siblings. Then, think about how your experience or background might enrich the lives of peers who aren’t familiar with that environment.
Whichever approach you take to this essay, try to spend about a third of your space describing your world, a third describing the aspects of your character that are a result of that world, and the final third explaining on how your presence would impact your University of Washington peers. From the team at CollegeVine, we wish you good luck!
If you still aren’t sure how to best turn your personal experiences into compelling essays, consider working with a CollegeVine admissions specialist to write an essay that will set your application apart.