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How to (and Whether to) Write the William and Mary Application Essay

So you’re wondering whether or not to write the ”optional” William and Mary application essay?

Well, that’s easy for us to answer: YES! WRITE IT!

The William and Mary supplement is a valuable opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants by showcasing your personality, passions, and writing ability. Your Common or Coalition App personal statement allows you to show meaningful ways you’ve faced challenges, engaged with your world, and grown as a person. With the William and Mary application essay prompt, you’re actively encouraged to be creative and let loose with your wild, quirky side (within reason).

Here’s the prompt:

What Makes You Unique? (Recommended)

650 words max

Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh. Think of this optional opportunity as show and tell by proxy and with an attitude.

 

Before you dive into the writing, have some fun brainstorming about yourself. Ask yourself, “What would my family and/or friends say makes me unlike anyone else they know?” (You could even ask them! Hint: encourage them to stick to the positives...) Or ask yourself, “What is something special about me that almost nobody knows?” We all have our secret talents and obsessions, our inner drives and dreams. Think about which of yours would make a William and Mary admissions reader leap from their desk and cry out, “We need some of that!”

It helps to do some research and know a bit about the school so you have an idea of just what “type of person” W&M is looking for. Know that they’re big on diversity, hands-on, experiential learning, community service, and giving undergraduates opportunities to get involved in high-level research. Not that you should “name-drop” these ideals, but keeping them in mind could help you decide which aspects of your unique, colorful self to highlight. At the same time, you do want to go “beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments,” as the prompt prompts you to do. Go for the heart of what makes you you!

Here are some examples of topics you might choose for your William and Mary application essay:

  • How you recently discovered a new way to tie your shoes and now you’ve become obsessed with knots of all kinds, and your free time is all tied up in knot theory and praxis.
  • Your love of cooking, and how your family and friends love you mainly for the lavish meals you’re always making for them.
  • An excerpt from a play you’ve written; perhaps the scene where the main character (who’s obviously you) gives an impassioned speech on the struggle to integrate art and beauty into one’s work life.

These are just ideas (and not necessarily the best ones ever). What can make almost any idea great is if it spurs you to do some deep introspection and lets you portray that je ne sais quoi (pardon my French) that makes you tick.

In your response, it’s a good idea to address the why and how—not just the what—of your topic. Why is this unique aspect of yourself so meaningful to you, and how does this shape your hopes and dreams going forward?

Note: A video submission is also acceptable. You should still follow the advice above to make sure your video actually shows viewers something compelling and unique about you. Also, some applicants send wacky personal objects to the admissions office. Such highly unusual submissions probably won’t give you a big leg-up over other applicants (and might actually confuse or otherwise disconcert admissions officers). Unless you have stellar video editing and public speaking skills, we recommend putting your thoughts in writing.

 

Click here for our guide to writing the Common App Essay

 

Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

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