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How to Answer the Santa Clara University Essay Prompts 2019-20

Santa Clara University, a top-ranking private Jesuit university located in the heart of Silicon Valley, asks prospective students for two short responses in addition to the Common App personal statement. These Santa Clara University essay prompts invite you to show admissions readers why your unique interests, values, and goals make you and SCU a great fit!

Let’s look at how to approach each Santa Clara University essay prompt.


Briefly describe what prompted you to apply to Santa Clara University. If you have had the opportunity to visit campus, please describe what aspect of your experience most influenced your impression of SCU. (Maximum 200 words)

This prompt is basically asking, “Why SCU?”

Whether you visited the campus or not, it’s a good idea to make sure that the first part of your response focuses on academics. Here are some tips for developing and structuring this material.

  • First, make some lists! Start by writing down your main academic interests. Then, pick the one or two areas that you’re most passionate about and list specific SCU resources (classes, faculty, majors, research opportunities) that would help you pursue these passions.
    • By doing a deep dive on the SCU website, you can identify resources that uniquely reflect your personality and learning style.
  • For the first half of your response, use about 100 words (maybe 5-7 sentences) to connect your interests to SCU resources. There’s no space for long introductions; just jump right into specifics!


For the next 100 words, focus on envisioning yourself as part of the SCU community.

  • If you visited campus, brainstorm about what stood out to you on your visit; you might touch on community spirit, extracurricular activities/clubs, campus events, interesting interactions you noticed.
    • Don’t just tell them about their beautiful campus or their prime Silicon Valley location—they already know! See if you can surprise them by identifying an aspect of SCU that’s uniquely appealing to you.
  • Now, list specific ways you might contribute to each of these areas.
  • To write this part of your response, pick the area that you see yourself contributing to the most. It’s great to include some vivid details about what you saw, heard, or felt during your visit, but don’t stop there! Give readers a glimpse of how you’ll get involved within the SCU community. Use perhaps 2-3 sentences to describe the aspect that most impressed you on your visit, and another 3-4 sentences exploring how you’d make an impact on that aspect.
    • For example, perhaps you were struck by the enthusiasm of students volunteering in SCU’s on-campus urban garden; you could tie this to your own interest in sustainable farming and describe how excited you are to get involved in SCU’s sustainability efforts.


  • If you didn’t visit, you can still highlight some aspects of SCU outside of your main academic interests.
    • Make a list of your extracurricular passions and hobbies, your most cherished values, your life goals.
    • Go through the SCU website and see what connects to items on your list; you might touch on areas such as campus life, clubs, study abroad, or anything else that is uniquely compelling to you.
    • For your essay, describe how the interests you listed draw you to specific SCU opportunities—and don’t forget to show readers how you might contribute!


Driven by the Jesuit values outlined in our mission statement, Santa Clara University promises to educate citizens and leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion. We strive to cultivate knowledge and faith to build a more humane, just, and sustainable world. Write about an experience from your life that embodies an aspect of our mission. (between 150 - 300 words)

First, it’s a good idea to check out the full mission statement (on the SCU site)

As you read through the school’s core values, see if any of them remind you of specific actions you’ve taken; think about ways you’ve demonstrated initiative or leadership. For each value, jot down a list of experiences that come to mind.

  • For example, perhaps you spearheaded a project on pollution in your local waterways, and this solidified your passion for environmental science. Maybe you mentored students in an underprivileged community and were inspired to find a career that would let you continue this work. Or perhaps you have a Jesuit or Catholic background that has led you to help others in a specific way that’s meaningful to you.


Now, pick the most meaningful experience from your list.

  • To write your response, start with a sentence or two summing up this experience and how it relates to the SCU mission.
  • Then, spend about 100 words describing the experience: what actions you took and why you took them. There’s no space to go into great detail here or provide extensive background info; just show readers the key moments where you demonstrated your values.
  • Round out your response by discussing why this experience was so meaningful to you. How did it help you grow? How does it impact what you hope to do at SCU?
    • Here’s an example: SCU is big on integrating high-tech innovation with social consciousness and a commitment to improving the world. Perhaps you’ve designed a website that aims to connect low-income students to college resources, and consequently you’re drawn to SCU’s blending of knowledge and compassion.


With your responses to these Santa Clara University essay prompts, try to show other sides of yourself from what you cover in your Common App personal statement. Remember, this is your chance to show readers not only that you’re a stellar college candidate, but that you’re an ideal candidate for SCU in particular.



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