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How to Write a Great Response to the Indiana University Essay Prompt


The Indiana University essay prompt can look a little overwhelming at first. It packs in a lot of details! This guide will help you develop a clear 1-2 sentence Core Message that draws a connection between your interests and goals and the resources at Indiana University.

The first step in writing the Indiana University Bloomington Application Essay is unpacking the prompt:

Describe your academic and career plans and any special interest (for example, undergraduate research, academic interests, leadership opportunities, etc.) that you are eager to pursue as an undergraduate at Indiana University. Also, if you encountered any unusual circumstances, challenges, or obstacles in pursuit of your education, share those experiences and how you overcame them. (200-400 words) This essay may be used in scholarship consideration.

It’s asking three questions:

  • What are your main academic interests and career goals?
  • How have you pursued them in the past?
  • How will you use the resources at IU to pursue them further?

Now, let’s start brainstorming!


Step one: Identify Goals and Interests

  • Identify your career goals. If you’re not sure exactly what they are, it’s okay to identify a field that interests you.
  • Identify the academic interest(s) you would like to pursue at IU, with these goals in mind.


Step Two: Connecting Your Goals and Interests to IU

With these goals and interests, why Indiana University?

  • Explore IU’s website and find classes, opportunities, extracurriculars, and faculty that will allow you to pursue your interests. Choose about 3-4 IU-specific resources that interest you. To explain “why Indiana University,” try to focus on resources that are unique to IU.
  • Here’s an example student’s list:
    • Career goal: Sports Psychologist
    • Main academic interest: Psychology
    • IU Resources:
      • “Psychology, Coaching and Performance” elective courses
      • Capstone Experience - psychology research opportunities
      • Psi Chi Honors Society for Psychology students
  • As you make your own list, jot down some notes about why you like each resource.


Step Three: Your Past

The Indiana University Essay prompt also asks “if you encountered any unusual circumstances, challenges, or obstacles in pursuit of your education.”

  • You can use this part of the prompt in two ways. You might need to talk about something difficult that you overcame. Perhaps you came from a difficult socioeconomic background and had to help take care of your family, or you grew up in a small town without access to the AP science classes you needed. If so, briefly outline the circumstance, and how you dealt with it.  This is a great way to make the case that you deserve  a scholarship! 
  • However, not everyone has a story like that. Instead, think about the coolest or most challenging things you’ve done while pursuing your academic interest. Try to identify 1-2 specific things, and write them down. For example:
    • Interest: Psychology
      • Conducted AP Psychology research project on athlete self-talk
    • Interest: Journalism
      • Reported on controversial story as editor of school paper
    • Interest: Music
      • Learned to program an electric guitar pedal from YouTube videos


Step Four: Your Core Message

Finally, craft your Core Message: a 1-2 sentence summary of your answer to the Indiana University essay prompt. This will provide direction to the rest of your essay.

  • Let’s revisit our example Psychology student. Here’s her Core Message:
    • “I developed a passion for sports psychology during my AP Psychology research project. The resources in Indiana University’s psychology department will help me pursue my goal of becoming a sports psychologist.”
  • Why this works: It states her goals and interests, and introduces the connection to IU’s resources. It’s also clear that she has taken initiative to pursue this interest in the past, which shows dedication to her goal.


When you start writing your essay, you’ll want to include your Core Message somewhere in your first few sentences. Then, as you add details and specific examples, your reader will never lose sight of your most important goals— and neither will you!


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

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