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How to Write Every Clemson Application Essay, including Calhoun Honors College

There’s no required Clemson Application essay, but there are a few circumstances where you might choose to write one anyway. For example, if you want to get into Calhoun Honors College or be considered for the National Scholars Program, you'll need to write three 500-word supplemental essays. This guide will help you develop strong Clemson application essay topics to share your unique strengths, interests, and values.

Let’s start by looking at the Calhoun Honors College writing supplement questions.

Prompt 1: The Honors College values academic achievement, community engagement, and campus leadership. As a result, applicants typically exhibit excellent grade point averages in the most challenging coursework, high standardized test scores, multiple extracurricular activities, and academic awards. In this space, please tell us what - apart from these typical attributes - distinguishes you as a candidate to join the dynamic intellectual community of Honors College students. Please provide specific examples. (500 words or fewer)

  • This essay prompt is an opportunity to share something important about yourself that is not included in the rest of your application.
  • To start your brainstorming process, identify a personal trait that you feel is an important part of who you are.
  • Then, pick a specific experience where you demonstrated this trait.
    • This could be a traditional extracurricular, but feel free to get creative – for example, you could write about a family or cultural experience, a personal project, or a time when you overcame a challenge.
    • Double-check the criteria in the prompt, to make sure you’re following their instructions. Avoid topics like academic achievements and awards.
    • Here are some example students’ initial notes on their topics:
      • Student 1:
        • Positive trait: Creative problem-solver
        • Experience: Organized social media campaign to increase adoptions at animal shelter
      • Student 2:
        • Positive trait: Enjoys helping others
        • Experience: Taught younger sisters to program arduino robots
  • From there, you can add more details!


Prompt 2: Describe and discuss the most significant learning experience you have had outside the classroom that altered your views on an important political, economic, social, or scientific issue. How will you apply the lesson(s) you learned to your academic and professional goals?(500 words or fewer)

  • For this Clemson application essay, it’s important to pick an experience that really changed you.
  • Did the experience make you think hard and reflect on an important issue in a new way?
  • Did it “stick with you” and change your views in a lasting and memorable way?
  • If so, you’re on the right track!


Prompt 3: The Calhoun Honors College solicits student ideas each year in a "Create a Course" contest. Recent seminars include "The 2018 Elections," "Sustainable Energy," "The Comedic Jane Austen," and "The Science of Music." Submissions are reviewed for creativity, intellectual relevance and importance, and appeal to Honors students. What topic would you submit, and why do you want to learn about it? How would you convince friends from a wide range of majors that they would benefit from the course? Do not suggest courses of a purely practical nature, such as personal finance or fitness. (500 words or fewer)

  • This prompt gives you a lot of creative freedom. Don’t worry about whether you’re picking the “right” or “wrong” topic – focus on choosing something that’s really fascinating to you.
  • Also, try to pick a topic that you feel excited to share with others. This will help you provide a compelling explanation for why Clemson students from a variety of majors should take your class. What’s the one thing you can’t stop talking about?


Special Circumstances - Optional: Please use this space to share any special circumstances affecting your application that warrant consideration by the selection committee. (250 words or fewer)

  • This essay is an optional part of the Calhoun Honors application, so you should only write it if you have something significant to explain. For example, you might want to explain missing or confusing information in your application, unusual life circumstances that affected part of your application, or something truly important to your life that didn’t fit anywhere else.


Additional Info:

But what if you aren’t applying to Calhoun? There’s another Clemson application essay. It’s optional, but it’s a great way to provide more details about your achievements and goals.

Include information that you believe will contribute to your success as a student and information that we may not be able to gather within your application. You may also include any information concerning individual educational objectives and career goals. (No Word Limit).

    • The best way to approach this essay is to focus on one thing that you really want Clemson to know about you. Do you feel like your application paints a clear picture of who you are and why you want to attend Clemson? If not, what’s missing?
      • For example, you might want to write about...
        • An achievement, in or out of the classroom. As you completed your application, did you feel like you didn’t have enough room to talk something awesome you did?
        • How Clemson will prepare you for your career goals. What are the top 2-3 features of Clemson that will prepare you to do amazing things in the future?

Get started with our free brainstorming tools!


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

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