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How to Write Every Clemson Application Essay, including Calhoun Honors College: 2020-21

There have been a few changes to the Clemson application essays for this year. First of all, you can now apply to Clemson using the Common Application!  If you pick this route, you will have to write the Common Application Personal Statement. Don't worry: if you pick the Coalition app (or Clemson's own application) your main essay is still optional. We’ll cover that below!


If you want to get into Calhoun Honors College or be considered for the National Scholars Program, you'll need to write two 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.


These first two prompts are required:

Prompt #1: Tell us—as best you can at this point—about your academic and professional goals. What experiences, talents, accomplishments, and/or personal qualities make you think you'd be happy and successful in the Honors College and in your future career? (500 words)

This essay is essentially a “Why Major” essay that leaves space for you to reflect on the personal strengths you’ve developed by following your intellectual interests.

  • Share an experience that catalyzed your interest in a specific field.
  • Describe how you’ve explored this area of interest.
  • Reflect on how your relevant experiences have shaped your goals for the future and helped you develop personal qualities that will help you succeed.
  • Address how the Calhoun Honors College will enable you to achieve your goals.

Prompt #2: What is something you thought you knew that you turned out to be wrong about? Why was this realization important? (500 words)

For this Clemson application essay, it’s important to pick an experience that really changed you.

  • Start by identifying your previous misbelief and why you held it.
  • Describe the experience that made you question this misbelief.
  • Describe how this experience changed your views in a lasting and memorable way.
  • Explain the key lessons you took from this experience.


These two prompts are optional:

Optional Prompt #1: Please use this space to share any special circumstances affecting your application that warrant consideration by the selection committee. (250 words, optional)

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.


Optional Prompt #2: Please upload any extra documentation here that you wish to include with your application such as your resume or list of accomplishments. You may upload a PDF, MS Word, or MS Excel file up to 10MB in size. Due to the volume of materials received by the Clemson University Honors College during our admission cycle, we are unable to manually attach documentation to your application that is mailed, faxed, or emailed to our office. You have the option to upload a resume and one additional document in this section of our application and three additional support document uploads at the end of this application. Each applicant is limited to a total of five additional support documentation uploads. Three of these upload options are available for post-submission upload via the "View Checklist" link after clicking on "Review Your Activity" on the index page (meaning you can upload up to three of your maximum five support documents at any time after you submit your initial application to us). (no word limit, optional)

If you’re applying with the Common App, you may be frustrated by the limited character counts in the activity list or awards/honors section. If that’s the case, you should definitely submit a separate résumé to highlight your impact within your extracurricular activities, internships, etc.

For the support documents, it’s important to focus on accomplishments or work samples that showcase your ability to succeed in college and beyond. For example, you might submit:

  • A graded academic essay
  • Research abstract
  • A document that demonstrates your leadership in a club (e.g. a budget spreadsheet or marketing materials for an event you planned)
  • A creative writing sample
  • Technical drawings or diagrams


Additional Info:

If you’re applying via the Coalition Application or Clemson’s own application, you won’t write the Common Application personal statement. However, you should consider submitting this optional Clemson application essay, as it’s a great way to provide more details about your achievements and goals.

Prompt: 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 about 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?

Click here for our guide to 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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