Expert guidance for all your college essays

Prompt’s Essay Specialists share tips to help you write better essays in less time

Get fresh essay tips in your inbox

All Posts

How to Write the Washington University Essay: Showcasing Your Curiosity


The Washington University in Saint Louis supplemental essay is an opportunity to show your passion for learning, in or out of the classroom— it’s also an opportunity to get to the top of the admissions list and be considered for scholarship money. This guide will help you develop a great topic that you can explore in about 250 words. 

Let’s start by looking at the Washington University essay prompt.

This supplemental essay will allow you to further express your interest in your academic area of choice. While we don’t want to limit you from fully expressing your ideas and responding to our supplemental essay question, we recommend that you keep your response to around 250 words. The word allowance on the Common Application and Coalition Application forms is 300 words. This is to give you flexibility and to ensure your essay is not cut off. You should use only the number of words you need to express your answer.

All applicants will answer a supplemental essay question for admission and scholarship consideration. Merit scholarships, offered by each academic division, do not require a separate application process. Once you complete the supplemental question, you will be considered for the appropriate scholarship for the division to which you are applying. As you write your supplemental essay, you should keep in mind that it will be used for both admission and scholarship consideration. Therefore, you may wish to craft your response within an academic framework. Separate applications are required for the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholars Program and the Entrepreneurial Scholars Program, as well as our premier merit-based scholars programs, housed within the Office of Scholars Programs (OSP) - the Danforth Scholars Program, the Ervin Scholars Program, and the Rodriguez Scholars Program. For full details, visit, and click on scholarships.

Tell us about something that really sparks your intellectual interest and curiosity and compels you to explore more. It could be an idea, book, project, cultural activity, work of art, start-up, music, movie, research, innovation, question, or other pursuit.


Step One: Identify something that sparks your intellectual curiosity

  • What makes you feel excited to learn? It could be something you enjoy exploring in or out of school.
  • When choosing a topic, make sure you can identify at least one specific experience where you’ve pursued this interest.
  • Here are some example students’ topics and experiences:
    • Student 1
      • Topic: Baking
      • Actions taken: Runs a food blog, creates new recipes, took chemistry classes to understand more about the science behind cooking
    • Student 2
      • Topic: Restoring cars
      • Actions taken: Restores old cars with his father as a hobby
    • Student 3
      • Topic: Filmmaking
      • Actions taken: Attended summer class on filmmaking, directed a short film with classmates


  • Keep in mind that Wash U recommends that you select a topic that reflects an academic interest you would like to pursue at WashU.


Step Two: Connect it to an academic interest

  • The interest you chose in Step One might already be something that you want to pursue in college. (For example: if your intellectual interest is filmmaking, and you want to major in film studies, you’re all set!) If so, you can move on to the next step.
  • But maybe the interest you chose wasn’t an academic subject. If that’s the case, how does your topic connect to your intended major?
  • To help you get started, here are some connections drawn by example students:
    • Student 1
      • Topic: Baking
      • Academic interest: Chemistry
    • Student 2
      • Topic: Restoring cars
      • Academic interest: Mechanical engineering


Step Three: Your Core Message

  • Finally, craft a 1-2 sentence Core Message that summarizes your response to the Washington University essay prompt. This will let your reader know what to expect from the rest of your essay.
  • Let’s revisit the example student who’s interested in baking. Here’s her Core Message:
  • “I love baking, and I’ve always been interested in understanding why different ingredients work together. My interest in baking led me to explore chemistry in high school, and inspired my goal of majoring in chemistry in college.”
  • Why this works: It introduces a specific topic that sparks the student’s intellectual curiosity, and mentions an experience where she actively pursued this interest. It also shows the connection between her Washington University essay topic and her main academic interest.


Once you have a strong Core Message for your WashU application essay, you can add more details about how you have pursued this interest in the past, and how you’d like to continue in the future. This will paint a clear picture of your passion for learning in about 250 words!

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.

Get Your Essay Reviewed

Related Posts

How to Write the Pitt Honors College Application Essays

To win admittance to the University of Pittsburgh Honors College, you'll have to respond to two short ans...
Reina Dec 23, 2019 11:51:56 AM

How to Write the Cornell Engineering Essay 2019-20

If you want to attend Cornell College of Engineering, you’ll have to write a supplemental essay about you...
Nick Dec 19, 2019 4:09:57 PM

Writing the Cornell Supplemental Essays 2019-20: the CAS Essay

If you’re applying to Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences, you’ll need to write one of the ...
Reina Dec 19, 2019 9:44:48 AM