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How to Write an Outstanding University of Washington Essays | Guide & Examples, 2022-2023

School Supplements
Brad Schiller
Brad Schiller
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Alert! Alert!

As college admissions essay coaches, we’re issuing one of our rare “Harder Than It Looks” alerts for U Washington’s seemingly easy-breezy “community” supplement:

Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW. (300 words)

You’re thinking: what are they talking about? This essay is short and fun. But there is a trap here: it’s so easy to have fun writing about how much you love your volleyball team community or your Mexican heritage that you forget the most important thing — showing U Washington you can succeed in college and beyond.

For concrete guidance to do just that — and for tips on U-W’s “personal statement” essay and the optional “extra” space — meet us below the table of contents. 

(For help with all aspects of your college application, head to our College Essay Help Center.)

Think of your best “experiences” before you start answering any of these essays;Don’t take our examples too seriously — there are many “right” ways to answer Washington’s prompts;Q1 — Center your personal essay around your best experiences;Q2 — Center your “community” answer on experiences that show your actions and contributions to that community;Q3 — Follow our “Additional Info” section advice as you choose how (or if) to write the optional “extra” question;Helpful info on all the “other” stuff you’ll consider as you apply to U-Washington (and other schools)
Think of your best “experiences” before you start answering any of these essays;Don’t take our examples too seriously — there are many “right” ways to answer Washington’s prompts;Q1 — Center your personal essay around your best experiences;Q2 — Center your “community” answer on experiences that show your actions and contributions to that community;Q3 — Follow our “Additional Info” section advice as you choose how (or if) to write the optional “extra” question;Helpful info on all the “other” stuff you’ll consider as you apply to U-Washington (and other schools)

    Think of your best “experiences” before you start answering any of these essays.

    As college admissions essay coaches, we believe you should start by figuring out everything you want to say about yourself — and then figure out where to slot it into the application’s questions.

    For U-W, those questions are:

    1. Personal statement (650 words)
    2. Community question (300 words)
    3. Optional “extra” space (200 words)

    Except for the “community” question, these are all wide-open. And even the “community” question casts a broad net in terms of what they consider “community.”

    For your purposes, you need to share the very best of your experiences that show U-W that you’ll succeed in college and beyond

    As you’ll learn, if you walk through our free brainstorming materials in our dashboard (create a free account), Prompt’s method is first to spend time writing down all the experiences you’ve had in high school — thinking broadly of everything you’ve done academically, extracurricularly, with your family, at a job, over the summer, and independently. 

    These experiences will form the basis of your essays. As you develop your questions, start thinking about which of the 5 Traits each experience helps you to show off. (The traits are: Drive, Initiative, Intellectual Curiosity, Contribution, and Diversity of Experiences.) 

    The more you write with the traits in mind, the more you’ll add details that impress your admissions officers — and stay away from details that don’t add value. By the end of this process, you should have a lot of valuable info to share. 

    Next, take the best experiences you’ve come up with — the ones that most exemplify one (or more) of the 5 traits — and slate them in your slots. 

    • Your very best experiences (that best show 1 or more of the 5 traits) should go into your personal statement.  
    • Your community answer should also focus on 1 or more of the 5 traits, as demonstrated in a community setting. Let your own actions determine which “community” you choose — not the “community” you love most, but the “community” in which you’ve contributed the most, or which helped you develop important traits.
    • Your extra space deserves more consideration (as we’ll discuss below). Note that, unlike most “optional” essays, it’s fine to leave this one blank. 

    Don’t take our examples too seriously — there are many “right” ways to answer U Washington’s prompts.

    Quick interruption: at Prompt, we’re on record as being against modeling yourself on influencers, New York Times college essay writers, and, really, anyone who isn’t you.

    On the other hand, we know that you want concrete examples of what our brilliant but (we’ll admit it) abstract advice can actually look like in practice. So, we’re illustrating with some made-up examples.

    Please read them with a big grain of salt. You may have a different writing style. You may go a million other directions. And if the example sounds too impressive, it just might be — our examples are generally loosely based on real examples, but still fictional. You’re working with reality, and that tends to be harder.

    With that caveat out of the way, back to our regularly scheduled programming. 

    Q1 — Center your personal essay around your best experiences 

    Here’s the prompt:

    Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. (650 words)

    While U-W just started accepting the Common App, they’re still new to it. So this question is their way of asking you to write a personal statement. As essay coaches, we know what makes for a knock-out personal statement. And it’s … a huge topic that deserves its own article. That article is here, and we strongly urge you to read it now. 

    Story warning: this prompt specifically asks for a “story” from your life. We’ve written a whole article about how “telling a story” can be a particularly dangerous trap if you’re not mindful. We recommend giving that a once-over before you start. 

    So, once again, here’s where we wrote everything you need to know about writing a great personal statement. (Yes, it’s for the Common App, but it will all stand you in excellent stead for this question, too, even if you don’t use the CA. Recycling is as good for the planet as it is for college applications.)

    And with that, let’s move on to Q2 — Community.

    Q2 — Center your “community” answer on experiences that show your actions and contributions to that community.

    The prompt is:

    Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW. (300 words)

    Step 1 — Yes, again: look at your list of experiences before you think of a list of “communities” 

    Start with great stuff that shows how you contribute and add value within groups. Then find a way to make it fit this prompt.

    Ultimately, U-W wants to find out if you’ll be a strong community member. So stay away from long, detailed descriptions of your ethnic heritage, say, and focus instead on how you support, strengthen, and continue that heritage. 

    Step 2 — Note that this question is broad. It cites “neighborhood,” “extended family,” “co-workers,” “etc. …” In other words, you can be creative with “community” here.

    Brainstorm times you’ve held leadership roles, participated in cool projects or events, or helped someone meaningfully (as a volunteer, friend, or family member). Consider what role you play in your small town, ethnic group, or religious life. Think broadly and you may get a particularly compelling and unique essay out of it. 

    Step 3 — Write with an emphasis on your contribution or how your community has led to your development.

    Keep the focus on yourself. Admissions officers are reading to see if you’ll be great on their campus, not to learn the intricacies of your Mexican cultural heritage. 

    Community example:

    As long as I can remember, my Jewish community has encouraged me to ask questions instead of blindly following tradition. My genuine curiosity helps me not only in the classroom but also in my interpersonal relationships.

    I’ve attended Hebrew School at Beth Shalom since 2nd grade. True, my spoken Hebrew is pretty bad, but the critical thinking skills I’ve gained from Torah Study are something I’ll always cherish. 

    I first noticed this in English class, with our sophomore unit on the poetry of Emily Dickinson. As we examined the poem Tell all the truth, but tell it slant, I felt that our class’ understanding was too simple: that you can’t blurt out the truth, but need to prepare people for it. As I explained this to the teacher, she smiled and said I’d figured out the deeper meaning she wanted to lead us to — that the poem is actually critiquing this message, and argues in favor of unbridled truth. 

    It was an “unclick” moment for me: the moment I understood that learning is about digging deep until you are satisfied (not about getting good grades, which had been my focus up till then). 

    Similarly, as the leader of the school paper, I used these skills to dig deeper in a staff meeting where everyone said they were doing fine, but the mood seemed off. I followed up individually with a bunch of reporters and found out I’d been pushing too hard. I learned that you also need to hold your relationships up to scrutiny, never taking for granted that things are going smoothly. I still have a lot to learn as a leader, but that lesson has hugely helped me produce a better paper as I become more in tune with my staff.  

    Notes: 

    • This is 293 words.
    • The essay focuses on the student’s actions with lots of specifics — how they translated critical thinking skills to the academic and interpersonal arenas. 
    • Note that these actions are from high school - older examples can be less powerful for admissions officers.
    • The essay demonstrates the traits of drive - working hard on problems until you fix them, and intellectual curiosity - genuine interest in the academic world. 
    • The essay shows how the student would add to the U-W campus by painting a particular portrait of how the student brings their Jewish community values to their academic and extracurricular work. 

    Q3 — Follow our “Additional Info” section advice as you choose how (or if) to write the optional “extra” question.

    The question is:

    You are not required to write anything in this section, but you may include additional information if something has particular significance to you. For example, you may use this space if:

    • You have experienced personal hardships in attaining your education
    • Your activities have been limited because of work or family obligations
    • You have experienced unusual limitations or opportunities unique to the schools you attended (200 words)

    In the Common App, the Additional Info section can be an enormous asset. But it’s also highly anxiety-producing for many students. This “extra” question functions in pretty much the same way. 

    That’s why we recommend you learn all about the admissions-boosting possibilities of the “Additional Info” space — as well as its real pitfalls — before deciding how to tackle this question in your own application. 

    Helpful info on all the “other” stuff you’ll consider as you apply to U-Washington (and other schools).

    A few helpful resources for the non-supplement parts of your application:

    BTW, here’s our guidance for approaching any college supplement + here’s where you can find our guides for almost every college’s supplements

    Feeling inspired? A great place to start is at our College Essay Help Center

    More articles on Prompt.com’s admissions-boosting methods:

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