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Short and Sweet: How to Write the Purdue Supplemental Essays | 2022-2023


    In addition to the Common or Coalition app essays, Purdue University has two required supplemental essays. With word limits of just 100, the Purdue essays are short... but that doesn't make them simple. This guide looks at how to write Purdue supplemental essays that pack a lot of information into very little space.

    Let's start by looking at the Purdue supplemental essay prompts.

    How will opportunities at Purdue support your interests, both in and out of the classroom? (Respond in 100 words or fewer.)

    Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the major you have selected. (Respond in 100 words or fewer.)

    Your Purdue essays can (and should) work together. These prompts ask you to define two things: your interests, and specific classes, resources and programs at Purdue that will help you pursue those interests. There's some overlap between these two essays, so let's consider them together. Get some paper, or open up a fresh document, and prepare to take some notes!

    Step One: Motivation. Think about the kinds of things that you like to do, and that make you feel fulfilled when you pursue them. Remember that you can have different motivations for the same thing. For example, you might love math because you like bashing away at difficult problems until you solve them, or you might love math because you see beauty in it.

    Step Two: Catalysts. Catalysts are experiences or accomplishments that spark or further your interest in your chosen major. For example, a struggle with food allergies might have drawn you towards the medical field, or completing a special project in an inspiring class about WWI might have gotten you excited about history.

    • Tip: Catalysts can be big or small. List as many of them as you can think of.

    Step Three: Goals: What kinds of things do you want to do in your life? Are there any particular careers that you are interested in? What do you want to get out of college? What do you want to do in your life that you couldn't do without this degree?

    • Tip: If you're not sure of a particular career path, think about the kinds of things that interest you in general.

    Step Four: How Purdue Can Help: Spend some time on Purdue's website looking at majors and courses that relate to your chosen interests. Start with the list of majors and the course catalog, but don't neglect the rest of the website. You might be intrigued by Purdue's learning communities, cultural programs, or diversity initiatives. Jot down anything that excites you, especially if it relates to your chosen major.


    Let's take a look at an example student's brainstorming list.

    • Major: UX Design
    • Motivations: Collaborating with artists and engineers, guiding others through new experiences
    • Catalysts: Designing apps as part of an in-school competition, leading theatre tech club
    • Goals: A career that involves collaboration, and is both creative and technical, the chance to create new things
    • How Purdue can help: A lesson plan that combines classes like "Fundamentals of Imaging Technology" with classes like "Elementary Psychology;" the Design Purdue IRL Learning Community; Devised Theatre Opportunity in Columbia


    Structuring Your Purdue Supplemental Essays

    Once you have your brainstorming list, it's time to structure your response. In the "Why Major" essay you can focus on your motivations and catalysts. In the "Why Purdue" essay, you can focus on the ways Purdue can help you achieve your goals.

    • Tip: If you have a lot of material, it's ok to mention some specific major-related resources or career goals in your "Why Major" essay, especially if that major is unique to Purdue. The important thing is to avoid repeating yourself between the essays.

    For longer "Why Major" and "Why Us" essays, you'll often want to start out with a summary or thesis statement. But the Purdue supplemental essays are too short for that to be an effective strategy. Instead, open with the most compelling reason, then fill in the others. 

    Here are some sample Purdue essays that match the brainstorming list above.

    Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the major you have selected. (Respond in 100 words or fewer.)

    I have always been drawn to use both technology and creativity to connect with other people. Whether I'm creating new apps for the iPhone or lighting the school musical, I am happiest when learning new tools, and using them to create new experiences for audiences. When I heard about Purdue's major in UX design, I realized it could be a path to a career that used both the STEM and creative sides of my brain. I can't wait to embark on a lesson plan that combines Fundamentals of Imaging Technology with Elementary Psychology and Transformative Texts.


    How will opportunities at Purdue support your interests, both in and out of the classroom? (Respond in 100 words or fewer.)

    As a highly collaborative person who doesn't like to put artistic and technical learning in separate boxes, I am excited by the opportunities Purdue offers to work with other students across disciplines. By pursuing a UX design major, I plan to take full advantage of the Polytechnic Institute's team-based learning. Outside of my major, I hope to join the IRL Design Learning Community, which will give me the chance to create something new with a group of students from all departments in a 24-7 collaborative environment, and participate in unique programs like the Devised Theatre Opportunity in Columbia.

    For additional help with your Purdue supplemental essays, check out our "Why Major" guide and our "Why This School" guide.

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