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The George Washington University Application Essay: Showcasing What Matters to You


George Washington University, named in honor of George Washington himself, is dedicated to “furthering human well-being.” It should come as no surprise, then, that the George Washington University application essay prompts touch on citizenship and social change. No matter which prompt you choose, you’ll have the opportunity to show the reader how you engage with your community and what matters to you.

Please respond to one of the following essay questions in 250 words or fewer:

  • At the George Washington University, our students frequently interact with policymakers and world leaders. These experiences and those of our alumni can shape the future of global affairs. If you had the power to change the course of history in your community or the world, what would you do and why?
  • The George Washington University encourages students to think critically and to challenge the status quo. Thus, civil discourse is a key characteristic of our community. Describe a time when you engaged others in meaningful dialogue around an issue that was important to you. Did this exchange create change, new perspectives, or deeper relationships?

In this guide, we’ll show you how to choose between the prompts and craft a supplement essay that showcases your character.


Step One: Choose a prompt

Although the prompts for the George Washington University supplement focus on similar themes, there are subtle differences between them.

  • Prompt #1 focuses on broad change. Choose this prompt if you believe that changing the world should happen on a systemic level.
  • Prompt #2 focuses on incremental change. Choose this prompt if you believe that changing the world starts with changing hearts.


Step Two: Brainstorm

Regardless of which George Washington University application essay prompt you choose, you’ll want to select an issue that is personally meaningful to you. Start by making a list of issues that you’re passionate about (i.e. racial equality, trans inclusion, free speech, the environment, etc.). For each issue you listed, jot down a few notes describing why you care. Finally, circle the issue on your list that has the most heat for you.

Next, reflect on the brainstorming questions for the prompt you chose. Jot down any thoughts that come to mind.

  • Prompt #1: What are some of the smaller ways that this issue affects your community or communities? What existing policies contribute to this issue? What will happen if no one intercedes? What are some of the actionable steps that could be taken to effect change?
  • Prompt #2: Can you think of a time when you engaged someone else in dialogue around this issue? Why did you start this conversation? What made your exchange meaningful? How were you affected by the conversation? What changed in your relationship with this person?

Tip: You might look to local activists for inspiration. What are some of the policies and systemic changes that they are advocating for/against?

Tip: Even if you weren’t able to change someone’s mind completely, you likely had some kind of impact.


Step Three: Your Core Message

The last step is to craft a strong core message that leaves the reader with an implicit understanding of how you can contribute to GWU’s community.

Here are some examples of strong core messages:

  • When I engage people on issues that are important to me, I start by trying to understand what matters to them. I believe that effective advocacy starts with empathy.
  • When public policy supports the most disadvantaged members of society, we all benefit.

Once you’ve crafted your core message, you’ll be well on your way to a fantastic George Washington University application essay! Happy writing!


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