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Community: Writing the Supplemental University of Washington Essay

In addition to the Coalition Application essay, the University of Washington requires one supplemental essay. Let’s start by taking a look at the prompt:

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. (200 words)

In this guide, we’ll show you how to craft a University of Washington essay that demonstrates how your background has shaped your values. Let’s get started!


Step One: Brainstorm

Flex your fingers and get ready to do some freewriting! We’re going to start by making some lists. Set a timer for three minutes, and list:

  • Any communities you interact with at least once a week
  • Any communities that you’ve belonged to for more than three years
  • Any communities where you feel completely at home
  • Any communities where you’ve learned valuable life lessons
  • Any communities that have helped you come to a deeper understanding of yourself


Step Two: Reflect

Review the lists you made. Out of all the communities that came to mind, which one has affected you the most? Take another three minutes to freewrite, reflecting on these questions:

  • How has this community nurtured your growth and made you a better person?
  • How have you carried your community’s values into other areas of your life?


Step Three: Your Core Message

The University of Washington essay prompt asks you to reflect on how you, as a product of your community, might contribute to UW. Simply put, the admissions committee wants to understand how your values shape your actions. Craft a 1-2 sentence core message to convey how your community has impacted your worldview.

Here’s an 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.”

After you’ve created your core message, you’ll have a clear road to a strong University of Washington essay! You’ll begin by describing your community. Next, you’ll show the reader how that community has shaped your identity and informed your actions. Happy writing!


Optional Prompts

While this is the only required essay, the University of Washington application also includes two additional information prompts.

The first prompt allows you to offer “additional information if something has particular significance to you.” If extenuating circumstances impacted your academic performance in high school, you may wish to provide a brief explanation here. If you’re applying for a major that participates in Direct-to-Major admission (such as chemistry or neuroscience), you can strengthen your application by explaining your passion for your major of choice. For additional guidance, check out our Why Major module!

The second prompt provides extra space to explain or clarify aspects of your application. University of Washington advises applicants to write concisely, so avoid simply expanding on your other essays. However, you might wish to use this prompt if your school uses an atypical GPA scale, if you’ve won any significant awards, or if there’s any other information that the committee might need to make their decision.


Note: The University of Washington uses the following Coalition Application essay prompt for its 500-word main personal statement: 

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

This is the first Coalition Application essay prompt option, and it gives you a lot of flexibility! For more information on how to tackle the Coalition App prompts, check out our guide.


Need help with your common app essay? Sign up to get our free guided brainstorming tools!

Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

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