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Writing the Wake Forest Application Essays 2018-19: How to Showcase Your Individuality

UPDATE: There have been some changes to the Wake Forest application essays for 2019.  We have a new, updated guide.  Check it out!

Wake Forest College, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, prepares its students to be informed citizens and compassionate community members. The Wake Forest application essay prompts touch on these values, but they also provide you ample opportunity to be creative and showcase your unique outlook on life.

There are eight mandatory Wake Forest application questions. But don’t feel overwhelmed! In this guide, we’ll group the prompts together in three “buckets.” Take out a fresh sheet of paper or open up a new Word document, and get ready to do some freewriting!


Bucket #1: Intellectual Curiosity

The short essays in this bucket give you the opportunity to prove you can think for yourself. But that doesn’t mean that every answer needs to be deeply philosophical. Instead, you should be honest and let your personality come through in your writing.

  • List 5 books you have read that intrigued you.

Questions to consider: What books did you enjoy discussing in English class? What intriguing books have you read on your own? What books took you out of your comfort zone? What books have you gotten lost in?

This prompt doesn’t give you room to explain your choices. As you build your list, aim for honesty and variety, instead of trying to impress the reader.

  • What piques your curiosity? (75-150 words)

Questions to consider: What are some broad topics that you’re interested in? What are some more specific questions that come up when you think about those topics? What do you ponder in the shower? Which Wikipedia pages do you read over and over again?

The more specific you can be in your response, the better. For instance, rather than stating that you’re interested in theatre, you might tell the reader that you’re curious about how immersive theatrical experiences like Sleep No More are made.

  • Kendrick Lamar won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music, becoming the first non-classical or jazz musician to win the award. Whom do you believe will be the next person to break boundaries in artistic, scientific or literary accomplishment? (75-150 words)

Questions to consider: Who are the biggest innovators you can think of who have gone unrecognized? Are there any artists or scientists whose work really inspires you? What fields are you knowledgeable about? Who is doing cutting-edge work in these fields?

This prompt allows you to let your “geek flag” fly! Don’t worry about making an accurate prediction, but do show the reader that you’re knowledgeable about the specific field you’re describing.


Bucket #2: Social Consciousness

Use the essays in this bucket to demonstrate your awareness of the world and to describe the values that inform your interpersonal relationships.

  • Discuss the work of fiction you have read which has helped you most to understand the complexity of the world. (100-300 words)

Questions to consider: Can you think of a time that a book helped you understand someone very different from you? Have you read any books that expanded your awareness of a pressing social issue? Which books do you associate with pivotal times in your life?

Of all the Wake Forest application essays, this one has the highest word limit. Take advantage of the extra space to (briefly) summarize the book you choose, in case the reader isn’t familiar with it, but make sure to spend the majority of your essay describing why this book is meaningful to you.

  • Identify a cultural norm or current political reality with which you disagree. How have you sought or might you seek to change it? (75-150 words)

Questions to consider: Is there anything you wish you could change about the American government? What trends in entertainment bother you? What do you wish you could change about how your peers treat each other? Once you’ve selected a subject, reflect on what you can do to create positive change.

This answer specifically asks about a “cultural norm” or “political reality.” Rather than focusing on a partisan issue, you might choose to address the obstacles that inhibit the change you hope to see.

  • Describe an instance in which you observed or exhibited “character.” (75-150 words)

Questions to consider: Can you think of a time when you chose to do the “right” thing when it was tempting to choose another course of action? What values guided this decision? What was the outcome of your choice? (You can also apply these questions to a person you admire.)

This prompt places the word “character” in quotes. As you’re drafting your short answer, make sure you clearly explain what “character” means to you!


Bucket #3: Personality

If you think the other prompts are meaty... consider these prompts your dessert!

  • Give us your top ten list.

Questions to consider: What are you obsessed with? What do you think about at least once per day? If you could be doing anything right now, what would it be?

Do be aware of how the reader might perceive your list. For example, listing your top ten serial killers might give people the wrong idea. But you could totally provide a top ten list of true crime podcasts!

  • Pro Humanitate, which means “for humanity,” is Wake Forest’s motto. If you had a personal motto, what would it be? (100 characters)

Questions to consider: What do you say all the time? Is there anything you tell yourself to pump yourself up? Do you have any family wisdom that informs your decisions?

Try to come up with your own motto instead of using an existing slogan. Some examples:

  • It doesn’t matter how smart you are if you aren’t nice.
  • Don’t be a hammer, be a Swiss Army knife.
  • Everything is a learning experience.


Bonus Essay

If you apply with the Wake Forest University application instead of the Common App or Coalition App, you’ll need to respond to an additional prompt:

  • Use the following essay to give the Admissions Committee insight into your character and intellect: Rogan Kersh, Wake Forest University Provost and Professor of Politics and International Affairs, is currently teaching a class entitled, “Millennials, Politics and the Future,” which explores research-based characteristics of Gen Y or the Millennial Generation to which you belong. At Wake Forest, we strive to understand the distinctive features of your so-called “millennial” generation, as we design curricula and programs for today’s students. What, in your view, are significant aspects of your generation that we should be aware of? (If you live outside of the U.S., feel free to discuss generational features of young people in your country of residence.)

Questions to Consider: Can you think of a time that you felt misunderstood by someone from another generation? What caused the misunderstanding? What are some of the stereotypes about your generation? How have recent political or technological developments shaped your generation?

Make sure to locate a clear “guiding message” for your essay, and remember to support your views with stories from your life!


Once you’ve filled each bucket, you’ll be well on your way to an application that showcases your individuality!

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.

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