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Amherst College 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Amherst College 2023-24 Application Essay Question Explanations 

The Requirements: One essay of 300 words, a series of optional short answers

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Activity, Diversity, Essay of choice

Optional additional identity information: The questions below provide a space for you to share additional information about yourself. This information is used in the admission process to understand each applicant’s full context, as part of our whole-person review process. Your responses will be kept private and secure, and will not be used for a discriminatory purpose. 

If you would like to share more about yourself that is not captured elsewhere in your application, please tell us more here. (Maximum: 175 words)

Amherst is giving you an opportunity to further distinguish yourself from other applicants—not with amazing test scores or impressive grades, but by painting a more detailed picture of who you are. Think about activities you enjoy, places that give you peace, or aspects of your personality or background that you haven’t discussed in your application yet and tell that story. Maybe you’d like to write about your experience growing up in a military family, competing in the Junior Olympics, or playing Mancala with your grandpa. The options are endless! Just be sure to tell admissions something about you that they don’t already know.

Do you identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community? If you wish to share this information, please complete the following question: If you wish to share more about your LBGTQ+ affiliation, please use the space below. (Maximum: 75 words)

Amherst wants to admit a diverse class of students and takes seriously its commitment to making the campus a safe space for all. That said, this short essay response is entirely optional, so please don’t feel pressured to respond if you identify as LGBTQ+ but aren’t ready to be out to admissions yet. Any response you choose to give here will not make or break your admission; it’ll just add another facet to your application.

Please briefly elaborate on an extracurricular activity or work experience of particular significance to you. (Maximum: 175 words)

Activity essays like this one are more common than participating in icebreaker activities during your first week of college. All things considered, the hardest part is selecting the activity you want to write about! So, we return to our favorite mantra: tell admissions something they couldn’t learn from anywhere else in your application. If you wrote your Common App essay about your time walking dogs for your local animal shelter, focus on a different activity or work experience that reveals a new aspect of your personality. This can be a great opportunity to highlight your leadership skills and any awards or special recognition you may have received throughout high school. Were you nominated for an award after going undefeated with your doubles tennis partner? Were you asked to manage a team of volunteers at the food pantry based on your community-minded reputation and leadership skills? No matter what you choose, it should probably be something you’ve been involved in for a while, so you can demonstrate your growth and the impact that you have had on others.

If you have engaged in significant research in the natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, social sciences or humanities that was undertaken independently of your high school curriculum, please provide a brief description of the research project: (Optional) (50-75 words)   

There’s not a lot of room for embellishment in this brief prompt. So only answer it if A) you have actually done research that fits the bill, and B) you haven’t already written about it in detail. (In the first prompt of this supplement, for example.) If your work meets the criteria, don’t worry about getting too clever with your description. In fact, you’ll do yourself a favor if you adhere to the standard academic practices around presenting research in your chosen field. If it’s scientific or medical research, cover the bases of a report: research question, methods, and results (with special emphasis in anything you found particularly interesting or central to your experience). If it’s in the social sciences or humanities, a basic synopsis that focuses on your main argument will do. Once you’ve filled in the basic details, you might consider giving a little background on how you came to participate in this extracurricular research: how did you get connected with the lab or program? This small narrative element will help you show admissions that you’re motivated, engaged, and already out in the world impressing people.


In addition to the essay you are writing as part of the Common Application, Amherst requires a supplementary essay from all applicants. There are three options for satisfying Amherst’s supplementary writing requirement: Option A, Option B or Option C. You may select only one of these options. Before deciding, carefully read the descriptions of all three options.

Option A: Choose one of the following quotations, and respond to the question posed, in an essay of not more than 350 words. It is not necessary to research, read, or refer to the texts from which these quotations are taken; we are looking for original, personal responses to these short excerpts. Remember that your essay should be personal in nature and not simply an argumentative essay.

Before you even get to the quotations, there’s a lot to take in about Option A, so let’s take a breather. Don’t let the seemingly academic nature of this assignment fool you; at the end of the day, Amherst admissions is still looking for a personal story.  

Prompt 1: “Amherst College is committed to learning through close colloquy and to expanding the realm of knowledge through scholarly research and artistic creation at the highest level. Its graduates link learning with leadership—in service to the College, to their communities, and to the world beyond.” 
– from the Mission of Amherst College
Prompt 1 Question: What do you see as the benefits of linking learning with leadership and/or service? In your response, please share with us a time where you have seen that benefit through your own experience.

This option is perfect for students who have a strong background in volunteering, community service, and leadership. If that’s you—great! In your response, make sure you focus on how learning has translated into leadership or community service. Maybe you were a junior camp counselor for at-risk youth and observed how your senior counselor adjusted their approach to each camper based on what they learned about them. Perhaps you started volunteering at an animal shelter and quickly realized you had a lot to learn about animal care, eventually using what you learned to train other volunteers. Make sure you articulate what you see as the benefits of connecting learning with leadership and how you will use this knowledge as a member of the Amherst community.

Prompt 2: “We seek an Amherst made stronger because it includes those whose experiences can enhance our understanding of our nation and our world. We do so in the faith that our humanity is an identity forged from diversity, and that our different perspectives enrich our inquiry, deepen our knowledge, strengthen our community, and prepare students to engage with an ever-changing world.” 
– from the Trustee Statement on Diversity and Community
Prompt  2 Question: In what ways could your unique experiences enhance our understanding of our nation and our world?

This is a Diversity Essay in disguise, perfect for students who have a unique background, identity, or interest that has impacted how they interact with the world. Maybe you grew up on a working farm and look forward to using your experience to educate your peers as an EcoRep in your dorm. Perhaps you’ve lived all over the world because your parent was in the Foreign Service and you bring a fresh perspective on American imperialism. You could also write about your race, nationality, or any other aspect of your background, personality, or experiences. Make sure to focus on not only what makes you unique, but also how that has primed you to educate your peers and make your mark on Amherst’s campus.

Prompt 3: “Strong commitment to the freedom of inquiry lies at the heart of Amherst College’s mission to create a home in which the liberal arts may flourish. As a small residential liberal arts college that prides itself on the ability, curiosity, and diversity of its students, Amherst seeks to create a respectful environment in which members of its community feel emboldened to pursue their intellectual and creative passions.”
– from the Amherst College Statement of Academic and Expressive Freedom
Prompt 3 Question: Tell us about an intellectual or creative passion you have pursued; what did you learn about yourself through that pursuit?

This prompt is perfect for students who have a creative or intellectual passion outside of their classwork that has been a major part of their lives thus far. Maybe you’ve taken coding courses through your local community college and used those skills to build an app for your uncle’s deli. Perhaps you love musical theater and perform every year with the summer stock company in your town, taking on increasingly larger roles. Whatever you choose to write about, make sure the focus is on what you learned about yourself. Maybe you realized that you have a deep-seated desire to utilize your skills to help others. Perhaps you always considered yourself clumsy but discovered you could dance, improving your self-confidence in the process. Through this prompt, Amherst seeks to understand what inspires you and how that inspiration has changed you. To finish it up, tell admissions how you will continue to pursue this passion as an Amherst student. 

Option B: Please submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year that best represents your writing skills and analytical abilities. We are particularly interested in your ability to construct a tightly reasoned, persuasive argument that calls upon literary, sociological or historical evidence. You should NOT submit a laboratory report, journal entry, creative writing sample or in-class essay. If you have submitted an analytical essay in response to the “essay topic of your choice” prompt in the Common Application writing section, you should NOT select Option B. 

Okay, we’ll keep it short. Although this is technically an option, the wording should make it clear that admissions is really angling for a response to option A. We only see two sets of circumstances where an applicant might want to consider option B: (1) if you somehow procrastinated to the eleventh hour and have no time to write an original essay or (2) you have written something you are so proud of that it could have won an award (and maybe it did). Just make sure it is what admissions is asking for (a persuasive argument that calls upon literary, sociological, or historical evidence)⸺if not, you’re better off scrambling to write a response to one of the Option A prompts!

Option C: If you are/were an applicant to Amherst’s Access to Amherst (A2A) program, you may use your A2A application essay in satisfaction of our Writing Supplement requirement. If you would like to do so, please select Option C. However, if you would prefer not to use your A2A essay for this purpose and you want to submit a different writing supplement, select either Option A or Option B. Option A, Prompt 2 is the same prompt as the A2A application essay; if you would like to submit an updated version of your A2A application essay, please choose Option A. [Please note that Option C is available only to applicants to Amherst’s A2A program. Non-A2A applicants must choose either Option A or Option B.] 

No explanation necessary! If you think that this essay will be the best way for you to reflect yourself to Amherst admissions, then feel free to use it here. If it’s so nice, why write it twice?

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School Stats:

State: Massachusetts
Acceptance Rate: 7%
Undergrad Population: 1,898
Tuition: $66,650
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