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Barnard College 2017-18 Supplemental Essay Guide

Regular Decision: 

Barnard College 2017-18 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Seven Sisters aren’t just women’s colleges, they’re also historic institutions that have helped carve out space for women in higher education. Barnard admissions will be looking for a commitment not just to women’s education but to the type of community they aim to create as they build each incoming class. In other words, a perfunctory application won’t cut it! The smaller the school, the higher the scrutiny. So give yourself time to brainstorm, draft, and refine before you hit submit!

The Requirements: 3 short answers of 100-250 words

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why, Oddball, Community, Short Answer

What factors influenced your decision to apply to Barnard College and why do you think the College would be a good match for you? (100-250 words)

In a way, this prompt is redundant. We would hope that the factors influencing your decision to apply are directly related to the reasons you think you’d be a good match! “I’ve grown up hearing about the benefits of attending a women’s college and now I’m ready to see for myself,” makes for a much more cohesive and convincing story than, “My mom went to Barnard so that’s why I decided to apply, and also I love New York.” So, how do you craft a winning answer that weaves together the practical and aspirational aspects of your decision to apply? Research, research, research! If you’ve been planning to apply to Barnard for a while, it will help you solidify your reasons with concrete details. On the other hand, if you’re relatively new to the idea of applying to Barnard, spending a few hours on the school website will help you paint a picture of what your experience could be like. Allow yourself to get genuinely excited and that enthusiasm will shine through in your writing. (Sounds silly, but mindset matters!)

Since this is a relatively short prompt, try to focus on one clear, cohesive reason and support it with a few choice details from your life and research. Think: “Coming from a small town, I want to push myself to experience college in a global setting, while still maintaining the kind of close-knit community I’m used to.” With such a specific topic sentence, this student could fill her essay with personal details from her life at home while drawing a connection to the type of experience she hopes to have.

Pick one woman in history or fiction to converse with for an hour and explain your choice. What would you talk about? (100-250 words)

You’ve probably been asked a version of this question before: Who would you invite to an imaginary tea party or dinner party? If you could summon anyone from the grave, who would it be? In this case, unsurprisingly, Barnard wants you to write about a woman. But hold up, isn’t this your application? (Not Madeleine Albright’s or Rosa Parks’ or Nefertiti’s.) Why would a school ask you to write about someone that isn’t you? And what do they expect to learn? A question like this one is probing for an inkling of your interests and motivations. Who do you admire? What are your aspirations? What kinds of things do you know? When you come upon a prompt that directly or indirectly asks you to demonstrate your academic or cultural knowledge, the key is to be confident and genuine. Don’t second guess your own interests or strain to write about a topic simply because you think it will impress admissions. It will be easier to write about someone you are genuinely interested in — and the results will be more personal and memorable!

For this type of prompt, brainstorming is key. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and jot down every person that comes to mind: Charlotte Bronte, Tarana Burke, your great-great grandma, your biological mom, Katherine Johnson, Katniss Everdeen, Hermione Granger… no idea is too absurd during the brainstorm. Once you have a solid list, you’ll be in a better position to home in the right person. Who do you know the most about? Which person would allow you to reveal something new to admissions? An interest in politics, or fashion, or ancient history? Some undiscussed aspect of your personal history? You could even try to put a twist on a person that might feel like a common choice. Many women interested in computer science might like to bend Ada Lovelace’s ear, but how many of them would ask her about the representation of women in the media?

Barnard women seek to make a difference in their community, whether through the residence hall, classes, clubs, volunteer work or a part-time job they hold. Describe how you make a difference in your community and what you have learned from that experience. In what ways do you see yourself contributing to the community at Barnard, inside or outside of the classroom? (100-250 words)

Okay, this is a lot. So first, let’s strip this prompt down to its bare bones. Part A: Describe a time you made a difference in your community. Part B: Explain how you will build on this experience at Barnard. Surprise! It’s basically a classic community essay. Therefore, we would recommend focusing more heavily on Part A, and using Part B to guide your conclusion. In other words, your goal for this essay should be to (wait for it) reveal something new to admissions by recounting a story or anecdote. Remember that when you write a community essay, you can define “community” in any way that feels natural to you. The prompt gives a few examples: residence hall, classes, clubs. For you, a community could also be your neighborhood, extended family, dojo, ceramics studio, diner where you work. What collection of people has had an impact on your life, and how have you given back. Your story can describe a formal or informal impact: whether you spearheaded a petition campaign to save a local park or carpooled with one of your coworkers who doesn’t drive, it all makes a difference! Some people might choose to showcase leadership skills, while others might emphasize sensitivity and attention to detail. As you reflect on what these communities and experiences have taught you, be sure to build a bridge to Barnard. How might you continue your work or growth in this new community?

Please note: the information below relates to last year's essay prompts. We are going to update this guide with the prompts for 2021-22 as soon as they become available. Check back soon!
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