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Barnard College 2019-20 Supplemental Essay Guide

Regular Decision: 

Barnard College 2019-20 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: 2 short answers of 100-250 words; 2 essays of 250 words

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why, Oddball, 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?

Who in your life is depending on you? What are they depending on you for? (250 words)

*This prompt was removed partway into the admissions cycle*

You may not have thought of yourself as a source of support before, but dependence takes many forms and it’s happening in your daily life. Your story can be as obvious as the kids you babysit or the dogs you foster with your family. But it can also be less cut and dry. Remember: Your friends depend on you for compassion and inspiration. Your siblings depend on you to set an example or to cheer them on in their endeavors. One way to think about this is to ask yourself, “who would be disappointed if I didn’t show up?” Walk yourself through your day, week, or the past year and take note of who counts on you. You might surprise yourself with how integral you are in the lives of those around you. In telling this story, show admissions that you take your responsibilities seriously and appreciate the part you play in the lives of those around you.

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (250 words)

*This prompt was removed partway into the admissions cycle*

Take a look at your activity resume and visualize a day in the life in each job or activity. Admissions officers know that working at an ice cream shop demands punctuality, but do they know how buff your forearm gets after scooping 500 Rocky Roads? Admissions knows that being a camp counselor can be exhausting, but do they know that you get a burst of energy when a shy kid smiles and tries something new? Share with Barnard the experiences that may go unnoticed and use this as an opportunity to show admissions a new side of you that you haven’t listed on the application.

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