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Barnard College 2020-21 Supplemental Essay Guide

Regular Decision: 

Barnard College 2020-21 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 essays of 300 words

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why, Oddball

What factors encouraged your decision to apply to Barnard College and why do you think the college would be a good match for you? (300 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.” But 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, research will help you solidify your reasons with concrete details (e.g. course titles, professors, local attractions). 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!)

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.

At Barnard, academic inquiry starts with bold questions. What are some of the bold questions you have pondered that get you excited and why do they interest you? Tell us how you would explore these questions at Barnard. (300 words)

At its core, this prompt is asking you one very simple question: What interests you? What gets your gears turning? Start by brainstorming. What do you find particularly interesting? What was the last topic/idea/event that you read an entire Wikipedia page about? Keep in mind that admissions wants to know how you will explore these topics/questions at Barnard, so more abstract topics won’t work as well here (unless, of course, you’re an aspiring philosopher). Admissions wants to accept intellectually curious students who are passionate about learning, enriching their understanding of the world around them, and putting what they’ve learned into practice. Our final advice: try not to fall down too many Reddit rabbit holes while brainstorming for this prompt! The list of continuity failures of the movie Twister can wait!😉

Pick one woman — an historical figure, fictitious character, or modern individual — to converse with for an hour and explain your choice. Why does this person intrigue you? What would you talk about? What questions would you ask them? (300 words) (OPTIONAL)

If you’re thinking that the “(optional)” part of this question means you can pass it by, think again. We recommend that students take every opportunity afforded to them to tell admissions more about themselves! And this prompt is no exception (especially because it is SUCH a fun one!). You’ve probably been asked a version of this question before: Who would you invite to an imaginary 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.

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 drive your curiosity? 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–spoiler alert: they’ll be able to tell. 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 and historical, local, or fictional femmes are equally welcome! Once you have a solid list, you’ll be in a better position to hone in the right person. Who do you know the most about? Which person would give you a chance to reveal something new to admissions? Like an otherwise unspoken interest in politics, fashion, or ancient history? Some unknown 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?

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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