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Haverford College 2020-21 Supplemental Essay Guide

Regular Decision: 

Haverford College 2020-21 Application Essay Question Explanations

Haverford College may be a tiny school, but its values are voluminous. In case you didn’t already know that Haverford is known for its Honor Code, admissions makes it abundantly clear in the epic introduction to this supplement. Our advice to you: read it very carefully so you can plan your essays strategically. Admissions is testing you in two ways, (1) to see if you’re dedicated enough to read with care, and (2) to see if you have the imagination to go beyond the information they have laid out. They know what you know (or at least what they expect you to know), so your job is to push the values of the Haverford community into uncharted territory and show admissions how they apply to your own life and ambitions. The stakes are extra high for originality and honesty so give yourself some time with this one.

The Requirements: 1 essay of 250 words, 1 short answer of 150 words

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why

A Haverford education is distinguished by the extraordinary trust placed in students, the emphasis on student agency in all facets of the academic and community experience, and the cultivation of ethical leadership. All of this is embodied in our student-run Honor Code. The Haverford Honor Code is not a set of rules, but rather a statement of shared values centered on the concepts of trust, concern, and respect. It serves as an educational tool in and of itself and provides a powerful framework for our community, emphasizing and supporting qualities we see as essential to a Haverford education. Among other things, the Honor Code at Haverford shapes:
  • Academic Freedom: The Honor Code fosters an atmosphere emphasizing academic integrity, collaboration over competition, and the cultivation of intellectual curiosity. Differences and disagreement are respected, valued, and embraced, and open discourse is seen as fundamental to the academic endeavor.
  • Student Agency: The Honor Code upholds a culture in which students are deeply trusted to take substantial ownership of their education and to profoundly shape and define the Haverford community. Student ownership is reflected in self-scheduled exams, in the fact that every student completes a Senior Thesis, in shared responsibility for the residential experience, and of course in oversight of the Honor Code itself.
  • Community: The Honor Code establishes a supportive environment for living and learning, where the community experience plays a central role in one’s education. The inherent value of every community member is recognized, and diversity in all respects – including diversity of background, experience, and perspective – is nurtured, celebrated, and embraced.
  • Leadership and Engagement: The Honor Code allows every student to find and develop their own voice, to practice ways of improving community and acting on issues of importance, to learn methods of problem solving and conflict resolution, and to examine the ways they can and will impact the world beyond Haverford.
Please give us a better sense of what you are looking for in your college experience by answering the following questions:


Tell us about a topic or issue that sparks your curiosity and gets you intellectually excited. How do you think the environment at Haverford, including the framework of the Honor Code, would foster your continued intellectual growth? Please limit your response to 250 words.

This prompt weirdly manages to present a challenge and cut you some slack all at once. By this point, the admissions committee has made it pretty clear that the Honor Code is important. Are you surprised that they expect you to address it in your supplemental essays? Rather than forcing you to squeeze your thoughts on the Honor Code into a why essay (more on this below), they have given you the opportunity to explore its significance in a separate question. On the other hand, now you actually need to think critically, specifically, and personally about how the Honor Code (and overall Haverford ethos) would affect your “intellectual growth.”

The easy part is coming up with a topic that interests you: What do you love? What could you geek out about for hours? Keep in mind that something that gets you “intellectually excited” doesn’t have to be strictly academic. Maybe you’re fascinated by Foucault. Or maybe you’re intrigued by the evolution of the topics covered in Disney movies. Both are totally valid! Follow your gut and focus on a subject that you could easily blather on about for hours. The tricky part is connecting your chosen topic to the Honor Code. One route might be to tie your topic to one of the four tenets listed above. How would any of these values promote or improve your learning? If you’re the Disney aficionado we described above, maybe the emphasis on Student Agency or Academic Freedom would give you both the space and support to mash-up ideas across topics. Or maybe the idea of living in a close-knit Community bound by an Honor Code makes you feel more comfortable about sharing your idea for making an animated movie of your own. Any given topic will likely connect to several tenets, so zero in on the one that makes the most sense to you!

Please tell us what motivated you to apply to Haverford and what excites you most as you imagine your Haverford experience. Please limit your response to 150 words.

We warned you this was coming! Luckily, the second essay of the Haverford supplement is a straightforward Why essay, and in the spirit of academic honesty we’ll give you one piece of advice: do your research! Spend some quality time on the school website (or on campus, if you can) and prep some specific questions to ask in your (required!) interview to fill in the gaps. Read up on the departments, students groups, and campus news that interests you most — and don’t forget to take notes! Keep in mind that this is a short essay, so once you’ve completed your research, you’ll need to pare it down to the most important (and personal) details for a focused response. Pick one thing that you love (Chemistry!) and build in some details that will show that you did your homework (Collaborative work in the INSC! An interdisciplinary interest in photography and the Visual Arts building!).

If you have more to say about the Honor Code, it may be worth mentioning, but keep in mind that space is limited! Save the majority of your words to tell admissions something new.

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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