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Northwestern University 2020-21 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

Northwestern University 2020-21 Application Essay Question Explanation

The Requirements: 1 essay of 300 words or less

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why

Is it a mirage? No it’s the Northwestern supplement. And yes, it only has one (1!) solitary question. But when a school like Northwestern (with its 9% acceptance rate) lobs you a softball, you’ve got to wonder, “what’s the catch?” Hint: a seemingly easy supplement means that you have no excuse to slack off, no reason to cut corners. Your final draft had better be a sparkling example of your best writing, showcasing your best self (and your best spelling!). So what are you waiting for?

While other parts of your application give us a sense of who you are, we are also excited to hear more about how you see yourself engaging with the larger Northwestern community.


In 300 words or less, help us understand how you might engage specific resources, opportunities, and/or communities here. We are curious about what these specifics are, as well as how they may enrich your time at Northwestern and beyond.

This is a why essay without the word “why” in its confines, but make no mistake: it’s putting you to the same test. As you likely already know, a why essay is the classic litmus test for your fit and commitment. Do you want what the school has to offer? How much do you even care? Demonstrating a depth of knowledge will address both of these questions, so put on your researching glasses and fire up the Internet! Spend some time on the Northwestern website digging beyond the basic admissions facts and figures. What classes would you take? What special programs or centers appeal to you? What activities would you pursue? Your final list doesn’t have to be comprehensive (you only have 300 words, after all), but it should be cohesive. In the end, you need to describe how you plan to “engage specific resources” that Northwestern has to offer, so pick a few that go together. Love birds? Why not extol the interdisciplinary benefits of studying biology at one of the few institutions to house a complete set of Audubon’s Birds of America? You get the idea!

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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