Reserve your spot on our 2024-25 roster before we're fully booked!

Northwestern University 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Northwestern University 2023-24 Application Essay Question Explanation

The Requirements: 1 required essay of 300 words or fewer; 2 optional essays of 200 words or fewer

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why, Community, Diversity, Oddball

We have designed these writing supplements to help us understand your experiences throughout high school and imagine what kind of Northwestern student you may become. The supplemental questions below touch on areas we see as important for building Northwestern’s Class of 2028, but you should feel free to repurpose essays you’ve written for other applications (including the Common/Coalition Application personal essay, which we no longer require) if they tell the story you’d most like to share.
We also know there may be information or qualities not covered in our supplemental questions that you see as important to your application. To that end, we welcome—but by no means expect—your submission of a personal essay or additional information in the Common Application.
The following question is required for all Common Application and Coalition with Scoir applicants (optional for QuestBridge applicants). Please respond in 300 words or fewer:

We want to be sure we’re considering your application in the context of your personal experiences: What aspects of your background, your identity, or your school, community, and/or household settings have most shaped how you see yourself engaging in Northwestern’s community, be it academically, extracurricularly, culturally, politically, socially, or otherwise?

This is a kind of Why-Community Essay hybrid because admissions wants to (A) know what has shaped you, (B) learn about how you see yourself engaging in Northwestern’s community, and C) hear about the specific ways in which you will get involved (which requires demonstrating fit). This is a lot to accomplish in 300 words, but fear not, you got this! Start by isolating a specific story or anecdote that will offer admissions insight into how you have become the person you are today (remember, you don’t have to cover every aspect of your intricate, complicated, interesting self). Then connect that experience, community, or identity to the vision you have for yourself at Northwestern. If your experience is academic, maybe you want to write about the classes you would take or the research you would like to do. If your community is cultural, perhaps you want to write about the clubs you would join. In the end, you need to describe how you plan to engage in the Northwestern community in a way that draws on your past, so show admissions that you have done your research and you’re ready to dive headfirst into the Northwestern community!


The following questions are optional, but we encourage you to answer at least one and no more than two. Please respond in fewer than 200 words per question:

Painting “The Rock” is a tradition at Northwestern that invites all forms of expression—students promote campus events or extracurricular groups, support social or activist causes, show their Wildcat spirit (what we call “Purple Pride”), celebrate their culture, and more. What would you paint on The Rock, and why?

This prompt choice is glorious in its infinite potential. You can choose to elaborate on any of your passions here. Do you want to send a message to your fellow students about the environment? Maybe you want to rally students to join you at a demonstration of some kind. What is important to you? Essays responding to this prompt tend to lean in the direction of activism and community engagement, but don’t feel limited to these angles—anything you want to share with other Northwestern students (and, in this case, admissions) is fair game, as long as you feel strongly about it. And don’t forget to include the recognizable and effective acronym or short phrase you’d paint!

Northwestern fosters a distinctively interdisciplinary culture. We believe discovery and innovation thrive at the intersection of diverse ideas, perspectives, and academic interests. Within this setting, if you could dream up an undergraduate class, research project, or creative effort (a start-up, a design prototype, a performance, etc.), what would it be? Who might be some ideal classmates or collaborators?

This prompt will likely stand out to you innovators, since it’s asking about something you would make from scratch. Use this opportunity to share your imagination with admissions.  Maybe you’ve been making TikToks reviewing your favorite YA novels for some time now. Would you teach a class on the politics of the modern heroine in YA fiction? Perhaps you have an idea for a new healthtech business. Would you create a start-up? And don’t forget to address the second part of the question: who would you want to collaborate with? The person you choose could be your best friend, a community, or an industry leader you admire. There is no right or wrong answer here, so write about something you daydream about and show them that you know how to think big.

Community and belonging matter at Northwestern. Tell us about one or more communities, networks, or student groups you see yourself connecting with on campus.

If your answer to Northwestern’s required essay focused on specific organizations, clubs, and student groups you hope to get involved with on campus, it may be best to skip this prompt so as to avoid repeating yourself. If not, this is the perfect place to provide Northwestern with more examples of how you will get involved in their community. Maybe you focused your required essay on the academic community you hope to join as you take your research to the next level and you’d like to write about your vision for finding belonging in queer spaces on campus or making connections with other members of the AAPI community. Just keep in mind that your response should focus on the future while drawing on your past experiences.

Northwestern’s location is special: on the shore of Lake Michigan, steps from downtown Evanston, just a few miles from Chicago. What aspects of our location are most compelling to you, and why?

This prompt is for all you applicants who are chomping at the bit to study in Evanston, Illinois. The nice thing about being able to focus on geography with this prompt is that you don’t have to have a fully fleshed out plan for your major; instead, you can focus on the experiential and cultural elements that will feed into your education. Why is living in Evanston appealing to you? Your answer should be personal to you and, if possible, unique. Explain what your desire to move from your hometown to Northwestern’s campus says about you. Whether you’re hoping to stay close to your family in Chicago or you’re eager to venture out beyond your one-stoplight town, this is the place to share your excitement.

Northwestern is a place where people with diverse backgrounds from all over the world can study, live, and talk with one another. This range of experiences and viewpoints immeasurably enriches learning. How might your individual background contribute to this diversity of perspectives in Northwestern’s classrooms and around our campus?

Admissions wants to know how you will contribute to the diversity of perspectives at Northwestern. What has shaped you as a person and how has that made your perspective unique? What lessons have you learned and applied? Is there anything you can teach your classmates or peers about your hometown, culture, religion, identity, race, or ethnicity that they might not already know? Northwestern wants to know how your personal perspectives, beliefs, and/or lived experiences will affect the conversations you have and the ways in which you engage with the Wildcat community, so tell them a story that helps them to imagine the kind of student you’ll be on campus next fall.

Ready to get started?
Ivy Divider

We can help!

Ivy Divider

Contact us for information on rates and more!

School Stats:

State: Illinois
Acceptance Rate: 9%
Undergrad Population: 8,659
Tuition: $67,158
Supplemental Essay Prompt Guides:
Share this page:

Want free stuff?

CEA LogoContact us for
rates and more!