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Occidental College 2020-21 Supplemental Essay Guide

Regular Decision: 

Occidental College 2020-21 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: 2 essays of 200 words, 1 essay of less than 150 words, 1 essay of 300 words, 2 short answers

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


Why are you applying to Occidental? What are your intellectual curiosities and why do you think Occidental is the right place for you to pursue them? (200 words maximum length)

This is a classic Why essay if we’ve ever seen one. How much thought went into your decision to apply to Occidental? Regardless of any long- or short-standing personal connection you may have with the school, we still recommend starting with at least an hour to do some good old-fashioned research. Dig beyond the basic facts and figures to learn about your prospective major(s), uncover classes you want to take, delve into the contents of the school library, and/or peruse the list of clubs and volunteer opportunities. Next, answer the second part of the question: What are your intellectual curiosities and why do you think Occidental is the right place for you to pursue them? Given the tight word limit, you’ll want to be succinct, so focus on one key interest (a love of music?) and goal (to one day perform at Carnegie Hall?) and describe how an Occidental education will get you there. Then just fill in the details with examples from your stellar research!

Oxy’s central mission emphasizes the value of community amidst diversity. What do you value in a community and how do you see your perspectives and life experiences enhancing it? (200 words maximum length)

This Community essay prompt is as classic as apple pie. What do you value in a community and what do you bring with you to contribute? First, think about what you value; maybe it’s the sense of belonging or acceptance, or perhaps it’s a group of people that support you and know that a win for you is a win for the community as a whole. Next, consider the facets of your personal identity and ask yourself: What could I teach my new friends about over breakfast in the dining hall? More than likely, you’ll come up with an aspect of your identity that you want to share with the world. Try to think of how that aspect enriches the lives of your peers. Can you regale them with stories of what it was like growing up in a commune? Can you share your perspective as the child of an immigrant family? What is it about your background or experiences makes you unique? What would your friends say is your “superpower”? These are all ways to break into a discussion of what you bring to the table as part of a group, and how you would promote diversity on Oxy’s campus next fall.


Quirks, idiosyncrasies, peculiarities. They help differentiate us. What is one of yours? (133 words max)

Admissions is reading through so. many. applications. So many, in fact, that admissions is asking you to differentiate yourself in the most creative way possible. You do not have many words to play with here, so brevity is key. Ask your friends, classmates, or relatives about your quirks or peculiarities. Do they notice anything you do that you might not even be aware of yourself? The goal here is to stand out in the minds of admissions officers. Whether you’re the applicant who can make balloon animals or the student who always matches his socks with his accessories, paint a picture for admissions. Help them get to know you on a deeper level, so that you’ll leave a lasting impression.


Please answer one of the following questions (300 words max):

1. Research is an integral part of an Oxy education. Completing a senior comprehensive is a requirement of every Oxy student. Additionally, there are opportunities with the Institute for the Study of Los Angeles, the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, the International Richter Grant, the Summer Undergraduate Research Center, and other departments to conduct research. What is something you would like to research and why?

This question is pretty straightforward. Research is fundamental to an Occidental education, so what would you like to research as an Oxy student? Odds are, if you’ve done your research on the school, this question doesn’t come as a surprise to you. And you probably already have an idea of what you’d like to research. If that’s not the case, however, we recommend looking into the research opportunities available to you as a student as Oxy. From there, you’ll be able to pick one or two that are of particular interest to you, and expand on your “why”. We encourage you to be as detailed as possible, to show admissions that you’ve put thought into your response (and research plans!).

2. Briefly describe a current event or social movement that is affecting a city, town, or place that is important to you. Describe its significance to the community as well as its future implications for that community.

Admissions wants to accept socially aware, responsible citizens to campus next fall. So, take this opportunity to show admissions that you are in fact an informed member of society. Maybe air pollution is a huge problem where you live. How is it impacting your community and what will happen if nothing is done to remedy the situation? Perhaps there are major civil rights violations where you live. Why is this issue important to you? How does it affect your community, and what does the future look like if things keep going the way they are now? Of course, if you can find a way to mention what you’ve been doing to find solutions or raise awareness, all the better.


What is the first song you would play for your roommates on move-in day? (150 characters)

“We Are The Champions” by Queen. NEXT! Alright, fine, maaaybe that song is a bit cliché at this point. But don’t underestimate the first few songs that pop into your head. You don’t have to say that you’d play Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven or something by Andrea Bocelli to impress admissions here (unless you really would play that, and, if that’s the case, rock on 🤘). Be true to yourself. Maybe you’d play “Blame it on the Boogie” by KC and the Sunshine Band, because it’s impossible to not get up and dance to that song — and what’s a better ice breaker than funky moves? Or perhaps you’d play “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan, because it’s the type of song you have to sit back and really listen to in order to fully appreciate it. No matter what song you would play, be sure to include a brief explanation for your selection that reflects your personality.

If you had your own food truck or restaurant, what would it be called?* (150 characters)

For Occidental’s final supplemental essay question, admissions is giving you the opportunity to daydream. The only way to do this wrong is to say “Billy’s Restaurant, because I’m Billy and it would be my restaurant.” Get creative! Would you have a restaurant called Abuelita’s, where you would serve dishes made from your grandma’s top secret recipes? Would you open up a spooky-themed food truck (you love Halloween!) serving vietnamese food (Phantom Pho)? No matter the direction you choose to go in, make sure you’re revealing more about yourself through your answer.

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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