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You can think of this prompt as the slightly more general cousin to the Common App’s first prompt, which is about your background. You can write about almost anything in your life experience that has shaped who you are today. But maybe you feel like you used your best story in your personal statement. What to do? Your goal is to reveal a different side of yourself, so try thinking in opposites! If your personal statement was about your family, maybe this essay could focus on school or work. If your personal statement was about your leadership skills, could this essay cover a time when you let someone else lead the way and learned something new? As you begin to zero in on the area of your life that you haven’t tapped into yet, think about how your past experiences still resonate in your life today. Maybe your summer job as a lifeguard taught a new sense of personal responsibility that has made you more attentive in your day-to-day life. Maybe an ill-fated childhood attempt to drink an entire carton of milk taught you how to balance enthusiasm and moderation in every major project you take on. The experience itself can be big or small, but its connection to who you are today must be clear. UW wants to know who you’ll be on campus, so show them!
Ah, the infamous “community” essay. Many schools ask students about their communities because they want to know how applicants relate to the people around them, forge connections, and commune with their peers. In this particular instance, the question calls attention to family as well, so consider how the people who you are related to (or those who you consider family even if they’re not bound to you by blood) have influenced your life and worldview. Maybe you’re very involved in your local synagogue, polka dancing club, or environmental organization. University of Washington wants to know about your life beyond the classroom and how you will continue those activities and interests on their campus. Why do you invest in the people you invest in?
This prompt is an opportunity for you to explain just about anything else that you haven’t covered elsewhere on the application. Usually, we recommend this type of optional essay only to students who have experienced a major academic strain or have had noticeable blemishes on their records. One example could be the explanation of a complication, like an illness that caused you to miss school and impacted your grades. Perhaps your family moved around a lot, which made it hard to transfer grades or connect with your peers. Maybe an undiagnosed learning disability caused you major challenges in school until you learned how to cope with it. UW’s prompt covers these circumstances, and invites responses from applicants who feel that their unique circumstances are not represented elsewhere in their application.
Admissions is giving you one more opportunity to address anything that needs to be addressed. If you feel inclined to answer, think about what else might admissions officers might want or need to know about you. You have an additional 200 words at your disposal to speak to them in your own voice, so use them as long as what you’re writing isn’t simply filler — if that’s the case, it’s better just to leave this blank.