We have school-specific prompt guides for almost 100 schools.
The Requirements: 2 essays of 350 words
Activity essays like this one are pretty common and really are as straightforward as they seem. The most difficult part is usually selecting the activity you want to write about. So, we return to our favorite mantra: tell admissions about something that they won’t already know about you from looking at your transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal statement. If you wrote your Common App essay about your stint as captain of the swim team, for this prompt you should focus on a different (ideally non-athletic) activity that shows a different side of who you are. This can be a great opportunity to highlight your team building skills and any accolades you may have received as a result of participating in a particular activity. Have you managed an ice cream shop for the last two summers? Now is a great time to elaborate on your experience memorizing flavors while restocking spoons and attending to #hangry customers. No matter what you choose, it should probably be something you’ve been involved in for a while, so you can demonstrate your growth and the impact that you have had on others.
We’ve got another Why essay on our hands, people. Time to hit the books! Vassar’s prompt goes a little beyond the typical “why do you want to go here” question, but at the end of the day, that’s still what they want to know. So before you write out the whole saga of how your mom’s best friend’s grandma went to Vassar before it was coed, pull up the school website and do a little research. Spend some time getting to know the school and finding examples of what you like about it. If it’s something like the small size, learn more about the kinds of research opportunities students have. Or perhaps it’s simply the draw of a classic liberal arts education, so learn more about departments and clubs that embody these values. When you have a few specifics in hand, you can begin to map out your story. After all, you can’t answer the question without it, and it could present an opportunity for you to show admissions whose advice matters to you (a trusted friend or relative?) or toss in a disguised humblebrag (a Vassar alum once told you that you’d be a great fit!). So structure your narrative around your first encounter with Vassar, and fill it with specific details that show how well you followed through.
In many cases, when we see an “optional” item on an application, we encourage students to still act as if it’s required. Why not take every opportunity available to show admissions who you are? But in this case, we encourage you to use your own judgement. Are you comfortable sharing a photo with admissions? Are there already photos of you online that an admissions officer could see? Perhaps you’d like to curate a specific image of yourself and ensure you make the right first impression. This could also be a great way for you to showcase an interest or skill by sharing your soccer captain headshot, a photo of you receiving an award, or an action shot from a particularly challenging debate tournament. Also, we’re sure we don’t have to say this but: whatever you choose, make sure you’re comfortable with anyone seeing it (including your grandma).
While this section is also optional, there’s no reason not to take advantage of it! If you have a more detailed or prettier resume/CV than what the Common App can accommodate, why not upload it here? For students in good academic standing, this is a freebie. On the other hand, if you have some gaps in your resume or blips on your transcript, consider this an invitation to tell your side of the story. You might consider writing what we call an “additional info essay” where you shed light on the personal circumstances (like an illness or family emergency) that may have caused these inconsistencies.
Creative types will likely already have a few portfolio pieces saved up for just this type of question. Visual art, writing samples, and music clips are just a few of the basic forms your submission could take. Unlike the other optional questions, though, we’ll ask you to proceed with caution here. Yes, this is a truly optional question. Your submissions, like your essays, should represent you to admissions: they should reveal something new or provide a deeper understanding of something you have listed as an activity. Don’t waste your reviewer’s time by submitting something just for the sake of submitting it. Select your absolute best work and share a limited sample. And if you’re not sure you have anything that fits, no worries! Your essays can do the talking.