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Wake Forest University 2019-20 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

Wake Forest 2019-20 Application Essay Question Explanations 

The Requirements: 2 lists, 6 short answers, 1 essay

Supplemental Essay Type: Short Answer, Oddball, Activity, Community

Before you dig in…

The Wake Forest supplement always gives our students a run for their money and the 2019-20 application is no exception. (Two lists, six short answer questions, plus an essay? What gives?!) That’s why we made you a guide that explains the purpose of each of these thought-provoking prompts and how to answer them in a way that presents a varied and comprehensive package to admissions.

Brief Responses:

1a. List five books you have read that intrigued you. (Spaces have been left for you to include each book’s title and author and mark whether the selection was required or not required.)

The name of the game with prompts like this one is variety. Each of these books is an opportunity for you to reveal an interest or passion of yours to admissions, and you don’t want to come off as one-note. Did Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel series Sandman blow your mind? Were you horrified by Jon Ronson’s revelations about social media in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed? Admissions is giving you the option of checking “required” or “not required” for a reason – they want to understand what interests you both in a formal academic setting and on your own. So make sure you’re not just listing To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet and 1984. They’re all works of art, but everyone’s read them, so what will they really say about you? When you only choose one or two of those oft-assigned classics, admissions gets a chance to see what from the modern English (or other!) curriculum really resonated with you.

1b. As part of my high-school English curriculum, I was required to read _________. 

I would have liked to replace it with______. 

The required book I was most surprised I enjoyed was ________. 

Even though this prompt is a simple, fill-in-the-blank exercise, it still offers you an opportunity to showcase a new side of yourself to admissions – particularly when it comes to choosing the book title for the second blank. For the first blank, we recommend choosing a book of required reading that never really resonated with you. Perhaps you found reading The Scarlet Letter tedious and would have loved to replace it with Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale because you are a huge fan of historical fiction. Maybe you would have preferred to read Chuck Klosterman’s X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century over The Grapes of Wrath because you are obsessed with current cultural issues. For the third blank, we recommend just being honest! Did you expect to dislike The Iliad and instead found yourself reading ahead to find out what happened to Hector? Select whichever book truly surprised you for this last blank, and don’t be afraid to show off a unique interest in your selection for that second blank!

1c. Tell us how a work of fiction you’ve read has helped you to understand the world’s complexity

This prompt asks you to discuss a work of fiction that has profoundly impacted your view of the world. At CEA, we always recommend that you choose an unexpected work of fiction in order to stand out from the pack. Yes, it’s true that 1984 showed many students a bleak picture of what a Big Brother takeover might look like. However, almost every student in the country is assigned that book and takes a look at those same lessons. What else have you read that stuck with you because of who you are and what you care about? The book has to be fiction, but aside from that requirement you have a lot of leeway here.. Were you blown away by the coming-of-age story The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian? How did that graphic novel change the way you think about the Native American experience? Did the thrilling The Talented Mr. Ripley make you rethink the relationship between morality and murder? And if so, how did Highsmith accomplish this? Try to be as creative as possible with your selection here, and think about what books have really struck you at your core and why.

2. What piques your intellectual curiosity, and why?

This is a classic short-answer: a broad, pithy question that demands a specific, personal response. This prompt isn’t just about your academic interests, so rather than starting with a subject area (religion! calculus!) or big category (books! snakes!), try to come up with a few specific examples. When was the last time you went down an internet rabbit hole trying to research something? When were you extremely motivated to solve a problem or create something new? What was the last fact or skill you learned outside of school that truly captured your imagination? Once you come up with good examples, be sure to address the “why” part of the prompt: have you always loved working with your hands in your father’s auto body shop or vegetable garden? If so, why is this kind of work interesting to you? Are you fascinated by tasks that combine your love of logic with your intuitive, creative side? If that’s the case, what other intellectual pursuits that fuse these two sides do you plan to pursue in the future? The bottom line here is to discuss examples of what truly fascinates you while also reflecting on what these examples say about your personality traits, interests, or learning style.

3. As part of our “Voices of Our Time” series — which allows students, faculty, and staff to hear from some of the world’s leading thinkers — Wake Forest has hosted Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Alexander, Eboo Patel, and Thomas Friedman. If you could choose the next series speaker, whom would you pick, and why?

For this prompt, we urge you to make an unexpected, creative choice of speaker–this will ensure that the admissions officer doesn’t read your response and immediately let out a pained groan because he or she is SO tired of reading about this extremely popular individual over and over again. (Your reverence for Michelle Obama or Elon Musk may be genuine, but those are individuals who many other students are likely to select, so try coming up with someone more original.) As with virtually every prompt, in your selection of who you deem to be a great thinker, you have an opportunity to showcase a new interest or side of yourself. For example, in selecting the comic book writer Frank Cho, you could discuss your passion for sci-fi fantasy while detailing the important contributions that Cho has made to the field. At some point, you will need to make the argument for why you think the individual you chose – in this case, Cho – would make for a compelling, worthwhile speaker, so don’t ignore the critical “why” part of this prompt. Be sure to explain not only why your chosen speaker’s ideas resonate with you, but also why you think this individual has something important to say to the Wake Forest community that it has not heard before. 

4. Give us your top ten list.

Theme: _____________________________











This is one of our all-time favorite short-answer questions. It’s also one students dread initially, because they don’t know how to approach it. Like many of the other questions on this list, think about what you do or what you are interested in that might also be of interest to admissions. What else about who you are and what you do have you not yet revealed about yourself? Our founder always jokes that she would list her favorite kinds of pasta in order (because she is an actual pasta addict). Maybe she would make a list of the top ten pasta meals of her life and who she ate them with, to showcase how much pasta is a part of her social life and how she connects with others (it truly is the centerpiece of her world). Think about how you can add dimension to your list and take a collection of favorite movies or music beyond the ordinary. If someone else could submit your list, it’s not specific or creative enough and probably won’t tell admissions anything they really want or need to know.

5. At Wake Forest, we gather our students in “Calls to Conversation,” congregating small groups around dinner tables in faculty’s and administrators’ homes to discuss topics organized around a theme, for example “arts for social change,” “gender in society,” and “leading a meaningful life.” If you could design a theme for a “Call to Conversation,” what would you choose, and why? 

What subject could you talk about for hours on end with your fellow students? What topic is deeply important to you, to the point where you feel it requires constant discussion? Maybe it’s your fascination with the relationship between sports and American politics, or your belief that we need to support sustainable agriculture while reinventing the existing factory farm model. Whether your topic is “ethics and the internet” or “immigrants in America,” we urge you to choose something original and creative, being sure to explain your personal connection to this topic.

6. We live in an age intensely interested in heroes. Professor Joseph Campbell defined “hero” as “someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Describe a hero in public life and how and why, in your opinion, they meet Professor Campbell’s definition.

As with question 3, we encourage you to make an unexpected, original choice of hero, selecting an individual who connects to your core values or interests in a meaningful, personal way. Also remember that heroes don’t necessarily need to be rich or overly famous, although they must exist in “public life” rather than in your private life. In some cases, an unsung hero can make for a more interesting story than a widely celebrated one. So whether you write about your zeal for Lincoln Beachley, the American aviator whose acts of bravery helped shape your own dream of becoming a pilot, or Lyudmila M. Alexeyeva, a little old lady who protested Russian repression for more than 40 years, make sure to explain the connection between your hero’s contributions to a cause and your own experiences, interests, or values. 


Essay: On a separate page, use the following essay to give the Admissions Committee insight into your character and intellect.


We are all different, and our lived experiences — influenced by our culture, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and/or religion — shape our understanding of the world. How have your experiences shaped your development, and how do you plan to use those experiences to interact and engage with others who might be different from you within our Wake Forest Community?

*This question is only found on WFU’s application. If you are applying via the Common App, you will not need to respond to this essay prompt.

This question is about both identity and community. What factors have shaped who you are and what you value? Is being a transgender student in a large school with a thriving L.G.B.T.Q. community or one of the only Muslim families in your small, Midwestern town an important part of who you are? How have you been shaped by your Russian, Cuban, or Korean heritage? What is your relationship to Mormonism or Christianity? With this question, Wake Forest wants to know not just who you are, but also how you will engage with the diverse Wake Forest community. Will you invite your hall-mates to sample your beloved Taiwanese stinky tofu that you make from scratch or lead your study group through a Zen meditation prior to a grueling exam? Will you teach your fellow students about current feminist causes by joining the WFU Feminist Collective? Wake Forest wants to know about key influences in your life and hear about how you will contribute to their diversity on campus.


In the space provided, briefly discuss which of the accomplishments listed above has had the most meaning for you and why.

*This question is only found on WFU’s application. If you are applying via the Common App, you will not need to respond to this essay prompt.

You’re going to have to poke around to find this one (we did!) but it exists, so we thought you should be prepared. This is a pretty typical activity essay. Just try and distill your most meaningful extracurricular in a few sentences and give context for why it has meant so much to you. The word count should become clear when you enter it into the app itself. (We hope!)

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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