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The Requirements: 3 optional essays
The Wake Forest supplement always gives students a run for their money and the 2021-22 application is no exception. 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.
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 wants 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 Animal Farm. 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.
Now, onto part two of the question: Explain how a book you’ve read has helped you to understand the world’s complexity. At CEA, we always recommend that you choose an unexpected work of fact or 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.
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 go deeper into 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.
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.