For quite some time, Washington University in St. Louis has been an exception to a rule in highly selective college admissions. The school, ranked #18 in the latest “US News & World Report” ranking of best national universities, has not asked applicants to answer any supplemental essay prompts. That will change in the fall of 2019. First-year applicants to Wash U will soon be required to answer an essay prompt. As the school states on its website, “Beginning with the fall 2019 application cycle, we are implementing a supplemental essay in addition to the Common Application or Coalition Application essay. This will allow students to further express their interest in their academic area of choice. At the same time, this essay will serve as the merit scholarship essay for scholarships awarded by our undergraduate divisions.”
The 2018-2019 Wash U Essay Prompt
So what exactly will the Washington University in St. Louis admissions office be asking students in the supplemental essay prompt? Wonder no more. The prompt will read, “Tell us about something that really sparks your intellectual interest and curiosity and compels you to explore more. It could be an idea, book, project, cultural activity, work of art, start-up, music, movie, research, innovation, question, or other pursuit.” Students should respond in up to 500 words. And what do we tell our students about word counts? Use all of the available real estate to make your case. So a 500-word essay should be — that’s right — 500 words.
Demonstrated Interest Matters at Wash U
One of the likely reasons Wash U will be offering a supplemental essay after not offering such an option before is to better gauge an applicant’s interest in attending Wash U. After all, Wash U, like all highly selective colleges, seeks to admit students who will actually enroll. In the Regular Decision round, enrollment is of course not a given and highly selective colleges — in an effort to boost their all-important “US News & World Report” rankings and simply in an effort to matriculate the students they want most — will go to great lengths in order to improve their individual yields.
And while many highly selective colleges aren’t forthright about valuing a student’s Demonstrated Interest, Wash U tells it like it is. As the school states on an FAQ page of its admissions site, “Do you take demonstrated interest into consideration? Yes, demonstrated interest is a factor when we are considering applicants. We want to get to know you through the admissions process and for you to get to know us. ‘Demonstrated interest’ refers to ways that you can explore or research a college or university to learn more about us. One of the best ways to do this is through a campus visit (if feasible) to experience our community first hand. If this is not possible, perhaps you can attend a local information session or college fair, or visit with admissions officers when they visit your high school. You can also demonstrate interest through meaningful interactions via phone or email. Please know that we don’t expect you to all these things, and demonstrating interest in more than one way is not necessarily better.”
Ivy Coach salutes Wash U today for 1.) telling it like it is with respect to Demonstrated Interest when other schools choose not to and 2.) adding a supplemental essay prompt to their first-year application so students will have the opportunity to prove to Wash U that they’ve written a 500-word essay just for them…because they love the school that much. Way to go, WUSTL!