The Ivy Coach Daily

August 29, 2023

2023-2024 Washington University in St. Louis Supplemental Essay Prompts

A bricked building is featured beyond a red walking path and lawns at Washington University in St. Louis.
WashU has released its supplemental essay prompts for applicants to the Class of 2028.

Washington University in St. Louis has released its supplemental essay prompt for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle. Applicants to WashU’s Class of 2028 are presented with a required essay prompt, an optional essay prompt, and an optional video upload. So, let’s check out these prompts!

2023-2024 WashU Essay Topics & Video

Required Essay

Below are WashU’s instructions for the required essay, which is hidden within the Academics section of the supplement. Applicants can respond to the prompt in up to 200 words.

Please tell us what you are interested in studying at college and why. Undecided about your academic interest(s)? Don’t worry—tell us what excites you about the academic division you selected. Remember that all of our first-year students enter officially “undeclared” and work closely with their team of academic advisors to discover their academic passions. You can explore all of our majors and programs on our website.

This prompt is a straight-up-the-middle Why Major question. As such, it should include an origin story of a student’s interest — as a high schooler, not as a child — in their discipline of choice. Additionally, ideally, students have gotten involved in several activities that showcase their interest in this area. Here’s a chance for students to tell WashU’s admissions committee about their work in one such activity that directly correlates with their intended major. The answer does not need to include WashU specifics since it’s distinctly not a Why WashU question.

Optional Essay

Below are WashU’s instructions for the optional essay for all applicants, for which students can choose one of the three prompts and include a response of up to 250 words:

This optional question allows you to add another dimension to your application – something that the admissions committee might not learn by reading your transcript or your personal statement.

If you prefer, you may focus your optional 90-second video submitted through the WashU Pathway on addressing one of these three questions. (Students who choose to submit a written response to one of these questions may still opt in to sharing an optional video).

WashU is a place that values diversity of perspectives. We believe those perspectives come from a variety of experiences and identities. Respond to one of the following prompts to help us understand “Who are you?”:

Please choose one of the following:

1. Describe a fresh perspective or opinion you brought to a collaborative setting or project.

WashU seeks to admit students who will add intellectual diversity to their campus. As such, it would behoove an applicant to share a story here that showcases how their backgrounds or experiences have influenced a specific view that differs from others. WashU’s admissions officers want to see that students will hold fast to their convictions. Still, they also want to know that a student is respectful and malleable to change when presented with other reasonable arguments.

2. Describe a community you’re a part of and your place within it.

In the majority opinion outlawing the practice of Affirmative Action, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts included a caveat that went as follows: 

“At the same time, as all parties agree, nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”

This essay prompt is an opportunity for a student to showcase how their community has shaped them and how they’ve been shaped by their community. And the word community can be defined loosely. It can be a physical community — where a student lives. It can be a community of mathematicians if their angle happens to be math. As long as an applicant’s response showcases a window into their world, they’re on the right track.

3. Tell us how your life experiences have impacted the way you view or interact with your community.

Like the aforementioned prompt, this essay question is a response to the SCOTUS ruling outlawing Affirmative Action. It’s only a slight variation — focusing more on how a student perceives their community.

Optional Video

WashU applicants, through the WashU Pathway, have the chance to upload an up to 90-second video introducing themselves — if they so wish. The instructions for the optional video are as follows:

All applicants have the option to upload a 90-second video to help the Admissions Office get to know you better. This video is not intended to be a professional-quality production or rehearsed audition. Simply capture a quick video of yourself (cell phone is fine) telling us about something important to you.

Ideas to consider:

The video allows you to add another dimension to your application – something that we might not learn by reading your transcript or your personal statement. Be creative, be yourself, and have fun with it!

And if you don’t want to submit a video, that’s OK. Applicants will not be penalized for opting out of submitting a video. It is an optional video (and we mean optional).

When creating the video, it’s important that applicants know that submitting a highly stylized, edited video is unnecessary — and we at Ivy Coach strongly recommend against it since doing so risks presenting an applicant as less likable.

Instead, applicants shouldn’t try to impress admissions officers with fancy filmmaking skills. They should instead focus on sharing a story that isn’t included elsewhere in the application that shines a spotlight on a student’s hook.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with WashU Essays

If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission to WashU by submitting essays that inspire admissions officers to root for you, fill out Ivy Coach’s free consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to delineate our college counseling services for seniors.

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