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How to Respond to the Amherst College Supplemental Essay Prompts
Amherst College is a selective and top-ranked liberal arts college with an acceptance rate of 12%. Due to the competitive nature of Amherst College’s acceptance, applicants will need to make their Amherst supplemental essays stand out from the others.
Fortunately, Amherst provides some variety in options for applicants responding to the Amherst supplemental essays. So, let’s learn in this guide how you can ace the Amherst supplemental essays!
Before answering Option A in the Amherst supplemental essay questions
Option A asks applicants to choose from four quotes and respond to them.
“Respond to one of the following quotations in an essay of not more than 300 words. It is not necessary to research, read, or refer to the texts from which these quotations are taken; we are looking for original, personal responses to these short excerpts. Remember that your essay should be personal in nature and not simply an argumentative essay.”
Amherst provides its applicants with some vague and open ended direction for responding to the provided quotes. This means there is some freedom in your response allowing you to truly interpret a quote the way that makes the most sense to you. Remember that supplemental essays are intended to get to know the applicants better. So be sure to select a quote that stands out to you!
In addition, the word count for this response is 300 words. This may seem like a lot but once you start writing it can feel a bit restrictive. Therefore, be sure to brainstorm and plan out what you want to write about. Make sure you are getting your main points across without exceeding the 300 word limit.
Option A – quote option 1
“Rigorous reasoning is crucial in mathematics, and insight plays an important secondary role these days. In the natural sciences, I would say that the order of these two virtues is reversed. Rigor is, of course, very important. But the most important value is insight—insight into the workings of the world. It may be because there is another guarantor of correctness in the sciences, namely, the empirical evidence from observation and experiments.” – Kannan Jagannathan, Professor of Physics, Amherst College
This quote deals with mathematics and science and therefore may appeal more towards bio/math intended majors. However, it is not restricted to just these applicants so if this quote appeals to you go for it!
Remember that in the directions for this supplemental essay question, Amherst does not want an argumentative essay. Therefore, do not disagree with the quote! So rather, address what the core of this quote is. What is it saying? What is the main theme of this quote?
Once you have established your definition or analysis of the quote then dive into your personality. Try to address the core of the quote by comparing it to bits of your life.
For example, you can discuss a time where a lab experiment in school went wrong and what you learned from that experience.
Option A – quote option 2
“Translation is the art of bridging cultures. It’s about interpreting the essence of a text, transporting its rhythms and becoming intimate with its meaning… Translation, however, doesn’t only occur across languages: mentally putting any idea into words is an act of translation; so is composing a symphony, doing business in the global market, understanding the roots of terrorism. No citizen, especially today, can exist in isolation—that is, untranslated.” – Ilán Stavans, Professor of Latin American and Latino Culture, Amherst College, Robert Croll ’16 and Cedric Duquene ’15, adapted from the print version of “Interpreting Terras Irradient,” Amherst Magazine, Spring 2015.
Similarly to quote option 1, this quote option appeals more towards English and linguistic lovers. However, once again it is not restricted! As long as you have a thoughtful response that is filled with your personality you are all set!
To answer this prompt, you should try to create a definition for translation that is different from just languages. They provided a few examples in the quote itself but try to think out of the box!
Now, try to relate back to your own personal experiences. When have you witnessed your definition of translation? How have you seen cultures come together as a result? How has it impacted your life?
Option A – quote option 3
“Creating an environment that allows students to build lasting friendships, including those that cut across seemingly entrenched societal and political boundaries…requires candor about the inevitable tensions, as well as about the wonderful opportunities, that diversity and inclusiveness create.” –Carolyn “Biddy” Martin, 19th President of Amherst College, from Letter to Amherst College Alumni and Families, December 28, 2015.
This quote is different from the two prior options because it deals with diversity and a good environment for learning. This is the perfect opportunity to talk about any struggles you may have faced in your life and how you overcame them.
To begin responding to this prompt, you should begin to list what makes a safe environment for growth and learning. What is the ideal environment for you as a student to thrive?
You can also discuss a time when you overcame a challenge dealing with diversity. How did this discomfort lead to growth? How did this instance provide you with closer friendships than you had before?
Option A – quote option 4
“Difficulty need not foreshadow despair or defeat. Rather, achievement can be all the more satisfying because of obstacles surmounted.” – Attributed to William Hastie, Amherst College Class of 1925, the first African-American to serve as a judge for the United States Court of Appeals
Although this quote may seem full of fancy vocabulary, the core is quite simple. This quote is essentially asking how do you deal with challenges?
You should write about a time or instance where you overcame a challenge. What have you struggled with in the past? Do you struggle with anything now? What is the hardest thing you have ever done? When is a time where you wanted to give up but didn’t?
In order to nail this prompt, you have to write as self-aware as possible. You want to take a deeper look inside yourself and discover when times get difficult what do you do? How did success after failure feel?
Ultimately, discuss how failure is just another part of life and can help success be even sweeter.
“Submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year that best represents your writing skills and analytical abilities. We are particularly interested in your ability to construct a tightly reasoned, persuasive argument that calls upon literary, sociological or historical evidence. You should not submit a laboratory report, journal entry, creative writing sample or in-class essay. Also, if you have submitted an analytical essay in response to the “essay topic of your choice” prompt in the Common Application writing section, you should not select Option B. Instead, you should respond to one of the four quotation prompts in Option A.”
Option B is a backup in case you have a writing piece you are extremely proud of. Otherwise, you should stick to responding to one of the Option A quote prompts. Essentially, you have to decide what will provide an Amherst admissions officer with the most well-rounded idea of you.
Amherst’s website has a helpful FAQ for Option B if you are interested in it!
Option C – for A2A program students only
“If you were an applicant to Amherst’s Access to Amherst (A2A) program, you may use your A2A application essay in satisfaction of our Writing Supplement requirement. If you would like to do so, please select Option C on either the Common Applications or the Coalition Application. However, if you would prefer not to use your
A2A essay for this purpose and you wish to submit a different writing supplement, select either Option A or Option B. [Please note that Option C is available only to students who were applicants to Amherst’s A2A program. Non-A2A applicants must choose either Option A or Option B.]”
This option is only available for students who were applicants to Amherst’s A2A program. The A2A program is available to aid minority students while at Amherst. Therefore, if this option does not apply to you – do not respond to it! Rather select option A or option B for your Amherst supplemental essay.
Before submitting your Amherst supplemental essays
Before submitting the Amherst supplemental essays, be sure to proofread! You can do this by reading them yourself or asking a trusted friend, parent, or teacher to read it over for you. Remember, you only have one shot to submit your application to Amherst so you want it to be flawless.
Make sure your response not only answers the prompt but also reveals pieces of your personality throughout the essay. You want the Amherst admissions office to get a good sense of who you are as not only a student but a person.
Next steps after applying to Amherst
Now that you have figured out which of the Amherst supplemental essays is the best for you – it is time to write! Be sure to plan out what you will write to ensure that all of your main points are included.
Once you have completed your Amherst supplemental essay question – congratulations! Take a deep breath and go treat yourself to something special! You did it!
Now that you have a beautiful Amherst supplemental essay written – it is officially time to submit your application! Once your application is submitted, be sure to check your Amherst portal and email for updates on your application status.
Now, you are not done with the admissions process! Continue to show demonstrated interest in Amherst by
This will give you an opportunity to get to know Amherst more! It will also provide Amherst with the opportunity to get to know you better as well.
Good luck on the rest of your college journey!
We know how stressful this time can be for students! So, we have a lot of resources available for students going through the college admissions process. We can help you determine what is a high SAT score, how many schools to apply to, how to get a college application fee waiver and so much more. And if you’re thinking that college is not for you check out some top alternatives to four-year universities. And if financial issues are hindering your choices check out our free scholarship search tool to help fund your education!