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    How to Respond to the 2023/2024 Barnard Supplemental Essay Prompts

    Cece Gilmore By Cece Gilmore
    Cece Gilmore

    Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack
    Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger
    Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: October 9th, 2023
    Student writing her Barnard Supplemental essays

    Barnard College is a private women’s liberal arts college that is found within Columbia University. It is located in the heart of the city that never sleeps, New York City. Barnard is extremely selective as its acceptance rate lies around 11%. So, how do we help make you a part of that 11%? In order to apply, students must complete two Barnard supplemental essays and one optional Barnard supplemental essay.

    Before you begin answering the Barnard supplemental essay questions, it is important to do your research. Find out what parts of Barnard excite you and differentiate from other colleges. Here’s our guide for how to ace the Barnard College supplemental essay questions!

    Before answering the essay questions 

    All Barnard College applicants have to respond to two required 250 word maximum Barnard supplemental essays. There are also three additional optional Barnard supplemental essays that also have a 250 word maximum, 

    250 words is not a lot. Therefore, it is best to be direct and concise with your responses! To ensure you do not drag on, brainstorm! This will allow you to plan out responses carefully to fit your personality into your response without it being over the word count. 

    If your response ends up being too long, try to get rid of filler or transition words. Give your essay to someone you trust to read it over to help get fresh eyes to eliminate words as well! Doing this will make your Barnard supplemental essay responses stand out from the rest! 

    Required: Essay question #1 

    “Our backgrounds and experiences shape how we navigate the world and see ourselves. Tell us about when, where, or with whom you feel your most authentic, powerful self. How might Barnard further cultivate this version of you? (250 words max)”

    Barnard recognizes that everyone is different and comes from different walks of life. So, this is your opportunity to describe your unique qualities, background and experiences. However, it is important to note that the second part of this prompt “How might Barnard further cultivate this version of you?” is the real question Barnard is asking! Draw connections between where or how you feel your most authentic, powerful self and qualities Barnard demonstrates. For example, if your Latina heritage is an important part of your identity, you should discuss your interest and excitement about joining the Mujeres club for Barnard Latinas

    The way you should format your response to this prompt is by first telling a story about a background, experience, identity, etc that demonstrates your authentic self! Then, describe 1-2 aspects of Barnard you are looking forward to participating in or being a part of that connects to this identity. If you cannot find an aspect of Barnard that completely matches your identity, then you can even discuss a club or idea you have that you hope to bring to the Barnard community! 

    Questions to consider

    • What makes you unique? Can you describe a story that demonstrates important parts of your identity or culture? 
    • Who or what makes you feel like your authentic and true self?
    • What aspects of Barnard are you excited to discover or join? Is this a specific club, a class, a piece of equipment on campus? Describe it in detail to demonstrate your interest! 

    Required: Essay question #2

    “Barnard College celebrates intellectual risk-taking and we believe that academic inquiry starts with bold questions. What questions do you have about the world around you, and why do they matter to you? (250 words max)”

    This prompt is essentially asking you to describe what interests you. Barnard wants to get to know its applicants. 

    Choosing just one or two “bold” questions is a difficult task. Therefore, you must brainstorm before answering this essay prompt. Write a list of questions that you have always wondered about. You can approach this prompt by choosing two to three broad issues or one in-depth question. 

    Once you have selected what question or questions you want to dive into, make sure to connect these back to Barnard’s resources. How will Barnard be able to help you explore these questions? Is there a particular class or club offered that will allow you to quench your curiosity? Remember, Barnard wants to see applicants who have done their research and are serious about attending their college. 

    Questions to consider

    • How have you been challenged in the past? 
    • Have you ever changed your mind on a topic? Why or why not? 
    • What is a topic you are passionate about? If you had to give a TED Talk on a specific topic, what would it be about? 

    Optional: Essay questions 

    Although this essay is optional, no essay is truly optional when it comes to the college admissions process. Be sure to complete each of the Barnard supplemental essays, as you want to take advantage of any presented opportunity to reveal more about your personality.

    Optional Essay #1

    “Barnard’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion mission statement says “Our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity has the potential to disrupt and transform entrenched practices and thinking.” In what ways have you challenged ideas, practices, or spaces? What did you learn from these experiences? (250 words max)”

    This prompt is interested in getting to know the core beliefs of students and how far they’ve gone to uphold these beliefs. Ultimately, Barnard wants to invite students to campus who act to make change. So, if this prompt sounds up your alley, respond to it! 

    Try and think of a time in which you disagreed with some sort of regulation, rule, statement, etc and what you did to disrupt or transform these entrenched practices and thinking. This example can be as big or as small as you would like! Remember, Barnard knows that you are just a high school student, so they are not expecting you to have organized a huge uprising! For example, you can discuss a time you stood up to your principal over an unfair and sexist dress code or how you attended a local politician’s rally to protest their want to shut down a local business. Whatever your experience, a strong response will feature a story about the experience and then most importantly a reflection that shows what you learned from this experience and what you will take with you to Barnard in order to make some changes there. 

    Questions to consider

    • What are some core beliefs you hold? 
    • Have you ever challenged an idea, practice or space? Why? How did you go about doing so? Would you do anything differently? 
    • Why is disrupting unfair practices important? 

    Optional Essay #2

    As a college for women, “Barnard embraces its responsibility to address gender issues in all their complexity and urgency to help students achieve the personal strength that will enable them to meet the challenges they will encounter throughout their lives.” How have you thought about gender in your academic life thus far and how has it shaped your learning experiences? (250 words max)”

    Barnard is an all-women college which is an important part of their identity and values. Therefore, they unfortunately understand and recognize that women are typically a marginalized community in a lot of aspects. Barnard is interested to hear about how being a woman has influenced your learning experiences thus far. So, this could be the perfect opportunity for you to discuss any challenges you have faced. For example, perhaps in your engineering elective class in high school you are the only girl which has unfortunately come with some snide comments in class. Or perhaps you had to work hard to get your voice heard during an English presentation in which 2 boys were paired with you. Be sure to be as specific as possible while writing your response! And remember, no challenge is too small of a challenge to write about! All Barnard wants to hear in this response is that you have worked harder to become the smart and amazing woman you are today. 

    Questions to consider

    • How has being a woman brought challenges in your academic life? 
    • What have you learned about yourself from these challenges? 
    • Why do you want to attend an all-women college? What differences in your education do you believe there will be, if any? 

    Optional Essay #3

    “Pick one woman — a historical figure, fictitious character, or modern individual — to converse with for an hour and explain your choice. Why does this person intrigue you? What would you talk about? What questions would you ask them? (250 words max)”

    Barnard is an all-women college. This means that your answer should reveal how much being surrounded by strong women appeals to you. This essay provides you with a lot of creative freedom. 

    To begin, you should pick a woman who means something to you. You can spend a few minutes writing down a list of women who are important to you or have inspired you in some way. Then narrow down this list to one woman you should love to talk with for an hour. Some women you can choose from are Taylor Swift, Hermonie Granger, or your grandma! The limits are endless. 

    Remember that this essay is about you and not the woman that you are choosing to write about. Therefore, make sure to tie all of your statements back to yourself. Be sure to reveal pieces of your personality that you have not already in this application. 

    Choose someone that you genuinely admire! Do not pick someone that you think the admissions officers want to hear. Rather, be true to yourself and your heroines. 

    Questions to consider

    • Who is the most inspirational woman in your life? 
    • Who is the strongest woman you have learned about? 
    • Who is your favorite woman in a television show or book? 

    Should I answer the optional Barnard College questions? 

    Even though some of these questions are optional, responding to as many questions strongly should be a priority if Barnard College is a top-choice for you! Try to think about your application as a whole, if there are some aspects of your background or academic progress you feel need to be reiterated, then taking advantage of the optional essays might be a good idea! 

    Additionally, optional essays are a great opportunity to showcase your unique qualities and experiences that will make you a valuable addition to Barnard’s community. So, if you have something exceptional to share that hasn’t been covered by the required supplemental essays, definitely consider using the optional essays for this purpose! 

    Overall, keep in mind that it’s better to submit a strong, well-written essay than to submit an optional essay that adds little value to your application. Do not feel compelled to write an optional supplemental essay just for the sake of responding to it! Rather, respond to the optional essays in order to enhance your application and increase your chances of being accepted into Barnard. 

    So long story short, respond to as many Barnard optional supplemental essays as possible as long as they are still strengthening your application and providing valuable information not covered elsewhere. 

    Next steps after applying to Barnard College

    Congratulations! You are now done with the Barnard College supplemental essays! It is time to submit your flawless application! 

    The next step after you submit your application would be to continue to show demonstrated interest in Barnard so they know you are committed and prioritizing their school (even if you have a few other top choices.) 

    How can I show demonstrated interest in Barnard College? 

    Essentially, by taking advantage of one of the above suggestions, Barnard will see how committed you are to their college. This will give you a leg up above the competition. 

    Additional resources

    As you are in the middle of the college application process, it can be stressful. There are a lot of tough decisions you will have to make. Luckily, we have an abundance of resources to make the college process a little easier on you. 

    Finally, make you that you apply to all the scholarships you qualify for!

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