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How to Respond to the Macalester College Essay Prompts 

Macalester College is a private liberal arts college in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Macalester is known as one of the “Hidden Ivies” because it provides students with an education that compares to that of an Ivy League institution. Knowing exactly how to respond to college essay prompts might seem intimidating at first, but fear not! We have you covered with everything you need to know about how to write your Macalester College supplemental essays.

The Macalester College essay prompts

It is important to note that each of Macalester’s supplemental essays are optional, but writing one or more is a great way to showcase your writing skills, to demonstrate your interest, and let the college get to know you as a person beyond a list of accomplishments and grades. 

We will walk you through each prompt and break down the questions step by step. Let’s get started!

Prompt #1

Macalester is one of few highly selective liberal arts colleges located in the middle of a metropolitan area. Students benefit from the strong sense of community on campus and opportunities to engage in academic, social, and civic engagement options in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Have you thought about how Macalester’s location might impact your experience? If so, in what ways? (500 words)

Right out the gate, Macalester wants to know how you will use your environment to help you in your studies and beyond. So what really are they asking of you? First of all, start off with why you picked this college to apply to. If location was a factor, write about why. If not, you might want to look into the other two prompts before starting on this one. This could be a great prompt for individuals who have a specific major that would benefit from living near a city like Minneapolis or Saint Paul. 

If you are thinking about majors such as:

  • Political Science, St. Paul is the state capital
  • Economics, with many corporate offices stationed in Minneapolis (Target being one!)
  • Art, with so many options for museums and galleries in the Twin Cities

Minneapolis is a great city for so many college majors, so show admissions that with examples relevant to you. Saint Paul would be another great urban setting for someone who wants to go into sociology or urban planning, or maybe even architecture.

Even if your major is not the reason Macalester’s location interests you, there are other elements of the prompt you can address here. Maybe you are drawn to Macalester for its small enrollment. If so, you could talk about how you are interested in a close knit community and that Macalester’s location allows you to experience that environment while also giving you access to a metropolitan area. Be sure to talk about how YOU would benefit from both the campus community and the opportunities in the Twin Cities.

Prompt #2

Has there been a significant fluctuation in your grades at any point during grades 9-12 (up or down)? If so, please tell us the reason(s) for the changes. (500 words)

The pandemic was a big contributor, for many students, to fluctuation in their grades. Macalester is giving you a great opportunity to tell them where you think you may have gone wrong, or where your high school may have gone wrong in its COVID efforts.

Here you just want to make sure that you remain honest and transparent about what affected your grades and why. With that, you do not want to come off as though you are making excuses for yourself. This prompt is not your way out of bad grades, but a way to express the mistakes you may have made along the way, or the struggles that you may have had with certain classes or subjects. Most importantly, it allows you to share what you have learned and how you’ve changed from these mistakes and/or struggles.

They also ask you to note fluctuations in your grades going up. While thinking about this, here are somethings you can consider:

Questions to consider:

  • Did you get more serious about academics during a certain time in high school?
  • What changed your grades (for better or for worse)?
  • Did you have a great teacher or tutor that changed the way you thought about a subject?

If you have been pretty consistent with your grades throughout your high school years, maybe this would be the prompt that you skip to save yourself some time. 

Prompt #3

We fully acknowledge application forms like this often require people to categorize their race, ethnicity, gender, and/or other identities by checking boxes. Two of Macalester’s four values are Multiculturalism and Internationalism and one way we try to live these values is providing students space to express their identities “beyond a check box.” You may use this space to help us better understand the importance of one or more identities in your life and how they might shape your worldview. (500 words)

You may notice that more and more schools are incorporating diversity essays into their application process. This is an amazing way for college admissions offices to have a more holistic view of you as a person. This makes your essay more personal for both you and the college, and gives them a better understanding of who you are. 

Don’t miss: How to write a 500 word essay

Share your story…

Is there something in your life that you feel you cannot tell with one of the other two prompts, or somewhere else in your application? If so, this is a great essay for you to respond to. Just like the previous essay, you want to make sure that you remain transparent and honest, and tell them your story. 

Remember to tell your story in a way that is genuine, while also being careful not to tear down other communities as you share your story. You want to be heard, but you do not want to be seen as someone who needs to talk badly about other communities to build up their own. Be mindful of your wording and sensitive to how other people may feel. Remember the goal of this essay is to help them understand why this part of your identity is so important to you.

Also see: How to write an essay about yourself

Closing thoughts on the Macalester College Essay Prompts

Macalester College takes a holistic view in how they review their incoming student applications. This is great because it gives you the option to tell your story in three different ways, and in a way that other colleges may not give you the opportunity to. 

Here are some things that you may want to relay to the admissions officers based off of what they are asking in the prompts:

  • Being a high schooler in the pandemic has taught you resilience and you have come out on the other side stronger because of it. If this applies to you, be sure to express in what ways you are stronger now
  • You want to be an advocate for your community because you may have never been given a space to do so before
  • The community where you are placed for college is important to you because not only will it help you to shape into an adult and to grow, but it also gives you the opportunity to help grow and shape the city as well 

With a 500 word limit, it should be fairly easy to get your point across without going over the limit. Tell your story, be engaging, and they will want to keep listening to what you have to say. 

Don’t miss: How to answer this year’s Common App essay prompts

Additional resources

We have a plethora of additional resources that you can use throughout your college search and even after you have found your home for the next four years. Check out our guide on how many schools to apply to, and how to find a good assortment of safety, reach, and match schools. And don’t miss out on our guide to what looks good on a college application to maximize your admissions chances.

Good luck on the rest of your collegiate journey!

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