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    How to Ace the 23/24 Northwestern Supplemental Essays

    By Savannah Dawson

    Prior to coming to Scholarships360 for her first internship in 2022, Savannah utilized her campus publications by joining various fashion publications that are offered at Ohio University. One of those publications is Thread Magazine, where Savannah has had the opportunity to work on articles related to world-wide related fashion news and events, as well as articles closer to home, such as a fashion piece on Athens hometown-hero Joe Burrow. This year, Savannah also had the opportunity to be a content writing intern for Aiken House, as well as a section editor for Southeast Ohio Magazine. In 2023, Savannah served as the Chapter President of her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta. These collective experiences, as well as her experience currently working for Ohio University’s Undergraduate Admissions, has led her to Scholarships360 and aided in her passion for helping students better understand the college admissions process and financial aid. In her free time, Savannah enjoys horseback riding, watching Formula One races, traveling, and spending time with her friends and family. Savannah will graduate from Ohio University in May 2024 with a degree in Journalism News and Information and a certificate in Italian Studies.

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    Reviewed by 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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    Updated: July 11th, 2024
    How to Ace the 23/24 Northwestern Supplemental Essays

    Northwestern University is a small private, four-year university in Evanston, Illinois. At schools as selective as Northwestern, supplemental essays are a crucial part of students’ application in order to stand out from the crowd. The Northwestern supplemental essay is a great way to tell the admissions professionals why you chose their school. If your GPA and SAT or ACT scores are great, then they are going to need something else to narrow down the applicants– these essays are how they do it! 

    Northwestern supplemental essay prompt (optional for QuestBridge applicants) 

    “We want to be sure we’re considering your application in the context of your personal experiences: What aspects of your background, your identity, or your school, community, and/or household settings have most shaped how you see yourself engaging in Northwestern’s community, be it academically, extracurricularly, culturally, politically, socially, or otherwise? (fewer than 300 words)*”

    300 words and under is the perfect number to get your point across in a college application essay. You do not have to feel pressured to write exactly 300 words, and you can always go over, as long as you go back through and revise to make it shorter. Start by writing what you feel, and then go from there.


    You may be asking yourself, “What should I write about?” This essay can be either challenging or easy for many people because it is so open ended. To begin responding to this prompt, brainstorm some aspects of your life that are important to you and make you you! This could be a hobby, a culture, a personality trait, a life experience or really anything! The important thing is you are choosing a piece of yourself that you are passionate about and that reflects you as a person. Try to take this piece of you and describe it through a narrative or story. Showing rather than telling will get you far in the supplemental essay world! Remember, this insight into you does not have to be all-telling of your whole life story, rather it should just be revealing one small but important aspect of your identity. 

    Research Northwestern

    Once you have established what you will be writing about, now it’s time to research Northwestern! Go through their website and jot down what clubs, professors, classes, etc. you are excited to participate in. You can even note what may be missing from their community that you would like to establish while attending school at Northwestern.

    Once you have a good idea of what Northwestern is like, write about which aspects you envision yourself participating in. Be sure you are being extremely specific about what you want to participate in at Northwestern. For example, rather than saying you are excited to take a biology course, say you are interested in taking BIOL_SCI 380- Biology of Cancer because you aspire to conduct research on cancer in the future to hopefully find a cure. Taking the extra step shows that you have thoroughly researched Northwestern will prove to the admissions committee that you truly want to attend Northwestern. 


    Now that you have written about yourself and what you want to participate in at Northwestern, you need to connect these things! Describe what Northwestern offers and why you are interested in these features. Ultimately, your description about a piece of your identity should seamlessly connect to what you want to participate in at Northwestern. How has your background shaped what you want to pursue at Northwestern? Overall, you want to show Northwestern that you will be a perfect fit for their community due to your unique background. 

    Questions to consider

    • What is an important part of your background that has shaped you? 
    • What about Northwestern has drawn you to their school? 
    • Are there any clubs that you want to participate in at Northwestern? Or even any clubs you want to create at Northwestern? 
    • How has your background shaped what you want to pursue while at Northwestern? 

    The following questions are optional, but we encourage you to answer at least one and no more than two. Please respond in fewer than 200 words per question:

    1)  Painting “The Rock” is a tradition at Northwestern that invites all forms of expression—students promote campus events or extracurricular groups, support social or activist causes, show their Wildcat spirit (what we call “Purple Pride”), celebrate their culture, and more. What would you paint on The Rock, and why?

    To begin, look up “the rock” at Northwestern to get a good idea of what you are hypothetically painting in this response! Then, think about what you would truly love to paint on the rock. This response offers a lot of creativity so the options are endless! Ultimately, try to describe something you love and are passionate about so the admissions committee gets to know the authentic you!

    2)  Northwestern fosters a distinctively interdisciplinary culture. We believe discovery and innovation thrive at the intersection of diverse ideas, perspectives, and academic interests. Within this setting, if you could dream up an undergraduate class, research project, or creative effort (a start-up, a design prototype, a performance, etc.), what would it be? Who might be some ideal classmates or collaborators?

    This response has a lot of creative freedom! First and foremost, you should brainstorm what you are passionate about and how you could turn this passion into a course, project, or some sort of creative effort. Then, describe what this would look like in an ideal world. Who would be teaching the course? How will you engage participants? What will participants learn from this experience? 

    3) Community and belonging matter at Northwestern. Tell us about one or more communities, networks, or student groups you see yourself connecting with on campus.

    This prompt allows your Northwestern expertise to shine through! Make sure you have adequately researched Northwestern and all of the clubs, extracurriculars, and groups that you are excited to join! Then, describe these opportunities you want to take advantage of and why. Be sure you are revealing why you would be a good fit for these communities as well!

    4)  Northwestern’s location is special: on the shore of Lake Michigan, steps from downtown Evanston, just a few miles from Chicago. What aspects of our location are most compelling to you, and why?

    If Northwestern’s location is one of the main reasons you want to attend the school, talk about why! Describe what the location will allow you to do as far as leisure activities and furthering your career and achieving your goals.

    5)  Northwestern is a place where people with diverse backgrounds from all over the world can study, live, and talk with one another. This range of experiences and viewpoints immeasurably enriches learning. How might your individual background contribute to this diversity of perspectives in Northwestern’s classrooms and around our campus?

    Highlight what makes you unique! Discuss the parts of your background and life experiences that may be unique how this perspective will help you contribute to Northwestern’s diversity. However, make sure you are discussing something about yourself that has not yet been mentioned in your Northwestern application! You want to be revealing new things about yourself rather than repeating the same characteristics and experiences. 

    Final thoughts for students

    Northwestern University’s supplemental essay is not here to scare you– it is an opportunity for the admissions professionals to get to know you better. As long as you are honest and open about what you expect to learn and experience at their university, they will be interested in hearing more. 

    Additional resources

    As a rising college student, we understand that you have a lot on your mind. Even once you’ve finished your Northwestern supplemental essays, the work is far from over. That is why we want to take some of the stress off of your shoulders and make things easier! Check out our guide on how many colleges to apply to, or our guide on how to plan college tours.

    Maybe you are thinking that Northwestern University is not the school for you, and that’s okay! We have supplemental essay guides for other schools too, as well as tips and tricks for scholarships. Good luck with the rest of your collegiate endeavors! 

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