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How to Respond to the 2023-2024 Rutgers Supplemental Essay Prompts

By 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 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: February 1st, 2024
How to Respond to the 2023-2024 Rutgers Supplemental Essay Prompts

The Rutgers University essay prompts are ready and waiting! If your goal is to become a Scarlet Knight, then read on because we have a handy dandy guide on how to best respond to the Rutgers’ application prompts. Keep in mind that students can also apply to Rutgers through the Common Application, but our guide focuses on the Rutgers specific prompts. Ok, let’s learn how to best respond to the Rutgers supplemental essay prompts!

First, some background on Rutgers University

Rutgers University is the state university of New Jersey. As a diverse public research university. Rutgers offers three regional campuses in the following cities in New Jersey: 

  • Camden,
  • Newark
  • New Brunswick

Rutgers offers more than 150 undergraduate majors throughout their schools and colleges across all three campuses. Therefore, Rutgers has something for everyone! Let’s break down the Rutgers essay choices to make responding as clear as possible. 

The Rutgers University supplemental essay prompts

Rutgers requires applicants to complete only one essay – so it is your lucky day!  Applicants can choose from a list of five different topics or submit an essay on the topic of their choice. Therefore, be sure to select the prompt that most interests you. Essay responses should be up to 3800 characters (or 500 words).

Remember, do not select a prompt or write your own essay about a subject you have already written about for your Common App or in any other part of your application. You want Rutgers to get a good well-rounded sense of who you are so avoid repetition when possible! 

Topic #1

“Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.”

For this prompt, think about a moment in your life that has changed you. If an event did not immediately pop into your mind, this may not be the prompt for you. However, if you read this prompt and said, “I have a profound story to share…,” think of the following questions to help you write your response. 

Questions to consider

  • Who was involved and what happened during this experience? 
  • What did you learn from this instance?
  • How has this event changed you as a person? 
  • What do you want someone to take away from this story of your life? 

The most important aspect of this essay response is to focus on how this experience demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. Don’t get too caught up in describing the experience in extreme detail. Connect back to Rutgers at the end of your response and show how you plan on using your experience to help you in your future endeavors. It will also demonstrate that you are the type of person who truly learns from the past and will continue to blossom while attending Rutgers.

Also see: How to write an essay about yourself 

Topic #2

“What interests or excites you? How does it shape who you are now or who you might become in the future?”

For this prompt, it is important to focus on your main hobbies and interests. You want to be completely authentic in your responses to allow Rutgers to truly get to know you. Therefore, truly reflect on your passions and life and select the one that means the most to you. 

Questions to consider

  • What is something you are passionate about? 
  • What have you learned from this passion/interest? 
  • How did you become interested in this topic? 

After writing about your passion or interest, it is important to answer the second part of this question, “How does it shape who you are now or who you might become in the future?” 

In order to answer the second part of this question, you will need to reflect deeply on this passion or interest you selected. 

Questions to consider

  • How has this interest changed you? 
  • What have you learned about yourself through this passion? 
  • Why is this an interest you have? 

The most important thing is that you are reflecting upon your passion and digging deep to discover what motivates you and how it has shaped you. 

Also see: What looks good on a college application?

Topic #3

“Describe a time when you had a positive impact on others. What were the challenges? What were the rewards?”

To answer this prompt, choose a distinct time in your life where you had a positive impact on others. Be sure this is a very obvious event or time when you had a positive impact.  Once you decide what event to write about, make sure that you provide meaningful details. This includes setting the scene, describing what exactly happened, and how you had a positive impact.

After describing the time, dive into the challenges and rewards of this particular time in your life. In addition, write about what you have learned from this experience. 

Questions to consider

  • How did you make a positive impact on others? 
  • Would you want to be in a similar situation again? 
  • What were the responses of those around you? Positive or negative? 
  • Why did you take on the role of being a positive impact on others? 
  • What did you learn about yourself from this experience? 

Topic #4

“Has there been a time when an idea or belief of yours was questioned? How did you respond? What did you learn?”

To begin this prompt, think about a time in which you were questioned. This could be a time in which you realized your beliefs were right or even wrong!

Once you choose an example, set the scene and make that experience come to life. 

Questions to consider

  • What led up to your beliefs being questioned?
  • Who questioned you? A stranger? A close friend? 
  • Was this questioning of beliefs friendly? Or more confrontational? 
  • Did this event make you question your beliefs? Or uphold these beliefs more strongly? 
  • What did you learn from this event? 
  • How will you demonstrate what you learned from this event while attending Rutgers? 

The most important part of responding to this prompt is your demonstration of growth and learning from this experience. Therefore, be sure to truly reflect on this experience and share how you will continue to take what you learned with you. 

Topic #5

“What success have you achieved or obstacles have you faced? What advice would you give a sibling or friend going through a similar experience?”

For this response, choose to write about either a success you have achieved or an obstacle you have faced. No matter which option you choose to write about, it is important to describe what exactly happened. After describing either the success or obstacle, you should then describe what you learned from this experience. 

Then, you should detail advice you would give a friend or sibling that is going through a similar situation. This genuine advice should be that you would actually give a friend or family member. 

Questions to consider

  • What accomplishments mean the most to you?
  • What obstacle have you had to overcome?
  • Did anyone support your success or help you through a difficult time?

Topic #6

“Submit an essay on a topic of your choice”

The final topic example for the Rutgers supplemental essay is to just simply submit an essay on a topic of your choice. Select this option if none of the other options stood out to you. Remember, this is an admissions requirement, so you want to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward and not using an essay from another school.

The most important thing to note if you select this option is that you should not be repeating yourself in your application. Therefore, if your Common App essay is about your soccer career, this essay should not be about your soccer career! Rather, highlight one of your other amazing characteristics. Write about something that has not yet been discussed on your application.

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Wrapping up

Although Rutgers only requires one essay response, it can be quite daunting trying to choose between all of the options they provide. Therefore, try to pick the topic that most appeals to you–the one that makes you feel you could  write a novel about! Also, remember if none of the topics appeal to you, you can choose to write an essay on a topic of your choice. Remember, Rutgers is viewing your application as a whole, so it is important to be authentic and avoid repetition. Best of luck! 

Additional resources

Scholarships360 is a great source that offers an abundance of assistance in the college application process! Check out our other helpful guides on how to write a great supplemental essay, how to respond to the Common App prompts, how to write an essay about yourself, and how to write 250 or 500 word essays. 

Other colleges to consider

Frequently asked questions about responding to the Rutgers supplemental essay prompts

Does Rutgers care about application essays?

Yes! Rutgers requires that applicants write a personal essay and use it as one part of the admissions evaluation process. Your essay is your chance to show why you should be admitted. If you are applying for university specific scholarships, you can show why you should be awarded. 

How long should my Rutgers essay be?

According to the Rutgers University application website, your essay should be 3800 characters, which is 500 words (two full pages double-spaced).

How to I stand out when writing my Rutgers essay?

Focus on your unique experiences, using specific examples and anecdotes to illustrate your points. Mention some of the academic programs and extracurricular activities that Rutgers University offers. Show how you will make the most of the opportunity to attend and add to the Rutgers community!

Can I reuse essays from other applications for my Rutgers essay?

While you can, if the prompts are the same, that doesn’t mean you should! If you are not applying through the Common App, it’s best to tailor all of your application essays to each school you apply to.

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