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    How to Respond to the 2023/2024 University of Rochester 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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    Edited by 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: February 6th, 2024
    How to Respond to the 2023/2024 University of Rochester Supplemental Essay Prompts

    The University of Rochester is located in upstate New York and is the home of “Rocky the Yellowjacket.” So, we bet you are buzzing to get into the University of Rochester, and that will require knowing how to respond to the University of Rochester supplemental essay prompts.

    So, how can you make your responses stand out? Read more in our guide for how to respond to the University of Rochester supplemental essay prompts! 

    Breaking down the University of Rochester supplemental essay prompts

    The University of Rochester offers applicants two mandatory University of Rochester supplemental essay questions they will have to respond to. However, there are a few options under each supplemental essay question that applicants can choose from. 

    The first essay is one question that offers the following options to respond to: 

    • Essay response
    • Creative response
    • Research response

    The first essay needs to be completed in 200 words or less. This is not a lot of words! So, plan out your responses thoughtfully. You want to make sure that you are not repeating yourself, but instead, are revealing your interests and personality throughout your response.

    Adding on to that, be sure you are selecting an option for essay 1 that stands out to you. You want to be as authentic as possible when responding to these questions. 

    The second essay is a choice of three prompts. Essay 2 will need to be completed in 200 words or less as well. So, be sure both of your answers to Essay 1 and 2 reveal different pieces of information about yourself. 

    Essay 1

    The University of Rochester motto of Meliora – or “ever better” – deeply integrates critical core values into all that we do. These core values of equity, leadership, integrity, openness, respect and accountability define not only who we are, but also who we hope to become. Please use the space below to highlight a time, creative idea or research experience when you put into action one or more of these characteristics in order to make yourself, your community or the world ever better. (200-word limit).

    You may answer this question in one of three ways: 

    • Essay response: Write an analytical or creative response of 200 words or less
    • Creative response: Upload up to three works of your own art (e.g. pictures, video, performances, literary) and use the space below to provide a brief explanation as to how the art is tied to making the world, your community and those around you “ever better.”
    • Research Response: Upload an abstract describing your own related research and use the space below to provide a brief explanation as to how the research is tied to making the world, your community and those around you “ever better.”

    Essay response option

    Write an analytical or creative response of 200 words or less

    If you choose to select the essay response option, make sure that you are brainstorming and outlining your response from the start. 

    The core values of the University of Rochester are blatantly laid out in this question. Therefore, make sure you understand them! Figure out which characteristics best represent yourself. 

    To make this essay response very easy for you, write down a list of all of University of Rochester’s core values and then write down a time in which you possessed these values. For example, you can write about how becoming the captain of your varsity basketball team in high school helped you learn responsibility  and reap the benefits of being a leader. 

    Completing this brainstorming method for each core value will help you narrow down the best narratives and examples of the traits that you possess. 

    Once you create this list, select one core value from it that best represents “you.” Remember, there are only 200 words allowed for this response so selecting one will allow you plenty of room to add necessary details. 

    After choosing this one core value, describe the narrative that best shows a time in which you displayed this core value. Be creative in your storytelling while also highlighting what you have learned from this experience. 

    You do not want to just hype yourself up, but rather, detail how you learned an important lesson. In addition, you want to describe how this characteristic makes yourself, the community, and even the world a better place. 

    Creative response option

    Upload up to three works of your own art (e.g. pictures, video, performances, literary) and use the space below to provide a brief explanation as to how the art is tied to making the world, your community and those around you “ever better.”

    This response quite literally provides you with a lot of creativity. The University of Rochester is allowing you the freedom to show off your artistic and creative talents. Therefore, select a piece of work that is meaningful to you. 

    Remember, although this response allows a lot of creative freedom, it is still a part of Essay 1. Therefore, be sure you are connecting your piece of art back to the essay at hand. Be sure to link your work to one of University of Rochester’s core values. 

    Remember, do not upload something that you are not proud of or haven’t created completely by yourself–you want your authentic self to shine through! 

    Research response option

    Upload an abstract describing your own related research and use the space below to provide a brief explanation as to how the research is tied to making the world, your community and those around you “ever better.”

    U of R is known for partaking in world-class research. Therefore, it is understandable why they would offer a research option for one of their responses to their supplemental essay question. 

    If you completed any research in high school or have any published research, now would be the time to share it! This will definitely give you a leg up on the competition and show the University of Rochester that you will fit in amazingly at their institution. 

    If you have not completed any research, do not worry (most high school students have not!). Therefore, it may make more sense to complete one of the other options. 

    Essay 2

    For the second University of Rochester supplemental essay, you’ll choose between one of three prompts to respond to.

    Option 1

    American social reformer, abolitionist, writer and statesman, Frederick Douglass said, “Some know the value of education, by having it. I knew its value by not having it.” Explain ways in which education has directly influenced you and your ability to do good in the world. How will you use the curricular flexibility and co-curricular opportunities of the University of Rochester experience to grow and to promote positive change for yourself, your community and your world.

    The University of Rochester is unique in the fact that it offers “curricular flexibility.” This means that U of R gives students the opportunity to double major, study abroad, take fun electives, and much more without falling behind. Be sure you are doing your research on the University of Rochester prior to applying and answering their supplemental essay questions. 

    After researching the University of Rochester, you should begin writing your response to this essay question. The first thing you should highlight is what education means to you. 

    Think about the following questions to help spark some ideas: 

    • Why do you want to go to college? 
    • What does higher education mean to you? 
    • How has education helped your life so far? 

    Detail how important and thankful you are for your educational opportunities. You should then highlight how U of R’s flexible curriculum will continue to help you achieve your goals. 

    You could even describe a narrative detailing when you realized how important public programs for the needy are after volunteering at a soup kitchen. This can reveal how you learned from your experiences and want to continue to pursue your education at the University of Rochester to help others. 

    Option 2

    Dr. Donna Strickland, University of Rochester alum and 2018 Nobel Prize winner in Physics said, “There’s no point in me being anything other than me.” The University of Rochester encourages each student to embrace who they are and create their own individual curricular path and experience. How will you use the opportunities here to fully be who you are? What unique experiences will you bring to our community?

    Everyone is different. So, how do you differ from everyone else? What makes you special? How can you continue to thrive while at the University of Rochester? This is the core of this question. 

    To begin this prompt, you should reveal a quirk of yours. What makes you stand out from others? You should narrate a concise story that reveals this passion or interest of yours that makes you – you

    After, this is a perfect opportunity to reveal how well you did your research on the University of Rochester’s clubs and organizations. You should connect your quirk to an extracurricular offered at the University of Rochester! 

    For example, maybe what makes you unique is that you love to go for runs because it helps calm you down and gives you the chance to see new scenery. Therefore, you are so excited to join the University of Rochester running club to meet like-minded running friends. 

    It is important to connect what makes you unique to aspects of the University of Rochester that will allow you to thrive!

    Option 3

    The University of Rochester benefactor entrepreneur, photography pioneer and philanthropist, George Eastman said, “What we do during our working hours determines what we have, what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are.” Looking forward toward your college experience, what do you hope to do outside of the classroom at the University of Rochester? What will enhance who you are as a person? How will specific academic and social opportunities here help you grow?

    This question is very similar to option 2. The University of Rochester wants to get to know applicants by understanding what they will take part in while at their university. 

    So, write what makes you excited about attending the University of Rochester! Detail specific examples of things that you want to participate in. For example, share about specific courses, clubs, or even something nearby such as a nature walk you want to go on!

    The most important thing is that you are writing about something you are genuinely excited about and makes you want to attend the University of Rochester over other schools. 


    Remember, take the time to find the specific names of clubs and explain why that particular organization at U of R will help you grow as a person. 

    Final thoughts on the University of Rochester supplemental essays 

    The University of Rochester’s supplemental essays can be quite overwhelming. However, when it really comes down to it there are just 2 essays you need to write! Therefore, do not get caught up on all of the options presented.

    Rather, take it slow! Read each question and its options carefully and select the option that most closely aligns with your interests. If you do not immediately connect with a prompt do not select it! 

    Once you have narrowed down your options to just your Essay 1 and 2 questions, begin to brainstorm and plan out what you want to write about! 

    The most important thing is that you have done your research prior to answering the questions. This will ensure that you are prepared to name drop any organizations you are excited to participate in. 

    Once you have done your research and selected your options, you are ready to respond to the questions! Best of luck during the writing process! 

    Next steps after applying to the University of Rochester

    Once you have completed the University of Rochester supplemental essay questions, have a trusted person read over your responses to check: 

    • For any spelling or grammar errors
    • Repetition throughout your responses
    • That your responses answer the questions

    Now it is officially time to submit your University of Rochester application. Good job! Be sure check for any updates to your application status by looking at your: 

    • University of Rochester portal
    • Social media accounts run by University of Rochester
    • Email 

    Additional resources

    Before submitting your University of Rochester application, make sure that your Coalition Application and Common Application essays are perfect also! 

    Have you taken the ACT or SAT? If you are curious about whether or not to send your SAT/ACT scores to test optional schools, check out our guide!

    Check out our free scholarship search tool to help you afford your education. Scholarships360 is here to help you! 

    Additional supplemental essay guides

    Frequently asked questions about responding to the university of Rochester essay prompts

    How many supplemental essay prompts does the University of Rochester have?

    The University of Rochester requires applicants to respond to 2 essay questions!

    When are the application deadlines for the University of Rochester?

    Application deadlines for the University of Rochester can vary depending on whether you’re applying for Early Decision or Regular Decision. Make sure to check the university’s official website for the most up-to-date information.

    Are there any helpful tips for making my essay stand out from other applicants?

    Focus on telling a unique story that reflects your personality and experiences! Avoid cliches and be specific in your responses.

    Is there a right option to select for the University of Rochester essays?

    There is no right option! Rather, you should select the option that best resonates with you and your personal experiences! One helpful tip is to read over the options and select whichever one you can immediately answer! This will ensure you have enough information to effectively complete the prompt. Ultimately, choose whichever option you feel most confident in! 

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