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How to Respond to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Supplemental Essay Prompts

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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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: October 10th, 2023
How to Respond to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Supplemental Essay Prompts

The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute supplemental essay prompts are a great opportunity to show your true self to the college admissions advisors. Using creative writing and thoughtful responses, you can “wow” the people reading your essays and to allow them to see who you are as a person and as a student. Keep reading to learn more about responding to the RPI supplemental essay prompts!

First, a little about Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s oldest technological research university. RPI is located in Troy, New York on the Hudson River. The school offers  bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. With an emphasis on science and technology  (RPI’s sports’ teams are known as the “Engineers”), there are five schools (and certificate programs for working adults) broken into 37 departments. 

The five main areas of research at RPI include:

  • Biotechnology and the Life Sciences
  • Computational Science and Engineering
  • Energy, Environment, and Smart Systems
  • Media, Arts, Science, and Technology
  • Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials

The above research is divided among the School of Architecture, the School of Engineering, the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, the Lally School of Management & Technology, and the School of Science.

Let’s get started on breaking down the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute prompts in a way that allows you to put your best self forward! 

Question #1 (found in the “Activities” section of applciation)

“Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences” (300 words)”

This prompt is simple and straightforward, which is great, but  be mindful that it is a 300 word essay. This means that RPI is expecting you to have a lot to say about whichever extracurricular or work activity you choose to write about– so choose wisely. If it is an activity that you really enjoy doing, there should be a great deal to say about it. Speak from your heart and write what you know. 

Things to consider before you write

  • What extracurricular activity did I dedicate the most time to?
  • What extracurricular activity am I most passionate about?
  • Do you have a part-time job that you are passionate about?
  • What has your part-time job taught you to prepare you for college?

Question #2

“Why are you interested in the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute?” (250 words)

This is the typical “Why us?” college essay. Since you are applying to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, there is obviously a genuine reason that it sparked your interest. Maybe the majors RPI offers drew you to them, or an opportunity to work with a particular professor who is an expert in their field. Share just that! Be specific and try to connect back to facts about RPI. 

Make sure that you write clear and concisely about your interest and be honest about what drew you to the institution. Similar to Prompt #1, the limited word count here (250) means each word counts. Therefore, you might want to free-write without feeling constricted by a word count so you can fully express yourself. After,  go back and cut out words that you don’t need to make your points. 

Questions to ask yourself

  • Which of the five RPI schools interests you and why?
  • Do you have a field of research that you hope to pursue at RPI?
  • Is there someone you know who encouraged you to apply to RPI? What is it about that person that impressed you as an RPI graduate?

Closing thoughts for students

The main thing that you want to focus on is not being repetitive in between your application and your supplemental essays. The essays are meant to be an addition to the application so that admissions professionals can learn more about you. If you are repeating yourself, there is no point in writing an essay. Try to talk about something that you didn’t write about on your application or resume. 

Additional resources

Maybe the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute isn’t for you– and that is okay! Luckily, at Scholarships360, we have tons of resources to help you find the college that is right for you. If you are hoping to stay in the New York area, we have supplemental essay resources for colleges from Barnard to Columbia. Wanting to get a little bit farther away? You can also check out Pepperdine University, or University of Texas-Austin. Whatever you choose, we have your back! Good luck with the rest of your college essays!

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