Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois has added six new essay prompts to its 2023-2024 supplement to the Common Application for first-year applicants.
At the same time, Northwestern becomes the most selective Common App college to no longer require submission of the Common Application main essay in order to be considered for admission. Yet, if a student applying for first-year admission to Northwestern wants the university’s admissions committee to review his or her Common App essay, he or she can still include it when submitting the Common App to Northwestern.
Regarding Northwestern’s supplement, students applying via the Common App or Coalition App must respond to only one of the six new supplemental essay prompts, and applicants can only respond to up to two of the others. This means that smart applicants who want to make their case through their words will be writing three Northwestern-specific short essays (up to 700 words total) in their attempt to earn admission into Northwestern’s Class of 2028.
2023-2024 Northwestern University Supplemental Essay Prompts
The following question is required for all Common Application and Coalition with Scoir applicants (optional for QuestBridge applicants). Please respond in 300 words or fewer:
- 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?
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:
- 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?
- 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?
- Community and belonging matter at Northwestern. Tell us about one or more communities, networks, or student groups you see yourself connecting with on campus.
- 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?
- 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?
As most high school seniors applying to Northwestern do so through the Common Application, and most are applying to other highly selective private colleges that require the Common App essay, it’s likely that most first-year applicants to Northwestern will still want Northwestern admissions officers to read their Common App essay.
Since The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in June 2023 that colleges can no longer admit students on the on the basis of race, a number of selective colleges, now including Northwestern, have added new essay prompts to their 2023-2024 first-year applications to inspire applicants to write about how their backgrounds – inclusive of race – have and/or will continue to inform their behaviors, perspectives, and priorities.
What is not yet clear is how such essays will be assessed by colleges’ application review committees. If keeping within the letter and spirit of The Supreme Court majority opinion, application review committees will not give applicants’ essays a higher or lower number of points based on the background or backgrounds applicants choose to write about in their essays. Northwestern’s new essay prompts use the words “diverse” or “diversity” three times, “background(s)” three times, and “community” or “communities” four times.
Previously, Northwestern’s one and only – and now retired – supplemental essay prompt read as follows:
In 300 words or less, help us understand how you might engage specific resources, opportunities, and/or communities here. We are curious about what these specifics are, as well as how they may enrich your time at Northwestern and beyond.
Good luck to all those students applying to join Northwestern’s Class of 2028.