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MAR 11, 2020 • 5 min read
Essay 1: When did you first learn of Carleton? (no more than 150 words)
Essay 2: Why are you applying to Carleton? (no more than 150 words)
When did you first learn of Carleton? (no more than 150 words)
The first prompt begins with what seems to be a relatively straightforward question, but it can be approached in a number of ways. Maybe you happen to have a great personal anecdote, such as an interesting conversation with a current student or alumni family member who raves about the school. Describe how the interaction resonated with you, sparking further interest in the school.
But don't worry if your first experience with Carleton was something more general, such as reading about the school online or hearing about it from your school guidance counselor. Focus on the one characteristic that initially drew you to the school, making Carleton stand out from other colleges. Maybe it was the small size, great environmental science program, or unique trimester system. It can be something simple, since you will have the chance to elaborate in the second prompt, but make sure to explain why this characteristic is important to you.
Lastly, this first prompt focuses on when you first learned about Carleton, allowing you to link your personal development with your interest in the school. For example, your experience at a creative writing summer program in Ohio before your junior year may have encouraged you to look at smaller schools in parts of the country you hadn't previously considered. Put the admissions officer in the moment you realized this.
The fact that they ask both when you first heard about it and why you are applying means that they're curious about specifically what tipped you off to Carleton. In other words they're asking both about the SPARK and the FIRE of why you are applying.
Why are you applying to Carleton? (no more than 150 words)
The second prompt asks why you are applying to the school. It is important that your reasons for applying to Carleton are specific to both the school and yourself. Show that you've done your research: name specific courses, student groups or professors that interest you. This is also a good chance to address what you find appealing about Carleton's playfully intellectual school culture. Be careful to stay away from broad terms such as "liberal arts focus" or "small class size," as these phrases can be used to describe any number of small colleges across America.
Go to Carleton's website and find things that you like about it; this requires both self-examination to understand what you want in a college, and research about what about Carleton will fit those desires.
The final prompt is a series of short answers that allow you to bring a more human element to your application. While your task is to simply complete the sentence, try to do so in a way that is both genuine and compelling. This is a place where you can be fun and quirky or reveal something about your life that doesn't come through in the rest of the application.
For the first sentence, think about the people in your life who inspire you in both small and big ways. What is it about their character and actions that motivate or challenge you? Did they provide you with the support you needed and did that give you strength to push through a challenge? Did they show you that something was possible that you didn't think was? It is up to you to define "empowered" but think along the lines of ~ literally giving you the power or instilling you with the energy to... ~ The quality of person and why is more important than any specific person.
For the second sentence, remember that a community can mean a number of things---you belong to so many different communities, and you are at liberty here to choose the one that is the most unique or meaningful to you. Maybe you appreciate your family's value of coming together to check in about life every night at dinner. Or perhaps you appreciate that your group of friends works collaboratively and not competitively to succeed academically. Again this should illuminate values that you have, and those values should align with Carleton's (generosity, curiosity, playfulness, kindness, etc.).
The final sentence is probably the most open-ended, so take this opportunity to describe the niche intellectual curiosity or fascination that you haven't had the chance to mention yet. What questions keep you up at night thinking? What topics have you endlessly googling? Don't focus on being impressive and avoid any grandiose language. Be sincere and come from a place of genuine interest.
At the end of the day, Carleton wants a lens into you. Remember to be authentic, humble, and sincere, and your essays will shine!