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How to Answer the Rice Supplemental Essay Prompts 2019-2020

NOV 17, 2019 • 9 min read

Interested in pursuing a future career in STEM? Located in Houston, Texas, Rice University is a private research institution and is world-renowned for churning out leading engineers, astronauts, architects, CEOs and Nobel laureates. Admission rates are competitive, so in order to stand out, you really have to nail your application essays.

Rice’s supplemental questions are fairly similar to other universities’ questions with the exception of “The Box.” However, all of the questions are designed to get to know you, your interests, and how you will contribute to the Rice Community.

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Essay 1: There is a breadth of intellectual opportunities here at Rice. Further explain your intended major and other areas of academic focus you may explore. (150 word limit)

The first essay is focused on learning about your academic interests. On Rice’s application, you will select a major and have the opportunity to select two other areas of interest. The two other areas may be majors, minors, or just an area on which the university offers courses. This essay is the time to explain your interest in those areas. The best way to do this is to tell a story about your interest. How did you first become interested in this area? Did a teacher or other figure in your life spark the interest? Has your passion for the subject grown or evolved over time? Because the word limit is short, make sure you are being concise. Does each sentence add something new to your essay? Is each sentence unique to you? In other words, could another applicant write this same sentence? You want to stand out with the short amount of space you have, so focusing on concision and clarity will be key.

Essay 2: What aspects of the Rice undergraduate experience excite you and led you to apply? (150 word limit)

The second essay is focused on why you are applying to Rice and why you believe it will be the best place for you to further the interest that you described in the first essay. Utilize the universities’ website to brainstorm how Rice will help you further your interest. Perhaps the courses offered in the major you selected are unique and well suited to your specific interest within the broader field. Maybe Rice’s commitment to research or a specific professor’s research in your area of interest makes Rice a great match. No matter what the connection, be specific as to why Rice is the ideal fit. You do not want your essay to sound like it could have been submitted to any other university. Lastly, if there are other aspects of the undergraduate experience that drew you to apply to Rice you can mention them here. However, because you only have 150 words for this essay, it will be more beneficial to focus on how Rice aligns with your academic interests rather than other non-academic aspects of the university.

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Essay 3: Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life for all members of our campus community. The Residential College System is heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What personal perspectives would you contribute to life at Rice? (500 words)

The third essay, which is the longest, wants to know what you will contribute to Rice’s rather unique Residential College System. Rice, like Harvard and Yale, randomly assign each incoming student to one of eleven colleges. These colleges have their own dorms, common area, and faculty mentors. While each college has unique traditions and reputations, ultimately, the culture within each college comes from the students. Since the students are randomly assigned, Rice wants to admit a diverse group of students with different backgrounds and experiences to contribute to the diversity within the college system. The best way to approach this essay is to ask, what makes you different from the typical applicant? Did you spend the first half of your life living in another country? Did you grow up with your family raising guide dogs for the blind? Whatever your unique situation, think about how that has changed your perspective and how it could impact the Rice community. Again, the best way to present your unique perspective will be through a story. If you lived in another country and you felt it was difficult to adapt to a new country, describe how it felt for you to experience this. Essays that display genuine experiences and feelings will be the most effective. Lastly, relate this to how it will impact the community at Rice. Conduct research on Rice’s Residential College System to determine how your unique perspective would contribute to the community at large or a specific aspect of it. Everyone has something special that they would contribute to the community, this is the perfect time for you to describe yours, and as always, make sure to maintain a humble tone throughout.

The Box: In keeping with Rice's long-standing tradition (known as "The Box"), please share an image of something that appeals to you. (Upload via Common App or Rice Admission Student Portal).

That leaves “The Box,” one of Rice’s most unique admissions traditions. You can upload a photo of anything you want to you application and put it in “The Box.” It can be a photo you found online, a picture of your favorite object, a photo you have taken, etc. However, it would be best to stay away from rice (the food) photos as they probably get that joke all the time. Other than this, the sky's the limit to what you can choose to submit. The box is most effective if you upload something that is important to you. Perhaps you like to do pottery in your free time. You could upload a photo of some bowls that you created. Maybe you like to bake. You could upload a photo of a cake you made or even a photo of a cake made by another baker. Whatever you choose, make sure that it reflects something about you.

With these tips, you should be off to a great start writing your Rice supplemental essays. Lastly, don’t overthink the question about “The Box.” This is just another way for the admissions committee to get to you. Good luck!

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