While community-based essay prompts may not be as popular as “Why you major” or “Why do you wish to attend our college” prompts, they still show up for a variety of schools and it’s likely you’ll encounter at least one of them. Here are a few examples:
- Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you’d like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you’ve had that would help us understand you better, perhaps a community you belong to or your family or cultural background, we encourage you to do so here. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke.
- Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (MIT)
Since the theme here is community, the first big task we face as writers is to decide what community we want to focus on. Here we have a variety of options:
- Shared Interests: Many of us are members of groups that are defined by a shared interest in, for example, reading (if we’re in a book club) or music (if we play in some kind of band).
- Values: Other times a group may be characterized by a shared value. Many volunteer groups fit this mold. Religious communities might also belong here.
- Shared Experiences or Circumstances: Some groups are defined by a common thing that each member has experienced or some shared aspect of their lives. For example, race, immigration status, etc.
- Geography: This doesn’t have to just be the city I live in. It can be my school, the corner of town I live in, or even my street.
The first step when writing a community essay is to brainstorm and come up with a big list of all of the different communities that you’re a part of.
Once you have that, narrow it down to the ones that you feel are the most important to you. How do you do this? Think about things like:
- The impact the community has had on you
- The impact you’ve had on the community
- The role you play within the community and/or your responsibilities
- Lessons learned
- Growth you’ve experienced
The final step is to simply pick your favorite community and spell out exactly why it means so much to you. This can be done in many ways, but after the aforementioned brainstorming, you should have an outline already there waiting for you with respect to how this community has shaped you, the impact you’ve had, lessons learned, etc. Your main job now is to communicate this to the reader so that, when they put the essay down, they have a vivid appreciation for why you chose to write about this community and why exactly it means so much to you.