How To Write A Good College Essay For Rice University

Rice University 2017-18 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Rice supplement is as basic as vanilla ice cream until the final prompt, so prepare to think outside the box on this one.

The Requirements: 2 essays of 150 words; 1 essay of 250 words; 1 image

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Activity,Why

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 word limit)   

There’s basically no way for us to make this classic Activity essay prompt any clearer. This is your shot to take a deep dive into your resume, so make it count! A few *hair flip* expert tips for selecting the perfect activity: First and foremost, make sure your selection will help you tell admissions something they don’t already know. Make sure you have a story to tell. Secondly – and this is basically implied in our first tip – pick something you haven’t already written about! If you devoted your Common App personal statement to your journey as a member of the debate team, you might want to highlight your summer job or your experience running cross country in this essay. Aim for balance: if your other essays have focused on leadership, use this as a chance to to tell a story about teamwork. And of course, if you’ve earned any notable honors or awards in any of your activities, this is the perfect time to shine them up and show them off.

With the understanding that the choice of academic school you indicated is not binding, explain why you are applying to that particular school of study. (150 word limit)

Consider this the prologue to your Why essay (coming up next). To nail both of these questions, set aside an hour or so to get cozy with the Rice website and read up on your academic school and other aspects of student life. Doing all of your research at once will allow you to tell a cohesive story about yourself, while also ensuring that your essays aren’t redundant. Pour all of your academic focus into your answer to this question. What do you love about your chosen major? If you’re interested in the Visual and Dramatic Arts program, can you describe the unique opportunities you’ll find at Rice University? What resources are available to undergrads and how will they guide your craft? If you’re undecided, think about what makes Rice the ideal environment for academic exploration. How do you plan to hone in on the perfect major? The more detail you include, the more admissions will learn about you.

How did you first learn about Rice University, and what motivated you to apply? (250 word limit)

Keep the rich details flowing in this classic Why essay. Demonstrating a deep level of knowledge will show admissions that you’re a serious applicant. Even if you hadn’t heard of Rice before your guidance counselor suggested it, take the time to reflect on what makes you excited about the prospect of being a student there. The question itself hints at the structure you should follow: narrating your journey from first inkling to application. Without lingering too long on your decision-making process, highlight the aspects of a Rice education that speak to you; no detail is too small. Think about your ideal day from what you’d grab at the dining hall, to your ideal study space, to the clubs you’d join in you spare time. The more clearly you can imagine yourself on campus, the more evident your fit will be to admissions.

In keeping with Rice’s long-standing tradition (known as “The Box”), please share an image of something that appeals to you. See the Help Section for more information.

The final piece to Rice’s supplement isn’t an essay at all. Rice understands that a picture is worth a thousand words (or so we’ve been told). So instead of having you write a thousand words (which sounds exhausting), Rice University is asking you to upload a picture of something that appeals to you. When brainstorming which image to choose, think about your goals and passions. If you’re hoping to declare an English major, maybe your photo of choice is the Pulitzer Prize. If you are hoping to develop your business management skills at Rice, maybe you want to share the photo your mom took of you devouring pizza at student-run The Hoot this spring. Regardless of which direction you choose to take, what matters most is that your image communicates something hyper-personal, and/or reveals new information about you, your interests or your goals that is not covered anywhere else on your application.


We know you’re looking for insiders’ tips about the college admissions process. Tamara Siler, Senior Associate Director of Admission & Coordinator of Minority Recruitment at Rice University, shares her top five application tips to help you fill out the best possible National College Match application!

  1. Be sure to answer the question being asked, whether it is a short response or an essay. In addition to the QuestBridge College Match Application, the Common Application, or the Universal College Application, you may be also responding to a college specific supplement to these applications.  Some will give you a choice of question, but some are questions specific to the institution.  Read the question carefully and make sure your response specifically addresses the prompt.

2. You may get asked a similar application question in a number of places. Do not simply cut and paste a previous response to address the question, which basically means you are submitting the same writing sample twice.  Even if you are answering a similar question somewhere else in the application process, look for another angle or for other anecdotes you can use to answer the question.  This shows thoughtfulness and creativity.

3. Think of the response only you can write. For example, I was raised by my great-grandparents, and I drew from that for my college essay on how being raised by people much older than the traditional age of parents was sometimes a challenge, but I also talked about all of the invaluable lessons they taught me.  Think about those aspects of family, school, your interests, etc. which set you apart from your friends.

4. Write for authenticity, not to impress. The only person we want you to be in your application is you.  Also, make sure you are the focus at all times – it is great to talk about a person who has influenced you, but make sure you highlight what YOU learned, how YOU were shaped, and not just talk about the other person.

5. Ask someone you trust to read your application. Actually, ask a couple of people. Spell check may catch if a word is spelled correctly but it may not, in fact, be the word you want to use. Get feedback from them not only on the writing but to make sure your own voice is coming through. I would rather read an essay that feels genuine with a few imperfections than an essay which is extremely polished but really leaves me not feeling connected to the applicant in any way.

– Tamara Siler,Senior Associate Director of Admission & Coordinator of Minority Recruitment, Rice University

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