Application Essay

Help us discover who you are through your application essays

The Common Application essay
The Coalition Application essay

The Wellesley-specific essay
Helpful tips on writing your essay

Who reads your essay?

Is a parent, counselor, or teacher nagging you about writing your essay? Make them stop!

The essay is not so hard once you start putting ideas down. It lets you express things that don’t appear elsewhere on your application. We hope that you’ll plunge into it, thoughtfully develop your ideas, be honest, and let us hear your voice. Tell us who you are by writing about topics or in a style that reveals your personality, character, or sense of the world.

When you apply to Wellesley, you will need to write two essays:  
(1) The Common Application essay and (2) the Wellesley-specific essay.

 The Common Application Essay

Write one personal essay for all the schools to which you apply via the Common App. This essay is important, as it provides you with an excellent opportunity to reflect and to communicate to colleges what they should know about you. As you will have only one major essay to write, we hope it will represent your best efforts. Write your Common Application essay in essay format, with a minimum of 250 words and a maximum of 650 words.

You may choose one of the topics listed below. Be sure to refer to the appropriate year you are applying.

2017-18 Common App essay topics 

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? 
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

2017-18 Coalition Application essay topics

  1. Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  2. Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  3. Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  4. What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  5. Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

The required Wellesley essay

The required Wellesley “Writing Supplement,” asks you to respond to the following topic in two well-developed paragraphs.
When choosing a college community, you are choosing a place where you believe that you can live, learn, and flourish. Generations of inspiring women have thrived in the Wellesley community, and we want to know what aspects of this community inspire you to consider Wellesley.  We know that there are more than 100 reasons to choose Wellesley, but the “Wellesley 100” is a good place to start. Visit the Wellesley 100 ( and let us know, in two well-developed paragraphs, which two items most attract, inspire, or energize you and why.  (PS: “Why” matters to us.)

Helpful tips on writing your essay

Let the Board of Admission discover:

  • More about you as a person.
  • The side of you not shown by SATs and grades.
  • Your history, attitudes, interests, and creativity.
  • Your values and goals—what sets you apart.

Some tips on process:

  • Start working on your essay early; carve out enough time to write a good one.
  • Choose a topic. If possible, write about yourself or something you know, or at least write from your perspective. Be revealing.
  • An essay about some small, even insignificant-seeming thing can be more powerful than the "How I'll save the world" essay.
  • Write, edit, save. Write your essay in Microsoft® Word or similar software; edit and save the file (often).
  • Write several drafts; let it sit for a few days, then tackle it again.
  • Get another opinion. Ask: Does it sound like me? Is it interesting from the start? Honest?
  • Proofread! Check grammar and spelling, more than once. Don't forget that spell check doesn't catch everything.
  • Cut and paste your saved file into the Common Application. This way you will have a separate record of it.

More writing tips:

The essay is an example of your writing ability. Create a strong opening, an interesting middle, and a clear conclusion. What else?

  • Narrow your topic and try to be as specific and concrete as possible.
  • The essay doesn’t need to be a tome. In about 500 words, you should be able to express who you are or what is important to you.
  • You don’t need to have had extraordinary experiences to write an extraordinary essay. You don’t need to have done incomparable things to be interesting.
  • Details can be powerful.
  • Engage us. Take risks with style. Vary your vocabulary; check for repetition; use descriptive and vivid alternatives.
  • Don't pick the most difficult topic just to impress the readers, then handle it poorly.
  • Don't exaggerate or try to impress us with what you think we want to hear.
  • Don't make statements without supporting them.
  • Don't try to write a funny story if you’re really not a comic.
  • Don't use language that is unfamiliar to you.
  • Don't ramble.

Who reads your essay?

At Wellesley, typically three members of the Board of Admission read your application. The Board includes faculty members, administrators, admission professionals, and current students. We’re music lovers, artists, cyclists, baseball fans, professors, guitar heroes, runners, scientists, dog lovers, poets, beaders, computer techies, and more, thus bringing many perspectives to the admission process.

For all of us, reading your essay is one of the most enjoyable parts of the admission process. Your goal should be to make members of the Board of Admission feel as though we’re sitting down at the table together to discuss your interests and aspirations. We’re keen to know your story.

The bottom line is that we are interested in discovering who you are and how you think, and in assisting you through this process. Questions? Check out our FAQs. If you need more information, call us at 781.283.2270 or email us at at any time.

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