essay prompts

If you’re working on your Brandeis University application, you might have noticed two important things: there is a writing supplement, and it’s optional.

Before we get to the questions themselves, let’s tackle the optional part. Your application will certainly be complete if you opt not to write the additional essay, but there are some students who should write it anyway. Wondering if you’re one of those students? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is Brandeis a reach school for you? If so, seize this opportunity to share more about yourself with the admissions office. For you, this essay is not optional.
  • Is Brandeis a match school for you, one where you look a lot like the average accepted applicant? With an acceptance rate of 33 percent, Brandeis is still turning away far more students than they are admitting. Making a case for the fit between you and the college can be a major factor in whether or not you make the cut. For you, this essay is not optional.
  • Is Brandeis a safety school for you? Brandeis is eager to admit students who they believe will attend. Let them know you are truly interested by doing the additional writing. For you, this essay is not optional.

Bottom line: if you like Brandeis enough to apply, then you should write the optional essay.

Here’s the good news: students have a choice of three prompts, and at only 250 words or fewer, the essay itself is pretty short.

Option A: Why would you like to attend Brandeis?

The goal here is to help the admissions office understand how you will take advantage of what’s available at Brandeis and why it’s a good fit for you. I strongly encourage including information about your academic goals: what you want to study, a few specific courses that look interesting and why, maybe a professor with whom you’d like to study and why. But it’s also okay to highlight other elements of the university that particularly appeal to you, whether that’s a popular campus club, a special program, or something else. Just don’t do too much; it’s better to go in-depth on a few important elements than to gloss over too many of them.

Option B: Justice Brandeis said, “Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.” Tell us how you would implement change in society that others might think impossible.

Think about an issue that is important to you and how you might solve it, but avoid the temptation to go too big. It’s great if you’d like to crack the challenge of ending world hunger, but we will likely learn more about you if you have an immediate connection to the issue. Keeping your ideas more focused and personal, rather than grandiose, will generally result in a more compelling essay.

Option C: Tell us about something you could talk about for hours and why.

What are you passionate about? Could be The Walking Dead, fixing up your car, the Vietnam War, Andy Warhol, pop culture trivia, or Blake Shelton. Could be serious or silly, well-known or obscure, intellectual or lowbrow. In short, it could be anything. Write about something you truly love, and the admissions office will learn something essential about you. And that’s the ideal outcome for any personal essay.


Written by Elizabeth Heaton
Elizabeth Heaton is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Before coming to College Coach, Beth worked as a senior admissions officer at University of Pennsylvania and an alumni admissions ambassador at Cornell University. Visit our website to learn more about Elizabeth Heaton.