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Writing the University of Delaware’s Test Optional Supplemental Admissions Essays

Karen Spencer

Written by Karen Spenceron October 8th, 2020

Like many admissions officers, I was introduced to this line of work after having been a tour guide at Valparaiso University. I went to graduate school to study counseling in higher education and, while working in the admissions office at UVA, realized that admissions was my passion. As an admissions officer at Franklin & Marshall, I read and made decisions on applications from NY, CA, and CO, was in charge of transfer admissions, and was the liaison to all coaches during the athletic recruiting process. Moving to Georgetown, I continued to oversee transfer admissions and reviewed applicants from the Midwest, reading up to 1800 applications each year. I also acted as the liaison for the soccer coach, and led one of the business school admissions committees. During my time in the admissions world, I particularly enjoyed meeting with students, helping student athletes decide if they really wanted to play a sport in college, helping transfer students find a better fit at a different college, and helping students and parents debunk the myriad of myths that are out there regarding this process.
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by Karen Spencer, former admissions officer at Georgetown University This is the second in College Coach’s series of posts covering university-specific supplemental essays. Earlier this week, we shared guidance on writing the CU Boulder admissions essay, and today we focus on another great public university, the University of Delaware. Stay tuned throughout October as we highlight writing prompts for Brandeis University, Scripps College, and Lehigh University. The University of Delaware, along with the majority of other colleges and universities, has allowed students to apply test optional this year. However, for students looking to utilize this option, Delaware has required submission of three additional essays. It is safe to assume that for students applying this way these essays will be used to assess your academic abilities, but also provide more insight into who you are as a person. As with any other school asking for supplemental essays instead of test scores, these are simply one more touch point on which to help them make a decision about your readiness for college work and life. Let’s look at each essay.
  1. Anticipate what it will be like for you as a student at the University of Delaware. Both in and out of the classroom, where do you expect to feel most comfortable and where will you need to stretch? (250 words maximum)
This first essay is really about your level of self-awareness, especially as a newly minted adult living at college. Think about what you are most looking forward to, and what makes you nervous. Perhaps you are naturally more of a homebody, so you’ll need to work on branching out and meeting new people. Perhaps you feel very confident in what you picked as your intended major and can’t wait to dive head-first into the course material. Whatever it is, spend some time being really thoughtful about your answers, as they will lend insight into your readiness for college life and entrance into adulthood.
  1. Relate a personal experience in which you were denied an opportunity or treated unfairly. How did you resolve the situation? If that were to happen during your college experience, what would you do? (250 words maximum)
Life can be inherently unfair at times. When this happens to us before we head off to college, we often have a parent (or other trusted adult) to help us navigate an appropriate response. One of the defining aspects of college life is the need to handle situations like this on our own. Think about a time when you didn’t get something you felt you deserved or were treated unfairly. Make sure not to spend time griping about the situation as that has the potential to make you appear bitter or as if you are still holding a grudge (neither of which are attributes that will make the admissions officer inclined to admit you). Instead, focus on the lessons learned. What skills did you acquire that will help you navigate similar situations in the future?
  1. Describe an accomplishment that took a great deal of time and/or effort on your part. What motivated you to continue when it got challenging? Who or what did you turn to for support, and how was that helpful? (250 words maximum)
This question is meant to assess your internal drive, and what you do (or don’t do) when the going gets tough. It’s also an opportunity to touch upon a topic you may have a real passion for, so think carefully about your answer. As with any question, it’s important to ask yourself: “What is the take home for the reader?” In other words, what do you hope the admissions officer learns about you that makes you appear driven and able to handle a challenge? College life, be it the personal, extracurricular, or academic realms, can sometimes throw students curve balls. Delaware is trying to gauge whether you are ready for them. Overall, these essays help add color to what can otherwise be a very black and white application. Two hundred and fifty words is a great length, in my opinion, because it’s not overwhelming, but also forces a student to quickly and concisely address the prompt. You can’t get in the weeds with 250 words, so be clear on your message, make sure you’ve given the prompts the thought and reflection they deserve, and then get writing. You’ve got this! Image Credit: Top, Courtesy of "UDHC_PepRally_062" by University of Delaware Alumni Relations, used under CC BY-ND 2.0 / Cropped from original Avoiding the Pitfalls of College Essay Writing


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