2022-23 American University Supplemental Essay Prompt and Tips

Back in the ‘90s, American University had an acceptance rate of nearly 80%. In recent years, the acceptance rate has fallen as low as 26% and is typically under 40%. Test-optional for over a decade, this now highly-selective university in Washington, D.C. utilizes a truly holistic method of assessing candidates and this means that the American University supplemental essay now plays a key role for AU applicants.

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into American U? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into American University: Admissions Data and Strategies for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

Given this increasing level of selectivity, the American University supplemental essay offers applicants a crucial opportunity to showcase their writing ability by generating a detail-rich essay that will stand out to an admissions officer.

2022-2023 American University Essay Question

Why are you interested in American University? (150 words)

American University isn’t messing around here. Think of this one as similar to ending up in an elevator next to a potential investor. You have 20 seconds to sell your million dollar idea. In this “elevator pitch” essay, you only have 150 words worth of real estate to communicate why American is one of your top choices. As such, this one is going to require a fair amount of school-specific research and a good deal of editing in order to tighten up your essay enough to stay under the word count.

Below are some examples of unique facts about American University that may help you as you brainstorm your response:

  • There are more than 170 academic programs (80 bachelor’s degree programs) at American University.
  • There are students from all 50 states and 124 countries, so you will meet people from around the globe.
  • 150+ student organizations exist on campus. Talk about the ones you would like to join.
  • AU offers funding opportunities for undergraduate research. Talk about a research idea that you’d like to pursue while at AU.
  • A 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio leads to small class sizes: the average undergraduate class enrolls only 21 students.
  • AU runs their own study abroad programs in Brussels, Nairobi, and Madrid.
  • More than half of all undergrads take a semester abroad.
  • 91% of American U grads participated in at least one internship. What’s your dream internship?
  • Students have won over 140 Fulbright awards since 2000, as well as dozens of Truman and Udall Scholarships.
  • Over 240 students have won Boren and Gilman scholarships since 2000.
  • The AU radio station WAMU reaches an astounding 900,000 listeners every week.
  • AU was the first U.S. university to become carbon neutral in 2020.

Of course, these are just 12 out of the countless number of possible features that could be part of a successful essay. As you enter the prewriting stage, you’ll want to avoid some common pitfalls that we observe applicants fall into when attacking the AU “Why Us?” essay. We don’t want to label these as “mistakes” (there is nothing inherently wrong with them); they just don’t add any needle-moving value, which is the only goal here!

Common components of a mediocre “Why American U?” essay

  • Recycled statements from your other “Why Us?” essays that come across as stale, impersonal, or worst of all–irrelevant/inaccurate.
  • An itinerary of all the things you plan to do in Washington, D.C,
  • Statements about how AU “feels like home,” you know it’s the right place for you, or you’ve wanted to attend since kindergarten; show this through specifics instead.

How to write a winning “Why American U?” essay

  • How will you become an active, contributing member of the student body?
  • Show evidence of how your past/current endeavors will carry over onto AU’s campus.
  • Make sure to address both a) why AU is the perfect fit for you and b) why you are the perfect fit for AU.
  • Cite specific academic programs, professors, research opportunities, internship/externship programs, study abroad programs, student-run organizations, etc (as in the examples above).
  • How will you take advantage of the university’s fantastic resources both inside and outside of the classroom?

How important is the American University supplemental essay

AU only considers two factors being “very important” to their applicant evaluation process:. These are: the rigor of one’s coursework and the GPA earned. In the second tier of “important” factors are: essays, recommendations, talent/ability, character/personal qualities, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work. Clearly, essays—both the main Common App essay and the supplemental prompt—are among the most significant factors in this holistic process.

Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

If you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your American University supplemental essay, we encourage you to get a quote today.

American University Essay Prompts 2018-19

American University Essay Prompts 2018-19

Listed below are the essay prompts for incoming freshman students.


1. Common App personal essay (650 words max)


1. All first-year students will participate in the American University Experience (AUx), a course specially designed for students transitioning into their first year of college at AU. AUx classes meet once per week as small, interactive and inclusive communities. The course provides a place for students to build academic skills for college success; learn about issues of privilege and bias; and explore their own personal identities. The course also models ways of communicating and living in a diverse society, particularly in reference to addressing divergent opinions on challenging topics. How do you personally define an inclusive environment? What do you believe contributes to a diverse and accepting community? (400 words max)

2. Why are you interested in American University? (150 words max)

*College essay prompts were compiled from university websites, the Common Application, and the Coalition Application. Essay prompts are subject to change and we encourage students and families to confirm all essay prompts with the institution.


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