With an acceptance rate of just 7% for the Class of 2026, Northwestern University is very much an “Ivy-equivalent” school. This is true both in terms of quality academics and selectivity. Last fall, incoming Wildcats almost universally placed within the top 10% of their respective high school class. They also boasted average SAT scores in the 1470 range. In 2022-23, even high schoolers bringing superior credentials to the table need to realize that the majority of the other 51,000+ other applicants can demonstrate comparable levels of achievement. Therefore, applicants need to look for other ways to separate themselves from the pack. And that brings us to the Northwestern supplemental essay prompt.

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

Even with only one essay prompt, Northwestern University’s supplemental section still offers applicants an opportunity to showcase what makes them uniquely qualified for admission and able to stand out in the eyes of admissions officers. Below you will find Northwestern’s supplemental prompt for the 2022-23 admissions cycle along with our advice on how to pen a winning composition.

2022-2023 Northwestern Essay Question

While other parts of your application give us a sense of who you are, we are also excited to hear more about how you see yourself engaging with the larger Northwestern community. In 300 words or less, help us understand how you might engage specific resources, opportunities, and/or communities here. We are curious about what these specifics are, as well as how they may enrich your time at Northwestern and beyond.

Northwestern’s essay may not directly ask the applicant, “Why Us?” But make no mistake—this is very much a classic “Why Us?” essay. This one is going to require some research. You’ll especially want to hone in on the three major areas housed within this question:

  1. Resources
  2. Opportunities
  3. Communities

Examples of items that quality “Why Northwestern?” essays touch upon include:

Of course these are just ten out of the thousands 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 Northwestern “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, of course, the only goal here!

Common components of a mediocre Why Northwestern essay

  • Generalities about why being in a suburb of Chicago is an ideal location for your college experience.
  • Generalities about why Chicago is an exciting/cosmopolitan/diverse/culture-filled city.
  • Mentioning Wrigley Field, specific restaurants, or other regional landmarks.
  • According to US News, Northwestern University is a top-10 school.
  • Too many generic expressions of feeling (e.g. I’ve imagined myself as a Wildcat since I was 6th grade…”
  • Recycled statements from your other “Why Us?” essays that come across as stale, impersonal, or worst of all–irrelevant/inaccurate.

How to write a winning Why Northwestern essay

  • Specific community-based or Northwestern-affiliated resources/programs in the Evanston/Chicago area that you plan to take advantage of.
  • Address why Northwestern is the perfect fit for you and why you are the perfect fit for Northwestern.
  • Cite specific academic programs, professors, research opportunities, internship/externship programs, study abroad programs, student-run organizations, etc.
  • How will you be an active, contributing member of the Wildcat student body?
  • Show evidence of how your past/current endeavors will carry over onto Northwestern’s campus.
  • How will you take advantage of Northwestern’s immense resources both inside and outside of the classroom?

Big-picture thoughts on the Why Us essay

In any “Why Us?” composition, you need to show that you’ve done your homework on a given school, but you don’t want it to read like a robotic list of items that you Googled five minutes before writing the essay (even if the timing of the Google search is roughly accurate).

In addition to the pure research element, a lot of the time and skill required in creating a stellar Northwestern essay will involve connecting the classes, professors, opportunities, etc. of interest that you have uncovered to your distinct values, talents, aims, proficiencies, and future goals.

How important is the Northwestern supplemental essay?

The essays (including the Common App essay) are viewed as “important” to the Northwestern applicant evaluation process. The other factors that are also considered as “important” are: recommendations, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities. The only four factors viewed as being more important than the essays are GPA, test scores, class rank, and the rigor of one’s curriculum.

Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

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