Purdue Supplemental Essays 2023-24 – Prompts and Advice

July 26, 2023

Purdue is a school where the non-scary acceptance rate figures are not truly indicative of just how competitive the admissions process actually is. This public land grant research university in Indiana is actually a draw for students from around the world—out-of-staters apply at three times the volume of Hoosier State residents. Highly renowned academic programs in areas such as computer science, engineering, and business are part of the reason that the average enrolled applicant attending Purdue today possesses an SAT of 1300+ and a 3.7 unweighted GPA. This brings us to the topic of the Purdue supplemental essays.

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

In a competitive admissions environment, Purdue’s essay prompts are viewed by the committee as being “important” to the evaluation process. Therefore, it is vital that all Boilermaker applicants dedicate a significant amount of time to these three essays. Below are Purdue University’s supplemental prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle along with our advice for composing winning essays.

Purdue University Essay Prompt #1 (Required)

1) How will opportunities at Purdue support your interests, both in and out of the classroom? (100 words)

Purdue’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 and you’ll need to be judicious with your language as the 100-word count can be a bit restrictive.

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

Of course, these are just five out of countless features that could be part of a successful essay. You may also wish to address items like specific courses you are excited about, particular professors, or internship/co-op placements that you would aim to take advantage of.

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Essay Prompt #2 (Required)

2) Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the major you have selected. (100 words)

Share an authentic story here of why you are interested in your selected discipline. What books have you read on the subject? What documentaries have you watched? Which podcasts have you listened to? What subtopics most intrigue you? Did a teacher excite you about a topic or was it a parent or outside mentor? Do you know where you want to take this knowledge post-bachelor’s degree? Do you aim to one day go on to pursue a graduate/professional degree or is there an occupation you are shooting for right out of undergrad? Include as much detail as possible.

You can structure the narrative of this essay as a soup-to-nuts chronicling of your entire journey toward your discipline of interest (even in limited space) or you could share one or two vignettes that illustrate your burgeoning passion for engineering, history, French, computer science, business, psychology, etc.

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Essay Prompt #3 

3): Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (250 words)

This may say “optional” but this essay should be considered mandatory for all serious applicants. Unlike many “optional” essays that may or may not apply to you (e.g. COVID impact, gap in education, gender identity, etc.), just about every applicant has at least one extracurricular or work experience worth elaborating on.

With this prompt, Purdue is not necessarily asking you to write about the activity where you earned the most prestigious awards or held the highest position of leadership. The university is going to see all of your activities in that section of the Common App. As such, you want to ask yourself which of your entries is crying out for more explanation and detail. Which one is closest to your heart and most representative of your unique passions? Pick the option that will allow you to deliver additional detail that may be memorable to the admissions reader. For example, you may be a volunteer EMT and have compelling, drama-filled experiences to share.

Alternatively, you may have worked in a local restaurant and learned more about the lives of your undocumented coworkers. Start this process by asking yourself, “What is the most interesting and consequential moment that I have experienced in one of my extracurricular activities?” If you can identify one clear-cut moment, that is likely the activity worth sharing with the Purdue admissions staff.

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Essay Prompt #4 (Required if listing a second major)

4) Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the second choice major you have selected. (Respond in 100 words or fewer.)

See answer #2 re: your first-choice major. You are essentially repeating this process for a different field. However, you probably don’t want to have two completely unrelated majors/career goals. For example, if your first choice was business and your second choice was economics, it’s easy to explain the relationship. If the fields are more disparate (e.g. Dance & Chemical Engineering, be sure to provide a thorough explanation.

How important are the Purdue supplemental essays?

The essays (both the Common App essay and three supplemental essays) are “important” to the Purdue admissions committee, given the same weight as recommendations, extracurricular activities, character/personal qualities, and first-generation status. This places the essays behind only GPA, standardized test scores, and the rigor of your secondary school record which are designated as “very important” by Purdue.

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