Rice University, the STEM powerhouse in Houston, Texas, accepted just 9% of applicants into both their Class of 2025 and Class of 2026. Given that the applicant pool—including the 91% who are ultimately rejected—are all immensely talented and qualified, any aspiring Rice student needs to find ways to stand out on their application. One such way is through the Rice supplemental essays.

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

When evaluating applicants, Rice University places a strong emphasis on the quality of one’s essays. Below are Rice’s four supplemental prompts for the 2021-22 admissions cycle along with our advice for creating a committee-swaying admissions essay.

Rice University Essay Prompt #1

1) Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected above. (150 word limit).

Share an authentic story here of why you are interested in your selected discipline (or disciplines). What books have you read on the subject? Which documentaries have you watched? What 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? Which classes are you excited to take? What do you hope to research as an undergrad? Include as much detail as possible in this very limited 150-word space.

You can structure the narrative of this essay as a succinct but comprehensive 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.

Rice University Essay Prompt #2

2) Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? (150 word limit.)

The admissions committee wants to know why you desire to pursue your studies at Rice. However, with only 150 words to play with, you’ll have to make every sentence count.

In general, make sure to:

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

  • Rice’s high marks for both race/class interaction and overall quality of life.
  • Additionally, the small class size—69% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • Ample opportunities for mentored research with faculty as an undergraduate.
  • A 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
  • Desire to participate in some of the 300 student-led organizationson campus.
  • Lastly, one of Rice’s study abroad opportunities that appeals to you.

Rice University Essay Prompt #3

3) Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life for all members of our campus community. The Residential College System and undergraduate life are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural tradition each student brings. What life perspectives would you contribute to the Rice community? (500 word limit.)

Your answer here could be about an ethnic, religious, or neighborhood community/identity or a group of individuals who gather for a club, sport, or service project. Perhaps you are the captain of a team, the editor-in-chief of your school paper, or the president of a club—on the other hand, you may simply be a valuable contributing member. Regardless of whether you are a leading man/woman or a still-essential bit player, make sure that you use your writing ability to show the admissions officer what type of community member you are rather than merely telling them. Of course, they are also interested in your “life perspectives” which are also typically more engaging when shown through examples versus delivered through “I” statements.

You can also discuss how you have engaged with your high school local/community and what you have learned from interacting with people of a different ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual identity, etc. Draw on past evidence of your commitment to being a positive force in your community and speculate how that is likely to manifest on Rice’s campus. Research and cite Rice student-run organizations, local nonprofit groups, or anything else you are drawn to. The admissions committee wants to understand precisely how you will contribute to their campus community of 8,000+ undergrads. In summary, drawing the link between your past efforts and future aims is critical here.

For example, if you’ve done work with Meals on Wheels throughout your teens, it will be most impactful if you express your commitment to joining the local Meals on Wheels chapter which is located at a Jewish Community Center in Houston.

Rice University Supplement – “The Box”

The Rice Box: In keeping with Rice’s long-standing tradition, please share an image of something that appeals to you.

Take them at their word here that “The Box” “not used for evaluative purposes”. As such, you shouldn’t spend hours assembling the perfect collage or designing your own symbol from scratch. Think of this as your signature on your Rice application. You can be straightforward, silly, serious, or sincere. Also heed their advice that the image can be something “aside from what you have achieved”. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel pressure to insert a picture of a robot you built or a trophy you won.

How important are the Rice supplemental essays?

The essays are “very important” to the Rice admissions committee. The following factors are equally important: the rigor of one’s secondary school record. GPA, class rank, recommendations, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities. Clearly, Rice University weighs your essays heavily in their evaluation of your candidacy.

Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

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

Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).