University of Washington Essay Prompts and Tips (2022-23)
The University of Washington’s main campus in Seattle isn’t the type of public school that just services local residents. Rather, UW-Seattle attracts twice as many applicants from out-of-state/country than in-state each year. Top-ranked computer science, engineering, business, and nursing programs, in particular, attract an endless stream of high-caliber applicants from around the globe. Great grades and test scores will put aspiring Huskies on strong footing. However, the University of Washington also requires you to address two supplemental essay prompts.
(Want to learn more about How to Get Into UW? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into the University of Washington: Admissions Data and Strategies for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)
Let’s dive right in and begin examining the one required essay, one required short response, and optional Additional Information section.
University of Washington Essay Prompt #1 (required)
Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. (Maximum length: 650 words).
This essay prompt succeeds in being both a) simple and straightforward and b) immensely challenging for many applicants. As you brainstorm, remember that the admissions committee is not looking for a rambling list of things you believe in the abstract. Instead, they are specifically asking for one experience that is revealing of your character and/or life story.
For many students, settling on a singular incident in their lives that will speak volumes about the core of their being is not an easy task. You could write about a moment of individual triumph here, but don’t rule out sharing about an incident where, for example: You are not the hero of the story, you had a humbling experience, or you changed a previously held belief.
The good news here is that you have up to 650 words to tell this story, which means you will have plenty of real estate in which to share rich details that will make your essay more compelling.
University of Washington Short Response #1 (Required)
Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW. (Maximum length: 300 words).
Straight from the UW admissions staff, “Keep in mind that the UW strives to create a community of students richly diverse in cultural backgrounds, experiences, values and viewpoints.”
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. Whichever elements you choose to focus on, 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.
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. You can also speculate how that is likely to manifest on the University of Washington’s campus. Research and cite student-run organizations at UW-Seattle, local nonprofit groups, or anything else you are excited about. The admissions committee wants to understand precisely how you will contribute to their campus community of 35,000+ undergrads. Drawing the link between your past efforts and future aims is critical here.
Additional information about yourself or your circumstances (Optional)
You are not required to write anything in this section, but you may include additional information if something has particular significance to you. For example, you may use this space if:
- You have experienced personal hardships in attaining your education
- Your activities have been limited because of work or family obligations
- You have experienced unusual limitations or opportunities unique to the schools you attended
Maximum length: 200 words
Unlike many optional essays that are not really optional for serious applicants, the UW Additional Info essay is one that you can feel free to skip unless you have a serious hardship/limiting circumstance to report. For more, visit our blog entitled: Should I Use the Common App Additional Info Section?
How important are the essays at the University of Washington?
UW-Seattle only labels three factors as being “very important” to the admissions process. Those factors are: the rigor of your high school coursework, GPA, and your application essays. In fact, the essays are rated as being of greater importance than test scores, extracurricular activities, or talent/ability.
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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).