For the Class of 2026, the WashU acceptance rate dropped to an all-time low of 10%. As Washington University in St. Louis appears to be marching toward the single-digit admit rate club, it’s critical that prospective applicants realize the need to make a uniquely compelling case for admission, even if they already possess elite academic credentials. After all, the average SAT for an incoming freshman is well above a 1500 and 88% placed in the top 10% of their high school class–incredibly, such credentials are necessary but not sufficient in this hypercompetitive environment. This brings us to the topic of the moment – the WashU supplemental essay.

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

Given this high level of competition, WashU’s supplemental section offers applicants a critical opportunity to showcase their writing ability by generating a detail-rich essay that will stand out to an admissions officer.

2022-2023 WashU Essay Question

Please tell us what you are interested in studying at college and why. (200 words)

Washington University in St. Louis wants to know about the academic discipline in which you are interested. They also want to know why you desire to pursue your studies at their institution. Answering both components of this question in less than 200 words is no easy task. 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.

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

  • Over 80% of students pursue a second major or minor.
  • 65% of students come from more than 500 miles away, so you’ll meet people from all over the country/world.
  • 450 student organizations exist on campus.
  • One in three undergrads study abroad.
  • 75% of students participate in intramural sports.
  • The Office of Undergraduate Research offers Summer Undergraduate Research Awards to assist students in pursuing faculty-mentored research.
  • The Beyond Boundaries program which facilitates interdisciplinary study.
  • You may wish to contribute to WUURD, the school’s undergraduate research journal.
  • A 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio and small class sizes (two-thirds of sections have fewer than 20 students) allow for meaningful interaction with professors.

Of course, these are just nine out of countless 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 WashU “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 generic “Why WashU?” essay.

  • According to US News, Washington University in St. Louis is a top-15 school.
  • Too much attention to the prestige/reputation of the Olin School of Business or McKelvey School of Engineering.
  • 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 St. Louis.
  • Statements about how WUSTL 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 WashU?” essay

  • Address why WashU is the perfect fit for you.
  • Cite specific academic programs, professors, research opportunities, internship/externship programs, study abroad programs, student-run organizations, etc.
  • How will you become an active, contributing member of the student body?
  • Show evidence of how your past/current endeavors will carry over onto WashU’s campus.
  • How will you take advantage of the university’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 read like a rote list of items that you Googled an hour prior to 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 WashU 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 WashU supplemental essay?

WashU designated 8 factors as “very important” to their applicant evaluation process. These are: essays, recommendations, talent/ability, character/personal qualities, GPA, test scores, class rank, and the rigor of one’s curriculum. Clearly, the essays are among the most important 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 WashU supplemental essay, we encourage you to get a quote today.