Rochester is looking for learners and thinkers who can push the conversation forward, and its supplemental essay prompt emphasizes this. However, you only have 250 words to answer a BIG question. Before you even start writing, make sure you know what points/values you absolutely have to hit, and create a roadmap for yourself. Here’s an example:

  1. I’m interested in computer science and community engagement with lower income families in my hometown of Charlotte, NC.

  2. I started a local tutoring business that provides online tutoring sessions at affordable prices for families who can’t normally afford tutoring.

  3. At Rochester, I plan to major in Computer Science and engage with the Rochester Center for Community Leadership.

  4. My local business was somewhat impactful, but it was just the beginning. I want to expand this business into a full-fledged company using the knowledge I gain from my major and the relationships I form through community service. 

As you can see, we have a general idea here of the arc of the essay. When you start writing, you can fill the transitions in between each point you want to include and edit it to make it more specific. This is helpful because it means you have a clear idea of where you’re headed, and it makes you really think about the most important information to include before you’ve written the whole thing. 

General Tips:

  1. Don’t repeat what’s in your personal statement. This is an opportunity to talk about something new.

  2. Get specific. Don’t just give a generic answer followed by a generic reason for your generic answer. Be creative and use details that give you a distinctive/memorable voice.

  3. Use the space you’re given. You only get 250 words, so use it all up. If you don’t have 250 words to say about something, consider writing about something else.

  4. When possible, make your answers school-specific. The prompt itself references Rochester’s school motto (“ever better”), so clearly, school officials want you to interact with specific resources and opportunities that they can offer—to make yourself (and the world) … ever better. 

  5. Expand on the impact of your topic. We briefly mentioned the word “impact” earlier. Why does impact matter? It helps the reader understand why they should care. Hopefully, the topic you’ve chosen is something you’re already pretty jazzed about. The key here is getting your reader to be just as jazzed as you, and showing impact is the way to do it. Here are some ways to think about impact:

    • Numbers. Perhaps what you choose to talk about has a particularly shocking statistic. Maybe your interest in that topic inspired you to do something that had a significant effect that you can demonstrate with actual stats (a higher number of volunteers or group members than the previous year, for example). Consider adding specific numbers to bolster your claims and give your readers a sense of magnitude.

    • Anecdotal evidence of impact, or quotations. Impact doesn’t have to be quantitative to convey urgency, importance, or power. The more of you that you put in your essay, the better. See example essay below for more on this.

    • Personal impact (on you, the author) in the form of lessons learned, skills gained. It’s especially interesting to note if these skills transferred to other areas of your life. 

  6. Do justice to your interests by explaining them in a way that conveys excitement and curiosity. How? Try using a variety of active verbs, for example, or varying your sentence structure.

  7. Write your first draft long, then trim it. In our experience, this tends to be easier than writing a very short version and then trying to figure out what to add. 

Here’s a great example essay:

University of Rochester Essay Example 1:

I used to imagine my future as a pediatrician in a little office decorated with bright posters and knick-knacks. Although I am still excited for that, lately I also picture myself conducting research, or passionately debating public health problems in a conference room. At Rochester, I’d like to hone my “ability to do” in an effort to help solve the ever growing list of “things needed to be done” in the field of medicine.

Pre-medicine is not a specific major at Rochester, so I will have the freedom to pursue a major in Health Policy, which, in addition to my clinical work, would enable me to improve medicine on a systems level. I am particularly excited for “Applied Statistics for the Biological and Physical Sciences,” which would help me apply the toolkit of statistics to scientific research. 

I recently had the opportunity to intern at the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Lab at McLean Hospital, where I helped with studies focusing on helping alcoholics reduce their drinking. I would love to continue participating in research at Rochester through the Summer Program at the Strong Children’s Research Center. It would be an honor to work for professors such as Dr. Halterman on studies supporting urban children with asthma.

With so many insightful classes in the public health undergraduate program, diverse research opportunities, and an actual children’s hospital on campus, Rochester will provide me with the exposure I will need to help develop a better world for future generations to grow up in.

— — —

Tips + Analysis

  1. Make sure your roadmap is clear—both when you outline, and when you write your draft. Remember that roadmap you created for yourself before starting? You should still be able to see it in your essay once you’ve written it. This author does a great job of creating a full arc in her piece. The first paragraph sets the stage about her interest in public health, and the second and third paragraphs expand on that specific quality (“things needed to be done”) while citing specific Rochester resources/academic tracks with which she’ll engage. Then, the last paragraph ties it all together by explaining how she might use these skills to serve her community in the future. Each paragraph is sort of like an expanded version of one of the bullet points from her outline.

  2. Go broad, then narrow, then broad again. This essay starts off broad in scope. The author mentions her desire to become a pediatrician who can get stuff done in a time when there’s a lot of things on the to-do list. She describes her love of public health and her overarching learning goals at Rochester. Super concise and well-written, but broad. Her next two paragraphs, however, get down to the nitty gritty of how she’d achieve her goals. She cites a specific class she’d be interested in taking and the major she’d like to pursue. She also describes some of her prior research experiences and demonstrates that she already brings a lot to the table. At the end, she goes broad again. Remember, at its core, this essay is about how you can effect positive change. It’s your chance to step back and look at the big picture. Ending on a broader note brings you back to the beginning of your essay as well. However, going broad does not mean going vague. You still need to be specific; your focus is just more on the future and a community outside yourself.

  3. Details bring your essay to life and will help you stand out. One might argue that the details about the “bright posters and knick knacks” in the author’s first paragraph aren’t exactly essential. However, remember that a real person is reading this. You want them to enjoy themselves as much as possible when they’re assessing your application. Details like this can help.

Here’s another well-written essay. While this was used for another school’s prompt, the tips still apply!

University of Rochester Essay Example 2:

On the first dawn of the summer, I found myself in a familiar place: sitting awkwardly in the back of a crowded bus full of rowdy twelve year olds. But this time around, I wasn’t the shy, new kid at school, a position I knew all too well. I was the teacher, implementing a middle school aquatic ecology curriculum I’d developed the year before.

As New Jersey’s Passaic River appeared on the horizon, I tightened the red laces on my Merrell hiking boots and checked my bag: clipboards, lesson plans, and a new water testing kit.

For the entire day, I watched as twenty-five young minds tested the Passaic River’s water. Using the river as a natural learning laboratory, I taught them about pollution and industrialization, urban design and remediation strategies.

That summer, through my work in environmental education, I discovered the power of place. I realized that in a changing world, places really are the best storytellers. By tracking the Passaic’s pollution levels, we toured the tales of its waters, beginning with its use by the Lenape Native Americans, to its unjust usurpation by European hegemons, to the Vietnam War, during which tons of Agent Orange were dumped recklessly.

At Bowdoin, I’ll encounter this again. I find myself doing the very thing I was teaching: investigating the rich stories behind a place. As part of my major in Earth and Oceanographic Science, I blissfully get lost on Orr’s Island, researching everything from the historical ecology to the changing geography of the Maine coastline. And I can’t wait.

— — —

Tips + Analysis

  1. Focus on a particular value. In this case, the author focuses on the connection to place. But the author doesn’t simply name the value. Which you might want to…

  2. Consider telling a story to demonstrate your commitment to that value. In the first three paragraphs of this essay, for example, the author tells a story about their experience teaching an aquatic ecology class to middle schoolers. Through the details, we learn that they’re good at teaching kids, enjoy spreading knowledge, love marine ecology, and are experienced at creating educational activities. And they do it all without naming these things explicitly. 

  3. Connect to Rochester. Remember that you need to explain to Rochester why the school is the right fit for your interests and skills. This author doesn’t spend as much time talking about the university as the first example does, and if this were written for Rochester, it might be nice to trim some of the story and include a few more specific details so that the prompt is more clearly addressed (i.e., “how will you use your University of Rochester experience to foster positive change in order to make the world, your community and those around you ‘ever better’?”).

We know you’ve got the skills to create the kind of change Rochester is looking for in its student body. Now, with all these tips in mind, all you’ve got to do is begin.

How? Start by researching Rochester for an hour. You can fill in this chart with what you discover: