This is one of our favorite supplement prompts because there are so many different approaches, and that open-endedness means you can be strategic with what you choose to write about.
Take a look at your personal statement and other Brandeis supplemental essays. What’s a value, area of expertise, or extracurricular experience that you haven’t highlighted yet? What word could help you show that side of you?
Here’s a great example for this prompt:
Brandeis University Essay Example 3:
“Because” is a word that requires its user to provide reasons for the claims they make. As a mathematician, “because” opens up the underlying logic of mathematical processes. As a scientist, “because” is how you earn people’s trust. Every scientist can claim something to be true, but unless there is sufficient evidence to provide for the “because” of their claim, no one will fully place their faith in them and their words, and discoveries, will remain in a vacuum. As a historian, “because” highlights the cause and effect of historical events, and can help us learn from our mistakes. In English class, “because” pushes us to support the inferences we make with evidence, which is something that we can only find by digging for a deeper meaning in the rhetorical tools used in literature.
When our actions hurt others and we explain ourselves, finding the “because” of those actions is a chance to discover what motivates us to act and what our needs are. Trying to understand another person’s “because” requires empathy and putting ourselves in the shoes of others. I believe that everyone has to make choices in their lives, but despite the outcomes, what matters most is that everyone has self awareness and empathy to provide for the “because” of their actions.
Whether scientific or historical, academic or empathetic, “because” is a word that allows people to dive deeper into the ocean full of information, rather than just skimming the surface.
— — —
Tips + Analysis
Consider highlighting the word’s various meanings and connotations. In the example above, the author’s choice of a familiar word works because she ties it to a range of different values through academic contexts (science → trust, history → growth, English → reason). She’s then able to pivot to a non-academic understanding of her word, allowing her to demonstrate her empathy—something that was incredibly important to this student. Here are some more questions to think about as you brainstorm content for a particular word:
Does the word mean something different to you than it does to others?
Has your understanding of this word’s meaning changed over time?
Why is this word better than other, similar words?
Perhaps share where you learned the word. Did you learn this word on your own? Was it taught to you as part of a program or internship? Is it tied to a distinct memory? Sharing where you first heard a word or where you learned the word can be a chance to highlight an academic or extracurricular experience you’ve had that hasn’t come up in your personal statement or other Brandeis supplementals. It can also provide the chance to discuss a meaningful memory or relationship that feels missing in the rest of your application.
Maybe discuss the word’s etymology. Where does this word come from? Is it a result of two cultures coming together? Is it a new spelling of an older word? Does this word tie you to your past? Highlighting a word’s etymology can be a chance to share your value of family, history, or culture.
With these tips and examples in your back pocket, you’re ready to write some meaningful, impactful essays for the Brandeis supplemental essays.