Here’s another great essay. It was also written for another school, but it’s still an excellent example of what you can do when answering this prompt.

Example 2:

At heart, I’m both regulatory bureaucrat and capitalistic entrepreneur. 

Coming from a small business-owning family, I’ve grown up finding ways to one-up the competition, from boosting website search ranking with unconventional SEO to negotiating with book suppliers to cut costs. After all, our rent depends on our profits. 

However, I also hold enormous respect for regulation. I vividly remember seeing my second grade classmate Nelson sprawled on the asphalt in front of the Chinese school we attended, accidentally run over by his teacher. I later discovered that afterschool was unlicensed: no safety training, no inspections, nothing. Years later, when my mother opened her own afterschool business, I filed the licensing documents and installed government-mandated guardrails. Though burdensome, regulation is crucial. 

The afterschool industry taught me the inseparability of business and policy, but also sparked my curiosity concerning how political economics can leverage that relationship for maximal social benefit. In my Democratic Party internship, I examined how to incentivize below-market-rate housing construction without reducing overall supply. At FBLA Nationals, I delivered a presentation on management practices to reduce oil spills, increasing profits while meeting environmental standards.

CMU strikes me as surprisingly similar to the afterschool industry: an environment where learning occurs through doing and where business and policy can be explored in tandem. I’m excited by the new Economics and Politics degree, which would allow me to take Tepper’s and Dietrich’s classes concurrently. I’d love to attend the Washington Semester Program, applying my education to policy at a greater scale than I am currently. And I’m intrigued by electives like Coffee and Capitalism, using my favorite drink as a microcosm of commerce and geopolitics. 

Whether I become a leader in the afterschool industry or an elected official regulating it, I know CMU will enable this Capitalist Bureaucrat to catalyze purposeful impact. 

— — — 

Tips + Analysis:

  1. Consider starting with a powerful one-liner. The first sentence of this essay is great. It’s sort of cryptic, smart, a little funny, and makes you want to keep reading. It also acts as a clever thesis. The first essay example (see above) offers a more straightforward thesis; this one is a bit more subtle. Both ways can work. It also was really smart of this author to make the first line its own paragraph. The white space in between sets it apart and magnifies its impact.

  2. Make it personal. Even though this prompt is asking you to expand on an academic interest, make an effort to weave non-academic details about your life into the piece. This author is mainly talking about his passion for business and policy, but he also is able to incorporate information about his family and upbringing. The little details about his mom’s afterschool business or the moment when he saw his Chinese classmate hurt make the essay more personal. They make us feel like we know the author at a deeper level, and that primes us to more readily engage with the rest of his piece.

  3. Get school-specific. Many of the majors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign exist at other colleges and universities. You need to make it clear in your answer what it is specifically about this major at this university that is right for you. In this example, the author specifies teachers he’d want to take classes with or clubs he’d like to participate in to make his essay unique to the school he’s applying for. The best way to know what resources you might be interested in is to simply do your research. Go to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s website and do some digging to see what kind of opportunities are there for you.

  4. Demonstrate how you took initiative. The author here has done some incredible things. He gave a public presentation at FBLA Nationals and did a Democratic Party internship. He’s also used his knowledge to help his mom deal with regulatory hassles in her own business. Just like in the first example essay, he’s showing how he took an interest and rolled with it. Use this answer as a space to talk about the incredible things you’ve done.

  5. (Selectively!) use words and phrases that show you know your stuff. The author uses a lot of terms associated with economics and business in his essay (“regulatory bureaucrat” and “capitalistic entrepreneur” in just the first line). His use of these terms is a subtle way of signaling to readers that he has a firm grasp on what he’s talking about. You don’t want to use too much jargon, because that will confuse people, but throwing in some subject-specific words here and there adds credibility and dimensionality to your essay.

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Special thanks to Luci for her contributions to this post.