Complete Guide to Successful Rice University Essays
Rice University, considered the Ivy of the South, requires students to submit supplemental essays with their applications. Some of the prompts are the standard ones that most colleges use, and others are more unique to Rice. Let’s look at how to approach each of these topics.
How to Write the Short Essays for Rice
Short Essay #1: Extracurricular Activity
Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 word limit)
If this is your first college application, then you get the joy of writing an essay that will be recycled for most of your other applications. Indeed, the extracurricular prompt is one of the most common ones, but it still requires a concerted effort to perfect the message.
What should you say? In general, try to highlight an extracurricular that's not already prominent in your application. A lot of students write about music, volunteering, running an organization, or a hobby.
Volunteering at a hospital
Interning at a tech startup
Leading a coding camp for youth
At the end of the day, there are only so many variations of the extracurricular, so don’t beat yourself up trying to find the most unique and perfect one. It’s about execution.
So how should you organize your extracurricular response?
Paragraph #1: Introduce extracurricular (what it is, what key skill or wisdom you gained from it, or why you like it).
Paragraph #2: Describe a key moment (yes, just ONE moment).
Paragraph #3 Conclude briefly with what you get out of the extracurricular or how the key moment affected you.
Short Essay #2: Why This Major?
There is a breadth of intellectual opportunities here at Rice. Further explain your intended major and other areas of academic focus you may explore. (150 word limit)
This prompt is another common one among colleges. (In fact, you can most likely recycle what you say in this response in another college's essay.) One thing to consider is that Rice is also curious about "other areas of academic interest." This would be a good opportunity to highlight (if possible) your interdisciplinary mind, something that top-tier colleges love.
What’s the format recommendation?
Paragraph #1 (3-4 sentences): Introduce your interest in the subject and what specific area you want to pursue more. Ex: How you got interested in medicine (maybe a scene?) and what you specifically want to do in medicine (neurobiology?).
Paragraph #2 (2-3 sentences): Explain how you will pursue that subject at Rice. Ex: labs, research, etc.
Paragraph #3 (2-3 sentences): Mention how you will explore other academic interests (say one), and then say how the major and other interest tie together. Ex: Study history to understand diverse cultures you will be servicing in the future as a doctor.
Short Essay #3: Why Rice?
What aspects of the Rice undergraduate experience excite you and led you to apply? (150 word limit)
This is a “Why Our School?” essay. Notice, however, that Rice frames it as "undergraduate experience," allowing you to focus on a wide variety of topics. Still, students typically have similar reasons for why they were led to apply:
Good academic program
Rice student body and culture
Resources, such as labs, alumni network, extracurricular programs
Again, it will come down to execution. Don’t worry about having a super unique angle. Just write a quality response.
How should you structure your response?
Paragraph #1 (1-2 sentences): Introduce what in general about Rice excites you and led you to apply.
Paragraph #2 (3-4 sentences): Explain what ONE main thing got you to excited about applying to Rice.
Paragraph #3 (1-2 sentences): Conclude by summarizing points, calling back paragraph #1, and/or highlighting what about Rice excites you.
How to Write the Rice Perspective Essay
The quality of Rice’s academic life and the Residential College System are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What perspective would you contribute to life at Rice? (500 word limit)
This topic is not as common as the previous ones, but you may be able to recycle content from other essays (as long as Rice doesn’t see those essays too). If you have written (or plan to write) one of the Apply Texas essays, you could potentially use ideas from there.
Still, it’s important to know just how you should approach this essay. First things first, you need to know what exactly is your perspective.
Here is a sample of perspectives:
Life as a “minority within a minority”
Beauty of living with less
Being ethical when it’s socially hard to do so
Acting as the “diplomat” among peers
The perspective can really be any view or wisdom you have gained from an experience, so there should be a lot of variation among students and you should be able to come up with something more unique to your life.
How should you structure the perspective essay?
Part 1 (1-2 paragraphs): Begin with a hook scene that introduces whatever event you want to discuss in the essay. Introduce your perspective and the story you will tell.
Part 2 (2-3 paragraphs): Tell the story of an event that developed your unique perspective. Have a beginning, middle, and end.
Part 3 (1-2 paragraphs): Explain how your unique perspective will be used at Rice.
How to Respond to Rice University’s “The Box” Tradition
In keeping with Rice’s long-standing tradition (known as “The Box”), please share an image of something that appeals to you.
Okay, so “The Box” is not an essay, but you still should be strategic with your response. There is definitely no wrong pictures, but try to avoid the clichés.
What are some common pictures?
Family and friends
School events or extracurriculars
Pictures that symbolize hobbies or interests
Scenery or landscapes
None of these images are inherently bad, and in many cases, students choose the best versions of these ideas. So just make sure whatever you are adding to the box is meaningful, and definitely write a caption to give the image context.
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