In order to write this essay, it is helpful to take a step back from the sometimes panic-inducing task of focusing on your college applications and instead look around. As you go about your day, maintain awareness of things that ordinarily seem insignificant, to the point that you may be taking them for granted.
For instance, remind yourself of the neighborhood you wake up in every day, the foods available to you for breakfast, and how you feel as you pass through your community on your commute to school. Reflect upon the impact your surroundings have on your day-to-day life and the ways in which they have fostered your personal development. You are probably familiar with your surroundings, to the point where they don’t seem particularly remarkable to you, but you are trying to introduce yourself to an admissions committee that probably knows very little about your hometown.
After reflecting on this exercise, you might realize that your work ethic stems from your gratefulness for the sacrifices your immigrant parents have made in order to give you a chance to succeed, or it could take the shape of your precocious desire to study geriatric medicine and hearing-loss pathologies because you have grown up in a town where the majority of your community is of advanced age.
This thought experiment is the perfect way to start dissecting what it is about your surroundings that has shaped you into the person you are today. Most importantly, it will show your essay reader that you have matured enough to be able to speak about yourself in a frank and vulnerable way. As long as you speak your truth, there is no wrong answer.
That being said, as you tell your story, you will want to avoid clichés and stay true to the complexity of your experience. If you have struggled to overcome obstacles, you don’t need to present yourself as a heroic individual that has achieved success because of your own grit and determination. You can acknowledge the bonds of friendship or family that helped you hold yourself together during tough times. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, and indeed having the courage to reach out and the humility to acknowledge your support network is one way to demonstrate maturity.
If you needed to watch after your father while he was suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s, you might talk about how you had to work with your sister to watch him in the evening, and how sometimes you needed to get out of the house and play soccer with your friends in order to be able to come back inside and commit yourself to the work of care all over again. Maybe that experience is part of what made you want to get into nursing, not only to help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, but also to encourage patient’s family members to take care of themselves.
If you describe poignant tales of overcoming hardship and obstacles in your response, that is fine, as long as it is the truth. Some applicants might think that exaggerating their tales will score with admissions officers, but admissions officers are not judging your essay based on the level of hardship you have overcome. Rather, the question they will ask is what you’ve learned from your experiences and what kind of person you will be when you join the Texas A&M community.
One last word: As we’re revising this guide for the 2017 application season, the rains have only just barely stopped falling after Hurricane Harvey. The environmental, economic, and political dynamics of this disaster will be thought about and debated in the coming years as people try to rebuild more resilient cities in a changing climate. The students, faculty, and staff at Texas A&M will be taking part in this conversation.
If you were affected and feel so moved, you can certainly talk about your experience of the storm in your essay, even if you think that a lot of other applicants will also be talking about the storm as well. A major disaster contains a multitude of narratives, and if you focus on the particularities of your experience — what you lost, what you saw, how you imagine going forward — you will be making a contribution to a conversation about Harvey that will continue for years to come.
Texas A&M University 2017-18 Application Essay Question Explanations
The Requirements: 3 essays of roughly a page each
Supplemental Essay Type(s): Community, Activity, Common App overlap
First and foremost, don’t freak out when you see six prompts listed on the Texas A&M application. There’s one set for ApplyTexas applicants and one set for Coalition applicants. Yes, you read that correctly. Texas A&M does not accept the Common App, so make sure you budget your time and effort wisely to get this supplement done. Anyone who plans to apply via the ApplyTexas platform should also check out our video on UT-Austin, which covers many of the same basic questions.
Average length is about a page to a page and a half.
The following essay topics are valid for the ApplyTexas Application ONLY.
Essay A – Required
What was the environment you were raised in? Describe your family, home, neighborhood, or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person.
Chances are you’ve seen this prompt before, or at least one quite similar. We call this the Community Essay, because like all of its identical or almost-identical twins, this prompt is asking you to reflect on a community you are a part of, one that has played a big role in your life. When thinking about a response to this prompt, feel free to think about religious, cultural, geographical, or shared-interest communities you belong to. Focus your essay on the latter part of the question: how has it shaped you as a person? This is an opportunity for you to reflect on your background and give admissions a clear picture of the kind of person you are today.
Essay B – Required
Most students have an identity, an interest, or a talent that defines them in an essential way. Tell us about yourself.
If you’re feeling another wave of déjà vu, it’s probably because you’ve noticed that this prompt is almost exactly the same as Common App prompt #1. This overlap is a boon to ApplyTexas applicants, especially if you’re still in the planning phase. Sync up your Common App personal statement with your response to Essay B and you’ll cut your work in half! When you dive into this essay, just remember how broad the categories “identity, interest, or talent” truly are. You should be able to align almost any story you have to tell with one of those categories, so forget about the prompt for now and brainstorm. Make a list of the things you love or hate. What are some of your favorite stories or most cherished experiences? You can write about something as monumental as your commitment to cancer research, an interest that developed when you began driving your mom to chemo. Or you can choose something as minute as your tidy desk, which reflects your penchant for creating order out of chaos. Whatever you choose, make sure you put your stamp on it. Write from a perspective that is uniquely yours so that when you hit submit, you know no one else could have told the same story.
Essay C – Optional
You’ve got a ticket in your hand. Where will you go? What will you do? What will happen when you get there?
What a fun question! Why on earth would you even want to skip it? But to be clear: we wouldn’t let you skip it either way. This question is just begging you to show off your sense of humor, imagination, or vision and truly tell admissions something they couldn’t find elsewhere on your application. Before you start tying yourself up in knots trying to figure out how to impress your application reader, take a deep zen breath. This is supposed to be fun! And a forced answer won’t be fun to read or write. So set yourself a 5 minute timer and freewrite. Just spew every thought you have onto the page: What places come to mind? What would you do there? Why would you go? The sky’s the limit! A&M never said the place had to be real or that it had to exist on this plane of space and time. You could pick a place with sentimental value and take a flight across the pond to reconnect with your estranged aunt in the English countryside. You could go big and snag a seat on the next SpaceX mission to the moon. The politically inclined might travel back in time to visit historic locations before they were decimated by war. Embrace your imaginative side, but remember to situate yourself within the story you tell. Why does this place matter to you? And what will you learn or accomplish once you get there?
The following essay topics are valid for The Coalition Application ONLY.
Essay A – Required
Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
Welp, this is what we call a wide open playing field. You could literally write about anything here because, let’s get real, if you’re not writing an essay that showcases your character, we’d better have a long chat. Since this prompt is so broad, we’d encourage you to take one of the following two approaches: (1) Recycle one of your best essays from another supplement or application that fits the criteria, so you’re not straining to wring the last drops of creativity from your brain. Or, (2) if the Texas A&M application is your starting point, skip this prompt for now and circle back once you’ve decided what to write for Essay B; anything you have left to say will fit nicely in this prompt. The only real requirement is that you tell a story, so just make sure your essay has a clear narrative arc with a beginning, middle, and end. And of course: make sure you tell admissions something they don’t already know! Scroll up to our tips for the first Essay A if you’re in need of more inspo before you get started.
Essay B – Required
Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
This prompt is a prime opportunity for you to expand on the community service portion of your resume. It’s also a trap. In our experience, writing about community service is a virtual minefield of clichés, so above all else, choose your topic wisely. Rather than going straight for the most prestigious community service on your resume, think about the causes that are most meaningful to you. Where have you devoted the greatest amount of time and/or effort? When have you been a leader? What about the cause makes the work worth it? In other words, when you write about giving back, the act of service itself should be the reward. Otherwise you risk falling back on some of the worst clichés out there. Whether you already had a personal reason to care about the soup kitchen (a friend or family member who was once homeless) or came to understand, and get angry about, the cycle of poverty as a result, connect yourself to the cause. If you were volunteering outside of your own community, be careful not to exoticize the people you were serving; after all, in a way, the essay isn’t even about them. It’s about you. It will be more personal and interesting if you follow the old creative writing rule, “Show don’t tell.” Instead of saying, “I learned a lot from tutoring Sammy,” illustrate your personal growth by describing your experience. Perhaps you could share an anecdote from the beginning of your experience and one from the end. The point is, avoid generalizing at all costs.
Essay C – Optional
Submit an essay on a topic of your choice. The essay should be personal and utilized as a tool to share your story with the Admissions Committee.
Two catch-all prompts in one supplement? Are they kidding us? At this point, we’ve got 3 words for you: Recycle, recycle, recycle. You won’t hear us say this very often, but don’t overthink this one. Either follow your inspiration if you have something left to say or use another stunning essay from another supplement that you can adapt as needed. In this case, There’s no point starting something from scratch if you can only use it once. During application season, your time is precious.