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How to Write the Amherst College Essays

Updated for 2023-2024

For the 2023-2024 application cycle, Amherst requires all applicants to submit one supplementary essay. There are three options for satisfying Amherst’s supplementary writing requirement: Option A, Option B or Option C. You may select only one of these options. Before deciding, carefully read the descriptions for all three options and decide which will best allow you to showcase your candidacy and unique personality.

Option A:

Choose one of the following quotations, and respond to the question posed, in an essay of not more than 350 words. It is not necessary to research, read, or refer to the texts from which these quotations are taken; we are looking for original, personal responses to these short excerpts. Remember that your essay should be personal in nature and not simply an argumentative essay.

Prompt 1: “Amherst College is committed to learning through close colloquy and to expanding the realm of knowledge through scholarly research and artistic creation at the highest level. Its graduates link learning with leadership—in service to the College, to their communities, and to the world beyond.” – from the Mission of Amherst College

What do you see as the benefits of linking learning with leadership and/or service? In your response, please share with us a time where you have seen that benefit through your own experience.

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Explanation:

In responding to Amherst College’s supplemental essay prompt, which asks you to reflect on the benefits of linking learning with leadership and/or service, it is essential to convey a deep understanding of the institution’s mission and demonstrate your alignment with its core values. The prompt also calls for you to share a specific example from your own life to illustrate this connection.

First, consider how your experiences and values align with Amherst College’s commitment to learning, leadership, and service. How have you used your knowledge and skills in service of your community? Why is Amherst’s commitment to service and community a driving factor in your own interest in the institution? You might express your enthusiasm for an educational environment that values the holistic development of its students, emphasizing the synthesis of academic pursuits, leadership, and community service.

Then, you should share a specific experience from your life that illustrates the benefits of linking learning with leadership and service. This should be a time when you actively partook in a service project or leadership role that allowed you to apply your academic knowledge and skills to make a meaningful impact. For instance, you might recount a time when you took a leadership position in a community service project that was closely related to your academic major or interests. Describe how your academic insights enhanced your ability to lead the project effectively, and how the project, in turn, benefited the community. Be sure to highlight what you learned from this experience, both academically and personally, and include specific and demonstrable results (these may be qualitative through community response or quantitative through funds raised or volunteers mobilized).

Finally, link this experience not only to your personal growth but also to the way that you intend to continue positively impacting your broader community in the future. Doing so will demonstrate your leadership skills as well as the type of community member you will be on Amherst’s campus.

Prompt 2: “We seek an Amherst made stronger because it includes those whose experiences can enhance our understanding of our nation and our world. We do so in the faith that our humanity is an identity forged from diversity, and that our different perspectives enrich our inquiry, deepen our knowledge, strengthen our community, and prepare students to engage with an ever-changing world.” – from the Trustee Statement on Diversity and Community

In what ways could your unique experiences enhance our understanding of our nation and our world?

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Explanation:

To answer this prompt effectively, you should first consider your background, personal experiences, and perspectives. Consider the various aspects of your life, experiences, and identity that make you unique. Think about your cultural background, family history, personal values, and formative experiences; then, make a list of the key factors that have shaped your identity. In your response, clearly articulate how your unique experiences align with and reinforce Amherst College’s commitment to diversity and the belief that diverse perspectives enrich the academic environment.

Rather than offering vague or general statements about diversity, provide one specific example from your life experiences that demonstrates your potential to enhance the understanding of your nation and the world. For instance:

  • Share an anecdote about an event, relationship, or encounter that was profoundly influenced by your unique perspective or background.
  • Discuss a cultural tradition or practice that is significant to you and has broadened your understanding of cultural diversity.
  • Reflect on a time when your unique experiences provided a different perspective on a complex issue or challenge.

Finally, demonstrate that you understand the reciprocal nature of this exchange. Just as you can enrich the understanding of others, acknowledge how your experience at Amherst can further develop your own understanding of different perspectives. This mutual exchange of knowledge and growth is at the heart of Amherst’s values.

Option B:

Submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year that best represents your writing skills and analytical abilities. We are particularly interested in your ability to construct a tightly reasoned, persuasive argument that calls upon literary, sociological or historical evidence. You should not submit a laboratory report, journal entry, creative writing sample or in-class essay. Also, if you have submitted an analytical essay in response to the “essay topic of your choice” prompt in the Common Application or Apply Coalition with Scoir writing section, you should not select Option B.

Option C:

If you are/were an applicant to Amherst’s Access to Amherst (A2A) program, you may use your A2A application essay in satisfaction of our Writing Supplement requirement. If you would like to do so, please select Option C. However, if you would prefer not to use your A2A essay for this purpose and you want to submit a different writing supplement, select either Option A or Option B. Option A, Prompt 2 is the same prompt as the A2A application essay; if you would like to submit an updated version of your A2A application essay, please choose Option A.

Please note that Option C is available only to applicants to Amherst’s A2A program. Non-A2A applicants must choose either Option A or Option B.