How to Write the Northwestern Supplement

Northwestern is a prestigious private school that has aspects of a big, midwestern state school. In addition to rigorous academics, an incredible location on the coast of Lake Michigan, Northwestern is also a part of the Big 10. Some would say Northwestern has it all: Division 1 sports, access to the bustling city life of Chicago (only 30 minutes away by train), and is located in Evanston, one of the most culturally diverse towns in the country.

Northwestern’s optional “Why Us” supplement essay is fairly straightforward.

Other parts of your application give us a sense for how you might contribute to Northwestern. But we also want to consider how Northwestern will contribute to your interests and goals. In 300 words or less, help us understand what aspects of Northwestern appeal most to you, and how you'll make use of specific resources and opportunities here. (300 word maximum)

You probably know by now what we think of the words “optional essay.” They’re not optional. (don’t hate the player, hate the game).

Break Down the Question

Writing a great “why this school” supplement isn’t rocket science. But it is important to pay attention to the unique wording of each supplement prompt. Here, Northwestern asks you to elaborate on how you’ll make use of “specific resources and opportunities.” They’re not trying to trick you. They’re actually being incredibly straightforward. What they are doing is literally asking for specifics. And asking for specifics means one thing: they want you to do your research. Show them you care about their school (and that you know how to properly operate Google). They want to know what aspects of Northwestern appeal to you. Is it the class sizes? The school community? The proximity to a big city? Their journalism program?  For this essay, there’s no need to take huge creative risks. That said…

Show Them You Mean Business

We’ve heard it before and we’ve been there ourselves: picking a major is hard. Sure, some of you lucky ducks have known you’ve wanted to be a speech pathologist since 6th grade, and know every prerequisite and lab you will ever need to take in college. Mazel Tov to you. But many of us enter college with a vague idea of a future career and maybe a couple of different subjects that we’d like to explore.

This is the time to listen to your instincts and choose a major. Trust us, this is going to make writing about the specifics of Northwestern’s resources and opportunities so.much.easier. Think about your strengths in school. Are you a voracious reader who can’t get enough Tolstoy and Shakespeare? Safe to say you might enjoy majoring in English Literature. Or perhaps you’re obsessed with World War II and watch way too much History Channel. History it is. You get the point.

Whatever major you choose, do some deep stalking of their department website. Read through their curriculum requirements. Pick not one but two classes that speak to you. And we’re not talking about Intro to Poetry. Pretty much every school in the country offers Econ 101. Choose an advanced class, likely a 200-level or above, that is a unique offering to Northwestern. Talk about why those classes interest you, and how they fit into your goals. Show them you know how to contextualize your interests, and that you’re going to be a proactive, involved student. Because of course you are, right?

Don’t Forget the Non-Academic Stuff

At the end of the day, they’re vetting you. They want to make sure they’re getting a student who will be engaged and excited to participate in the multitudes of extracurricular activities they offer. If you went on a college tour, then mention some specific aspects of the campus life that stood out to you. But don’t talk about the tour or the beautiful campus. They know it’s pretty. Take a look at Northwestern’s student activity website. Choose a couple of programs or organizations that you want to be involved in. Just make sure your picks don’t come out of left field. We know it might sound cool to join the Buddhist Meditation Club, (and totally join once you’re on campus!), but if you haven’t shown an interest in that sort of thing before, it will sound quite random in this context. If you have a habit of volunteering, pick a similar organization that will complement that interest.

The End.

You only have 300 words here. Not exactly enough room to write the stuff of the Great American Novel. But that’s lucky for you, because it means you don’t have to meander aimlessly for a hundred words or so on your conclusion. Keep it concise and relevant here. Tie it all up. Reference your intro. Voilà. You’ve written the Northwestern supplement.

If you need help with Northwestern or any other supplement, reach out to us.