Everything about the Tulane supplement seems fairly straight forward:
Please describe why you are interested in attending Tulane University
Until you get to the postscript, “(optional) 50-800 words.” At a max of 800 words, the Tulane essay is one of the longest essays most universities offer. Given the large word count, it’s surprising that the essay is marked optional.
First, and most importantly, the “Why X school?” essay is never optional even when the school says it is. Don’t let it become a chance to shirk away from doing the work of writing an essay. Without writing the “Why Tulane” essay, your chances of getting into Tulane drop down to almost zero. The “Why” essay is your chance to showcase your knowledge and research into the school’s academic and social life. Without it, you just become another nameless face for the admissions committee to rubber stamp. Think of the essay as a way to make your case for why you are a good fit for Tulane. You use your research and your skill as a writer to convince them.
You need to hit all of the usual points in this supplement. Research the major you are interested in pursuing and discuss what makes it unique at Tulane. Remember that you should never list introductory classes when discussing the major. If you want to go above and beyond, as we always encourage our students to do, research specific classes, professors, and their work. If you can mention a paper that a professor recently published, you’ll stand out. If you haven’t visited yet, you should. Talk about why you want to spend four years in New Orleans and how you hope to learn and add to the community. If there is meaningful work you’ve done in high school, figure out how you can continue it at Tulane. Most importantly, you need to put the time in and do your research. We can’t say this enough.
That being said, don’t let the word count throw you off. Just because the min and max are so skewed doesn’t mean you should change your approach to the essay. Follow the same rules as always. Research the school’s programs and culture intensely. Find courses that spark your interest and write about why you want to take them and why they matter to you. Shoot for around 500 words, which is the length of a more traditional essay. If there’s something extremely special to you about Tulane, then good news: you have a lot of leeway to write more. But don’t feel obligated to fill the page after you’ve run out of things to say. Better to write something concise, thoughtful, and well-written than an extra 300 inconsequential words just to fill the space.
Essays like this are designed to trip you up and make you think a little harder. This is a good thing—don’t let it distract you from your goal, which is to write the best possible essay convincing the reader to admit you to Tulane. If you do your research and take your time, this essay should be no more difficult than the countless others with the same prompt.