How To Write the Haverford Supplement

Haverford College is a small liberal arts school of about 1,290 undergraduate students. Campus calls Haverford, MA home, and it’s definitely homey. The majority of classes on campus are taught seminar-style. The college has a 9:1 teacher to student ratio, which speaks to its focus on not only student to teacher but student to student interaction. Classes are for the most part discussion-based, with an emphasis on debate and open dialogue. Haverford believes that every student has more autonomy than the normal college student, given their academic structure and their Honor Code. The Honor Code plays a big role in the college’s supplement, so it’s important that you read through it and really understand it before you dive into the supplement. We break it all down below.

1. Tell us about a topic or issue that sparks your curiosity and gets you intellectually excited. How do you think the environment at Haverford, including the framework of the Honor Code, would foster your continued intellectual growth? Please limit your response to 250 words.

Here is the text of the Honor Code, for your reference:

A Haverford education is distinguished by the extraordinary trust placed in students, the emphasis on student agency in all facets of the academic and community experience, and the cultivation of ethical leadership. All of this is embodied in our student-run Honor Code. The Haverford Honor Code is not a set of rules, but rather a statement of shared values centered on the concepts of trust, concern, and respect. It serves as an educational tool in and of itself and provides a powerful framework for our community, emphasizing and supporting qualities we see as essential to a Haverford education. Among other things, the Honor Code at Haverford shapes:

•Academic Freedom: The Honor Code fosters an atmosphere emphasizing academic integrity, collaboration over competition, and the cultivation of intellectual curiosity. Differences and disagreement are respected, valued, and embraced, and open discourse is seen as fundamental to the academic endeavor.

•Student Agency: The Honor Code upholds a culture in which students are deeply trusted to take substantial ownership of their education and to profoundly shape and define the Haverford community. Student ownership is reflected in self-scheduled exams, in the fact that every student completes a Senior Thesis, in shared responsibility for the residential experience, and of course in oversight of the Honor Code itself.

•Community: The Honor Code establishes a supportive environment for living and learning, where the community experience plays a central role in one’s education. The inherent value of every community member is recognized, and diversity in all respects - including diversity of background, experience, and perspective - is nurtured, celebrated, and embraced.

•Leadership and Engagement: The Honor Code allows every student to find and develop their own voice, to practice ways of improving community and acting on issues of importance, to learn methods of problem solving and conflict resolution, and to examine the ways they can and will impact the world beyond Haverford.

These are a lot of words for a relatively simple question. Don’t get tripped up by the length or intensity of the Honor Code. We’ve analyzed this year after year, and we’re here to tell you what it’s truly saying. The Honor Code essentially drives home the point of independence. Students are autonomous and completely in control of their own academic path. Whatever happens in the classroom and outside of the classroom in terms of academics is within your reach and sphere of command. Essentially, you’re the master of your own domain. You get what you put in. Another common phrase. Keep this in mind as you craft your response to this question, which is essentially the academic component of the “Why X School?” question but with a more personal and creative touch.

Now that we’ve covered the Honor Code, we have to talk about what you’re going to write about. We’ve directed our students who have applied (and gotten in) to Haverford to write about something that may not be directly mentioned in their application but is certainly related. If you’re a ballerina who has spent the majority of their high school career dancing, and now you really want to get into cooking, maybe rethink your drastic shift. Or have a great way to tie it all together. We’re not saying it has to be seamlessly cohesive, but it should make sense, be memorable, and have context.

However, this is the time to mention an academic pursuit that there might not be room to elaborate on in other parts of the application. Perhaps you’ve done some research on the side with a professor at a local college or you’ve essentially mastered a topic because you’ve read dozens of books on it. Maybe this is finally the opportunity to write your love letter to all of the feminist literature you’ve been reading since you read The Bell Jar for 10th grade English. On that note, though, make sure you don’t write about something that is too obvious or straight up dull.

So we’ve covered what the Honor Code is saying, and we’ve discussed how it’s important to write about something academic. Let’s turn to how to incorporate the Honor Code into your answer. You can do it a couple of ways. A great way to do it is to talk about an independent interest of yours (mentioned previously) and make reference to how you’ve taken control of your own education and pursue a certain topic so thoroughly that you’re an expert. Essentially, use the Honor Code as a framing mechanism for explaining your own personal investment in your intellectual autonomy.

Alternatively, you can directly incorporate academic intrigue with the Honor Code by taking your interest into the classrooms of Haverford. And by that we mean, create an outline for an independent study course. Haverford is trying to convey the message that you have control over your education and that you will be supported in your pursuits whatever you decide to study. As such, explain to them the ins and outs of the fictional Independent Study course that you want to take once you’re on campus and have identified the proper professor to help you do so. While this is literally fostering your continued intellectual growth, it also illustrates that you know the school very well and have the clarity to declare your autonomy early on. Also, we should mention that you should avoid using their exact phrasing at all costs. And any very similar-looking sentences, for that matter.

2. Please tell us what motivated you to apply to Haverford and what excites you most as you imagine your Haverford experience. Please limit your response to 150 words

This is, of course, the “Why X School: Culture Edition” component of the application. Because you more than likely spoke on the topic of academics in response to question 1, this is the time to cover Haverford’s quirks and fun details that you find charming and exciting. Dig deep on the website and find the items that speak to you. Which student clubs sound intriguing? What do you want to start? Which traditions sound just corny enough to get you to excitedly participate? What types of activities and places are nearby that make you feel like you may very well want to borrow a friend’s car to explore? You only have 150 words, so be sure to paint a very clear picture of yourself on campus for the admissions reader. They need to be able to visualize you on campus with such clarity that they believe that you do, indeed, belong at Haverford.

Feel free to even get creative with this one. Although you only have 150 words, and perhaps even because of the limited space, why not play with the format? Write a few stanzas from a poem about Haverford (and your future experience there), or create a paragraph that strings together some rhyming sentences. Pontificate on the meaning of self-government, which Haverford holds as a central value. Write a love letter. Think outside the box, and don’t forget to stay true to your interests and the rest of your application. This supplement shouldn’t be out of whack with the rest of your application—it should add to it, but not confuse it.

We know that these questions, particularly #1, are challenging to answer even if you’ve done a standard “Why X School? Supplement before. This one is tricky because you must make reference to something in a context that you don’t quite understand the ins and outs of yet. Do not fear. If you have any questions, call us. Email us. We’ll help you write an awesome Haverford supplement.