How To Write the Pitzer College Supplement

Pitzer College is located in Claremont, CA and is one of the Claremont Colleges. The other colleges in the consortium include Harvey Mudd, Pomona, Claremont College, and Scripps. Pitzer has about 1,000 students and emphasizes student participation and mindfulness (their motto is “Mindful of the Future”). As such, their supplement is outward-facing and asks you to write about your contributions to and observations about the world. Our advice on how to ace this supplement below.

We want to preface Pitzer’s supplement by talking about the nature of the questions. #1 is asking about your thoughts on tackling an external issue, and #2 is asking about your own personal experience. Our instinct is always to choose a question that draws out more personal stories and that is asking about something that happened to you that you can discuss. That said, #1 might be a draw for you if you feel particularly passionate about an issue. One thing to consider with this response is the length—650 words. That is as long as your Common App Personal Statement. As such, you could use a topic that you didn’t write about in your Common App. It’s important to consider the topics before choosing your question. As a general rule, if you’re in doubt at all, go with question #2.

At Pitzer College, five core values distinguish our approach to education: social responsibility, intercultural understanding, interdisciplinary learning, student engagement, and environmental sustainability. As agents of change, our students utilize these values to create solutions to our world's challenges. Please choose from one of the following prompts and answer below: (650 words)

1. Incorporating one or more of our core values, how would you contribute to solving a local or global issue of importance to you?

If this question calls to you, by all means go for it. We must send you off with some words of advice, though: the smaller the issue, the better. When given the option of going local or global, we essentially always advise going local because you can tell more of a story, extract more significant meaning, and illustrate more impact with a local issue versus a larger, more global issue. This is a great essay option for those students who have already spent a significant amount of time tackling an issue of importance to them.

The reason why we always advise students against tackling bigger (political and social) issues, Syria for example, is because it’s difficult to personalize it. While in many ways it might seem weird to say, “you have to make the issue about you,” it’s true. Everyone cares (or should care) about Syria. Your caring about Syria does not make you stand out. Global issues simultaneously affect everyone and no one. Choosing an issue that affects you personally will make more of an impact on the person reading your application. Writing about an issue that you have dealt with directly will also inevitably make your writing stronger because not only do you know the issue, you’ve experienced it. If a global issue does directly affect you, then and only then should you write about it.

We advise starting there—with the impact, and then working backwards. Why and how has this particular issue resonated with you and affected your life in a significant way? Talk about how it became important to you, and get bigger from there by incorporating what you’ve learned and how your perception of culture, society, others, etc. has broadened. How have you worked for change, both internally and externally? This scale of issue is so much easier and more meaningful to relate to. That is ultimately set of goals, after all, right? To force the admissions readers to relate to you, feel drawn in to your story, and be compelled to admit you.

2. Reflecting on your involvement throughout high school or within the community, how have you engaged with one or more of Pitzer's core values?

A big fat warning here: this is not the time to repeat the Activities section of your Common App.

They are familiar with how you were involved in your school and/or community. Colleges ultimately want students who are eager to jump in to their community and make an impact. This essay is your chance to illustrate how you’ve jumped in to your various communities at home and how you plan to continue to make those jumps in meaningful ways.

If you’re looking at this question and aren’t sure what you’re going to write about because you don’t feel like you’ve been very involved, then read up. Get involved. Or call us so that we can help you come up with something great to write about.

We digress. This is the time to tell a story about something that you did that created an impact in any way. It can be small. In fact, the best stories come from a brief interaction or small action. What we want to make sure of is that this is new information that you’re bringing to the table. While the admissions readers know about the community service work that you did because it’s your Activity #4 on your Common App, they might not know the story behind it.

Tell your story, and from there incorporate two values from Pitzer’s core values listed above. Two that come to mind that we feel are easiest to incorporate are student engagement (this very concept is inherent to your response because it’s the topic of the question) and social responsibility (contributing to and interacting with humanity in search of meaning is our social responsibility, or so one will certainly argue to get into college). Also, feel free to be creative with this. You’re should incorporate some personality and genuine humor into this piece. We always encourage our students to strike a balance of meaning, self-awareness, reflection, and humor with their essays. It’s the best combination because it’s memorable. Not that many essays will force the application readers to smile.  

Let us know if you need a second (or tenth) pair of eyes. We have a number of great pairs and an abundance of good advice.