How to Write the Rice University Supplement 2019-2020

Rice University is a private research university in Houston, Texas. Rice is a medium-sized school with 3,962 undergraduate students and is known for being academically and socially excellent. It is rated #2 in the nation for student quality of life and #14 for best universities in the nation by The Princeton Review.

Rice isn’t all fun and games, though. They take research seriously, and 68% of undergraduate students participate in research while at Rice. The combination of academics and community has made Rice a coveted university. There are 22 applicants for each available space in the Freshman class. The acceptance rate is only 8.7%.  

There is a breadth of intellectual opportunities here at Rice. Further explain your intended major and other areas of academic focus you may explore. (150-word limit)

This question is all about academics, so keep it simple. Rice is asking you for three things: your prospective major, why you would like to pursue that major, and other academic subjects you are interested in. In that order. If you are not 100% decided on a major, that isn’t a problem as long as you don’t say it. For the purposes of your college applications, you know what you want to study. Why? Because colleges want to see a sense of direction.

Colleges know that many students arrive undecided. They know that many students will change their major at least once between declaring it their sophomore year and graduation. However, saying that you are undecided on your applications makes it sound a lot like you don’t know yourself. If you don’t know what you want to major in, you become a slightly more high-risk candidate. Colleges also want to make sure they are putting together a well-rounded class, so if everyone is undecided, you can conceive of a situation where it ends up being 100% drama majors. Even if you aren’t 100% set, pick a major that you are considering and commit to it here. There is nothing binding you to it once you arrive.  

Once you have a major, you need to say why. Why should be clear to you. There should be an obvious link between what you want to do in college and what you are doing now. Draw the line that connects those dots.  

Finally, use the words leftover to share 1-3 other subjects that you are interested in pursuing as a minor or in a less formal format.

What aspects of the Rice undergraduate experience inspired you to apply? (150-word limit)

Whereas the previous question was entirely about what goes on inside the classroom, this question is not an academic question. Which isn’t to say that school doesn’t matter for this question. It does, but you need to go beyond straight academics. Look at what Rice offers students other than a piece of paper — things like internships, research opportunities, sports, clubs, community engagement, and an alumni network.

Focus on two or three things (you only have 150 words) and explain how they influenced your desire to apply.

Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life for all members of our campus community. The Residential College System is heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What personal perspectives would you contribute to life at Rice? (500-word limit) 

Compared to the previous two prompts, this one is an opportunity to share a piece of yourself with the admissions office. It is also the only prompt with a significant word count, so you have to make the most of it. There is more than enough room to tell a full story — and an entirely new story. What you write here should not be repeated anywhere in your application.

Before you start brainstorming possible responses, consider what “personal perspectives” means. By framing the question through your “personal perspectives,” the Rice admissions office is pivoting you away from how you envision your future at Rice and towards where you are today and what has gotten you there. For many people, this pivot brings up thoughts of faith, community, family, culture, or tradition. When you hear any of those five words, what events or activities come to mind for you? How have they manifested in your life and impacted how you make decisions?

Another way to approach this question is to describe your background in 10 words and then narrow it down until you have one or two things to focus on.

In keeping with Rice's long-standing tradition (known as "The Box"), please share an image of something that appeals to you. See the Help Section for more information.

Rice loves this part of their supplement. We think it is the kind of thing that sounded fun and easy when an admissions official came up with it, but that causes absurd levels of stress. Why does it cause so much stress? Because students have a tendency to overthink it. So, before you start spinning, you need to stop and breathe. Take this as a chance to be creative. You can photoshop yourself into an aspirational image, for example, or share a piece of art that you created. Be playful and have fun.


Are you stressing about ‘The Box’? Send us an email. We help students transform stress into strengths.