5 Things to Know When Writing a College Essay About Community + Real Examples
The vast majority of colleges have a series of essay prompts students to have to complete along with their Common Application. If you’re applying to multiple universities, you’ll notice that many of these essay topics overlap, although the wording is never identical.
One of the primary reasons for this similarity is that each college admissions committee wants to learn similar things about you. They’re all interested in learning more about who you are, what you’re interested in, and what goals you have in the future, and why you’ve chosen to apply to this university. One of these prompts is a college essay about community.
While it varies from college to college, the prompt will roughly sound like this:
Tell us a little about a community of which you consider yourself part.
Each university will add its own spin or add-on question, but they’re all asking roughly the same thing: what about your background has had a major impact on who you are today?
Here’s an actual example from Brown University to give you some context:
Tell us about a place or community you call home. How has it shaped your perspective?
At first glance, this college essay about community seems pretty easy. Not only is the question itself short but colleges also typically only request a short answer of a few hundred words. However, after you read over the prompt a few more times, you might realize how open-ended it is. What does it exactly mean by community? Well, that depends on how you want to answer the question. You can take it to mean literally the community in which you live or you can take it in more of a metaphorical sense to mean a group of people with which you identify for some particular reason. Maybe you see your weekly D&D group as part of your community.
Regardless of how you interpret community, the primary thrust of the question remains the same. This is the perfect opportunity for you to talk more about who you are and how you interact with your community at large. Admissions officers aren’t only interested in how you can benefit from attending the university. They’re also interested to know what you’ll be able to offer students, teachers, and the larger school community. This college essay about community is how you’ll illustrate what you can offer.
How to Write the Community Essay: Complete Guide
While all college essays are an excellent time to show admissions officers why you’re a great fit for the school, the community prompt is especially important. If you’re able to knock this essay out of the park, you can successfully convey to colleges how you would contribute to the school. Here, we’ll look at 10 things to know before you write a college essay about the community in an effort to help you write the best response possible.
As we’ve mentioned before, this college essay about community is fairly open-ended. While this lack of direction can be daunting, it’s also an opportunity for you to get creative. Oftentimes, college essay prompts will have hidden questions inherent within the topic. For this subject, it’s not just an essay on a community experience. Admissions officers are also asking what kind of community you identify as being part of. Keeping this in mind, you should think about the different “identities” you have and what groups of people you spend time with at school, work, or elsewhere. Don’t limit yourself to the literal definition of “community” if something else pops up.
Here are some various ways you can interpret the word:
- Interest: Our earlier example of a D&D group being identified as a community would fall into this category. Any group of people who are brought together due to shared experiences or interests could count as a community.
- Place: This is perhaps the most literal definition of community that could be used. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad choice for your response. If you’ve developed a close bond or sense of identity with people who you live near, work, or go to school, this is a great interpretation to run with.
- Action: If you’re involved in an organization, club, or chapter that seeks to bring about positive changes in the world or just within your local area, this would certainly count as a community. This angle would also be a great way to show initiative and action.
If you’re an active individual with a lot of friends who participates in a bunch of extracurricular activities, you might be a member of a dozen communities or more! Although you might be tempted to mention all of these groups to show some dynamic in your application, we advise students to only stick to one.
First and foremost, the prompts usually only ask for a single community and following these directions is paramount. Secondly, you’re usually only given a few hundred words to respond. This barely gives you enough time to expound on the importance of one community. Focusing on more than one would spread your answer too thin.
Talk about yourself.
No matter what a college prompt might say, the answers should always be about you. Keep in mind that the primary purpose of these essays is to give admissions officers a better idea of who they are. Although the college essay about community does involve other people, the question is primarily asking what group you identify with. While you’ll no doubt mention and even describe other people, don’t forget to talk about yourself. This should be your primary focus throughout the piece as it’s what the college is most interested in learning more about.
Toot your horn.
At the heart of it, a college essay about community is asking you to toot your own horn…at least a little. As a member of a community, you need to be offering something to the group, not just benefitting. As we’ve just discussed, showing this reciprocity illustrates your ability to be a contributing part of a larger community. For admissions counselors, this is an important part of deciding whether or not you’ll be a fit at their university.
Since there aren’t many college essays on volunteering, this would be a great opportunity to talk about it. While you shouldn’t go overboard, don’t be afraid to earnestly talk about how you’re helping others within your community. Still, in order to make a college essay about community service unique, you’ll need to discuss how the experience shaped who you are today.
Get personal with your essay.
While all college essay prompts are designed to help admissions officers get to know you better, a college essay about community is one of the best places to accomplish this goal. As a result, one of the best pieces of advice we can give students is to get personal! Don’t be afraid to show off your quirky side, something unique about you, a little bit about your background, and everything that makes you…well, you! If you feel that the topic you chose is a little too personal for you to really open up, consider switching to another sense of the word “community” about which you’re more comfortable talking.
Pro Tip: If you’re able to connect your college essay about community directly with an offering from the university, you should definitely do it! This not only shows that you’ve done your homework about the school, but it also illustrates a connection between your goals and the university itself. This keeps admissions officers from having to find this connection on their own.
“Describe a Community You Belong to” Essay Example
East Meets West
I look around my room, dimly lit by an orange light. On my desk, a framed picture of an Asian family beaming their smiles, buried among US history textbooks and The Great Gatsby. A Korean ballad streams from two tiny computer speakers. Pamphlets of American colleges scattered on the floor. A cold December wind wafts a strange infusion of ramen and leftover pizza. On the wall in the far back, a Korean flag hangs beside a Led Zeppelin poster.
Do I consider myself Korean or American?
A few years back, I would have replied: “Neither.” The frustrating moments of miscommunication, the stifling homesickness, and the impossible dilemma of deciding between the Korean or American table in the dining hall, all fueled my identity crisis.
Standing in the “Foreign Passports” section at JFK, I have always felt out of place. Sure, I held a Korean passport in my hands, and I loved kimchi and Yuna Kim and knew the Korean Anthem by heart. But I also loved macaroni and cheese and LeBron. Deep inside, I feared I’d labeled by my airport customs category: a foreigner everywhere.
This ambiguity, however, has granted me the opportunity to absorb the best of both worlds. Look at my dorm room. This mélange of cultures in my East-meets-West room embodies the diversity that characterizes my international student life.
I’ve learned to accept my “ambiguity” as “diversity,” as a third-culture student embracing both identities.
Do I consider myself Korean or American?
Now, I can proudly answer: “Both.”
What We Like:
- The author uses very descriptive language that does an excellent job of setting the scene, making the piece as engaging as a short story.
- Although the subject is potentially generic (i.e. a story about having two different identities due to cultural differences), the author does a tremendous job of keeping it personal, insightful, interesting, and non-cliche.
- The story comes full-circle by discussing something that was different in the past and how the writer’s experiences have changed it for the better today.
- The author openly admits to having an “identity crisis” which captures the reader’s attention even more without being too overbearing.
The Pumpkin House
I was raised in “The Pumpkin House.” Every Autumn, on the lawn between the sidewalk and the road, grows our pumpkin. Every summer, we procure seeds from giant pumpkins and plant them in this strip of land. Every fall, the pumpkin grows to be giant. This annual ritual became well known in the community and became the defining feature of our already quirky house.
The pumpkin was not just a pumpkin, but a catalyst to creating interactions and community. Conversations often start with “aren’t you the girl in the pumpkin house?” My English teacher knew about our pumpkin and our chickens. His curiosity and weekly updates about the pumpkin helped us connect.
One year, we found our pumpkin splattered across the street. We were devastated; the pumpkin was part of our identity. Word spread, and people came to our house to share in our dismay. Clearly, that pumpkin enriched our life and the entire neighborhoods’.
The next morning, our patch contained twelve new pumpkins. Anonymous neighbors left these, plus, a truly gigantic 200 lb. pumpkin on our doorstep.
Growing up, the pumpkin challenged me as I wasn’t always comfortable being the center of attention.
But in retrospect, I realize that there’s a bit of magic in growing something from a seed and tending it in public. I witnessed how this act of sharing creates an authentic community spirit. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday I started my own form of quirky pumpkin growing and reap the benefit of true community.
What We Like:
- The author expresses the importance of rituals and family which is an excellent topic for a college essay about community.
- The topic of the essay is mentioned within the first two to three sentences of the piece, making use of limited space.
- The word “community” is explicitly used which shows admissions staff you know how to follow directions while also making it easier for them to understand what you’re writing about.
- The topic is unique to the writer and not something that many – if any – other applicants would be able to write about.
- It comes across as very authentic, personal, and genuine while still being engaging and interesting.
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