Crafting Your Northwestern Application Essay: A Comprehensive Guide for Aspiring College Students

June 21, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Crafting Your Northwestern Application Essay: A Comprehensive Guide for Aspiring College Students

Hello, aspiring Wildcats! If you’re reading this, chances are you’re considering applying to Northwestern University, one of the top-ranked universities in the United States. A significant part of your application will be your Northwestern application essay.

What are the specific requirements for the Northwestern application essay?

What are the particular requirements for the essay portion of the Northwestern application? The application essay is a crucial part of your application. It’s your opportunity to showcase your personality, your passions, and your potential to the admissions committee. But before you start writing, it’s important to understand the specific requirements.

Northwestern University uses the Common Application, which includes a general essay. This essay is your chance to tell your unique story compellingly. You can choose from several prompts, which are designed to help you share your personal experiences, values, and aspirations.

In addition to this, Northwestern has a supplemental essay. The prompt for the supplemental essay can vary from year to year, but it typically asks you to elaborate on why you have chosen to apply to Northwestern and how you see yourself contributing to their community.

Two students talking in a table.

Remember, each essay is a chance to reveal a different side of yourself to the admissions committee. Use the Common App essay to share your story, and the Northwestern supplemental essay to demonstrate your interest in the university and how you plan to make the most of your time there.

What topics are recommended for the Northwestern application essay?

What are the best topics for the Northwestern application essay? When it comes to choosing a topic for your application essay, it’s important to remember that the goal is to showcase who you are, what you value, and what you aim to achieve. The topic you choose should allow you to express these aspects of yourself compellingly and authentically.

For the Common Application essay, you have several prompts to choose from. These prompts are designed to help you share your personal story. Here are a few examples:

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

For the Northwestern supplemental essay, the prompt typically asks why you have chosen to apply to Northwestern and how you see yourself contributing to their community. This is your opportunity to show your specific interest in Northwestern. Here are a few topic ideas:

  • A particular academic program at Northwestern that aligns with your career goals.
  • Unique opportunities at Northwestern, such as research projects, study abroad programs, or extracurricular activities, that you wish to take advantage of.
  • Northwestern’s community values or traditions that resonate with you and how you plan to contribute to them.

The best topic is one that allows you to share a meaningful story about yourself, demonstrates your interest in Northwestern, and shows how you will contribute to the Northwestern community. It’s not just about what you’ve done, but also about who you are and what you aspire to be.

What is the word limit for the Northwestern application essay?

How long should the Northwestern application essay be? The word limit for the Common App essay is 650 words. This gives you ample space to tell your story in a detailed and engaging way.

Young woman holding her books on a school campus.

The Northwestern supplemental essay, on the other hand, typically has a word limit of 300 words. While this might seem short, it’s still enough to be specific about your interest in Northwestern and how you plan to contribute to their community. Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity. Every word should serve a purpose.

What are some successful Northwestern application essay examples?

What are some examples of successful Northwestern application essays? While it’s important to make your essay unique and personal, looking at successful examples can provide valuable insights. Here are a couple of examples:

Example 1: Passion for Journalism

A student might write about their passion for journalism, discussing their experiences as the editor of their high school newspaper and their desire to pursue a career in investigative journalism. They could then tie this into Northwestern’s renowned Medill School of Journalism, discussing specific courses, professors, or opportunities at Medill that they believe will help them achieve their career goals.

Example 2: Interest in Social Justice

Another student might write about their commitment to social justice, discussing their experiences with volunteering or activism in their community. They could then connect this to Northwestern’s diverse community and emphasis on civic engagement, discussing specific initiatives at Northwestern that they wish to join or contribute to.

Example 3: Desire to Study Engineering

A student interested in engineering might write about a specific project or experience that sparked their interest in the field, such as building a robot for a school competition. They could then discuss how Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science offers the perfect environment for them to further explore their interest and develop their skills, mentioning specific resources or opportunities that the school offers.

a male student sitting and looking at the camera

These are just examples. The best essay will be one that is deeply personal and reflects your unique experiences, interests, and aspirations. It should not only answer the prompt but also provide insight into who you are as an individual. It’s not just about what you’ve done, but also about who you are and what you aspire to be.

What are the evaluation criteria for the Northwestern application essay?

What are the standards for evaluating the Northwestern application essay? The essay is evaluated based on several key criteria. Here’s a closer look at what the admissions committee is looking for:


The admissions committee wants to see that you’ve thought carefully about why Northwestern is the right fit for you. They’re looking for evidence of your interest in the university and your understanding of what makes it unique. They want to see that you’ve done your research and have specific reasons for wanting to attend Northwestern.

Personal Insight

Your essay should reveal something meaningful about you that isn’t apparent from the rest of your application. This could be a personal value, a passion, or a goal. The admissions committee wants to get to know you as an individual, so don’t be afraid to get personal and share your story.

Writing Quality

Your essay should be well-written and engaging. It should have a clear structure, with an introduction, body, and conclusion. Your ideas should flow logically, and your writing should be free of grammatical errors. Remember, your essay is a reflection of your communication skills, so take the time to proofread and revise.


While your essay should be focused and coherent, it should also be creative. The admissions committee reads thousands of essays, so a unique perspective or an engaging narrative can make yours stand out. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and creatively present your story.


The admissions committee wants to hear your voice in the essay. It should sound like you and reflect your personality. Avoid using clichés or writing what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. Instead, be authentic to yourself.

Moreso, the essay is just one part of your application. The admissions committee will also consider your grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and other factors. However, the essay is your chance to make a personal connection with the admissions committee and show them who you are beyond the numbers.

In conclusion, crafting a compelling Northwestern application essay is a journey that requires introspection, creativity, and a clear understanding of your aspirations. Here at AdmissionSight, we’re committed to guiding you every step of the way, helping you to showcase your unique story and potential. Remember, your essay is more than just words on a page – it’s your opportunity to show Northwestern why you’d be a valuable addition to their community. Contact us so that we can help you better!


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