Here’s another college application staple: the “elaborate on an extracurricular” prompt. This time, however, you actually have some breathing room.
Compared to Purdue’s other prompts, this one is more straightforward. For this essay, you should expand one extracurricular activity beyond the scope of what is listed in your activities section or resume. Bonus points if you can convey personal growth.
The biggest challenge here will be choosing the right activity to write about. You don’t necessarily want to choose your most impressive one. Often times, writing about your personal experience with something more grounded can be just as effective.
If your application has a central theme (like commitment to service, intellectual fervor, or social activism), you might consider using an activity that relates to this theme, even if it is only tangentially related. This will uphold the overall cohesion of your application.
On the contrary, it can be good to demonstrate your capacity to engage with the world in multiple, often contradictory ways. A diverse portfolio can be a good indicator of a mature thinker, capable of seeing multiple perspectives.
Which of the following major/activity pairings do you think would be most effective:
- A political science major who writes about student government
- A biology major who writes about ceramics
- A linguistics major who writes about ice skating
- A statistics major who writes about social science research
- An English major who writes about HOSA
The truth is, all five pairings have equal potential to be great! It just depends on your unique circumstances and how you wish to frame your response.
While you have liberty with subject matter, don’t just write anything. Make sure your response to this question provides new information. Adcoms will be able to see what accomplishments are on your application, so you need to focus on specific tasks within these activities and why they were so impactful.
This essay isn’t lengthy, but it’s still a chance to be creative in terms of content/structure. Try to begin with an interesting hook that leaves the reader begging for more.
Purdue University Application Essay Prompts
How will opportunities at Purdue support your interests, both in and out of the classroom? (Respond in 100 words or fewer.)
There are two major components to this prompt. First and foremost, you have to demonstrate your knowledge of Purdue and its unique offerings. You can then establish a connection between your knowledge of Purdue and your own interests. When considering what you’ll write about regarding Purdue’s offerings, you want to include specific details that will demonstrate that you’ve done your homework on the school.
Some examples of what differentiates Purdue from other universities include:
- Aeronautical engineering program and work in flight (whether terrestrial or extraterrestrial) is one of the best in the world
- Unique First-Year Engineering program that’s designed to test students’ critical thinking both inside and outside the classroom
- Strong research activity with unique opportunities like its Discovery Park, nanotechnology program, and Research Park
- Honors College, where you’re able to live with similarly driven and like-minded students, or Learning Communities, where you also gain a more focused academic and extracurricular experience that’s tailored to meet your interests
- Even if you’re not interested in joining a specific community, the large campus and diverse student body offer plenty of niches where you can find your best fit
- Division I Athletics with plenty of spectating opportunities, though a caveat would be that this shouldn’t be a key driver in your response unless you are an athlete yourself
- Dominant Greek Life presence offers networks of kindred spirits for you to bond with, if you’re interested
Brainstorm ways in which your unique pursuits could enable you take full advantage of these offerings. Integrate as many elements of your extracurricular and academic profile as are reasonably possible into your essay, in order to cement both your compatibility with and commitment to the university.
For example, a prospective engineer might be attracted to Purdue’s strong engineering programs, particularly in aeronautics. Purdue also offers many research opportunities, allowing this student to realize his or her dream of constructing a drone. Finally, the student might consider joining a social organization to recruit similarly passionate and reliable teammates for this project.
While you want to present a strong case for how you’ll take advantage of the opportunities available to Purdue students, be wary of packing too many elements into your essay. Your primary goal should be to establish a clear connection between your interests and accomplishments and the opportunities that await you at Purdue; don’t jeopardize the clarity of your essay by mentioning every possible activity you could pursue, especially given the tight word count.
Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the major you have selected. (Respond in 100 words or fewer.)
This prompt is primarily seeking to understand the story behind your major choice by asking you to cite your high school coursework, extracurricular activities, and other relevant experiences that shaped this decision. However, it is necessary that in your response you demonstrate not only a thorough understanding of the major you wish to pursue, but also what it would truly entail to pursue this major in college. This can make the prompt challenging.
For students seeking traditional majors that most high schools provide ample exposure to, their coursework is a fairly reliable source to draw from. Examples of these majors include the core subjects like mathematics, science, English, or history. Your choice to major in any of these subjects can be framed by your initial experiences in these classes.
For example, you may have relished the analytical thinking and theoretical perspective required of you in completing a geometry proof. Science may have been appealing for the lab work, which replicated groundbreaking experiments conducted centuries ago by visionaries of their time. English and history may have been exercises in close reading with limitless possibilities in terms of the arguments to be made.
However, although you may have a stronger background in these subjects, a real concern is whether your experiences accurately reflect what you can expect from the major in college. AP English Language and AP Euro classes won’t exactly present the same challenges as a seminar class, in which you might scrutinize the dense opening chapter to Marx’s Capital for a week or the same 3 lines in Dante’s Inferno in hopes of gaining some new understanding that scholars have missed.
In this case, you have to be careful to research the expectations of your college major, specifically how it exists at Purdue, and identify the overlaps between your high school coursework and the major. For example, as an econ major in college, you thankfully won’t be drawing supply and demand curves over and over, but you can expect to learn key economic models, which share a similar goal of understanding phenomena in the global markets.
To supplement discussion of your academic qualifications, you may also consider mentioning your extracurricular activities or your internships, which may be a more accurate representation of your chosen college major — this is true for internships in particular. Talking about the rigors of a math competition that involved completely unfamiliar concepts but required similar modes of thinking or tinkering in a research lab would all be valid examples.
Some students, however, may be interested in majors with which there isn’t any real overlap with their current coursework. For example, an International Relations major in college isn’t grounded in any one high school subject. However, the thinking required for the major can definitely be found in other subjects. You merely have to conduct more granular research into the subject and its program at Purdue to better understand why it attracts you, what relevant experience you have, and how you expect to pursue it at the university.
Purdue University presents a diverse range of opportunities for tens of thousands of students, whether their interests are in engineering, science, or the humanities. If you’d like more hands-on guidance on your Purdue response, the CollegeVine admissions specialists would love to help!