Before you dig in…
The Wake Forest supplement always gives our students a run for their money and the 2017-18 Wake Forest application is no exception. (Six short answer questions plus an essay? What gives?!) That’s why we made you a guide that explains the purpose of each of these thought-provoking prompts and how to answer them in a way that presents a varied and comprehensive package to admissions.
The Requirements:Answer each of six short answer questions and one long essay.
Supplemental Essay Type:Short Answer, Oddball, Community
General Approach Tips:Try to approach each of these questions as an opportunity to reveal something new about yourself to admissions and try your best not to be repetitive. If you discuss your passion for current events in question 3, try to discuss something completely unrelated in the other prompts to paint a picture of your diverse interests and the various components that come together to make you, you.
NOTE: A lot of these short answer questions require more time for idea generation than for writing (they are short answers, after all). Don’t rush to simply submit the first ideas that come to mind. Read through the prompts and let things roll around in your brain for a while. The more space and time you have to brainstorm, the more likely you are to have an ah-ha moment for each of these prompts that combine to create an impressive picture of who you are at your core.
Wake Forest 2017-2018 First-Year Application Essay Question Explanations
Wake Forest asks students to respond briefly to the following questions. They encourage students to be creative and have fun with it, no research necessary!
1a. List five books you have read that piqued your curiosity. (Spaces have been left for you to include each book’s title and author and mark whether the selection was required or unrequired.)
The name of the game with prompts like this one is variety. Each of these books is an opportunity for you to reveal an interest or passion of yours to admissions, and you don’t want to come off as one-note. Did Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel series Sandman blow your mind? Were you horrified by Jon Ronson’s revelations about social media in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed? Also, admissions is giving you the option of checking “required” or “unrequired” for a reason – they want to understand what interests you both in a formal academic setting and on your own. So make sure you’re not just listing To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet and 1984. They’re all works of art, but everyone’s read them, so what will they really say about you? When you only choose one or two of those oft-assigned classics, admissions gets a chance to see what from the modern English (or other!) curriculum really resonated with you.
1b. Discuss the work of fiction you have read which has helped you most to understand the complexity of the world.
CEA Explains: This prompt asks you to discuss a work of fiction that has impacted your view of the world. As much as you can, try to choose something unexpected. Yes, 1984 showed many students a bleak picture of what a Big Brother takeover might look like. But almost every student in the country is assigned that book and takes a look at those lessons. What else have you read that stuck with you because of who you are and what you care about? The book has to be fiction, but it doesn’t have to be about politics. Has a book you’ve read made you look at relationships differently? Try to be as creative as possible with your selection here, and think about what books have really struck you at your core, and why.
2. While division in American politics suggests that the art of persuasion has lost value, dialogue and debate helps define the Wake Forest community. On what issue do you wish to persuade others? What is your argument?
This can be a tricky prompt in that, while you are aiming to find an argument worth fighting for, you also don’t want to choose something so controversial that it might alienate an admissions officer. Remember, you never know who will be reading these applications. That said, in this divided political climate, academic institutions seem to be embracing of honest, thoughtful conversation, from a variety of perspectives. Whatever you choose, you should be invested in the topic and construct an argument that you think would be likely to win someone over. You have limited number of words to work with here, so choosing a small slice of a larger argument might help you summarize your argument in a way that is more convincing.
3. 59% of Wake Forest’s Class of 2017 received academic credit for faculty-directed research across academic disciplines. Describe a specific academic assignment that sparked an academic curiosity you hope to explore further in college.
Wake Forest wants to know that you will take advantage of the unique resources their school has to offer. And in order to do that, you need to be someone who isn’t afraid to take charge of your own education, identify your interests and follow the lead of your own intellectual curiosity. Identifying an assignment that has excited you is a fantastic way to showcase your interest in a subject and your ability to look into a subject in a self-directed way. Don’t forget to detail why this was the assignment that floated your intellectual boat.
4. What have you learned about yourself from engaging with someone different from you?
Think about what it means for someone to be different than you. How do things like race class, gender, age, political affiliation, temperament or any other qualifier factor into your interactions with others? When have you had an honest epiphany from a moment that could have otherwise been confrontational? When were you shocked by your former ignorance about an issue? When has someone been able to show you something, simply by holding up a mirror from where they were standing?
5. Give us your top ten list.
This is one of our all-time favorite short-answer questions. It’s also one students dread initially, because they don’t know how to approach it. Like many of the other questions on this list, think about what you do or what you are interested in that might also be of interest to admissions. What else about who you are and what you do have you not yet revealed about yourself? Our founder always jokes that she would list her favorite kinds of pasta in order (because she is an actual pasta addict). Maybe she would make a list of the top ten pasta meals of her life and who she ate them with, to showcase how much pasta is a part of her social life and how she connects with others (it truly is the centerpiece of her world). Think about how you can add dimension to your list and take a collection of favorite movies or music beyond the ordinary. If someone else could submit your list, it’s not specific or creative enough and probably won’t tell admissions anything they really want or need to know.
6. You have a popular podcast. What’s the title? What’s the topic?
Start with the topic here. What of your interests and hobbies might you not yet have elaborated on for admissions? Is there a way for you to put a new twist on a subject that already comes up on your activity list or in your main Common App essay, but that will showcase the depth to which that interest can be explored? How can you best showcase your ability to think creatively about the subjects you engage in? Also spend time playing around with the title to create something catchy – don’t let your presentation of the podcast be an afterthought. This whole application is an exercise in personal branding, so take some time to really think on the hypothetical marketing exercise admissions is asking you to engage in here, and show them what you’ve got!
*This prompt is only available on the Common Application
How did you become interested in Wake Forest University and why are you applying? (150 words or less)
This is a pretty straightforward question, and your answer should be relatively straightforward. Who told you about Wake Forest? Did you find it in your research? From a guidance counselor? Through a friend? And what about the school is really calling to you? You only have 150 words to communicate to admissions why Wake Forest is the school for you, so pick the two or three most important points and keep the message focused. What does Wake Forest offer that interests you, and how can you prove your interest in these areas through your past experiences? Draw the line for admissions to sharply and succinctly make your point.
*These prompts are only available on the Wake Forest University application.
On a separate page, use the following essay to give the Admissions Committee insight into your character and intellect.
During the 2017-2018 academic year, Wake Forest University is launching a year-long Rethinking Community initiative. Use your imagination to rethink your school community and your place in it. (Word limit unclear.)
This is a community essay, with a slight twist. Admissions wants to wrap their head around how you will contribute to their campus. What will you bring to the table? The important thing to pay attention to here is the “Rethinking Community Initiative.” This is, as hinted at in the prompt, an actual Wake Forest initiative, so make sure you research the mission behind it. Then think about how your own experience contributing to your community could help enhance this new program and the Wake Forest community, overall. How would you like to see students interacting on campus?
In the space provided, briefly discuss which of the accomplishments listed above has had the most meaning for you and why. (Word limit unclear.)
You’re going to have to poke around to find this one (we did!) but it exists, so we thought you should be prepared. This is a pretty typical activity essay. Just try and distill your most meaningful extracurricular in a few sentence and give context for why it has meant so much to you. The word count should become clear when you enter it into the app itself (we hope!)
This prompt reminds us of the classic job interview question: “What is your biggest weakness?” When answering questions like these, it’s important to demonstrate honesty and self-awareness, but it’s even more important to showcase your strengths through the discussion of your “weaknesses” or anticipated challenges.
A possible route you could take for this essay could be briefly describing something you have struggled with previously (e.g., social anxiety when around a lot of new people) and explain ways in which you’ve overcome this in the past and how it has positively affected you (for example, by putting yourself out there and joining the chess club, which is now one of your favorite hobbies and greatest skills).
This type of response not only shows strength through your willingness to be somewhat vulnerable, but also illustrates your growth, problem-solving skills, and ability to deal with tough situations.
Keep in mind, though, that you should definitely spend more time detailing how you’ve overcome a problem than talking about the problem itself. It won’t give the admissions team much confidence in your ability to deal with the inevitably stressful situations of college if you spend 150 out of 200 words talking about how much of a burden your crippling social anxiety has been for you. Avoid writing a sob story; instead, reflect on your growth and maturity.
Remember: You are trying to demonstrate how you’ve grown from challenges and learned to face your fears, not just describe how your fears have negatively affected you.
Another route you could take is to talk about an anticipated challenge you have not previously faced, but how your strengths and other experiences you’ve had will help you with them. For example, perhaps you come from a small private school with a graduating class of 60 people. Or maybe you live in a rural town in Oklahoma and have never been to a city on the East Coast. Both of these backgrounds would potentially make attending Pitt overwhelming and nerve-wracking for you at first.
For this kind of response, it is still important to focus more on how you will handle the challenge than the actual challenge itself. If, like mentioned in the example above, you are coming from an extremely small high school, you could talk about how your strengths (e.g., outgoing or adventurous personality) or past experiences (for example, doing a summer study-abroad program) will help you deal with the challenge.