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Writing Supplements

What is new this year about Northwestern’s essay requirements?

For the 2023–24 admissions cycle, we have added a required short answer to our Common Application and Coalition Application with Scoir supplements, along with some optional short answers for first-year applicants. (Note: all the short answers are optional for students who apply through QuestBridge.)  

Because we added a required writing component to our supplement, we made the personal essay optional—we want applicants to feel free to repurpose essays (or parts of essays) they’ve written for other applications, including the personal essay.

Why did you make these changes to your essay requirements?

The changes we’ve made to our essays are designed to help students focus their responses on areas we consider most important to our holistic review: how their personal experiences have shaped various ways they see themselves engaging at Northwestern, and how their vision for college aligns with the resources and community they’ll find here.

You may notice we no longer ask our “Why Northwestern” question. This question has always helped us learn these things, but not effectively in every case given how broadly we’ve framed it in the past. So this year we shifted away from the rather generic, “Why our college?” to a set of more specific (and we think more dynamic!) questions—ones we hope can help applicants learn more about Northwestern in the process of helping us better understand who they are, where they come from, and what matters to them.

We also made the personal essay optional so students can focus their time on our writing supplements and, where it makes sense to do so, repurpose writing they’ve done for other colleges—including copy/pasting sections of their personal essay—to answer our required questions.

What are the new writing supplement prompts?

You can see our new writing supplements here.

Can I copy/paste sections of my personal essay to answer Northwestern’s new short answer questions?

Yes! We know you are busy—please feel free to repurpose writing you’ve done for other colleges—including copy/pasting sections of your personal essay—to answer our required questions. (We will also understand if there is repeated language between an optional personal essay and your required writing supplements.)

How many of the optional questions should I answer?

You may answer 0–2 optional questions. We do encourage students to answer at least one—again, we designed these questions to help you put your best foot forward in this application in helping us imagine how you see yourself engaging, learning, and/or growing at Northwestern.

Will answering more optional questions give my application an advantage?

No, responding to more optional questions will not carry any extra “weight” in the process. We’ll give equal consideration to students who answer 0, 1, or two optional questions.

Why are your short answers optional for students applying through QuestBridge?

The QuestBridge application contains more required writing samples than the Common Application or Coalition with Scoir application, offering candidates many opportunities to reflect on personal context, experiences, perspectives, background, identity, and their vision for college.

If I choose to submit my personal essay, will you still see it?

Yes! While we no longer require the personal essay with your Common Application or Coalition Application with Scoir, should you choose to submit one we will still be able to review it, just as we can any optional or supplemental application materials.