How to Write the Rice Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

Padya Paramita

How to Write the Rice Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

You might be drawn to Rice University for a lot of reasons. You could be fascinated by the strong bonds formed thanks to the residential college system which groups students attending the same program within Rice. You could also be excited by the Houston weather, the generous availability of merit scholarships, or the chance to study under esteemed musicians at The Shepherd School of Music. Regardless of your reasoning, if you’ve got a motivation behind your Rice application and believe that you’re an ideal fit for the school, there’s no better place to discuss it than in the Rice supplemental essays 2019-2020.

Rice has six colleges for six different areas of interest: engineering, social sciences, natural sciences, music, architecture, and humanities. In reading your responses to the supplemental essays, admissions officers want to know whether your strengths, experiences, and goals are compatible with the unique and competitive programs the colleges within Rice have to offer. To guide you through your writing process for the Rice supplemental essays 2019-2020, I’ve outlined how to answer each of the prompts, including prompts for admission into specific colleges within Rice, and additional tips on helping you write standout answers in response to the Rice supplemental essays 2019-2020

Prompts for the Rice Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

The essay prompts for Rice are divided into 3 parts: questions for all applicants, questions for applicants to the School of Architecture, and questions for applicants to the School of Engineering, School of Humanities, School of Music, School of Natural Sciences, or School of Social Sciences. When you apply to Rice University, you’re required to submit an intended major at one of its colleges. Let’s take a look at each of the prompts and ways you could go about answering them. 

Essays for All Applicants

The Committee of Admission is interested in getting to know each student as well as possible through the application process. Please respond to each of the following prompts. 

Prompt 1

There is a breadth of intellectual opportunities here at Rice. Further explain your intended major and other areas of academic focus you may explore. (150 word limit)

The key to answering this question among the Rice supplemental essays 2019-2020 lies in conducting appropriate research surrounding the major and college you’ve chosen. You can write about specific courses that appeal to you within your major, such as the “From Decolonization to Globalization” course in the Classical and European studies program. Or you can write about unique opportunities at Rice that you can’t find anywhere else, such as the Museums and Cultural Heritage program in the School of Humanities, or the Opera program at the Shepherd School of Music.

While 150 words is very little, make sure to assert your interest in the subject into your essay as well. Mention any anecdote or example that conveys your passion for the field. Elaborate on how your experiences and exploration of the topics within the discipline so far make you a strong candidate for the program. If there have been any ways you’ve actively pursued your interest - such as working at a lab in preparation for a Chemical and Biomedical Engineering major, mention them in a sentence or two. 

Since there’s not much space, you won’t be able to get too much into the details about other areas of academic focus, and that’s okay. Drive home your enthusiasm both for your field, and how Rice can specifically hone your skills and assist your growth as a student. 

Prompt 2

What aspects of the Rice undergraduate experience excite you and led you to apply? (150 word limit)

This is a typical “why this school” essay, but within the strict limit of 150 words. For questions like these, specific examples are key. Since you’ve already expanded on your academic interests and goals in the previous prompt, in this second essay you should focus on finding a balance between academics and more social aspects of your college experience. If you’ve visited Rice, this is a great opportunity to talk about what you experienced - were you excited by the academic atmosphere when attending a class? Did you have a memorable conversation with a current student? 

Mention clubs and student organizations that align with the theme of the rest of your application. You could write about how you want to continue your involvement in event management by partaking in the Rice Program Council. Emphasize the kinds of events you’ve organized so far and what you value about the work to explain how you’d bring your perspective to Rice’s events organization board. Doing so will not only provide context on your interests, but also demonstrate to admissions officers that you’ve thought about how you might contribute to the Rice community. 

Rice wants a “diverse, exciting student body, consisting of the best and brightest from across the country and around the globe” - how do you fit this description? It’s important to portray your excitement at the possibility of attending the school for specific reasons. Admissions officers want to accept students who will bring positive energy and a love for Rice, and answering this question with active enthusiasm can go a long way. 

Prompt 3

In keeping with Rice's long-standing tradition (known as "The Box"), please share an image of something that appeals to you. See the Help Section for more information.

“The Box” is a unique Rice supplemental component which asks you for a photo response with no accompanying text explanation. This is Rice’s signature question, notorious for throwing students off. So if you’re confused and flustered over what picture to choose, you’re not the only one. 

You’ve heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” - here’s your chance to test this theory. Upload a photo which holds meaning to you. It can be easy to stress over this - after all, you can only use one picture, and have no way to tell admissions officers what it means. But remember, there is no right or wrong answer and what you choose won’t make or break your entire application. 

Ideas you can draw from to decide on your picture include:

  • A photo of a place that is important to you, for example, the house where you grew up or the treehouse where you first discovered your love for art
  • A family photo, for example, from a reunion or your grandpa’s 90th birthday
  • Portrait of a family member or close friend
  • An action shot, maybe your favorite baseball player pitching at the first game you watched live or your a teacher who has had an impact on you in their natural habitat - the classroom
  • A picture of an object that holds meaning to you, such as a first edition book or an old family quilt

Since your Rice supplemental essays 2019-2020 are meant to add a new layer to the rest of your application, this is another chance to let the school know more about your personality and character. Don’t just post a generic picture such as a stock photo of the Niagara Falls downloaded from the Internet. But if it’s a photo of you and your grandmother capturing the joy on her face the first time she saw one of the Seven Natural Wonders, that tells an entirely different story.

Essays for the School of Architecture:

Prompt 1

What aspirations, experiences, or relationships have motivated you to pursue the study of architecture? (250 word limit)

As the question states, you can highlight any aspiration, experience, or relationships that have fueled your passion towards the profession. Do you have a particular goal when it comes to architecture, such as designing a space shuttle for NASA or the tallest building in your city? Can you describe experiences, such as time spent designing sets for every school play since sixth grade, which helped you realize your love for architecture? Or were you motivated by watching your parents map out blueprints for your home?

Don’t just state what that origin story was in one or two sentences. 250 words is a solid amount of space to transport admissions officers into the time of your discovery - to the museum where you first became fascinated by the interior of a space shuttle. You could write about anything here as long as you address where your wish to pursue architecture arose. 

Save a few words at the end to connect your answer specifically to the School of Architecture at Rice. You could mention how your particular aspirations in architecture would benefit from working with one of the firms that partner with Rice’s Preceptorship program. Or, you could write about how the Rice Architecture in Paris program perfectly ties in with your passion for French architecture. 

Admissions officers should be able to take away your motivations behind studying architecture, and ways you would grow from attending the School of Architecture.

Prompt 2

Outside of academics, what do you enjoy most or find especially challenging? (250 word limit)

Your answer to this prompt might jump out immediately upon reading it, or you might have to sit down and think about activities that call out to you. The Rice supplemental essays don’t want you to repeat your entire activities list; you need to make a choice. Will you pick an extracurricular because you enjoy it the most, or will you pick an activity that you find especially challenging? You could also write about an activity that brings you both joy and a challenge. 

Since the activity should be outside academics, you don’t have to write about architecture at all. But if it’s something you do for fun that might tangentially have a relation to architecture - such as participating in sandcastle competitions - that’s still outside academics and definitely counts. 

The activity doesn’t have to be over the top or on a grand scale. It could be something relatively quiet, such as reading 18th century literature, drawing model airplanes, or making animated short films on your computer. As long as it’s authentically you, you can write about any activity. Again 250 words is a good amount to break up your essay into talking about the activity itself, then delving into detail on what you enjoy the most or find challenging.

Essays for the School of Engineering, School of Humanities, School of Music, School of Natural Sciences, School of Social Sciences

Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life for all members of our campus community. The Residential College System is heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What personal perspectives would you contribute to life at Rice? (500 word limit)

If you’re applying to any of the colleges besides the School of Architecture, you’ll be required to answer the longest among the Rice supplemental essays 2019-2020. Pay attention to the words “personal perspectives.” A good way to start your brainstorming process would be to think about your background and experiences. Is there a part of your identity that you feel adds a unique element to your story? 

Rice prides itself on its diverse student body, how do you feel you can add to it? The word “diverse,” while a buzzword, can help you try and figure out the focus of your essay. While it may definitely evoke your cultural identity, sexual orientation or religious views, you can also think out of the box when it comes to diversity. Both cultural differences and “life experiences are mentioned in the question. So you could talk about nearly anything, from what the preparation of food from your family’s culture has taught you about community to how your passion for hiking has changed your worldview.

Then we come to the final part of the question: how would the perspective from your experiences contribute to Rice? Similar to the other essays, don’t talk about what you think admissions officers want to hear. What are you genuinely excited about participating in at Rice? What kinds of activities have you led in high school that you believe have prepared you to continue to make an impact in while at Rice? 

This essay is almost as long as your personal statement, so you have a lot of room to address all of the parts within the question. Don’t forget to research what Rice values in its students and which parts of campus you might be able to contribute to. If you can specify how you’d be an asset to the school within Rice you’re applying to, that’s even better.

Additional Tips for Writing the Rice Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

  • Don’t repeat the rest of your application - Admissions officers will already have read the rest of your application by the time they get to your supplemental essays. So if they see that you’ve talked about the same topic as your personal statement or have repeated details about an extracurricular that’s outlined in your activities list, they might think you’re one-dimensional and don’t have much to offer. They should come out of the Rice supplemental essays 2019-2020 having learned something new about you. 

  • Focus on yourself - All of the Rice supplemental essays 2019-2020 specifically ask about you and your experiences. For any of the essays, you might be tempted to write about someone else - a family member who’s a Rice alum or a famous architect who’s inspired you to study architecture. If you mention them, make sure to keep it minimal. At the end of the day, the school wants to know about you. Don’t get carried away and use all your words talking about someone else.

  • Show, don’t tell - This is cliché advice when it comes to writing, but it’s crucial to keep in mind, especially with the prompts that Rice has offered. Don’t just tell your reader the name of an activity that you enjoy or simply state what motivated you to study architecture. Upon reading your essay,   the admissions officer should immediately be able to picture you in your element and watch each scenario you described play out easily.

The Rice supplemental essays 2019-2020 are a great opportunity to provide your reader with more context on who you are, your passions and aspirations, and how you could succeed thanks to a Rice education. Answer the prompts in a way that highlights the aspects that make you unique and portray you as a memorable candidate. Your application can unquestionably benefit from your supplemental essays, completely wowing the admissions officers. So work hard on those responses, and convince the school why you are a student they don’t want to miss!

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