How to Write the Rice Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

Padya Paramita

How to Write the Rice Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

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 2020-2021.

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 2020-2021, 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 2020-2021

Prompts for the Rice Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

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

Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected (150 word limit)

The key to answering this question among the Rice supplemental essays 2020-2021 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. 

Nikki Champlin, a writing expert from Yale and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, gives her tips for staying under the word count here:

Prompt 2

Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? (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.

Download Every Supplemental Prompt Here!




Prompt 3

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 2020-2021. 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.

Essays for the School of Architecture:

Architecture applicants will not be required to answer question #3 (above). Instead, they will answer questions #1 and #2 above, along with #4 and #5

Prompt 4

Why are you determined to study architecture? Could you please elaborate on your past experiences and how they have motivated you to apply to Rice University and the School of Architecture in particular? (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. 

Don't forget 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 5

Please expand on relevant experiences and motivations outside of your academic trajectory that have inspired you to study architecture, focusing on aspects that are not accommodated by other prompts in the application?(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 related to architecture that call out to you. The Rice supplemental essays 2020-2021 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. 

You may be confused about how much the response should relate to architecture. The key words in the prompt are "have inspired you to study architecture" - if participating in sandcastle competitions motivated your pursuit of the field, that 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 about a certain style, drawing model airplanes, or making animated short films about architecture 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.

Additional Tips for Writing the Rice Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

  • 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 2020-2021 having learned something new about you. 
  • Focus on yourself - All of the Rice supplemental essays 2020-2021 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 2020-2021 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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