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How to Write the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Supplemental Essays

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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a well-ranked university and has a moderately selective admissions rate at around 44%.

In order to stand out, you need to make sure that every section in your application impresses the admissions office. This includes writing a knockout personal statement and, if applicable, a powerful program-specific essay.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute accepts the Common Application and will accept the Coalition Application beginning during the Fall 2019 application cycle. RPI also has a Candidate’s Choice Application, which the university describes as a “streamlined application that is available to students who have expressed an interest in Rensselaer.”

While all applications are considered equally, if you are applying to an accelerated program in either law or medicine, then you must choose the Common Application. Otherwise, the application process is similar for all three.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the question and essay prompts offered in Rensselaer’s application to improve your chances of success.

Important Things to Remember

While writing your personal statement and essay, you should center your focus on your interest in Rensselaer. Unlike other colleges, which often offer essay prompts that ask you to elaborate on an important part of your life or what you might want your future roommate to know, RPI’s essay prompts are strictly about Rensselaer or its specific programs.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t inject your personality and interests into the essay. You should aim to make your essay personal and use previous achievements or experiences to provide evidence as to why you are interested in the university and the field of study.

Write about something you haven’t previously mentioned in the Common App essay, or elaborate on a part of your application you’ve only briefly mentioned.

Be authentic in your essay, and let the admissions officers know you as a person and as an academic. This will help you shine in your essay and prove to RPI that you belong there as a student.

Short-Answer Questions

Other than the supplemental essays and personal statement, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute asks one short question:

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.

While RPI doesn’t specify a minimum or maximum word count, you should keep it at around 300 words or less. It should be just long enough to fully articulate how the activity or work impacted your life.

Limit your description of the activity to about 100 words. What’s more important to the university is why you chose that extracurricular and how it affected your personal or professional development. Make sure that your development is the focus of your answer.

Remember, this should be personal to you. While you may want to write about the National Honor Society or any other activity with high accolades, you should think about an extracurricular activity that has shaped and motivated you.

Writing about an activity that you are passionate about will not only be easier and faster to write, but will also more accurately reflect your strengths and interests.

If you’ve started any clubs or organizations, that can be a great topic to write about. It shows ambition and leadership skills, and a drive to create and build communities for your activity. Demonstrating that passion for a subject to a college suggests that you will show similar initiative if you are accepted.

Writing about any sort of leadership position in an extracurricular can also demonstrate your motivation and passion in that club, as well as obvious leadership skills.

  • Maybe you don’t have leadership experience, but you’re at robotics club after school every day for hours.
  • Perhaps you’re there practicing at marching band rehearsals or doing routines at cheerleading practice.
  • Activities that take a lot of collaboration, teamwork, and time can be a great topic. Spending a lot of time on an activity shows your dedication and commitment to it, and if you’re part of a team, it can also reflect your interpersonal skills.
  • Approach it from a unique angle that shows how the skills you developed in the activity can be applied to your college or professional life.

Remember that you can write about work experience, and not just extracurricular clubs. If you’ve interned for a company in your field of interest over the summer, or you had a life-changing moment at a part-time job, you can definitely write about those. Just make sure to tie it back to your personal development and goals in life.

Personal Statement

Why are you interested in Rensselaer? (100 words or less)

Notice that Rensselaer gives a 100 word limit to this essay. That means that you need to be direct, concise, and clear with your answer. No need for fancy phrasings or purple prose. The admissions officers are looking for specific reasons for your interest in this university.

You need to know why Rensselaer is one of the schools you are hoping to attend. First, you should make a list of these reasons, however general or applicable they may be.

Once you have compiled your list, you may find that some points are generic. Many Rensselaer applicants will likely choose the same reason that you do, and it may be hard to stand out from the crowd.

  • For instance, you may be interested in Rensselaer for its chemical and biological engineering program. Many students are interested in Rensselaer’s engineering programs.
  • However, maybe you choose to write about its polymer research program, in which scientists work to enhance heat transfer and apply polymer devolatilization (the removal of volatile substances from a solid) technology to unconventional substances.
  • Lately, you may have noticed news articles that state Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute scientists are finding ways to enhance natural enzymes to break down plastic.
  • If you’ve participated in environmental-related activities, you can link your passion for creating a greener earth with the research being done at Rensselaer.

By doing a little research into the different events, research, or news coming out of RPI, you can set yourself apart from those who just want to attend Rensselaer because it’s a “good school”.

Remember, when incorporating research into your essay, you should focus on why that aspect makes you want to attend Rensselaer. Make it sound like Rensselaer’s programs support your passions and interests like no other school can.

RPI Program-Specific Essays

The first thing you should note is that none of the program essays specifies a word count, but does say the essay should be 1-2 pages long. In other words, you should aim for about 500-700 words.

Remember, your essay should reflect why you want to attend Rensselaer’s various academic programs. Many of these are rigorous programs; some of which require portfolios. This means you should treat them as such and make sure that your essay is detailed but concise.

Accelerated Programs in Law/Medicine

  State your reasons for aspiring to a career in law or medicine.

These bachelor-professional programs are lengthy commitments that take 6-7 years to complete. As such, you want to prove that you are committed to the subject and are willing to study it extensively for those years.

To begin your essay, you need to lay out your origin story. What is it about law or medicine that makes it so interesting that you want to pursue it as a career? It should be personal to you, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a tragic Batman origin story.

  • For instance, maybe you saw your family go through legal trouble and felt that the justice system wasn’t fair, or maybe you like convincing people to see something in a different light during a debate team competition.
  • Maybe a disease runs in your family, or maybe you learned about an illness in school and it fascinated you so much that you want to be the one to create a vaccine. Remember to focus on how that sparked a passion for law or medicine, not just the ethos of the story.

Next, write about your aspirations themselves. If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, you should have already given thought into what kind of medicine or law you want to practice. Let the admissions officers know if you want to be a pediatrician because you like working with the kids you babysit and want to focus on their health.

Tell them how you want to be the state prosecutor to ensure guilty defendants face justice. Write exactly what you see yourself doing when you graduate college, and explain the kind of impact you want to make on your patients or clients.

If you can, include as much pertinent experience as possible. Any club or internship experience will show Rensselaer that you are serious about your passion in law or medicine, but also look for out-of-the-box connections.

  • As stated, babysitting children may be a good example for future pediatricians.
  • If a cardiologist mentored you, explain how that informed your interest in treating heart disease.
  • For future lawyers, you could write about your experience in giving a public speech to persuade people to care about an issue.

Remember to focus on your aspirations, not your achievements. Use your past experiences as evidence of your passion and motivation to reach your goals. RPI wants to see you looking toward your future.

Architecture

State your reasons for choosing architecture as your profession.

This 5-year bachelor-professional program requires a portfolio, although Rensselaer writes that “we would prefer that you do not include architectural drafted drawings in the portfolio.” Instead, you should demonstrate your creativity through other forms of media. Make sure that your essay reflects both your portfolio and Rensselaer’s program.

  • As with the law/medicine essay, writing an anecdote about an early childhood event that inspired you – seeing the Coliseum in Rome, working with your parents to build a doghouse, etc. – works as great context for your goals and aspirations.

While you may be interested in architecture just because you enjoy designing structures, think outside of yourself during the essay.

  • What can your structures do for your community?
  • How will your buildings improve society or the environment?
  • Is there a problem you see in today’s housing and buildings that you want to change?

All colleges, including Rensselaer, are looking for those who will give back using the education they received. Your essay should reflect how you will better your community, your country, or even your world as an architect.

Whatever the case, you should make sure that your intent is clear. Tie in some of your art pieces from your portfolio into your essay if you want so that the admissions officers can see your visions of your work.

Electronic Arts

Discuss your interests in the field of electronic arts and state how this is reflected in your portfolio.

Rensselaer’s EA program seeks students who want to use technology to create evocative art.

It requires a portfolio of 10-20 pieces of your best creative work. While they accept all forms of media, you should include at least a few pieces of art using technology. Try to make sure these pieces align with each other and ensure that it is reflected in your essay.

  • Write about your pieces like you have been featured in an art gallery.
  • How do you tie these pieces together, and how does technology enable you to amplify that message in a way that traditional mediums might be unable to?
  • Maybe your art is primarily of nature, but you use unnatural materials and mediums to portray that work of art. You could approach it as an environmentalist – your art doesn’t use paper or you use biodegradable materials with a 3D printer.
  • You may also approach it as a futurist – the future harmony of nature and technology when before, industrial technology often meant the destruction of nature.

The people reading your essay should be able to see your portfolio holistically, rather than as a collection of random pieces you have assembled. Guide them to the raison d’être (reason for existence) of your portfolio.

You also may want to talk about the future of electronic arts as well.

Are there new forms of media to invent, and how might they change the way we look at art? How have the current new forms changed the way we think and interact with art? Use your portfolio to provide evidence for your arguments.

Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences

State your reasons for choosing the field of games and simulation arts and sciences, making reference to your portfolio if one has been submitted.

While no portfolio is required, you should submit one if you are able. Because this is an art-related field, your application will perform much better if you can demonstrate some of your creative talents. However, if you can’t assemble a portfolio, your essay becomes that much more important.

While video games encompass a large part of this field, it also includes a broad spectrum of training and simulation arts as well. These forms of technology can teach people skills or show people a perspective they couldn’t experience otherwise.

  • Perhaps you want to build a more advanced piloting or aeronautics simulations for future pilots and astronauts.
  • Maybe you just want the chance to bring people together and tell a meaningful story through the medium of video games.
  • Whatever the reason, make sure that your intent and your vision is clear.

Include any experience you have in the field as well. For instance, maybe you created a simple point-and-click game as a fun and innovative way for your classmates to study. That can demonstrate your technical skills as well as a desire to use such skills to educate.

Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication

State your reasons for choosing the field of Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication, making reference to your portfolio if one has been submitted.

This program synthesizes the arts with communication and media, encouraging new and unique ways to communicate and express ourselves. Like with the gaming arts application, a portfolio is not required, but you should submit one if you can.

Electronic media is an open-ended area for exploration, and it changes rapidly throughout the years. Narrow your scope to a particular way in which you’d like to use it to communicate ideas or ways in which electronic media can be used in the future, and frame your portfolio and essay around that theme.

In your essay, you should be striving to answer a question or solve a problem in electronic media.

  • For instance, what are some new ways that people can communicate ideas through?
  • Is there a way to streamline communication between people of all languages without rigorous language study, but rather through symbols such as emojis?
  • On the other side, are there any ramifications to the rapid spread of information? What structural changes need to happen to fix those issues?

Your essay will demonstrate your eagerness to look toward the future of electronic media and be a part of that change.

Music

Describe your interest in the music major and your goals. Please include completed course work in music, private music instruction, musical performance and production experience, or completed independent projects.

Because this program’s application does not include live auditions, you have to make your essay showcase your musical talent and drive. A portfolio is required.

  • As you write this essay, picture yourself as the musician you want to become.
  • Maybe you’re playing in Carnegie Hall alongside an entire symphony as a professional violinist.
  • Perhaps you’re in a studio, creating new synthesized sounds to play over someone’s radio.
  • Maybe you’re composing a score for a new feature-length film.
  • Clearly state your ambitions in the music world.

Include as much of your experience as possible. Whether through private tutoring in a music store, playing in a school orchestra, performing with a band, or recording a song for download, you should demonstrate your initiative to create and perform music for others.

Tie your experiences to your future vision as a musician, and you will be on the right track.

Conclusion: RPI Essays

Rensselaer’s questions and program-specific essays give you the opportunity to intricately describe your future goals and plans as a professional and as an academic at RPI.

Remember to showcase your personality and potential to the admissions office.

You have to answer a short answer question on your extracurricular activities, as well as a 100-word personal statement on your intent to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

If you are applying to a specific, rigorous program, you may also have to submit a 500-700 word essay on why you are interested in that field of study.

Whatever you write, let your essay be as specific and detailed as possible. Your essays should reveal your personal growth and your potential for much greater at Rensselaer.

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