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How to Write Impressive Boston College Essays: The Practical Guide

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Boston College has an acceptance rate of 32% and is located in one of the most desirable cities in the United States. Students are just a short distance away from America’s oldest treasures, including the college itself.

Boston College has been providing students with a world-class education since its Catholic founding in 1863.

The college holds onto its Jesuit beliefs in its “mission of faith and service; to continue to develop model programs to support students in their formation; and to seek solutions—as researchers, educators, leaders, and caregivers—that directly address the world’s most urgent problems.”

This mission statement is reflected in the essay you will be writing for your application to Boston College.

What are the Boston College Essay Requirements?

The school requires students to apply through the Common App. If you’re applying to several other colleges using this process, this should come as a relief!

  • In addition to the standard freshman writing prompt, you will have to answer one additional writing supplement in 400 words.

In your application, you will choose one of the four prompts below:

1.Great art evokes a sense of wonder. It nourishes the mind and spirit. Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?

2. When you choose a college, you will join a new community of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and stories. What is it about your background, your experiences, or your story, that will enrich Boston College’s community?

3. Boston College strives to provide an undergraduate learning experience emphasizing the liberal arts, quality teaching, personal formation, and engagement of critical issues. If you had the opportunity to create your own college course, what enduring question or contemporary problem would you address and why?

4. Jesuit education considers the liberal arts a pathway to intellectual growth and character formation. What beliefs and values inform your decisions and actions today, and how will Boston College assist you in becoming a person who thinks and acts for the common good?

Planning Ahead: How Do I Choose a Topic?

When faced with several different topics to choose from, resist the temptation to choose the one that seems most appealing on your first read. It’s worthwhile to spend time brainstorming ideas for all four options.

After thinking through each topic, jot down notes for each question.

What could you potentially write about?  You may realize that a choice other than the one you liked initially suits you best.

You should also consider the following questions when narrowing down your topic ideas:

Which of these topics…

  • …could you write the most about?
  • highlights information about you that is not apparent in other parts of your application?
  • …connects most closely to your goals/aspirations in your future (both near and far)?
  • …makes the most interesting story?

BC Essay 1: Art and Inspiration

Great art evokes a sense of wonder. It nourishes the mind and spirit. Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?

To write an effective essay, think backward. Here’s how to approach this prompt:

  1. Before you choose the song, poem, speech, or novel, think about your personal life and the actions you have taken.
  2. Think about a time you responded to a need in a creative way.
  3. Or, brainstorm situations during which you took action.
  4. Then, evaluate those stories by asking which of them exemplified your values, personal themes,  and lessons learned.
  5. Pick one story that is most powerful and speaks volumes about your character.
  6. Connect that story to a song, poem, speech, or novel.

See how that works? Instead of forcing yourself to write about a favorite work of art that might not have been consequential in your life, you’ve instead picked both the art and the story behind the essay.

Now, get started on writing.

In a prompt such as this one, it’s easy to get caught up in explaining the work of art and not spend enough time describing how it has changed you or affected your decision making.

You should aim for a good balance. The beginning of this prompt describes “wonder” as springing from an investment in art. This “wonder” manifests itself in “insight” or “inspiration.”

In plain English, that means how has it changed your life? What actions have you taken because this poem, book, or song influenced you?

  • Think, what are you invested in?
  • What are you passionate about?

Since creativity is the main focus of this essay, it’s important that you be descriptive and use emotional language.

  • Show your readers why the action you took was important to you.
  • Then, describe your thought process as you came up with and executed your actions.

The college admissions committee can’t read minds. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a friend or family member peruse your essay for clarity.

While something may make perfect sense to you (the person who lived the experience and has all the facts), you might discover that there are holes in the story that need to be filled.

Finally, don’t forget to check that your essay responds to the prompt.

  • Was your response to the need you write about both effective and creative?
  • Did you drive the decision making in your story? (The answer should be “yes.”)

It’s important to note that you should spend a limited portion of your essay describing the situation and what you did.

Spend more time writing on the following:

  • Why you made certain decisions
  • What came of the decisions
  • What you learned during and after the process

Don’t get caught up in the process of describing what happened or explaining the backstory to the work of art you chose.

Instead, spend more time explaining why the inspirational spark from the work of art drove your creative process and how that process contributed to your growth.

  • At least 40% of your essay should involve explaining the personal significance of your creative response.

This ensures the essay is about you, and not the event itself.

  • Did reading “The Lord of the Rings” inspire you to help a school club raise money when members were having trouble fundraising? Did you want to come to the club’s aid when no one was offering help? Explain how your actions speak to your willingness to help out and try new ideas.
  • Did perusing “Porcelain” convince you to help when a younger student was struggling to learn an instrument? Did you step in and find an interesting way to help her learn the basics? Show the reader how you’re interested in mentoring and cultivating other young people who are struggling.
  • Does “We choose to go to the Moon” speech empower you to take ownership of the way you spend your time? Maybe you tutor elementary and middle school students in math and science after school. You might have encountered a problem where a lot of the students were missing the same fundamental building blocks to understanding a critical concept. You are choosing to help those students dream big.
  • Does the poem “Bookshelves, Breaths, and Battles” inspire you to teach others? Instead of teaching the material like most teachers would, perhaps you found an engaging hands-on activity or project to help students truly understand the fundamental principles they were missing. You might have also extended this to include fellow high school students or other educators. By addressing a problem in an effective, non-traditional manner, you exercised creativity.
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BC Essay 2: Diversity Essay

When you choose a college, you will join a new community of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and stories. What is it about your background, your experiences, or your story, that will enrich Boston College’s community?

This is the standard “diversity” question that many colleges ask you to write.

Simply put, the college is asking “What about your life will lead you to contribute to our campus?”

Here are some brainstorming tips:

  • Think of a time you made an important decision.
  • Delve into your personal life and recall formative moments that influenced who you are today.
  • Did you grow up in poverty? Are you a military child
  • Experience racism or ableism as a result of a disability you were born with?
  • Witness and endure hardship due to your family’s limited financial resources?

Once you have chosen a story, think about what you did. This is important: Regardless of your circumstances, a foolproof essay is one that features action steps.

Put another way, the admissions officer wants to hear about what you did and how it changed you.

This essay can have a major impact on your application or, conversely, it could be a simple “ho-hum” response. In order to have a significant impact on your readers, you should ask yourself:

  • Does this essay reveal important information about me?
  • Does this decision reflect values that the university seeks in its students?
  • More important, does this decision reflect my own values and lessons learned?

Simply put, you don’t want to write about a story, no matter how politically, economically, or socially significant, if it has nothing to do with how you view and interact with the world.

In your 400 words, be sure to leave plenty of room to describe why you chose to write about this story, especially if it is controversial. You want to be crystal clear with your readers so that they do not walk away from your essay misunderstanding your intentions, rationale, and values.

Double check your essay, and ask yourself, “Were the decisions and action steps that I took sound choices? Describe your lessons and growth moving forward.

You want to highlight weighty and important steps that strike the core of your belief system.

  • Dedicate only a small portion of the essay to describe the situation.
  • Afterward, dedicate another small portion of the essay to explain your interpretation of the events around you.
  • Spend 40% or more of the essay explaining what you did, and how those choices are a reflection of your values. If you made mistakes in the past, that’s totally fine. Explain to the reader what you learned from those mistakes.

Spend the rest of the essay describing how your growth would help you contribute to Boston College’s campus.

  • What are your ambitions, and how will you chase them on campus?
  • Do you want to start a humanitarian club or political activist group?
  • Perhaps you’ve been working on space robotics in high school. Connect his decision to your passion for blending responsibility with risky exploration. You now want to take the curiosity for exploration to campus and start a NASA fellowship.
  • Did you grow up in a community that did not celebrate recycling or caring for the environment? Were your calls for increased cleanliness unpopular? How have you learned to make decisions in the face of adversity and criticism? Do you want to take up public speaking on BC’s campus?
  • Did your best friend face an ethical dilemma and make a decision you disagreed with? Explain why her ethics don’t always match yours and connect this with your sense of morality. How would you spread this morality at BC?

BC Essay 3: Creating Your Own Course

Boston College strives to provide an undergraduate learning experience emphasizing the liberal arts, quality teaching, personal formation, and engagement of critical issues. If you had the opportunity to create your own college course, what enduring question or contemporary problem would you address and why?

Many high school classes focus on a broad topic (English, for example), and, as you progress through the years, the classes advance to teach higher-level concepts on the same subject (English history, AP Literature).

In college, classes are often structured to tackle an important question or idea.

In this prompt, you have the opportunity to “create your own college course” that hopes to answer or discuss a question/topic that is important to you.

Your topic could address a contemporary problem or an enduring issue.

In your essay, you should:

  1. Name your course
  2. Describe the problem
  3. Explain why you believe it is important to talk about your issue.

There is a lot of potential for flexibility and creativity in this prompt. Therefore, take your time fleshing out several topics that you are passionate about before choosing one.

Choose a topic that is meaningful to you personally and not just an important issue to the public.

The point of writing a supplement essay is for Boston College to learn more about you. Perhaps choose a subject that reflects your personal interest in the subject:

  • The course is on the crumbling infrastructure of America. You care about this issue because your mother and father take the train to work every day. You have seen how badly average Americans need reliable infrastructure and want your classmates to learn about the understated but critical importance of public transportation systems.
  • Your course covers the intricacies of dog fur and veterinary care. Of course, you’re connected to this issue because the family dog was your best emotional support growing up, and you think we should take great care of man’s best friend.

Although tempting, the prompt (and word count) don’t allow for you to go into too many details about the class itself.

  • Instead, focus your essay on the topic and rationale.
  • If the topic is something that readers are probably familiar with, keep it brief.
  • If not, you may need to spend more time on providing context.
  • As always, avoid providing too much context. No more than 15% of your essay should go into describing the problem itself.
  • At least 40% of the essay should focus on the topic’s personal importance to you.

This essay option is a great choice, especially if you consider yourself an activist or advocate for a cause.

Our last piece of advice is to focus less on coursework and other course specifics. Instead, focus on relating the course studies to your personal journey.

You never know, your suggestion might become a class one day!

BC Essay 4: Why Boston College?

Jesuit education considers the liberal arts a pathway to intellectual growth and character formation. What beliefs and values inform your decisions and actions today, and how will Boston College assist you in becoming a person who thinks and acts for the common good?

The last essay option is another version of the “Why This College” essay. It is fairly similar to those provided by other colleges but with some added context.

Here, Boston College outlines their values and then asks you to describe your own.

When writing this essay, you should focus on how your goals and academic interests fit in with your plan to grow intellectually and personally at BC.

The Boston College is looking for more than just what your goals are but also how BC itself will help you achieve them. Essentially, show your work by making the connections between your goals for the common good and Boston College.

In other words, describe aspects of Boston College that you want to utilize. Here’s a step-by-step outline:

  1. Think about where you are in life now and where you would like to be four years from now. What about 10 years from now?
  2. Think deeper than “I want to graduate and have a well-paying job.”
  3. Consider ideas such as “I want to become more informed about my personal impact on the environment so I can learn to make conscious decisions as a consumer.”
  4. Intellectually, you might have goals such as “I want to become fluent in Spanish in order to spread literacy in Latin America.”
  5. Perhaps you see yourself pursuing a career in academia working in a particular field with particular faculty members from BC. You might want to pursue translational medicine research, and the opportunities at BC and the surrounding greater Boston area would be ideal for getting one step closer to fulfilling your goals.
  6. Specifically discuss a few projects, professors, grants, fellowships, and classes you’d want to take as a BC student.

As a final tip, don’t write about the following:

  • Your love for BC sports teams.
  • The beauty of Boston. It’s beautiful, but there are other schools there. Make sure this essay cannot be recycled for other Boston schools.
  • That your parents graduated from BC. They will already see this on your Common App.

Like the previous prompts, this is an opportunity for you to show Boston College that you are a serious, passionate, and driven student who cares more about education beyond earning a piece of paper.

While the degree is important, there is a journey to that degree you consider valuable.

Conclusion: Writing the Boston College Essays

When you are on the “Writing Supplements” tab in the Common App, you will notice that you must select which of the four topics you chose.

Be sure that you make your selection carefully; submitting an essay on the wrong prompt would reflect poorly on you.

Proofread and read your essay aloud.

An essay that is stylistically and grammatically strong often holds more weight than an essay featuring intellectually complex content.

As always, make the essay about you – explain why certain topics and decisions relate to your values and lessons learned. The admissions officer wants to learn about your “why.”