How to Write the Purdue University Essays 2020-2021: Your Complete Guide

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Purdue University is a byproduct of President Lincoln’s signing of the Morrill Land Grant Act in 1862. A decade later, the doors were open to students, and Purdue’s legacy began.

Today the university hosts over 40,000 students and has educated innovators and inventors who will have an impact on our society for many years to come.

  • Purdue has an acceptance rate of 57%.

Holding fast to ethics and integrity on the journey to innovation lies at the heart of Purdue University’s mission. The school further believes that Our responsibilities and obligations toward the advancement of learning, discovery, and engagement in the University and in Indiana extend to our nation and the world.”

This mission can be seen woven into the fabric of university culture.

What Are the Purdue Essay Requirements?

Purdue University gives prospective students two different options to apply for admission. You may choose to apply via the Coalition for College Access, Affordability, and Success Application or through the Common App.

Check out our advice for the Coalition App and the Common App.

In this guide, we will focus on the supplemental writing prompts that are nearly identical on both application platforms.

Purdue Supplemental Essays: How to Write Them!

Click above to watch a video on how to write Purdue Supplemental Essay.

  • These responses are short –  each 100 words or less.

Before you get started, it’s important to know that Purdue University is well known for their Online Writing Lab. In fact, you have probably used this website at some point in your high school career.

On their admissions page, Purdue notes that they expect your essay to demonstrate “your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and… [to] distinguish yourself in your own voice.”

Additionally, they are looking for what “you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores”. They even suggest you seek out writing help from their Online Writing Lab.

Clearly, Purdue values writing as a skill and, therefore, the admissions committee will be looking for much more than content in your essays.

Below, we will outline advice for writing these specific supplemental responses, as well as general writing advice that will help you to tighten up the style and form of your writing.

The two standard prompts are as follows:

How will opportunities at Purdue support your interests, both in and out of the classroom? (Respond in 100 words or fewer.)

Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the major you have selected.(Respond in 100 words or fewer.)

For reference, the first two paragraphs of this blog post are roughly 115 words.

While you may have a lot to say about each topic, you will be forced to be brief, as the online application will not allow you to break the word count limit.

If you choose a second major, then you will have to answer a prompt that is similar to the second one:

Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the second choice major you have selected. (Respond in 100 words or fewer.)

There is an honors prompt, which we will address toward the end of this guide:

Explain your vision, ideas, or goals for how you hope to shape your honors experience while at Purdue. Please put this in the context of the four pillars which are the foundation of the Honors College. (500 word maximum)

Purdue Supplemental Essay 1: Your Interests & Purdue

How will opportunities at Purdue support your interests, both in and out of the classroom?

The first writing supplement question is the type of essay prompt that you will see asked in a similar fashion on many college applications. It’s the quintessential “Why This College” essay prompt.

Purdue opens your response up to elements in and out of the classroom. Since the second prompt asks specifically about your intended major, you should probably only quickly mention this in your essay in order to conserve your word count.

  • First, explore Purdue’s website to learn more about the many opportunities the school provides, such as study abroad options, intramural sports, and clubs.
  • Look over the activities you have listed on your admission application.
  • What activities, sports, clubs, etc. interrelate?
  • Are there activities that you have always wanted to try but never had the chance to? Perhaps they are offered at the university.
  • For example, maybe you pursued swimming or diving throughout high school because you did not have the opportunity to pursue sailing.
  • There are many activities in college, such as sailing, archery, and rifle club, which you would not usually be exposed to as a high school student.

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Next, perform the same process with researching academic programs and activities at the university.

  • Are there any particular research fellowships that you are interested in?
  • Did you do research in a lab during your summer breaks that got you interested in a particular field? For example, you might have competed in a science fair based upon your research in a biology research lab.
  • You might be interested in pursuing similar research further with the intent of publishing, or you might be interested in pursuing something completely orthogonal. The main point here is to explain your motivations and where they are coming from.
  • Any professors that you have heard about and would like to take a class with?
  • How do these match up with the classes you completed in high school or topics that you are interested in moving forward?

Be specific in describing how your academic and non-academic interests align with Purdue’s opportunities.

  • For example, let’s say that you have been a strong student in high school taking mostly honors and Advanced Placement/IB courses when available.
  • You could have taken AP Computer Science A and then developed your own web apps or games. You could be interested in taking this further and going into software engineering principles, something you could pursue through class offerings at Purdue.
  • You might be particularly drawn to the leadership opportunities available to students who are members of Purdue University’s Honors College.
  • Perhaps you were in a leadership position of a service such as Beta Club in high school. You could be interested in further developing your academic and service leadership experience through similar organizations at Purdue.

In your response, link your high school experience in rigorous classes with your expectations of yourself as a college student.

  • You might write about how taking classes in the Honors College would allow you to branch out of your major classes, collaborate together with other students on a team, and work on gaining leadership skills, which are important to you as an aspiring professional.

When describing your out-of-classroom interests, you might write about Purdue’s theatre program.

  • In high school, you may have worked on many school plays on the technical side rigging lights.
  • However, you’re excited about the opportunity to volunteer in other avenues of production, such as costume design and makeup.
  • In your actual response, focus on activities that either further your current interests or allow you to try something new.

In both of the above scenarios, we chose specific examples of opportunities actually offered by Purdue University. You should do the same.

Not only will it reflect well in your essay, but it will also allow you to gain a better understanding of whether this university is the right home for you.

Purdue Supplemental Essay 2: Your Major(s) at Purdue

Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the major you have selected.

Optional: Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the second choice major you have selected. (Respond in 100 words or fewer.)

This prompt is also fairly standard in the college application realm. The admissions committee is interested in understanding how your experiences led you to choose this particular major.

You do not randomly select crop science as a major; rather, you are drawn to it.

  • There are many different reasons you could list for choosing the major that you have, but you should avoid simply listing money or status as your intention.
  • While there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to make a decent living, you should push yourself to list more intrinsic motivations for your choice.

Just like the previous question, you should make an effort to be specific.

  • Being interested in crop science because you think farming is interesting and you took one horticulture class isn’t going to cut it.
  • Instead, describe what it is about farming that specifically interests you – the ability to cultivate living plants, providing food for people, watching the process of farm to table, etc.
  • You might personally know some farmers or been involved in your high school’s FFA (Future Farmers of America) club in high school. There are a lot of innovations being applied to agriculture, from IoT to crop growth simulation and forecasts.
  • By focusing on the specifics of what interests you, you will be able to convince the reader that you are engaged in what you would like to pursue at Purdue.
  • You could definitely write about that horticulture class but, instead of mentioning it in passing, add detail about what you learned, how it changed the way you think about plants, and how it opened your eyes to careers you had never even heard of.

If you are unsure of your major, you can still address this prompt.

Choose a field that you could see yourself working in. Remember, this is not a contract you are bound to for the rest of your life, so it doesn’t hurt to explore one of your “maybe” options.

Let’s say that you might be interested in pursuing a degree in an English-related field. In high school, you took three years of creative writing and joined a tutoring club, where you helped students whose first language isn’t English.

  • In your essay, you could describe how much you enjoy writing and imagining landscapes but also that you felt rewarded by working with your peers.
  • You could see yourself working full-time in a writing field or maybe even becoming an ESL teacher.
  • Explain how you plan to explore these interests while taking introductory-level English classes at Purdue.
  • You might even mention specific programs, clubs, and activities you are interested in.

It’s common to not know exactly what you want to major in during your freshman year of college. However, don’t let this be a weakness in your essay when it could be a strength.

If approached correctly, this essay could show that you are passionate and motivated to find a career that you will thrive in.

This journey, you believe, will benefit you the most if traveled at Purdue University.

Purdue Honors Essay

Explain your vision, ideas, or goals for how you hope to shape your honors experience while at Purdue. Please put this in the context of the four pillars which are the foundation of the Honors College. (500 word maximum)

Now that you have more of a word count to work with, take the liberty to brainstorm a story or anecdote that connects to your desire to engage in rigorous learning and the pillars of the Purdue Honors College.

The pillars of the Purdue Honors College are leadership development, undergraduate research, community and global experiences, and interdisciplinary academics

  • Perhaps you are an immigrant who appreciates the opportunity to learn more during your formative years. You want to learn more because your home country had much fewer resources for students.
  • You have a secondary goal to build bionic arms and legs for kids is in Laos who’ve stepped on landmines and lost limbs. You firmly believe that an honors education at Purdue would give you the knowledge and practical expertise to jumpstart this dream.

Once you’ve found your story, connect it to how you’d take action as a Purdue honors student. In the same case as the standard two Purdue essays, do your research and list how you’d become a proactive student:

  • Do you want to start a club, nonprofit, or charity on campus?
  • Perhaps you want to organize town halls to discuss solutions to economic inequality.
  • Is there a program or fellowship you want to take advantage of?
  • Do you want to apply for a tech grant and perform research in the artificial intelligence field?
  • Perhaps you want to join a study-abroad program in Guatemala that promotes the building of Internet infrastructure in villages.

Pick one or two of these actions. Then, explain their significance to you and how you’d build momentum to make a difference in the Purdue community or world at large.

Whatever you choose, focus on action. Tell the reader how you’d use Purdue’s resources and values to improve the world around you.

A good way to structure this essay is to use an example from your past – perhaps a volunteer or leadership experience – and connect it to what you want to accomplish as a Purdue Honors student.

This is what the structure of your essay could look like:

  1. Flashback anecdote that tells us a quick story about your past
  2. Tell us how your past inspired you
  3. Discuss what you want to do in the future and how this relates to the Purdue Honors Pillars
  4. State what you want to do at Purdue Honors and how you will take advantage of its resources

Conclusion: The Purdue Supplemental Essays

Once you have written a draft of your responses, it’s time to revise. At a most basic level of revision, you should:

  • Spell Check
  • Grammar Check (use your best judgment, since not every suggestion will be accurate)
  • Read Aloud
  • Ask a Peer/Adult to Review

For further impact, analyze your word choice. Have you chosen words that carefully express your ideas? In a 100-word (or less) response, this is particularly important since there is not much room for explanation.

  • For example, instead of writing that “I really liked horticulture class and learned a lot of new stuff,” you might instead say, “I enjoyed horticulture and the opportunity to explore new concepts through experimentation.”

Both of these sentences are 12 words in length, but the latter is much more effective in its message.

As you can see, specific word choice is not about choosing long and difficult words to sound “smarter.” In fact, this strategy often backfires and “your voice” disappears from your essay.

Varying sentence structure is another way you can increase the effectiveness of your responses.

Avoid writing that sounds like a list or opens with the same structure.

For example:

  • “I would like to become an English teacher. I think tutoring was a great experience in high school. I will be majoring in English and Education. I want to graduate and then teach at a private school.”

Instead, you should vary your sentence structure by writing:

  • “I would like to become an English teacher. As a tutor, I learned about the relationship between student and teacher. It was a great experience and has led me to believe that teaching at a small private school would be ideal. Therefore, I intend to major in both English and Education at Purdue.”

The second example captures the reader’s attention. This is unlike the first example, which is boring and difficult to take seriously at an academic level.

Finally, read your responses while looking for a clear progression of ideas. Do you jump from topic to topic, or do you wrap up one idea before transitioning to the next? Consider reorganizing your sentences so that similar topics are together. Use transition words such as “additionally” and “also” to bridge your writing.

Purdue University’s advice is solid, so it is worthwhile to check out their Online Writing Lab. It has many resources that could help you to write their supplements as well as essays for other college applications (shh, we won’t tell).

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