How to Write the Wake Forest University Essays: The All-In-One Guide

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Nestled in the South, Wake Forest University’s campus is an integral part of the Winston-Salem community in North Carolina. The private school’s legacy goes back over 180 years, where it was first created as a manual labor institute.

WFU is an institution that comprises of an undergraduate college, along with its well-known School of Business, School of Law, School of Divinity, and School of Medicine.

While the multitude of programs available might seem intimidating, the undergraduate college actually maintains a small-school vibe, with an average of only 21 students per class.

Small classes are not the only benefit to attending the college. 61% of Wake Forest’s graduating class in 2015 received academic credit for studying abroad. This is the highest percentage among the greater than 300 colleges ranked by the U.S. & World News Report.

This same class had an incredible 98% of its students go on to higher education or become employed within 6 months of graduation.

Wake Forest University gives prospective students the option to apply via its own application, the Common App, Coalition Application, or through the College Foundation of North Carolina (which directs you back to their own application).

What are the Wake Forest Essay Requirements?

Regardless of the application method you use, you will need to write both the main essay and answer supplementary questions.

In this guide, we will cover the Wake Forest University application essay and the supplementary questions that appear identically on all of the application platforms.

Do note that you will have to write a different essay if you are applying through the Common App or Coalition for Access and Affordability Application.

  • We have written specific guides for the Common App essay here and the Coalition App essay here.

The Wake Forest University Application Essay

Rogan Kersh, Wake Forest University Provost and Professor of Politics and International Affairs, is currently teaching a class entitled, “Millennials, Politics and the Future” which explores research-based characteristics of Gen Y or the Millennial Generation to which you belong. At Wake Forest, we strive to understand the distinctive features of your so-called “millennial” generation, as we design curricula and programs for today’s students. What, in your view, are significant aspects of your generation that we should be aware of?

This essay is only applicable to students applying through the Wake Forest University application on the WFU website. If you are applying through the Common App or Coalition App, you can skip down to the first writing supplement.

Other than using the essay to “give the Admissions Committee insight into your character and intellect,” there are no other directions for completing the essay.

That doesn’t mean you can write a book to address the prompt, so here are some tips to keep in mind as you draft your response.

  • While there is no specified writing limit, be mindful of the admissions committee’s time. An essay that is too long will likely be skimmed and therefore not convey all of the information you hope to get across. They will be reviewing thousands of applicants and reading their essays too.
  • As a general rule, try to keep your essay shorter than two double-spaced pages. This should give you enough space to elaborate any ideas you have on the topic and give you around 1,000 words to utilize.
  • It’s also a good idea to submit your essay via PDF. This way, you know that it will be formatted exactly the way you want it to be when it’s opened up on another computer.
  • Life Pro Tip: As you grow older, you want to apply for internships and jobs with PDF versions of your cover letter and resume.

This prompt identifies this year’s applicants as part of the millennial generation even though, according to some experts, none of the fresh out of high school students applying for admission are considered part of the millennial generation. We recommend that you search and read articles about millennials to learn about the characteristics of this generation and how you can identify with it. Here is a starting point of what you want to look into as you begin writing this essay.

  • How is the millennial generation typically defined?
  • What characteristics are widespread throughout the generation?
  • What characteristics do you identify with as part of the generation?
  • Do you notice a lack of acknowledgment toward them in today’s education?
  • What changes should society make to better accommodate millennials?
  • Do you feel that Wake Forest is making beneficial changes when designing curricula for incoming students?
  • What is important that Wake Forest consider when continue to design future curricula for the millennial generation?
  • What do you feel Wake Forest is missing when considering the millennial generation’s success at the university?

This essay is a great opportunity to show the admissions committee that you have thought critically about how recent generations are contributing to and changing society. Above all, focus on action. Be sure to detail the steps you’d actively take to improve the campus for the millennial generation.

  • If your current school has made changes that benefit your generation, highlight them in your essay and why they were effective changes.
  • If you’re still having trouble proving action, brainstorm thoroughly. List the changes you’d like to see made, and then form an outline of the steps you’d need to take to enact that change.
  • The steps of your outline are the actions you believe should be taken. Ensure these actions are detailed in your essay. For example, you might think that social media should be integrated into the classroom more as a way for students to engage in the material being taught. Then you’ll explain why the generation would benefit from that strategy.

Writing Supplement 1A: Books that Inspire Curiosity

List five books you have read that intrigued you.

In the application, you will have to list the title of the work, the author, and identify whether it was required reading or not.

You will not have the opportunity to explain why you chose to list the books. Therefore, it’s important that each book (or at least a quick Google search of the titles) can speak for itself.

This question does not ask you to rank the five books, so you should feel comfortable listing them in any order of your choosing. While the process is simple, the difficulty in this prompt lies in choosing five titles to list.

  • First, brainstorm every book that you have read that has intrigued you. Maybe you wished there was a sequel or follow-up book because you wanted to read more.
  • Perhaps your literature teacher started a unit on dystopian fiction and assigned Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and you decided to go one step further and compare it with the world Suzanne Collins created in The Hunger Games for an assignment.
  • Ask yourself “What do these books say about me as a potential student and human being?” If you feel a book will diminish your chances of getting accepted for some reason, search for another book that is just as meaningful to you to replace it on the list.
  • Depending on the activities you pursued in high school and those you hope to pursue during your undergraduate career, you may want to include a book that relates to those topics.

You want to be sure that your choices have a positive reflection of your character. Even if you read How to Cheat Your Way Through High School out of pure curiosity and had no intention of using the strategies, don’t list it.

You will not be able to explain your choice, and, therefore, the title could mislead the admissions committee.

Overall, you do not need to list five literary masterpieces, and you shouldn’t list five comic books you’ve read either. Aim for a variety of book types that really show off your personality and character.

  • For example, if you have a passion for self-help books (and they truly pique your curiosity), include them on your list, but perhaps include only 2-3 titles.
  • Then, think about your reading patterns overall. Beyond self-help books, what have you read? Biographies? Dystopian science fiction? Religious texts?

Don’t feel the need to shy away from listing a title simply because it was required reading for school. Oftentimes, these will be the titles that the admissions committee is most familiar with.

If you can’t remember those titles, search online for “common titles for high school required reading” or ask your teacher what they assigned.

You should easily be able to find a list to jog your memory or, at the very least, be able to give a summary of the book to get the title from someone else. If you can’t recall what the book was about, it probably did not intrigue you enough to make this list.

If you find yourself well and truly stumped, take a look at the reading list recommended by well-known figures in academia and industry.

  • For example, there is a list of thirteen books recommended by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and other prominent leaders. These span everything from George Orwell’s 1984 to David Deutsch’s The Beginning of Infinity.

You can take a look and see the rationale behind why they would recommend such books to others. In fact, look at your selections as a recommended reading list for the admissions committee, and you will be able to organize what story about yourself you would like to tell them.

Once again, find balance by not listing all five titles as required or as self-selected reading.

Once you’re all done making your list, take a step back and ask yourself what these books say about you. Be honest. If you like the general message, move on to the next question.

If you’re having trouble narrowing down your list to five books, take a few days to decide.

Every day, cross of 3-5 titles until you’re left with five. Consider you are will only have these five books to read the rest of your life. Would you rather read Brave New World or The Hunger Games for the years to come?

Writing Supplement 1B: The Impact of Fiction on Your Understanding of the World

Discuss the work of fiction you have read which has helped you most to understand the complexity of the world.

In this prompt, you have the opportunity to explain your relationship with a work of fiction, unlike in the list in the previous question. Feel free to choose a different title or a work you have already listed.

If you can’t think of any books that fit this bill, you probably haven’t been paying attention in your English class. If need be, go back to your Google search of books commonly taught in high school and refresh your memory.

Conversely, you might be struggling to choose one book among several that you identify as having influence in teaching you about the “complexity of the world.”

  • If this is true, rank these novels, starting from the one you are most passionate about discussing.
  • It’s important that your enthusiasm shines through your writing.
  • If there is a book in your prior list that falls into the fiction genre, that will probably be a good starting point to brainstorm. Keeping with our previous example of Brave New World, let’s take a look and see how we might construct this essay.

The directive “discuss” in the prompt is vague enough to be interpreted in many ways. You might consider:

  • Describing the impact that the work had on your understanding of society
  • How the work influenced your life
  • How the work influenced your perspective on the world
  • The experience of reading the work for the first time and reflecting on it
  • Describe what it is about the work that effectively conveys complexity about the world
  • The influence of the work on your relationships with your peers
  • The impact the work had on your vision for the future
  • The change in your politics after reading the book

However you decide to discuss the fictional work, don’t forget to spend time explicitly stating what, in particular, the work taught you. It’s easy to get caught up describing the work and forget to be specific about your experience. This is not a book report where you summarize what you read.

In fact, spend less time discussing the premise of the work. Worst case, the admissions officer can Google the book.

  • What’s critical is demonstrating the book’s impact on you.
  • So, make sure you write about the tangible changes the book had on your thinking or actions.
  • This is the time to show how you interpreted the book and its meaning in your life.
  • Give brief examples of your newfound understanding.

In the case of Brave New World, it is a very well-known dystopian science fiction novel so you can assume that the admissions committee is familiar with at least the synopsis.

As mentioned above, there are many points you could elaborate on, but it would be best to focus on two to three at most.

  • You could start off with a theme in the book, such as “knowledge vs. ignorance” and give textual examples of where that features prominently.
  • Then develop that further by detailing the character arcs that occur through the development of the theme.
  • Draw any parallels from the book with today’s society to show your understanding of one of the complexities of the world. Brave New World is seen as a somewhat prophetic piece of literature, so finding commonalities between that world and reality shouldn’t be difficult.

If you can discuss how the book has shaped how you perceive the world around you, how you have learned something through example rather than by firsthand experience. By doing so, you will be able to write a convincing essay on how fiction has impacted your understanding of the world.

Writing Supplement 2: Your Curiosity

What piques your curiosity?

A common theme in Wake Forest’s writing supplements is passion. In this prompt, you should, once again, reflect on what you are passionate about. Consider what truly piques your interest. What topic can send you down a virtual rabbit hole because you’re interested in learning as much as you can?

This prompt is tricky because you do not know what the mindset of your admissions committee might be and you have the freedom to choose any topic you want. As academics, the committee will approach your stance with an open mind so long as you articulate your argument and do not cross into inappropriate territory.

Choose a topic that holds weight and is truly important to you.

  • Pull up your browsing history and see what patterns you find. If you consistently find yourself searching for similar content, articulate that content as a theme or pattern that interests you.
  • Think about a project you completed that you really enjoyed what you learned.
  • Consider the major you’re applying for and why that piques your interest. Discuss what topic first got you interested in that field.
  • Pick up a copy of the Wall Street JournalWashington Post, or Foreign Policy. These are some of the preeminent issues of our time. They cover topics that are critical to events, people, and ideologies currently shaping our world.

When crafting your answer, don’t get too high-minded or lofty. You can keep it simple rather than listing everything you know on the subject. Remember, the admissions committee wants to hear about you, not your ability to summarize an entire topic. If you spend over 50 words defining the topic, you’re spending too much time on background info.

Here are some examples of topics you can choose for this prompt.

  • If you’re interested in environmental conservation, you may write about how all restaurants should get rid of plastic straws due to the strain they put on the environment. You could choose to focus your short response on the damage plastic does to the ocean and to suggest an alternative such as reusable straws.
  • Some computer programmers spend their spare time viewing code and learning new languages. Talk about what programming languages you have learned, are currently learning, and how you educate yourself on them.
  • There are millions of blogs, and maybe you have started one. How did you choose the niche for your blog? How do you come up with new content to populate it for readers?

Writing Supplement 3: Culture & Politics

Identify a cultural norm or current political reality with which you disagree. How have you sought or might you seek to change it?

Politics can be a divisive topic to discuss, but for this prompt, you will state your stance on an issue without feeling like you need to persuade someone to join your position.

The only persuasion you should be worried about is persuading the admissions committee to admit you based on your intellectual and articulate response.

Not only are you able to express your position politically, but you also have the opportunity to express why you disagree with a cultural norm in society or what is happening in politics in our country today. You’ll also be able to explain what changes would benefit the population if they were made.

  • You can discuss your take on health care reform. Has you or your family been impacted by the changes that have taken place over the years? What changes would benefit your situation? What changes could potentially help more people?
  • Do you believe shaking hands is an overused gesture? Explain what you think an alternative could be and why. Perhaps you believe the contact is contributing to the travel of viruses and disease, so adopting bowing, like in Asian cultures, would help decrease the spread of illnesses.
  • Bullying has become a hot topic in parenting and school-aged children. Whether you experienced bullying first-hand or witnessed it, describe what could be implemented to diminish bullying at schools and among children.

Even though you have the freedom to choose whatever norm or political issue to discuss, be mindful of what you choose and how you portray your stance on it.

For example, this is probably not the place to discuss why you think college should be free for everyone. Instead, you might consider discussing your opinion about how federal financial aid is handled. Keep it classy, rather than preachy.

Writing Supplement 4: Character

Describe an instance in which you observed or exhibited “character.”

You already know that admissions committees are looking for students who will contribute positively to the image of Wake Forest University as a student and future graduate. In some way, the committees are looking for individuals with “good character.”

You might feel compelled to go above and beyond be writing about a time you observed good character and exhibited good character. Per the prompt, you should choose one or the other.

To start your response, you can explain what “character” is to you, then launch into what you observed or exhibited. Here are some ideas of where you may find “character” being displayed or you had an opportunity to do so yourself.

  • Volunteer events are full of people giving their time to a cause. If you saw someone go out of their way as a volunteer or that person was you, explain the situation and what inspired you to do a good deed.
  • Other public settings are full of potential opportunities for character to be displayed. Maybe one day you were hanging out at the mall, noticed a child crying, and escorted them to an information booth where they were safe. Or perhaps you say a child comfort another when they were crying over spilled ice cream.
  • A sporting event can showcase character when an athlete becomes injured. Perhaps you saw members of the opposing team assist a player to the bench.
  • If you’re especially gifted in a certain topic and tutored other students, write about a time when you worked hard to help a fellow student, and they received an A on the next test they took.

Whether you’re observing or exhibiting this act of character, make sure you explain how it affected you. Perhaps you were inspired to do a good deed later but wouldn’t have felt compelled to do such if you hadn’t seen this person.

If you exhibited good character once, perhaps you continued doing a certain deed because it was intrinsically motivating.

Writing Supplement 5: Self-Selected Top 10

Give us your top ten list.

Yes, you get to create your own top ten list! There are no explicit instructions as far as assigning a theme to your list, but it is a good idea to give your list some structure. What else do I want admissions to know about me?

  • If you are really proud of your progress in cross country over the past four years, you might list your race times from 10 to 1.
  • Are you a Nicholas Sparks fanatic? Rate his novels from 10 to 1 based on how emotional they made you feel when reading them.
  • Drawing back on the computer programmer example, rate your favorite programming languages.
  • You might even consider the future. Provide a top 10 list of achievements you hope to accomplish.

Perhaps you are a connoisseur of foreign food or music buff or an amateur film critic, whatever it is that you find interesting and worthy of sharing with the admissions board, be as specific as possible.

By assigning a theme to your list, you will help admissions understand another aspect of what is important to you. You can absolutely give a random top ten list that you know the secret meaning of, but that is not recommended.

Also, you might consider staying away from books providing another list of books. You’ve already done this in the first prompt.

This is where you can express another side of yourself that the admissions committee has not learned about yet. Don’t waste it by creating a list that is similar to one of your previous essay responses.

Writing Supplement 6: Personal Motto

Pro Humanitate, which means “for humanity,” is Wake Forest’s motto. If you had a personal motto, what would it be?

Although the motto for Wake Forest is mentioned in this prompt, you don’t need to write anything about how you identify with it. You can jump right in on what your personal motto should be.

If you have a mantra or favorite inspirational phrase, you’re off to a good start! These types of sayings are easily turned into personal mottos. If you don’t have one, research how to create a mission statement and start creating one for yourself.

  • What is important to you?
  • What do you want people to know about you?
  • What would you like to be known for in the future?
  • What is a goal you want to achieve?
  • How do you set yourself apart from others?
  • Which three words would others use to describe you?

These are just a few questions you can use to self-reflect on when creating your personal motto. Most mottos are short and memorable so you won’t need to provide one that is an entire paragraph.

Here are some common mottos you might be familiar with to give you some inspiration:

  • Nike – Just do it.
  • Ford – Quality is job one.
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken – Finger Linkin’ Good
  • Burger King – Have it your way.

The prompt doesn’t ask you to explain why you’ve chosen a particular motto for yourself so you can decide if you want to provide an explanation. As long as you’ve provided a motto, you’ve satisfied what the question is asking for.

Writing Supplement 7: Breaking Boundaries

Kendrick Lamar won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music, becoming the first non-classical or jazz musician to win the award. Whom do you believe will be the next person to break boundaries in artistic, scientific, or literary accomplishment?

This is your chance to talk about someone who you admire that might not fall in the traditional category.

You can discuss how someone you look up to is already breaking boundaries is affecting your life on a personal level. They may be famous for one thing but are making leaps and bounds in another arena.

As long as this person falls into the three categories in the prompt (artistic, scientific, or literary), you are free to select practically anyone. This person can be from pop culture, a professor doing research you follow, or an actor who is exploring a new artistic medium.

  • YouTubers are growing in popularity and have enormous digital followings. Maybe one you follow writes songs that explore the life of being a millennial, and you’re excited there is finally someone you can really relate to.
  • If you’re pre-med, you may have learned about advancements in cancer research happening at various universities. The lead scientist on a particular breakthrough might be who you think is deserving of one of the next Pulitzer Prizes.
  • Similar to YouTubers, publishing books is easier than ever, and so many books are available with a few clicks on Amazon. If you’ve found an author that is pushing the limits of fiction and you can’t get enough, they sound like a good candidate for your essay.

There’s a chance that you can’t name many Pulitzer Prize winners off the top of your head, and that is proof that who you bring forward as a boundary breaker doesn’t need to already be in the limelight.

They don’t even need to have any prior accomplishments no matter how big or small to earn your praise.

Research some past Pulitzer Prize winners to get inspiration for what types of accomplishments are recognized for this award and help articulate why your recommendation could be worthy of such notoriety in the future.

Conclusion: Writing the Wake Forest Essays

Wake Forest University’s extensive list of writing supplements paired with your personal essay will give the admissions committee a variety of information on who you are as a person and potential student.

Before submitting your essays, be sure to proofread.

Having a parent, friend, or someone else you trust to read them over is a good idea if you’re comfortable sharing them. Authenticity is sought after in these essays so having someone who knows you well can help determine if your essay “sounds like you.”

Above all, spend some time on your topics by brainstorming, outlining, and writing multiple drafts.

If you’re interested in gaining an edge in college admissions, enroll in our college essay boot camp.