How to Write the Wake Forest University Essays 2020-2021: 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 comprised 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 Supplemental 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 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

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 “share on a topic of your choice,” there are no other directions for completing the essay.

If you’ve already tackled the Common App Essay, you may certainly use it here. If you opt to go another route, 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.
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Wake Forest 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 on the whole. Be honest. If you like the general message, move on to the next question.

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

Explain how a book you’ve read has helped you to understand the world’s complexity. 

In this prompt, you have the opportunity to explain your relationship with a book, unlike in the previous list. Since the question doesn’t specify whether it should be a work of fiction or nonfiction, you’re free to pick the work that speaks to you the most. 

If you’re not an avid reader, this might seem an overwhelming question in terms of identifying something that was truly impactful on your thinking. 

  • Consider why you read. If you read to gather information, consider whether you have ever read something that gave you an “ah-ha!” moment, and why. 
  • Reflect on whether anything you’ve read has ever provoked a strong emotional response, and why. 
  • Consider the list you made in the previous question, which may be a good place to start. However, try to avoid repeating a book you already used. You have a chance to show additional insight into your interests by choosing an additional work.

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.”

  • Reflect on what books have had the most profound intellectual or emotional impact on you. The choice between fiction and nonfiction reflects something about your personality. A more analytical reader who values information might choose nonfiction, whereas a more literary person may choose fiction.

  • Identify the message or complexity the work helped you understand and assess why it is personally meaningful to you. A work of fiction might have lent itself to insight into the human experience or the nuance of a certain social theme, whereas a work of nonfiction may have transformed your understanding of the gears that make our world turn.
  • If this is true, rank these works, starting from the one you are most passionate about discussing.
  • It’s important that your enthusiasm shines through your writing.

Keeping with our previous example of Brave New World, let’s take a look and see how we might construct this essay.

The directive “explain” 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 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.

Wake Forest Writing Supplement 2: Your Curiosity

Tell us more about a topic that engages your intellectual 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 intellectual 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 Journal, Washington 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?

Wake Forest Writing Supplement 3: Community

Describe a community that is important to you. How has that community prepared you to engage with, change, or even build the Wake Forest Community?

Every college wants to know that its new freshmen are going to be happy and successful at their university of choice, and Wake Forest is no exception. Community is an important theme at Wake Forest, and the admissions committee wants to know why you personally care about fostering a sense of community in your life. 

To tackle this question, first consider what groups of people have had the most profound impact on your life over a significant period of time. Perhaps it’s a sports team, a club, or a volunteer group you participate in. After you identify your group, delve into the nuance of its influence on your life. 

  • If this group revolves around a particular theme or cause, reflect on why this unifying element is so important or valuable to you. 
  • Identify positive ways that you have evolved as a person through your participation in this community. 
  • Discuss various ways you have contributed to this community or supported others and their personal or collective development. 

Once you’ve identified your community, you’ll want to connect what you’ve reflected on to your future at Wake Forest. 

  • Make concrete links between your prior community involvement and how you’ll involve yourself on the Wake Forest campus. If you’ve been a leader in the past, how will you continue to lead on campus? 
  • If there are specific causes you’re passionate about, connect those with existing clubs or organizations available at Wake Forest. If there’s not one, consider whether you’d like to build one. 
  • If your community helped make a change in broader society that you wish to see expanded, consider how you might replicate your impact at Wake Forest. 

Wake Forest 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. 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.

Alternatively, you can make this list random, a Top Ten list of the world. Use this as a chance to include some of the things that have had the most profound influence on your life. You might include your favorite album, artist, country, season, food, person, etc. Unlike the themed version of this list, you have the chance to paint a diverse picture of your passions when you go this route. 

Conclusion: Writing the Wake Forest Essays

Wake Forest University’s 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.

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