Rice University 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide
Rice University 2023-24 Application Essay Question Explanations
The Requirements: 2 essays of 150 words; 1 essay of 500 words; 1 image
Supplemental Essay Type(s): Community , Why, Diversity
The Admission Committee is interested in getting to know each student as well as possible through the application process. Please respond to each of the following prompts.
Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected. (150 word limit).
Consider this the prologue to your Why essay (coming up next). To nail this question, set aside an hour or so to get cozy with the Rice website and read up on your academic school and other aspects of student life. Doing all of your research at once will allow you to tell a cohesive story about yourself, while also ensuring that your essays aren’t redundant. Pour all of your academic focus into your answer to this question. What do you love about your chosen major? If you’re interested in the Visual and Dramatic Arts program, can you describe the unique opportunities you’ll find at Rice University? What resources are available to undergrads and how will they guide your craft? If you’re undecided, think about what makes Rice the ideal environment for academic exploration. How do you plan to hone in on the perfect major? The more detail you include, the more admissions will learn about you.
Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? (150 word limit)
Keep the rich details flowing in this classic Why essay. Demonstrating a deep level of knowledge will show admissions that you’re a serious applicant. Even if you hadn’t heard of Rice before your guidance counselor suggested it, take the time to reflect on what makes you excited about the prospect of being a student there. Since you just wrote about why Rice’s majors and/or academics appeal to you for the first prompt, don’t hesitate to address residence life or campus activities in your response to this question. Admissions wants to know that you will not only thrive as a student, but also as a transplant living in their city. Does Rice have a club or volunteer organization that you really want to join? Did you fall in love with Houston when you came to visit last spring and now feel like a Texan at heart? What excites you about the prospect of sporting blue and grey next year?
Please respond to one of the following prompts to explore how you will contribute to the Rice community (in 500 words or fewer):
1. the residential college system is at the heart of rice student life and is heavily influenced by the particular cultural traditions and unique life experiences each student brings. what life experiences and/or unique perspectives are you looking forward to sharing with fellow owls in the residential college system.
This prompt is a spin on the classic Community Essay : what do you bring with you to contribute within the residential college system, specifically? Consider your hobbies, culture, and any other extracurricular activities you do just because you love them. One great way to choose a topic is to ask yourself: if I had a podcast, what would it be about? More than likely, you’ll come up with a topic that not only interests you, but you also want to share with the world. Along with pinpointing what you’re passionate about, try to think of how you can enrich the lives of your peers. Do you teach a craft? Do you strongly believe in paying it forward? What would your friends say is your “superpower”? These are all ways to break into a discussion of what you bring to the table and what you would do to enrich your new community.
2. Rice is strengthened by its diverse community of learning and discovery that produces leaders and change agents across the spectrum of human endeavor. What perspectives shaped by your background, experiences, upbringing, and/or racial identity inspire you to join our community of change agents at Rice?
Odds are that this isn’t the first Diversity Essay prompt you’ve come across this year. If it is, however, please read on. Rice wants to accept students from a range of backgrounds who will contribute to their community, so tell admissions about what makes you you and how you will strive for positive change within the student body. Think about times when people have been intrigued by or curious about your identity, skillset, or background. Maybe you began practicing meditation and Buddhism during your sophomore year and you hope to spread some wisdom and mindfulness on campus next fall. Perhaps your parents emigrated from Ukraine, and you intend to raise awareness or funds for refugees. What do you hope to share with others about your lived experience? How will you incorporate this element of your identity to enrich the world around you? Show admissions that you’re eager to make your mark in their community. Bonus points if you can reference a specific component of the Rice experience (think clubs, classes, residential colleges, volunteer opportunities, etc.) as a natural stepping stone on your personal journey of leadership and progress.
In keeping with Rice’s long-standing tradition (known as “The Box”), please share an image of something that appeals to you. See the Help Section for more information.
The final piece to Rice’s supplement isn’t an essay at all. Rice understands that a picture is worth a thousand words (or so we’ve been told). So instead of having you write a thousand words (which sounds exhausting), Rice University is asking you to upload a picture of something that appeals to you. When brainstorming which image to choose, think about your goals and passions. If you’re hoping to declare an English major, maybe your photo of choice is the Pulitzer Prize. If you are hoping to develop your business management skills at Rice, maybe you want to share the photo your mom took of you devouring pizza at student-run The Hoot this spring. Regardless of which direction you choose to take, what matters most is that your image communicates something hyper-personal, and/or reveals new information about you, your interests or your goals that is not covered anywhere else on your application.
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First Year Domestic Applicants
Let’s get started.
We value a diverse community of scholars, and our processes and policies are carefully designed to evaluate each applicant based on individual merits and potential to succeed at Rice.
* Dates are for 2020-2021 application cycle
- December Last applicable SAT (optional)
- December Last applicable ACT (optional)
- Dec. 2 Complete a Rice Senior Interview (optional)
- Apply Coalition with Scoir or the Common Application and Rice writing supplement
- $75 nonrefundable application fee (must be paid online)
- Official high school transcript
- School Counselor
- Architecture portfolio (Architecture applicants only)
- Jan. 6 Request an Alumni Interview (optional)
- September Last applicable ACT (optional)
- October Last applicable SAT (optional)
- Early decision agreement
- Nov. 3 Request an Alumni Interview (optional)
- Nov. 22 Complete a Rice Senior Interview (optional)
- Dec. 3 Complete a Rice Senior Interview (optional)
Application Policies & Procedures
First-year domestic applicants are those who will complete high school by the end of the current academic year and hold one of the following citizenship or residency statuses:
- U.S. citizenship
- Permanent Residency
- Undocumented who do not hold DACA status but have resided in the U.S. for an extended period of time
Students enrolled in concurrent high school and college courses are considered first-year candidates.
Students who have elected to take time off from schooling between graduating from high school and enrolling in college are considered first-year candidates.
Completion of a high school diploma (or an equivalent) prior to enrollment is required for all new incoming students.
Rice requires a $75 nonrefundable application fee. Students requesting an application fee waiver from Rice should respond to the fee waiver prompts provided in the Common Application or Apply Coalition with Scoir. Those students participating in the QuestBridge program automatically qualify for application fee waivers from Rice.
The Rice supplement offers you the opportunity to share more about yourself. This is your chance to tell us why you are interested in Rice and what you would like to pursue as a student here. We also want you to elaborate on your experiences and achievements to share what you would bring to our community.
Essay Prompts (2023-2024)
1. Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected. 150 word limit.
2. Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? 150 word limit.
3. Please respond to one of the following prompts to explore how you will contribute to the Rice community:
- The Residential College System is at the heart of Rice student life and is heavily influenced by the particular cultural traditions and unique life experiences each student brings. What life experiences and/or unique perspectives are you looking forward to sharing with fellow Owls in the residential college system? 500 word limit.
- Rice is strengthened by its diverse community of learning and discovery that produces leaders and change agents across the spectrum of human endeavor. What perspectives shaped by your background, experiences, upbringing, and/or racial identity inspire you to join our community of change agents at Rice? 500 word limit.
One of Rice's long-standing traditions is “The Box,” a question on our application where we ask all of our applicants to share an image of something that appeals to them. The Box gives you the opportunity to present us with an image that shares something about yourself, your interests or what is meaningful to you. This image is not used for evaluative purposes in the application, but allows you to put your stamp on the application about who you are aside from what you have achieved. Be sure to choose an image that speaks for itself and does not need an explanation. The Box must be a two-dimensional image that is uploaded in the Common Application or Apply Coalition with Scoir, or uploaded in the Rice Admission Student Portal.
Applicants interested in Shepherd School of Music must submit additional materials depending on their area of study. All application materials must be completed by December 1. Music applicants are not eligible to apply through QuestBridge or Early Decision. Admitted students must pursue the music program for at least one year before changing schools. For more information, please visit the Shepherd School of Music Admission page.
Applicants interested in the School of Architecture must submit a portfolio of creative work. Portfolios should be uploaded via your Rice Admission Student Portal. Note: Submissions exceeding the specifications listed below will not be accepted.
The portfolio should demonstrate creative potential and is not expected to be architectural in focus nor professional in quality. It may include examples of sketches, paintings, photography, models, etc. Examples of mechanical or computer drafting are strongly discouraged. The School of Architecture does not accept CDs or DVDs.
- PDF file labeled with applicant name (example: JaneDoe.pdf)
- 15 MB maximum file size
- Page size should be horizontally oriented A4 or Letter (8.5” x 11”); images should be between 150dpi and 300 dpi
- The first page should be a cover/title page with the applicant’s name
- Content can be up to 10 pages (not including the title page); more than one image or work can be included per page
- Captions of images with title, year of execution, media, and size are encouraged. A one to two sentence description is also acceptable.
For more information about the program, please visit their website.
Architecture Essay Prompts
1. Why are you determined to study architecture? Could you please elaborate on your past experiences and how they have motivated you to apply to Rice University and the School of Architecture in particular? 250 words.
2. Please expand on relevant experiences and motivations outside of your academic trajectory that have inspired you to study architecture, focusing on aspects that are not accommodated by other prompts in the application. 250 words.
Applicants interested in Visual and Dramatic Arts under the School of Humanities may submit a portfolio of creative work. If you would like to submit a portfolio, it should be uploaded via your Rice Admission Student Portal. Note: Submissions exceeding the specifications listed below will not be accepted.
The portfolio should demonstrate creative potential and is not expected to be professional in quality. It may include examples of sketches, paintings, photography, models, etc. VADA does not accept CDs or DVDs, but VADA can access URLs to Vimeo or social media pages provided within the portfolio.
- The first page/file should be a cover/title page document with the applicant’s name
- 1 GB maximum file size
- Images should be between 150 dpi and 300 dpi
- Content can be up to 10 files (not including the title page); more than one image or work can be included per file
To upload your portfolio, access your Rice Admission Student Portal, scroll down to the Visual and Dramatic Arts Portfolio section and click “Edit Portfolio”.
Early Decision Plan
Early Decision is a binding decision plan designed for students who have selected Rice as their first choice. Students may initiate applications to other colleges under nonbinding plans but must withdraw those applications if admitted to Rice. Students who apply Early Decision must submit their materials by November 1. Admission decisions will be released by mid-December.
All admission decisions are final. There are three admission outcomes from Early Decision; the admission committee will:
- Defer - Deferred applicants are considered with the Regular Decision pool.
- Deny - Denied applicants will not be considered with Regular Decision pool, but are welcome to re-apply in the following application cycle.
It is important to note that, if admitted under Early Decision, a candidate must withdraw all other college applications, may not submit any additional applications after accepting the offer, and must accept Rice’s offer of admission by submitting an enrollment deposit by January 1.
Those accepted under Early Decision who demonstrate financial aid eligibility and submit all required materials by the deadline will receive a financial aid package at the time of admission.
Regular Decision Plan
Regular Decision is a non-binding decision plan. Students who apply Regular Decision must submit their materials by January 4. Admission decisions will be released by April 1.
All admission decisions are final. There are three admission outcomes from Regular Decision; the admission committee will:
- Waitlist – Applicants who are offered a place on the waitlist may elect to be considered for admission if space in the class becomes available.
- Deny – Denied applicants are welcome to re-apply in the following application cycle.
Regular Decision applicants who are offered admission must submit an enrollment deposit by May 1.
Those accepted under Regular Decision who demonstrate financial aid eligibility and submit all required materials by the deadline will receive a financial aid package at the time of admission.
Rice is one of the original QuestBridge university and college partners (starting in 2004), and we are now one of only 45 university and college partners with a proven commitment to providing access to low-income students. Programs Rice supports include the College Prep Conferences (typically held in May and June) and the National College Match program which runs October through December. The National College Match is open to all U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents OR students, regardless of citizenship, currently attending high school in the United States. Music applicants are not eligible to apply through QuestBridge.
Essay Prompts for students using the QuestBridge application (2023-2024)
3. Please respond to one of the following prompts to explore how you will contribute to the Rice community (optional):
One of Rice's long-standing traditions is “The Box,” a question on our application where we ask all of our applicants, including students using the QuestBridge application, to share an image of something that appeals to them. Read more about The Box under the Rice supplement tab.
For more information about applying to Rice through QuestBridge, please visit QuestBridge’s Rice University page or contact us directly at [email protected].
Official high school/secondary school transcripts must include grades from 9th through 11th grade as well as courses being taken in the 12th grade. Early Decision applicants are encouraged to submit first marking period grades, when they become available. Regular Decision applicants will be required to submit mid-year grades from 12th grade, when they become available.
Applicants studying in an international exam-based curriculum, must submit:
- All official high school transcripts
- Final exam results (for example IGCE/GCSE, CBSE X/AISSCE X)
- Predicted exam results, if available
Official high school transcripts must be submitted by your high school via the application platform (Common App or Apply Coalition with Scoir), through an online ordering system or eTranscript service , or sent via postal mail directly to the Office of Admission. Transcripts will not be accepted by fax or email.
National Student Clearinghouse (SPEEDE Server or ETX)
Cambridge Assessment International Education (CIE Direct)
For USPS Courier: Rice University Office of Admission-MS 17 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, TX 77251-1892
For DHL/Fedex EXPRESS Couriers (common for international): Rice University Office of Admission-MS 555 6100 Main St. Houston, TX 77005
Rice seeks students who demonstrate intellectual vitality through their course selection and their grade performance. Most applicants will challenge themselves by taking advantage of the rigorous coursework available to them. At a minimum, students must complete the following.
- At a minimum, the natural science and engineering divisions require trigonometry or precalculus and both chemistry and physics. Students may substitute a second year of chemistry or biology for physics.
- Students admitted with curriculum deficiencies will be asked to complete the required work by taking high school or college-level courses during the summer before enrollment at Rice.
Rice will allow first-year and transfer student applicants to undergraduate degree-seeking programs to submit SAT or ACT test scores, if they choose. Students who are unable to submit test scores or prefer not to submit test scores will be given full consideration in the admission selection process.
While standardized tests have long served to provide an external benchmark of college-readiness that provides meaningful information about a student’s preparedness for the rigors of a Rice education, they are merely one factor of many that are considered in the admission process. As is consistent with our holistic review, students will be given full consideration with the information they have provided regardless of their decision to submit their test scores.
Students wishing to provide additional exams for admission consideration are welcome to submit these to our office. These exams are purely optional and at the discretion of the students to submit. We want students to have every opportunity to showcase their strengths and academic achievements where possible.
- AP Exams, IB Exams, or AICE Exams: Students may opt to self-report AP, IB or AICE exam scores in the testing section of the Common Application, Apply Coalition with Scoir, or QuestBridge National College Match Application. These scores show mastery of content knowledge in specific subjects and may be eligible for undergraduate course credit once a student enrolls.
- Predicted IB Diploma and A-Levels: Students enrolled in IB and A-Level curricula whose schools submit predicted scores for admission consideration are expected to complete their exams and submit final results prior to enrolling. Should conditions related to the pandemic not allow for students to sit for their IB or A-Level examinations, Rice will accept the scores provided by the examination boards.
General Testing Policy
Students applying to Rice University will not be required to submit SAT or ACT for admission consideration. Students wanting to show their college readiness and academic strengths may choose to submit SAT, ACT, AP, or IB test scores.
- ACT or SAT: Rice does not have a preference for students to submit one test over the other. If an applicant submits both an SAT and an ACT score, the committee will consider the test that best enhances their application.
- Superscore: When reviewing SAT and ACT scores, we use the highest score from each section across all administrations. We encourage students to report all scores knowing that we will recombine the sections to get the best possible set of scores for each candidate.
- Writing and essay sections: The ACT Essay and SAT Writing section are not required and not considered for admission. Writing or essay section scores are not visible as part of the admission evaluation process. This policy will not be affected in light of the cancellation of the SAT Writing section instituted by the College Board.
- Self-reported Scores: Students have the option to submit self-reported scores if they are graduating from a high school within the U.S. or submit official scores. Admitted students who choose to enroll at Rice will be required to submit official test scores prior to matriculation.
- Official Test Scores: To be considered official, scores must be sent directly from the testing organization. Rice’s College Board code, including TOEFL, is 6609 and our ACT code is 4152.
Please refer to our Class Profile for more information on the academic profile of admitted students.
Candidates must submit letters of recommendation from their counselor and two teachers.
Counselor Letter of Recommendation
The counselor letter of recommendation serves to highlight the accomplishments of a student within the context of their high school. The letter must come from an applicant’s assigned school counselor, college counselor, principal, or headmaster. Applicants will not be disadvantaged if their high school structure and counselor’s caseload does not allow students the opportunity to build a personal relationship with their counselor.
Teacher Letters of Recommendation
The two teacher recommendations serve to highlight the applicant’s academic strengths and contributions in the classroom. Both of these recommendations should be from teachers of core academic subjects, and ideally one recommendation would relate to the applicant's intended area of study. Though not a requirement, we would prefer letters come from teachers who have taught the student for a full course.
Supplemental Letters of Recommendation
The required counselor recommendation and two teacher recommendations provide the Admission Committee with all the information we need to make an informed admission decision. However, if someone has unique and personal knowledge about an applicant's accomplishments or talents, the applicant may have that individual submit a supplemental recommendation. For example, this could include an employer, supervisor, coach, mentor, or another teacher. Supplemental recommendations must include the applicant’s full name, date of birth, or applicant ID and should be submitted through the application platform or to [email protected].
We recommend an interview for first-year applicants, though they are optional and not guaranteed. Interviews are a great way to communicate your knowledge about Rice and an excellent opportunity to showcase academic and personal successes while learning more about the campus experience. An inability to schedule an interview will not negatively impact your application.
All interviews for the 2023 - 2024 application cycle will be conducted virtually. A trained alumnus or current Rice University senior will virtually meet with you to learn more about your accomplishments and academic interests and to answer your questions about studying at Rice.
A limited number of interviews with current Rice University seniors will be available beginning in late August through our campus visit website . You do not need to have submitted your admission application to schedule an interview with a current senior, but interview slots are on a first-come, first-served basis. Please follow the deadlines below when scheduling an interview with a current senior.
If you are unable to schedule an interview with a Rice senior, you will still have the opportunity to request an interview with a member of the Rice Alumni Volunteers for Admission (RAVA). Due to limited availability, you will need to submit your application for admission before requesting an interview with RAVA. Then access your online applicant portal and request your virtual interview by the deadlines below.
*Please note that you may only complete one interview. We have no preference between completing an interview with a Rice senior or a RAVA. In years of exceptionally high demand for interviews, all requests may not be fulfilled. We will try to match students who request an interview by the priority deadline first.
Rice University has concluded our participation in the Rice/Baylor Medical Scholars program.
We remain committed to supporting our current cohorts as they finish their studies at Rice and matriculate into Baylor College of Medicine. However, we will no longer accept new applications to the Rice/Baylor Program.
With Rice’s location situated next to the world-renowned Texas Medical Center, our students benefit from opportunities to work with leading researchers and medical professionals and are exceedingly successful pursuing their aspirations in medicine and healthcare. We will continue to advise students on the many avenues and pathways to becoming healthcare professionals, including the traditional medical school application process.
You will be notified via email how to access your Rice Admission Student Portal which is designed to assist you in tracking our receipt of your application materials and to communicate your final admission decision. The only valid notification of an admission decision is a formal communication from the Rice University Office for Enrollment. We reserve the right to close your application if you are admitted under a binding Early Decision plan at another institution.
Need-Based Financial Aid
We know that one of the biggest factors in determining the right school is affordability. Because we believe talent deserves opportunity, Rice offers need-blind admission to domestic students. This means we do not consider finances when we review the application. Additionally, Rice meets 100 percent of demonstrated need – without loans – through the Rice Investment, one of the most notable financial aid programs in the country. For more information about need-based financial aid and the Rice Investment, please visit our Office of Financial Aid website.
The Office of Admission offers merit-based scholarships to incoming first year students who distinguish themselves academically and personally within our highly competitive group of admitted students. These scholarships are based solely on merit and financial need is not taken into consideration. There is no separate application or interview required; the Admission Committee automatically considers all admitted students, both domestic and international, on the basis of the student’s application for admission. About 20% of admitted students are offered a merit scholarship each year. Students awarded a merit-based scholarship will be notified at the time of admission.
Advanced Placement (AP) Exams
Rice University awards transfer credit for the Advanced Placement (AP) Program, which enables high school students to earn transfer credit for college-level courses taken in high school upon completion of AP examinations with a score of 4 or 5. For more information about the AP transfer credit process, please visit the Advanced Placement (AP) Credit page.
International Baccalaureate (IB) Exams
Rice University awards transfer credit for International Baccalaureate (IB) examinations for students who hold the International Baccalaureate Diploma and have obtained a score of 6 or 7 on higher level exams. For more information about the IB transfer credit process, please visit the International Baccalaureate (IB) Credit page.
Students who complete various international exams with a grade of A or B may receive transfer credit. These exams include A-Levels, the Abitur, CAPE, CEGEP (Science Option), French Baccalauréat (Science Option), Italian Maturita, and Swiss Federal Maturity Certificate. For more information about the international exams transfer credit process, please visit the International Exam Credit page.
The Office of the Registrar evaluates courses taken at other regionally accredited colleges or universities (or their foreign equivalent) that are appropriate to the Rice curriculum for potential transfer credit.
Transfer credit will not be awarded for courses included on a student’s high school transcript and used to satisfy high school graduation requirements, i.e. dual credit courses. Only those students who have more than 20 college preparatory courses may have the Office of the Registrar consider for Rice credit their college courses taken in high school. For more information about the transfer credit process, please visit the Transfer Credit page.
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Rice University Supplemental Essays 2023-24 – Prompts and Advice
September 8, 2023
Rice University, the STEM powerhouse in Houston, Texas, accepted just under 8% of applicants into their Class of 2027. Given that the applicant pool—including the 92% who are ultimately rejected—are all immensely talented and qualified, any aspiring Rice student needs to find ways to stand out on their application. One such way is through the Rice supplemental essays.
(Want to learn more about How to Get Into Rice? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get into Rice University: Admissions Data and Strategies for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)
When evaluating applicants, Rice University places a strong emphasis on the quality of one’s essays. Below are Rice’s four supplemental prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle along with our advice for creating a committee-swaying admissions essay.
Rice Supplemental Essays – Prompt #1
1) please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected above. (150 word limit)..
Share an authentic story here of why you are interested in your selected discipline (or disciplines). What books have you read on the subject? Which documentaries have you watched? What podcasts have you listened to? What subtopics most intrigue you? Did a teacher excite you about a topic or was it a parent or outside mentor? Do you know where you want to take this knowledge post-bachelor’s degree? Do you aim to one day go on to pursue a graduate/professional degree or is there an occupation you are shooting for right out of undergrad? Which classes are you excited to take? What do you hope to research as an undergrad? Include as much detail as possible in this very limited 150-word space.
You can structure the narrative of this essay as a succinct but comprehensive soup to nuts chronicling of your entire journey toward your discipline of interest (even in limited space) or you could share one or two vignettes that illustrate your burgeoning passion for engineering, history, French, computer science, business, psychology, etc.
Rice Supplemental Essays – Prompt #2
2) based upon your exploration of rice university, what elements of the rice experience appeal to you (150 word limit.).
The admissions committee wants to know why you desire to pursue your studies at Rice. However, with only 150 words to play with, you’ll have to make every sentence count.
In general, make sure to:
- Cite specific academic programs , professors , research opportunities , internship/externship programs , study abroad program s, student-run organizations , etc.
- Explain how you will take advantage of the university’s endless resources both inside and outside of the classroom.
Examples of items that quality “Why Rice?” essays touch upon include:
- Rice’s high marks for both race/class interaction and overall quality of life.
- Additionally, the small class size—69% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
- Ample opportunities for mentored research with faculty as an undergraduate.
- A 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
- Desire to participate in some of the 300 student-led organizations on campus.
- Lastly, one of Rice’s study abroad opportunities that appeals to you.
Rice Supplemental Essays – Prompt #3
3) the residential college system is at the heart of rice student life and is heavily influenced by the particular cultural traditions and unique life experiences each student brings. what life experiences and/or unique perspectives are you looking forward to sharing with fellow owls in the residential college system.
Your answer here could be about an ethnic, religious, or neighborhood community/identity or a group of individuals who gather for a club, sport, or service project. Perhaps you are the captain of a team, the editor-in-chief of your school paper, or the president of a club—on the other hand, you may simply be a valuable contributing member. Regardless of whether you are a leading man/woman or a still-essential bit player, make sure that you use your writing ability to show the admissions officer what type of community member you are rather than merely telling them. Of course, they are also interested in your “life perspectives” which are also typically more engaging when shown through examples versus delivered through “I” statements.
Rice Supplemental Essays (Continued)
You can also discuss how you have engaged with your high school local/community and what you have learned from interacting with people of a different ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual identity, etc. Draw on past evidence of your commitment to being a positive force in your community and speculate how that is likely to manifest on Rice’s campus. Research and cite Rice student-run organizations, local nonprofit groups, or anything else you are drawn to. The admissions committee wants to understand precisely how you will contribute to their campus community of 8,000+ undergrads. In summary, drawing the link between your past efforts and future aims is critical here.
For example, if you’ve done work with Meals on Wheels throughout your teens, it will be most impactful if you express your commitment to joining the local Meals on Wheels chapter which is located at a Jewish Community Center in Houston.
Rice University Supplement – “The Box”
The rice box: in keeping with rice’s long-standing tradition, please share an image of something that appeals to you..
Take them at their word here that “The Box” “not used for evaluative purposes”. As such, you shouldn’t spend hours assembling the perfect collage or designing your own symbol from scratch. Think of this as your signature on your Rice application. You can be straightforward, silly, serious, or sincere. Also heed their advice that the image can be something “aside from what you have achieved”. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel pressure to insert a picture of a robot you built or a trophy you won.
How important are the Rice supplemental essays?
The essays are “very important” to the Rice admissions committee. The following factors are equally important: the rigor of one’s secondary school record. GPA, class rank, recommendations, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities. Clearly, Rice University weighs your essays heavily in their evaluation of your candidacy.
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Lastly, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your Rice supplemental essays, we encourage you to get a quote today.
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Rice University’s 2023-24 Essay Prompts
Architecture short response 1.
Why are you determined to study architecture? Could you please elaborate on your past experiences and how they have motivated you to apply to Rice University and the School of Architecture in particular?
Architecture Short Response 2
Please expand on relevant experiences and motivations outside of your academic trajectory that have inspired you to study architecture, focusing on aspects that are not accommodated by other prompts in the application.
Select-A-Prompt Short Response
Please respond to one of the following prompts to explore how you will contribute to the Rice community:
The Residential College System is at the heart of Rice student life and is heavily influenced by the particular cultural traditions and unique life experiences each student brings. What life experiences and/or unique perspectives are you looking forward to sharing with fellow Owls in the residential college system?
Rice is strengthened by its diverse community of learning and discovery that produces leaders and change agents across the spectrum of human endeavor. What perspectives shaped by your background, experiences, upbringing, and/or racial identity inspire you to join our community of change agents at Rice?
Why This Major Short Response
Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected above.
Why This College Short Response
Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you?
The Rice Box: In keeping with Rice’s long-standing tradition, please share an image of something that appeals to you.
Common App Personal Essay
The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don‘t feel obligated to do so.
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you‘ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
What will first-time readers think of your college essay?
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2023-2024 Rice University Supplemental Essay Prompts
Rice University has released its 2023-2024 supplemental essay prompts for applicants to the Class of 2028. In all, Rice asks applicants to respond to three supplemental essay prompts — two essays of 150 words and one essay of 500 words. For the 500-word essay, there are two options from applicants are asked to choose one. In addition, as is tradition, Rice applicants are asked to include an image that represents them with their Rice supplement. So, what exactly are this year’s essays for the Rice Class of 2028?
2023-2024 Rice Essay Topics & The Box
Rice applicants are asked to answer the first two essay prompts in a maximum of 150 words. These two prompts are as follows:
1. Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected.
This prompt is a straight-up-the-middle Why Major essay. As such, students should write an origin story of their interest in their chosen field. The origin story should take place in high school rather than in childhood. Applicants should make the story interesting rather than tout their strengths in the given area since bragging is an implausible way to inspire admissions officers to root for applicants.
2. Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you?
This prompt is a straight-up-the-middle Why College essay . It should thus be filled with specifics on why a student wishes to attend Rice — programs, institutes, the culture, traditions, activities, and more. Notice we didn’t mention classes or professors. Classes change. Professors leave. It’s about capturing the enduring specifics of Rice.
If an applicant writes a sentence that can apply to schools other than Rice, we recommend deleting it. Every sentence in this essay should be specifically tailored to Rice. That’s the game!
For the third Rice essay, applicants are asked to answer one of the following two essay prompts in up to 500 words:
3. Please respond to one of the following prompts to explore how you will contribute to the Rice community:
- The Residential College System is at the heart of Rice student life and is heavily influenced by the particular cultural traditions and unique life experiences each student brings. What life experiences and/or unique perspectives are you looking forward to sharing with fellow Owls in the residential college system?
Rice’s admissions committee seeks to admit a diverse incoming class and while the United States Supreme Court outlawed the practice of Affirmative Action , Chief Justice John Roberts left an opening in college essays.
As he wrote in his majority opinion, “At the same time, as all parties agree, nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”
Herein lies that opening. But, of course, students do not need to be underrepresented minorities to answer this question powerfully. The question is purposely broad. As such, students can write about the communities in which they were raised, their cultural traditions, their faith, or any other such topic that ideally showcases how they think and what makes them tick.
- Rice is strengthened by its diverse community of learning and discovery that produces leaders and change agents across the spectrum of human endeavor. What perspectives shaped by your background, experiences, upbringing, and/or racial identity inspire you to join our community of change agents at Rice?
This question is similar to the first option for the third Rice essay prompt, but it leans more heavily on being a change agent. Rice’s admissions committee wants to see how a student’s background or experiences shape who they are and how they hope to create the world they wish to see. Applicants should be specific instead of broad — think saving the bees rather than saving the world from climate change.
The Rice Box
One of Rice’s longstanding traditions is “The Box,“ a question on our application where we ask all of our applicants to share an image of something that appeals to them. The Box gives you the opportunity to present us with an image that shares something about yourself, your interests or what is meaningful to you. This image is not used for evaluative purposes in the application, but allows you to put your stamp on the application about who you are aside from what you have achieved. Be sure to choose an image that speaks for itself and does not need an explanation. The Box must be a two-dimensional image that is uploaded in the Common Application or Apply Coalition with Scoir, or uploaded in the Rice Admission Student Portal.
The image that a student uploads should be consistent with their hook. If they’re astrophysicists, the image should ideally relate to the stars. If they’re Classists, it should relate to the Classics. Too many applicants merely upload a silly image, a wasted opportunity. Beyond the essays, The Box is another opportunity to showcase intellectual curiosity.
Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Rice Essays
If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission to Rice by submitting essays that inspire admissions officers to root for you, fill out Ivy Coach ‘s free consultation form , and we’ll be in touch to outline our college admissions counseling services for seniors.
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2 Rice University Essay Examples
Rice University is a highly-selective college, so it’s important to write strong essays to help your application stand out. In this post, we’ll share essays real students have submitted to Rice University. (Names and identifying information have been changed, but all other details are preserved).
Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized.
Read our Rice University essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.
Prompt: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
It’s family movie night, and we’ve chosen to watch Bird Brain , a nature documentary about birds and their unique abilities. I’m starting to lose interest, but the narrator says something wild that perplexes me: “Some birds have the ability to hold their breath for over 15 minutes underwater.” Well, now I have to know more.
My mom groans as I pause the movie to spend the rest of my night understanding that one statement. I rush to my room and open my laptop, while my fingers type furiously as videos, images, and articles flood the screen. I click on the first site I see: “Emperor penguins dive to catch fish in the ocean, and their bodies begin to metabolize anaerobically after a certain point of being submerged.” But that wasn’t enough. I continue to scroll as my mind hunts for answers. How big are emperor penguins? How cold is the ocean in Antarctica? And what even is anaerobic metabolization? Ahhhhh! I feel like I am going to explode! I have to know more.
This example of the emperor penguin is one of the many instances where I am motivated by the need to question what I hear. I encounter a similar situation on any given day. Whether it’s a quick Google search or an all nighter, I find myself lost in time as the world around me blurs while I unearth its secrets. This love of research stems from my childhood, as I was determined to find my own answers. From conducting at-home plant dissections to confirm what was taught in class, or reading an actual newspaper for the latest reports, nothing was true unless I had found evidence. Soon, this habit became deeply ingrained in my character.
I call moments like these an “internet search spiral.” Part of the reason why these spirals are so captivating is because they can never be boring; it would take me 23.8 million years to go through the 295 exabytes of information on the web. Call me crazy, but I would do it. The never-ending knowledge found within the internet never fails to hold my attention, as my inquiries are like an emperor penguin plunging into the cold Antarctic waters for a swim. Knowing that there’s something I haven’t learned, a skill I haven’t mastered, or an equation I haven’t solved creates a warp in time that transports me to a region where seconds and minutes don’t restrain my knowledge.
Internet search spirals capture every part of me but often leave me seeking additional material. The search for more information not available online connects me with like-minded thinkers, and this connection is what I aim to foster as a student at Rice. This quest for knowledge is more meaningful when I encounter someone whose passion for teaching matches my appreciation of learning. I turn to those who feel compelled to share.
These internet search spirals ultimately transform me into a more mindful person. Every time I understand something new, I feel like a little penguin egg that’s ready to hatch and experience the world in a new way. The feeling of analyzing fresh material is one I will never give up. I don’t feel bound by the restriction of time because somehow my eyes never get tired of scanning endless papers and textbooks. After all, the knowledge I gain is worth it, because every bit of information gives me the chance to be a better individual. The purpose of knowledge is action, and knowledge that is acted on becomes greatness. I aspire to embody that greatness. Whether it’s from a website, a medical textbook, a documentary, or a good-old-fashioned human being, learning frees me from the constraints of time.
So, thank you, emperor penguins, for sparking internet search spirals that push me to be a better individual.
What the Essay Did Well
This essay does a good job of using an anecdote at the beginning to hook the reader in and then continuing to weave callbacks to the anecdote throughout the essay. Including these callbacks where the student refers to themselves as “an emperor penguin plunging into the cold Antarctic waters” and “a little penguin egg that’s ready to hatch” help make the essay feel more cohesive. The use of the anecdote also allows the student to describe the thoughts that run through their brain while researching penguins, which not only shows how the student thinks, but creates the same feeling of excitement and anticipation the student felt in the moment for the reader.
Another great thing this essay does is reflect on why this activity is so important to who the student is as a person. Although the prompt doesn’t specifically ask for anything more than why the topic is captivating and what do you turn to for more information, providing a reflection on how researching has positively impacted the student to become a better person proves to the admissions committee that this student knows who they are. The student took a passion they have and used it to show their growth as a person through engaging in this activity and how this activity will allow them to achieve their future goals. The last paragraph ties together the essay and takes it a step beyond what was required to elevate the essay.
What Could Be Improved
One thing this essay could work would be to tell less and show more. It’s cliche essay advice, but for a good reason. A lot of this essay tells the reader about the student’s researching habits without putting the reader in the chair next to the student while they sift through Internet tabs or flip through textbook pages. The anecdote at the beginning shows the excitement and thought process of the student when they are researching penguins which draws the reader in.
After the first paragraph the essay relies mostly on telling the reader what the student does and why they enjoy it, rather than using specific experiences and details to describe what was happening and how they felt. An easy way the student could improve their writing to show more would be to include more of their internal monologue while researching.
It should also be noted that this was a Common App essay submitted to Rice that specifically mentioned Rice: “This connection is what I am to foster as a student at Rice.” Common App essays don’t need to be school specific, so including school names can actually be highly risky and costly if you make a mistake. This student could have easily submitted their Common App essay to Rice with another school’s name or with a blank they meant to fill in. The best way to avoid this mistake is simply to not included schools in your Common App, or if you really want to, make sure someone else proofreads your essay before you submit!
Prompt: Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life for all members of our campus community. The Residential College System and undergraduate life are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What life perspectives would you contribute to the Rice community?
One of the many Boarding School rules that I despised at the time but now look back at nostalgically was a 45-minute phone time. So with nothing else to do, our suitemates would gather together after “lights-out” and just talk. Sometimes it would be consoling a friend coming out of a bad break-up, and other times it’d be a serious debate on the merits of Latin honors. Whatever the topic, these conversations were always compassionate, spirited, and a source of familial support.
This camaraderie also made studying with friends profoundly different. My Indian family was always relentless in reminding me to “Forget joy for four years” because delaying gratification was the only way to find “permanent security.” Apparently, in our divine meritocracy, College is just one step on the continual stairway of advancement. I couldn’t disagree more with this notion that an education is simply a means to an end.
But, as I studied with my best friends in our hostel, learning and fun were never antithetical ideas. Nights reserved for calculus were always accompanied by ping-pong sessions, but we never intended to sabotage each other in a futile race to the top. Ours was a collaborative family, where instead of selfish opportunity costs, we were driven by brotherly love. No accolade could beat this feeling of security and finding a home — away from home.
At Rice, to build that sense of family, I want to create a discussion group—Night Owls—to gather at night and ponder both the grandiose and whimsical philosophical questions over hot chocolate . Think of these events as a modern version of the infamous Greek Symposia, just without the booze. This combination of conversation, whimsy, and intellectual inquiry is what I want from college. It doesn’t sound very prudential, but it’s surely poetic.
The student who wrote this essay did a good job of tying their previous experience to an experience they want to bring to the Rice community. This student pinpointed exactly what they loved so much about living in a community with their peers and how they planned to recreate that experience in college. The descriptions about the types of debates or ping-pong tournaments the student engaged in create an image of an intellectual and supportive environment admissions officers want to see at their college.
Additionally, by coming up with a name and a plan for the discussion group, the student’s interest is evident and it shows that they took time to consider genuinely starting this group at college. In general, the student’s writing created a warm sense of family and bonding that displayed some of the student’s key values. This leaves the reader with a positive impression of the type of person this student is outside of the classroom, which was exactly what the prompt was looking to achieve.
This essay could benefit from a more focused and cohesive story. The way the essay begins describing late night discussions at boarding school, then transitions to a discussion on the student’s family, and then returns back to his school study group is a bit disjointed. The second paragraph adds very little to the essay as a whole and distracts from the sense of community the student was trying to establish in his study group. This student probably felt the need to discuss his family and his Indian heritage to address the “cultural traditions” the prompt mentions, however the experiences studying with his friend are unique and special enough to satisfy the prompt so this was an unnecessary addition. The essay could just describe the late night conversations he had at boarding school and how they created a sense of camaraderie and family among strangers that he wants to bring to college, without needing to bring up his family.
The words this student saves by removing the paragraph on their family could be used to create more concrete examples of the types of discussions the student had at boarding school or what they want to have at Rice. Although the essay mentions discussing bad break-ups or Latin honors, adding more detail like a quote said by one of the student’s friends or an introduced idea that made them reflect on the world would help put the reader in the room with the student or gain a better appreciation for the impact of the discussions.
Where to Get Your Rice University Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your Rice University essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!
Related CollegeVine Blog Posts
Rice University Supplemental Essays 2023-2024
Rice Supplemental Essays 2023-2024
The Rice University supplemental essays play an integral role in any student’s “how to get into Rice” plan . As one of the top universities in the nation, strong Rice University supplemental essays can help set your application apart.
This means you should plan to ace the why school essay, the why major essay, and the long essay that Rice requires. So, if you’re looking for helpful tips on the Rice supplemental essays, then you’re in the right place.
Rice Essay: Quick Facts
- Rice acceptance rate: 9%— U.S. News ranks Rice as a most selective school.
- 2 (~150 word) essays
- 1 full-page (500 word) essay
- Rice application: Students must submit their Rice application through the Common App, Coalition App, or QuestBridge application systems.
- Rice essay #1 tip: We recommend using the short and long Rice University essay prompts to highlight different aspects of your experiences that you haven’t highlighted elsewhere—Rice Box image included—to help your application stand out.
Please note that essay requirements are subject to change each admissions cycle, and portions of this article may have been written before the final publication of the most recent guidelines. For the most up-to-date information on essay requirements, check the university’s admissions website.
Does Rice University have supplemental essays?
Yes. In addition to the personal statement that you’ll write in the Common App or Coalition App , you’ll also have to answer both short and extended Rice supplemental essays. In total, applicants will write three Rice University supplemental essays. This includes two that are 150 words and a third that is 500 words. The prompts may look familiar—namely, a why school essay and a why major essay.
Three additional Rice University supplemental essays may sound intimidating. However, we urge you to view them as a chance to share valuable information about yourself with admissions. Beyond any single Rice University essay prompt, you will have multiple chances to shine.
The Rice supplemental essays are available on the Common App site . You can also visit the Rice University site for a full list of application requirements, including the essay details. You might also complete an optional alumni interview to supplement your Rice supplemental essays and application.
What are the Rice University supplemental essays?
There are three school-specific Rice supplemental essays and an image contribution in the Rice application. The first two Rice supplemental essays each have a 150 word limit. One Rice essay is essentially a why major essay and the other Rice essay is a why school essay.
The third of the Rice University supplemental essays allows students to choose from two different prompts. However, the prompts are relatively similar with slight nuances in their wording. Essentially, the last of the Rice University supplemental essays asks students to show how they will enrich the Rice community. This essay has a 500 word limit.
You should use every opportunity in your Rice University supplemental essays to express yourself in a personal, engaging manner. And because each of the Rice University supplemental essays covers a different topic with a different word limit, you’ll use different strategies for each one.
Before starting your Rice University supplemental essays, do your research on Rice University. Check out our how to get into Rice guide in order to write your best Rice University supplemental essays. You may also want to read some successful college essay examples. Check out these why college essay examples for inspiration.
Now, keep reading to learn how to tackle each of the Rice University essay prompts!
Rice University Supplemental Essay #1: Why Major Essay
The first Rice University essay prompt asks applicants to explore their academic study interests with a why major essay. If you still haven’t chosen a major , don’t worry. You are not bound to the academic area that you reference in this Rice essay. However, successful Rice University supplemental essays will need to specifically address a given field. When considering how to get into Rice, remember that you will select an academic area of interest in the application. So, start thinking about intellectual interests and browsing majors to see what matches up.
Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected. (150 words)
This Rice essay is short but sweet. At this point, your reader may have already glanced at your previous coursework and activities, as well as your personal statement . So, to add to that, what stories do you have about what you hope to study in college? The strongest Rice University supplemental essays will give readers an authentic window into an applicant’s intellectual life.
Specifically, this Rice University essay prompt lets you offer some background on an activity or experience that showcases your intellectual interests. You may choose to start your first Rice essay with an anecdote that illustrates these interests in action.
Highlight your passions
For this Rice essay, don’t be afraid to geek out about a topic and share how you have explored it in the classroom and beyond. This could be in a school club, a summer program , or a personal passion project . In fact, your description of your interests should take up most of this Rice essay—perhaps 90-120 words.
Additionally, if you don’t quite know what you’d like to study, that’s okay! Remember, the potential field or major discussed in applicants’ Rice University supplemental essays is not binding. So, use your Rice essay to talk about the thing that interests you most.
Connect your interests to Rice
Most importantly, to wrap up your first Rice essay, connect your interests to something that Rice can do to help you excel. For example, if you have a penchant for the sciences , you might use this Rice University essay prompt to note unique research projects that previous Rice students have done with faculty. Or, if you’re interested in the humanities , you might emphasize Rice’s various unique minors like Museums and Cultural Heritage when responding to this Rice University essay prompt. This part of your Rice essay can just be a few sentences—perhaps 30-60 words. Remember to be specific about why Rice is the school for you.
Rice Essay Reflection Questions:
- Does your draft share a narrative rather than just restating your activities list?
- Do you limit your focus to a single field when responding to the Rice University essay prompt?
- Does your Rice essay connect your interest to opportunities available at Rice?
- Do you use clear and evocative language in the first of the Rice University supplemental essays?
Rice University Supplemental Essay #2: Why School Essay
While the first Rice University essay prompt asked students to write a why major essay, the second asks students “why Rice?”
The Rice University acceptance rate is competitive at just 9% . Successful applicants will write Rice University supplemental essays that show just why they have to study at Rice. Rice University supplemental essays are your chance to show admissions that you’ve done your research and are set on Rice.
Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? (150 words)
This Rice University essay prompt is the classic “why school” essay . You may have encountered similar prompts on other applications. While it might be tempting to adapt a “why school” essay from another application, students will want to start from scratch to make sure their Rice University supplemental essays are as specific as possible.
No shortcuts on this Rice University essay prompt; you’ll have to do your homework. Begin by asking, “What about Rice suits you?” If you haven’t already, this Rice essay is a great chance to share if you have reached out to a current student, watched an official YouTube video , or attended an information session. And if you have not yet, it’s not too late! It all starts with a virtual tour . Do the Rice research before writing your Rice University supplemental essays so that you can speak about Rice like a pro.
Keep it about you
However, remember that this Rice essay is still a chance for the reader to get to know you. Are there other interests that you have not been able to discuss in other parts of your application? As you approach this Rice essay prompt, as well as the other Rice supplemental essays, think about what might be missing from your application. For instance, maybe you already have written some responses to a few of your activities in the other Rice University supplemental essays. Perhaps there is another that you could highlight in this Rice essay.
Take this Rice University essay prompt as a way to share something new about yourself. When all is said and done, the admissions office at any school hopes to admit a class full of talented people with various pursuits and interests. The best Rice supplemental essays will reveal what a given student will bring to their class and community.
Before answering this Rice essay prompt, read some successful why school essays. Here are some examples of well-written essays from applicants to Northwestern and Yale .
- Does your Rice essay draft include specific references to the academic community at Rice University?
- Do you share how Rice’s resources connect to your personal education goals?
- Does your Rice essay focus on just one or two aspects of Rice as they relate to your interests?
Rice Supplemental Essays – Long Answer
The last of the Rice University supplemental essays offers students the choice of two prompts to respond to. However, each prompt asks students to explore the way in which they will contribute to the Rice community.
The final Rice supplemental essay prompt offers much more room to write than the other Rice University essay prompts, with a 500 word limit. It may feel overwhelming, but there are many ways to meaningfully answer this Rice essay.
Successful Rice University supplemental essays will use the word count wisely in order to impress admissions and overcome the low Rice University acceptance rate. In fact, the best Rice University supplemental essays will thoughtfully use the word count to show applicants’ unique experiences and qualities. The room this Rice essay allows you is by design. This is your time to shine.
The Residential College System is at the heart of Rice student life and is heavily influenced by the particular cultural traditions and unique life experiences each student brings. What life experiences and/or unique perspectives are you looking forward to sharing with fellow Owls in the residential college system? (500 words)
You might feel that you don’t have any traditions or experiences that you can discuss with the depth that the last of the Rice University essay prompts demands. “Life experiences” and “cultural traditions” are central to this Rice essay. For some, Rice University supplemental essays may reference meaningful touchstones like holidays, food, music, and dance.
When responding to the last of the Rice University essay prompts, try to engage your reader’s senses. What do the surroundings look, sound, smell, and feel like? Just as you might envision an opening scene of a movie, you should use this Rice essay to make the reader feel like they are right there with you. Successful Rice supplemental essays will use vivid and evocative language to tell an engaging story.
Define “community” and “culture”
That being said, you don’t need to fixate on a single anecdote to make your Rice essay shine. Successful Rice University supplemental essays may also refer to cultural traditions more broadly than any key moment. In considering your cultural background, you might initially think about your family or the fact that you will be a first-generation college student .
However, you can also use the last of the Rice University essay prompts as an opportunity to draw connections to a wider set of themes. Community and culture manifest in a variety of forms. From school clubs to youth groups, or even online Discord channels, we all engage in communities that inform our identities. All of these communities can give you useful material for your Rice supplemental essays.
Finding your story
If you’re still struggling with how to respond to the last of the Rice University essay prompts, don’t be discouraged. Everyone has a story to share, and the Rice supplemental essays are designed to help you do so. You could start by imagining how your friends would describe you. Or, it could be helpful to think of a simple timeline of your life so far. From birth to now, consider some milestones that have contributed to who you are today. You might also describe a hero or mentor who has changed your direction. There are a myriad of experiences that successful Rice University supplemental essays could touch on when responding to this Rice University essay prompt.
Bring it back to Rice
Remember that while the Rice University supplemental essays should center on you and your personal experiences, however, they also need to show what you will bring to campus. When answering the first long Rice University essay prompt, make sure that you clearly state how you will bring your personal experiences, culture, and traditions to the Rice community. Will you get involved in certain clubs? Will you share your family’s holidays with your hall in the dorms? And will you bring these experiences and perspectives to the classroom?
Rice University admissions wants to learn more about how you’ll fit into the Rice community. So, use the long Rice University supplemental essays to do just that.
Now let’s check out the second of the long Rice University supplemental essays:
Rice is strengthened by its diverse community of learning and discovery that produces leaders and change agents across the spectrum of human endeavor. What perspectives shaped by your background, experiences, upbringing, and/or racial identity inspire you to join our community of change agents at Rice?
Remember those helpful tips on how to respond to the first of the Rice University supplemental essays prompt? Well, they can actually apply here, too.
If responding the this prompt, students should focus on how the aspects mentioned in the prompt will make them incite change. Note how they refer to Rice’s “community of change agents.” Successful Rice University supplemental essays will show how students will contribute to this community.
How has your background informed your future academic and career goals? What has motivated your path forward to creating change in the world and essentially leaving it a better place than it was before? Students should write on their own experiences, upbringing and (if applicable) racial identity.
Similar to the first prompt, there are many routes that students could take when writing this essay. So, how can you choose what to write about? These essays need to be passionate and genuine. If you aren’t excited about the topic you’re writing about, then your reader won’t be, either. Remember that these Rice University supplemental essays need to truly add a new dimension to your Rice application. Namely, you want to share more about you and how you will be a perfect fit for the Rice community.
No matter the prompt, focus on you
This Rice essay gives you up to 500 words, which lets you discuss a lot. However, successful Rice University supplemental essays will not lose sight of the fact that this essay is about applicants as individuals. If you choose to describe how other people have made an impact on your life, remember to bring it back to yourself and your experiences. Above all, your Rice essay should center on how your experiences and traditions have made you the person you are.
As with the other Rice supplemental essays, make sure you remain centered on your own story and clearly communicate this story to your readers. Though it may be tempting to wax philosophical when writing your Rice University supplemental essays, you should focus on writing explicitly about yourself and your experiences. When in doubt, be more direct while trying to engage the reader in your Rice supplemental essays. Metaphors and quotes can help ground your Rice University supplemental essays at times, but be careful not to overuse them.
How do you wrap up the conclusion of such an open, personal essay? While there is no one “correct” way to end the Rice supplemental essays, take a moment to reflect on how these experiences have made an impact on you. How would you be different without them? Where have these milestones taken you to where you have been, where you are now, and perhaps where you hope to be in the future? Successful Rice University supplemental essays will answer these questions and more.
- Do you write between 400 and 500 words in this Rice essay?
- Does your Rice essay center on yourself and your development?
- Is your response to the third of the Rice University essay prompts concrete and specific?
- If applicable, do you use specific examples of how you have shared your perspectives or learned from those of other people?
How to write Rice Supplemental Essays
Writing impactful Rice University supplemental essays that catch the attention of Rice University admissions officers may seem like a daunting task. However, the Rice supplemental essays are extremely important, especially given the low Rice University acceptance rate.
Luckily, there are certain tips you can follow to ease the writing process when approaching the Rice University supplemental essays.
5 Tips for Writing Rice Supplemental Essays:
#1- be specific.
When responding to both the why school essay and the why major essay, you should be specific. One of the worst mistakes students can make in their Rice supplemental essays is being generic in their responses. When writing the Rice supplemental essays, reference specific programs and offerings only available at Rice. Also, when talking about your life experiences, describe why they are meaningful to you. It may be helpful to make a college resume in order to organize all of your important activities and draw on the most important ones when writing your Rice supplemental essays.
#2- Provide context to the reader
Above all, your reader wants to know what makes you the person you are. The Rice supplemental essays are your chance to show the admissions team that you’re more than a statistic. Tell them who you are, what you value, and why you belong at their school. Strong Rice supplemental essays will leave the admissions committee with a clear, authentic understanding of an applicant’s background and aspirations.
#3- Choose your topics carefully
You want to be authentic and unique in your responses to the Rice University essay prompts. The topic you choose to focus on makes a huge difference as your passion will be evident in the writing. Write on themes that are genuinely exciting and impactful to you.
#4- Start early
Give yourself plenty of time to thoughtfully and carefully respond to the Rice University essay prompts. Remember that you will be writing essays for the majority of the schools you apply to. Factor that into your college application timeline. You’ll need time to brainstorm, draft, and revise each Rice essay.
#5- Be creative and grammatically correct
Don’t shy away from getting creative with your writing style and responses to these Rice supplemental essays. That doesn’t mean you should write a poem, but, feel free to use vivid imagery and descriptive language in order to fully immerse your reader in your subject matter. However, your writing also needs to be grammatically impeccable. Have another set of eyes look over your final Rice University supplemental essays to make sure you’ve expressed your point and have no mechanical errors.
Additionally, if any special circumstances have influenced your academic or personal development, you may want to discuss them in your Rice University supplemental essays. This can help the admissions team gain insight into your perspective.
Additional Rice Requirements – An Image for “The Box”
One of Rice’s long-standing traditions is “The Box,” a question on our application where we ask all of our applicants to share an image of something that appeals to them. The Box gives you the opportunity to present us with an image that shares something about yourself, your interests or what is meaningful to you. This image is not used for evaluative purposes in the application, but allows you to put your stamp on the application about who you are aside from what you have achieved. Be sure to choose an image that speaks for itself and does not need an explanation. The Box must be a two-dimensional image that is uploaded in the Common Application or the Coalition Application, or uploaded in the Rice Admission Student Portal.
This Rice university essay prompt is not an essay at all. However, the Rice Box does a lot of the things your Rice essays do—namely, it gives the admissions team a window into who you are and what you care about.
Understandably, this unique prompt throws many students off. Remember that while the Rice Box might let you stand out, it should not detract from the effort you put into the required Rice University supplemental essays.
Don’t sweat your image choice
Notice the part of the prompt that reads, “This image is not used for evaluative purposes…and does not need an explanation.” In short, this image will not make or break your application—instead, it should be a fun addition to your overall profile.
Your submission should be able to speak for itself without a supplemental description. Some ideas for your Rice Box image might include a section of your bookshelf, a place you enjoy, an important memento, a project you enjoyed, or a hobby you mention elsewhere.
Don’t get hung up on the Rice Box! Find an image that speaks to you, and leave it at that. Then, spend the bulk of your time crafting your Rice University supplemental essays.
Rice Box Reflection Questions:
- Is your image clear enough, while staying within the file size limit?
- Is your image tasteful and appropriate for an academic context?
- Does your image reveal something interesting about you?
Does Rice care about essays?
Forbes ranks Rice University as #22 on 2023 Top Colleges list and the U.S. News Best Colleges list ranks it #15. And, the Rice University acceptance rate is quite competitive at 9%. For these reasons, when considering how to get into Rice University, one of the best colleges in Texas , applicants will want to focus on making their application as competitive as possible. The Rice University supplemental essays play a vital role in the admissions process.
Rice’s application philosophy is holistic and committee-based. That means that your Rice University supplemental essays are extremely important within the context of your Rice application narrative. Rice University admissions will evaluate applicants on more than just hitting certain academic marks. However, given the low Rice University acceptance rate, it’s important to have a good SAT score and above averag e GPA .
Using the Rice essays to your benefit
The Rice University supplemental essays are applicants’ opportunities to share new information that they weren’t able to display in other parts of their application. In evaluating Rice essays, the admissions team also looks to see whether you’ve done your research on why Rice University is the right school for you. So, the why school essay and why major essay are extremely important in showing off the specifics of what you’ve learned about Rice. The longer Rice essay is also an excellent opportunity to point out parts of campus life and community in which you would thrive thanks to your unique background.
Rice University admissions needs to see your understanding and enthusiasm for the university within your Rice supplemental essays. The entire Rice application is important in the admissions evaluation process, however, the Rice supplemental essays will allow Rice University admissions to get a truer picture of who you are and why you’d fit in at Rice.
More admissions requirements for Rice University
Applicants working on their Rice supplemental essays will need to make sure that they meet the Rice requirements and deadlines. In addition to well-written and unique Rice University supplemental essays, applicants should aim to take rigorous academic courses throughout secondary school. GPA is an important factor as a part of the admissions process.
Rice University is test-optional so students aren’t required to submit their standardized test scores. However, half of admitted students had scores within the range of 1490-1570. If you fall within that range, or above, submitting your scores will likely bolster your Rice application.
Letters and interviews
Rice requires applicants to submit three letters of recommendation . These letters are extremely important within the Rice admissions evaluation process. You’ll want to ask your counselor and two teachers for their recommendations well in advance so that they have sufficient time to submit them.
Students are able to complete optional interviews which are either with an alumnus or current Rice University senior. This is a great opportunity for applicants to learn more about the Rice experience. It also lets them share more of who they are both academically and personally.
Addition materials for special programs
Students applying to the Shepherd School of Music , School of Architecture , or Visual and Dramatic Arts department will be required to submit additional Rice University supplemental materials. You can look at all the Rice requirements here .
Remember that Rice partners with the QuestBridge application process. So, in addition to the Rice University supplemental essays, students should check out the match requirements when completing the application.
Applicants should also consider the cost of college and financial aid packages when starting their college search . This should be an integral part of building a college list . So, check out Rice’s financial aid options in order to compare with other colleges as you go through the college application and eventually enrollment process.
Rice University Supplemental Essays — Final Thoughts
As you craft your Rice essays, remember to be intentional and specific. Also, these tips are just a starting point. Every Rice University essay prompt is different, and you’ll want to examine each of them on their own terms. There are multiple ways to approach your Rice essays; as you draft, you’ll learn what works best for you.
Your Rice supplemental essays give you the creative latitude to make them your own, so use this to your advantage. There are many student success stories that come from writing strong essays that bolster a competitive application. Check out one student’s journey below and remember that you could be one too. Good luck!
Student Spotlight: Line T.
This Rice supplemental essays guide was written by Sarah Kaminski. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.
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Undergraduate Admissions Uncensored
Rice University adds new 500-word required essay to its application
Posted on August 2, 2023 by Craig Meister 3 Comments
Rice University in Houston, Texas has decided to add a new essay requirement to its first-year application that explicitly mentions race just weeks after The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that colleges can no longer admit students on the on the basis of race .
Previously, Rice only had two 150-word short answer response requirements on its supplement to the Common Application. Now, it also gives students a choice between responding to one of two new prompts in up to 500 words.
2023-2024 Rice Supplemental Essay Prompts
1. Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected above. Required (150 words max)
2. Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? Required (150 words max)
3. Please respond to one of the following prompts to explore how you will contribute to the Rice community: Required (500 words max)
Option 1: The Residential College System is at the heart of Rice student life and is heavily influenced by the particular cultural traditions and unique life experiences each student brings. What life experiences and/or unique perspectives are you looking forward to sharing with fellow Owls in the residential college system?
Option 2: Rice is strengthened by its diverse community of learning and discovery that produces leaders and change agents across the spectrum of human endeavor. What perspectives shaped by your background, experiences, upbringing, and/or racial identity inspire you to join our community of change agents at Rice?
The two prompt options from which first-year applicants have to choose are interestingly phrased. The first requires the respondent to show himself or herself sharing traditions, experiences, or perspectives with fellow future Rice students, while the second only requires that respondents share perspectives shaped by their background, experiences, upbringing, and/or racial identity that inspires them to join a future community of change agents at Rice. The reason this distinction is important is that it could be read as meaning Rice will be assessing respondents to the first option based on what they choose to share with future fellow students while assessing respondents to the second option based only on their choice of background, experiences, upbringing, and/or racial identity. Of course, only Rice admissions officers know for sure how they will be instructed to assess applicants’ responses to this new required essay. In the context of the current post-affirmative legal environment, Rice admissions officers will of course need to adhere to The Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, that included this critical paragraph:
“At the same time, as all parties agree, nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise. See, e.g., 4 App. in No. 21–707, at 1725–1726, 1741; Tr. of Oral Arg. in No. 20–1199, at 10. But, despite the dissent’s assertion to the contrary, universities may not simply establish through application essays or other means the regime we hold unlawful today. (A dissenting opinion is generally not the best source of legal advice on how to comply with the majority opinion.) “[W]hat cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. The Constitution deals with substance, not shadows,” and the prohibition against racial discrimination is “levelled at the thing, not the name.” Cummings v. Missouri, 4 Wall. 277, 325 (1867). A benefit to a student who overcame racial discrimination, for example, must be tied to that student’s courage and determination. Or a benefit to a student whose heritage or culture motivated him or her to assume a leadership role or attain a particular goal must be tied to that student’s unique ability to contribute to the university. In other words, the student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”
I wish students good luck as they draft their responses, and I also wish Rice admissions officers good luck with adhering to the law, internal directives, and their consciences when assessing these essay responses as part of their holistic review process.
As the vast majority of high school seniors applying to Rice do so through the Common Application, most Rice applicants will also need to respond – and respond well – to one of the Common App’s main essay prompts in order to be considered for admission at Rice.
About Craig Meister
Craig Meister is a college admissions expert who, for eighteen years, has had the great fortune of providing personalized post-secondary guidance to students and families from around the world.
Filed Under: Admissions Policies , Advice & Analysis , Applications , Essays , News , Rice , Trending Posts
The Admissions Strategist
“ the box ” and writing the supplemental essays for rice: a superb guide.
Rice University, located in Houston, Texas has an acceptance rate of 14% and is a private research university that regularly contributes to advancements in technology and science.
These contributions include work with artificial hearts and nanotechnology.
Rice faculty and alumni have been awarded Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes, Academy Awards, National Medals of Science, and more.
The university’s website describes itself as “a community of curious thinkers, passionate dreamers and energetic doers who believe that improving the world demands more than bold thought and brave action. It takes unconventional wisdom.” Oh, and it’s also ranked number one for the happiest students!
It might sound like the odds aren’t in your favor, but there’s plenty you can do to increase your chances of acceptance, including writing some standout essays.
Not sure how to write essays that can set you apart from the crowd ?
We’re here to help! In this article, we’ll provide information and tips to help you write your way to an acceptance letter from Rice University.
What Are the Rice University Essays?
Rice accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application, with no preference between the two. No matter which application you choose, you’ll also need to complete the Rice Writing Supplement.
The supplement consists of two short responses and one longer essay (or two shorter essays for applicants to the School of Architecture).
The short response questions are:
Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected above. (150 word limit) Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? (150 word limit)
The longer essay question asks:
Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life for all members of our campus community. The Residential College System is heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What personal perspectives would you contribute to life at Rice? (500 word limit)
If you’re applying to the School of Architecture, you won’t answer the question above. Instead, you’ll answer the following two short answer questions, along with the first two short-answer questions:
Why are you determined to study architecture? Could you please elaborate on your past experiences and how they have motivated you to apply to Rice University and the School of Architecture in particular? (250 word limit) Please expand on relevant experiences and motivations outside of your academic trajectory that have inspired you to study architecture, focusing on aspects that are not accommodated by other prompts in the application. (250 word limit)
Rice also asks you to “submit an image of something that appeals to you,” a long-standing tradition known as “the Box.”
General Tips for the Rice Supplemental Essays
Rice University website explains, “We want a diverse, exciting student body, consisting of the best and brightest from across the country and around the globe. If you are excited by the opportunities and experiences we offer, we encourage you to apply to Rice.”
In reviewing applications, the university considers “the entirety of an applicant’s academic prowess , creativity, motivation, artistic talent, leadership potential and life experiences.”
Your GPA, SAT scores, and extracurricular experiences won’t necessarily convey the qualities mentioned here.
Your essays are your opportunity to demonstrate that you’re the type of student Rice is looking for: someone bright, curious, eager, creative, and motivated. Someone who has leadership qualities and wants to take advantage of the many opportunities available at Rice.
In order to effectively captivate your audience (Rice admissions officers), we recommend that each essay is:
- Specific – One way to set yourself apart from other students is to avoid generic, clichéd responses. Give specific details and examples to illustrate your points. This approach will bring your personality and views to life.
- Enthusiastic – Use an enthusiastic tone to show that you’re excited about the possibility of becoming a Rice student. Whether you’re discussing your choice of major or your interest in Rice, admissions officers should almost “hear” your enthusiasm.
- Polished – Although this isn’t exactly a writing test, your essays should still be polished. Essays that are free of grammar and spelling errors will make a better impression and indicate that you’re serious about the admission process. Have trusted friends, family members, or teachers review your essays, and spend time revising and editing .
- “ You ” – Perhaps most importantly, your essays should be “you.” The point of the essays is to help admissions officers get to know who you are. Write in your own unique voice, and reveal information and experiences that you find meaningful and important.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the questions in the Rice Writing Supplement.
Brainstorming Activity for the Rice Essays
To write a strong response to this fairly standard question, try to focus on the extracurricular activity or work experience that you find most significant and meaningful.
Don’t select an experience solely because you think it sounds most impressive. Instead, try to come up with one particular anecdote that explains how and why this activity or experience has impacted your life or personal growth.
Use specific details to engage admissions officers in your experience, and reflect on how the experience changed you or influenced your life.
- Perhaps you were a volunteer for a local campaign and now want to volunteer for similar campaigns at Rice.
- Did you raise money for students in need overseas? If you learned something about their experiences and struggles, how has that influenced you?
- When you took on a leadership position for an activity or club, how did your personality change thereafter? How has this personality change manifested itself in your interactions with the outside world?
Think about how you’ll continue exploring this interest at Rice University, or how you’ll implement the lessons learned through this experience as a student at Rice.
Always focus on action. What did you do during this activity?
The point of this exercise is to exercise your brainstorming muscles and get you thinking about specific stories from your life. You need clarity of thought for the Rice essays because you don’t have much of a word count to work with.
Clarity equals better writing. This exercise should help you write the essays below.
Get personalized advice!
“why this major” at rice.
Short Answer Question #1: Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected above. (150 word limit)
In your application to Rice, you’re required to indicate an interest in one of the university’s six academic schools: architecture, engineering, humanities, music, natural sciences, or social sciences.
Although this decision isn’t binding—you can change schools after being accepted to Rice—the university does specify that they’re expecting a thoughtful answer to this question.
Each academic school is looking for different “strengths and qualities” in applicants, so Rice recommends choosing the school “in which you feel the most confident of your abilities and interests.”
- Keeping this in mind, focus on how your abilities and interests make you a good fit for the school you’ve selected.
- You may wish to describe a brief anecdote that illustrates your passion or talent for the area of study you’ve chosen.
- The anecdote should comprise action items that address how you took the initiative to explore this intended major.
You should also do some research on your school of choice.
- Find classes, research opportunities, or even professors that spark your interest.
- How will an education from this particular school help you reach your future goals?
- Mention these details in your application, being as specific as possible .
- If you’ve visited the campus before, did you sit in on a lecture that excited you?
- Did you hear intriguing information from students enrolled in your school of interest?
Including details like these in your essay can show that you’re genuinely interested in Rice and would be a good fit for the school.
Just remember, you don’t have much room to work with, so if you’re going to discuss another interest alongside your intended major, keep it short and related to the rest of the essay.
Don’t swerve into something random because you think it’ll catch the attention of the admissions officer – not only will it fail to do that, but you’ll ruin the narrative of this essay.
- Last, if you don’t know what you want to do after college, pick a major that relates closely to your passions and initiatives.
Pick something that can be buttressed with supporting details from your life – projects, volunteer opportunities, research assignments.
“Why Rice University” Essay
Short Answer Question #2: Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? (150 word limit)
This is the classic “ Why This College ” essay, only much shorter. This college application essay question aims to determine whether you truly have a profound interest in attending Rice University.
Again, research is key.
- Try to strike a balance between discussing academic opportunities and more “sociocultural” elements of the university.
- Mention clubs or student organizations that you’d like to participate in, or something that captivated you on a campus visit.
Additional helpful tips for this essay include:
- If you can, reach out to current Rice students and ask them about the atmosphere and culture of the university.
- Avoid generic answers about the “student-faculty ratio,” the “renowned faculty,” or the school’s “prestige,” along with information you’ve clearly lifted from the front page of the university’s website. Dig deeper.
- Never mention: Campus location, sports, and social life
You’ll also want to avoid repeating the information mentioned in your response to Short Answer Question #1.
To help you brainstorm, think about the following:
- How did your first impression of Rice motivate you to apply?
- And after this initial motivation, what more did you learn about Rice that helped your interest grow?
- Convey enthusiasm and a deeper knowledge of Rice than the average applicant might possess.
All in all, your essay should be structured something like this:
- Quickly mention or explain what you love about the Rice undergraduate experience.
- Demonstrate your connection to it.
Keep in mind that the more specific you are, the better. Mention proper nouns. Discuss items not found on other college campuses.
Here’s a good test to determine whether your essay is quality: Copy and paste this essay into another school’s “Why This College” essay. If the essay fits, then it’s too generic. You want an essay that is custom-tailored to Rice.
Contributing to Rice Essay
Unless you’re applying to the School of Architecture, you’ll have 500 words to answer the following question:
You may want to start by brainstorming a list of life experiences and/or cultural traditions that have shaped your personality and identity.
- This can be challenging, so feel free to ask friends and family members for their strongest memory of you .
- You can also ask how they would describe you, then try to come up with experiences you’ve had that demonstrate these key qualities.
Whatever experience you choose to discuss, follow two major guidelines:
- Don’t talk about something you’ve already described in your Common App essay. These essays should complement one another, each revealing a different piece of the puzzle that makes you “you.”
- Show, don’t tell. As we’ve recommended for other essay questions, choose an anecdote that “shows” your answer to the question instead of simply “telling” it. Use vivid details to make your experience memorable and engaging for the admissions team.
Overall, this is a broad question that can inspire many different approaches. Don’t panic because you think you aren’t “unique” enough.
No other student can offer the same combination of qualities that you have.
Here are some great questions you can ask yourself to find a powerful topic:
- What is the most significant contribution I’ve made to my high school community, extracurricular activity group, or community outside of school?
- Name an important lesson or two I’ve learned through my struggles both in and outside of school. How can I teach those lessons to others?
- What is my greatest talent, and how has it manifested in the real world?
- Have I collaborated to create something meaningful? What was it, and what can I do to further improve my efforts?
Here’s an example outline of this essay:
- I worked as a STEM tutor for underclassmen at my high school at ethnic community center.
- During my tenure as a tutor, I relived how challenging it is for younger students to ask the older ones for assistance. It can be intimidating and downright scary.
- I learned the values of mentorship and asking vulnerable people if they need help. On Rice’s campus, I’ll volunteer with underclassmen (and even upperclassmen) who are falling behind their class curriculum.
- After tutoring, I utilized my coding skills and developed my collaboration skills by creating an Andriod app that connects students to on-campus tutors.
- On Rice campus, I want to fully implement this app. I also want to take busines classes and learn how to transform this app into a commercial venture.
Try to come up with a meaningful experience that’s central to who you are as an individual, and you’ll write a powerful essay that stands out!
School of Architecture Essays
Instead of writing the longer essay mentioned above, School of Architecture students must respond to two 250-word essay questions.
Architecture Question #1: Why are you determined to study architecture? Could you please elaborate on your past experiences and how they have motivated you to apply to Rice University and the School of Architecture in particular? (250 word limit)
This question is similar to Short Answer Question #1, so be careful not to repeat information you’ve already shared.
Note that while the short answer question asked why you chose architecture over the other schools, this essay is more about your direct relationship with the field of architecture.
- Do you have specific goals related to your pursuit of architecture?
- Is someone in your family an architect who has inspired you?
- Can you think of a building or landmark, other than extremely famous ones, that ignited your passion for architecture?
Another idea is to think of qualities that are important for architects, such as creativity or attention to detail, and writing about experiences that have helped you develop these characteristics.
- Did you build a treehouse for your younger siblings?
- Were you a baseball umpire who used right angles and tools to create foul lines and meticulously enforce the strike zone?
- Perhaps you built a collection of birdhouses for seasonal birds that frequented your backyard.
Whatever your choice, connect it directly to architecture.
Architecture Question #2: Please expand on relevant experiences and motivations outside of your academic trajectory that have inspired you to study architecture, focusing on aspects that are not accommodated by other prompts in the application. (250 word limit)
As always, don’t strive simply to impress here. Be honest. This is a chance to reveal something unexpected and interesting about yourself.
- One rule of thumb, however, is to try to choose a topic about you actively doing something, instead of simply discussing your favorite TV show.
- If, however, you can take a unique approach, like relating a character’s journey to your own, then you may be able to write a great essay.
Brainstorm a list of activities and interests that challenge you or ignite your passion. It’s okay to choose an unconventional topic, but explain why you enjoy it so much and how it has shaped or influenced you.
Remember, for most students, what you enjoy or find challenging should be action-related. You should be perorming the action to practice this activity or pursue this interest. Examples include:
- Building lego spaceships
- Cleaning the litter at a local river every Sunday
- Teaching your little sister geograpy, which she seems to hate
- Taking apart and re-assembling computers
Don’t forget to explain why you love the activity or interest. Does it…
- …free your mind from daily stresses?
- …give you a sense of safety?
- …remind you of your parents?
Since this essay is all about what you enjoy in your free time, make sure your tone conveys real enthusiasm. Talk about something that genuinely excites you.
Then, connect it to architecture. Make a simple outline to visualize the link between the activity that you chose and architecture. It should look like this:
- Activity that you enjoy actively doing
- How it’s connected to architecture
- How it has encouraged you to pursue architecture
This structure will help you focus on your story.
“The Box” is a photoresponse with the following instructions:
In keeping with Rice’s long-standing tradition (known as “The Box”), please share an image of something that appeals to you.
You aren’t allowed to write an accompanying explanation, so try to choose an image that can speak for itself or in some way relates to the information in your application or essays.
Due to its unique nature, this prompt often baffles applicants.
- Keep in mind that there’s no “right” answer to this question, and the image you select is extremely unlikely to make or break your application.
- Places that have been important to you (even something as simple as a favorite park bench)
- A favored keepsake or meaningful object
- One of your role models in action
- Artistic portrayals of your values or important qualities
- Uncommon or hidden locations
- Portraits of a family member
- Old pictures you own
- Memories that inspire growth
The key to answering “The Box” is to steer clear of overused responses like a sunset or the Eiffel Tower.
Because there are so many options to choose from (after all, there are millions of interesting images out there), you want to choose something specifically appealing to you. To emphasize, don’t pick a cliche.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Once you choose your image, ask yourself how “unique” the image is. You don’t need something from a deep corner of the Internet, but is it a cliché?
- Can the image be easily explained and, thus, forgotten? You don’t want an image that a large plurality of students will use.
- What is the essence of the image? Don’t make it too complex or simple – you should be able to explain why you chose it.
- Use the Google test: If the image, or a similar one, can be found on the first page of Google Images, it might be a cliché.
Don’t overthink it—just be honest! Rice knows that this is an unconventional and challenging prompt.
Conclusion: How to Write the Rice University Essays
In order to apply to Rice, you’ll need to complete three short answer questions, a photo response, and either a 500-word essay or, if you’re applying to the School of Architecture, two 250-word essays.
As you answer these questions, remember to be authentic, enthusiastic, and specific. Do your research when needed, and connect your answers back to your identity, values, and/or interest in Rice.
Following these tips just might help you join the Rice Owls in the fall. Good luck!
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