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Northwestern Essay Prompts

This is a college essay submitted by a student who graduated from Northwestern University. Hopefully from reading this essay, you will be able to gain a better idea of what Northwestern University is looking for when answering the question, “Why Northwestern”. As you read this Why Northwestern college essay example, think about what you know about the school that really makes it resonate with you.

Prompt: What are the unique qualities of Northwestern — and of the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying — that make you want to attend the University? In what ways do you hope to take advantage of the qualities you have identified?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply!” As potent as knowledge is, it is useless by itself. Only when we use the power that knowledge grants us can we surpass our own limits and achieve the extraordinary. For as long as I can remember, I have always been a doer. When I was four years old, I constructed a bridge made of pillows (and actually tried to cross it). Even though I was pretty bruised up after that incident, I never gave up that desire to apply what I knew. By the time I was thirteen, I had built my own computer with no instructions at all. Today, I am programming a momentum indicator for stocks. I believe innovation is the pinnacle of human imagination, and for that reason, I want to major in Computer Engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering.

Upon witnessing the smooth, sleek power of my friend’s gaming PC in the seventh grade, I knew I wanted my own. After months of persuasion and persistence, my parents consented to buying me one, but I proposed to them that I would build it instead. Although they were hesitant at first, I convinced them that it would cost less for more performance and give me a chance to engineer something on my own. Two weeks later, I had the parts sitting in my living room. I was bewildered at first; I had no idea how a computer was assembled and the instruction manuals were less than helpful. I took a step back, drew a diagram, and wrote out a step-by-step plan on how I was going to build it. Eight hours of trial and error later, I pressed the power button and was thrilled to see my monitor light up.

However, I was not about to get complacent just yet. The next day, staying true to my philosophy of doing more with less, I wanted to figure out how to enhance performance without decreasing stability. I turned to overclocking, which involved experimenting with the frequency multiplier and the FSB (Front Side Bus) clock in the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) settings of my computer. After many days of experimentation and stress testing, I succeeded in stabilizing my processor to function at 2.75GhZ. But it did not end there; to this very day, I still enjoy the challenge of diagnosing and fixing computer problems for my family and friends.

As thrilling as finding the solution to a computer conundrum is, there is something lacking in what I do. It is as if I am solving practice problems instead of innovating. That is why I find the McCormick School of Engineering so appealing; its emphasis on creativity coincides with my future goals. Ultimately, I want to do more than fix or install; I want to design the latest cutting-edge technology. At McCormick, I will be able to participate in projects my first year, which will provide valuable hands-on experience.

In addition, the internship opportunities allow me to connect with prospective employers, such as AMD and Intel. In addition, I can pursue my other interests at Northwestern and give back to the community. I will join the Undergraduate Economics Society and the Undergraduate Investment Banking Club as an aspiring entrepreneur. By the time I am a senior, I want to be able to give a helping hand to a freshman who shares the same ideals and goals as I do. In addition, Northwestern gives me a chance to be independent and pursue my own projects; I am thrilled that I will be able to design and test my own microprocessor in the Microprocessor System Projects course. Given chances to innovate both on my own and interact with peers, I feel I will be right at home at Northwestern.

It’s true that the Northwestern University offers a world-class education with fascinating courses like Artificial Intelligence Programming and Microprocessor System Design. However, I want to go to Northwestern for more than just what the classroom has to offer; I want to explore. I want to immerse myself with peers who share my passions. Most of all, I want to realize my dreams and see my ideas become a reality.

Photo by Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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Northwestern University 2017-18 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

The Requirements: 1 essay of 300 words or less

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why

Is it a mirage? No it’s the Northwestern supplement. And yes, it only has one (1!) solitary question. But when a school like Northwestern (with its 10.7% acceptance rate) lobs you a softball, you’ve got to wonder, “what’s the catch?” Hint: a seemingly easy supplement means that you have no excuse to slack off, no reason to cut corners. Your final draft had better be a sparkling example of your best writing, showcasing your best self (and your best spelling!). So what are you waiting for?

Other parts of your application give us a sense for how you might contribute to Northwestern. But we also want to consider how Northwestern will contribute to your interests and goals.


In 300 words or less, help us understand what aspects of Northwestern appeal most to you, and how you’ll make use of specific resources and opportunities here.

This is a why essay without the word “why” in its confines, but make no mistake: it’s putting you to the same test. As you likely already know, a why essay is the classic litmus test for your fit and commitment. Do you want what the school has to offer? How much do you even care? Demonstrating a depth of knowledge will address both of these questions, so put on your researching glasses and fire up the Internet! Spend some time on the Northwestern website digging beyond the basic admissions facts and figures. What classes would you take? What special programs or centers appeal to you? What activities would you pursue? Your final list doesn’t have to be comprehensive (you only have 300 words, after all), but it should be cohesive. In the end, you need to describe how you plan to “make use of” Northwestern’s many offerings, so pick a few that go together. Love birds? Why not extol the interdisciplinary benefits of studying biology at one of the few institutions to house a complete set of Audubon’s Birds of America? You get the idea!