Type to search

Portland State University | PSU

Portland, Oregon4-yearPublic

Want to see your chances of admission at Portland State University | PSU?

We take every aspect of your personal profile into consideration when calculating your admissions chances.

Portland State University | PSU’s 2023-24 Essay Prompts

Honors College Essay

Not Required
800 Words

If you would like, please let us know anything else you would like the faculty to consider as they read your application (life circumstances, extracurricular activities, etc). This is purely optional and applicants who do not choose to add additional information will not be affected.

Select-A-Prompt Short Response

500 Words

Respond to either Essay Prompt 1a or Essay Prompt 1b with a 300-500 word carefully composed essay.

Option 1

In her essay, “Peculiar Benefits,” the African American writer Roxane Gay writes the following: “Privilege is a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor. There is racial privilege, gender (and identity) privilege, heterosexual privilege, economic privilege, able-bodied privilege, educational privilege, religious privilege and the list goes on and on. At some point, you have to surrender to the kinds of privilege you hold because everyone has something someone else doesn’t . . . . Privilege is relative and contextual. Few people in this world, and particularly in the United States, have no privilege at all. Among those of us who participate in intellectual communities, privilege runs rampant. We have disposable time and the ability to access the Internet regularly. We have the freedom to express our opinions without the threat of retaliation. We have smart phones and iProducts and desktops and laptops. If you are reading this essay, you have some kind of privilege. It may be hard to hear that, I know, but if you cannot recognize your privilege, you have a lot of work to do; get started.”

For this essay, show how you think with and respond to another writer. In a carefully crafted and well-organized essay of 300-500 words, describe what you understand Gay to be saying about privilege. Additionally, discuss what strikes you as significant about Gay’s understanding of privilege and why.

Option 2

In the introduction to his book The Lies that Bind: Rethinking Identity the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah states: "There’s no dispensing with identities, but we need to understand them better if we can hope to reconfigure them, and free ourselves from mistakes about them that are often a couple of hundred years old. Much of what is dangerous about them has to do with the way identities—religion, nation, race, class, and culture—divide us and set us against one another. They can be the enemies of human solidarity, the sources of war, horsemen of a score of apocalypses from apartheid to genocide. Yet these errors are also central to the way identities unite us today. We need to reform them because, at their best, they make it possible for groups, large and small, to do things together. They are the lies that bind."

For this essay, show how you think with and respond to another writer. In a carefully crafted and well-organized essay of 300-500 words address the following questions: What do you think Appiah means by the "lies that bind" and how would you relate this to ways you think about identity?

Common App Personal Essay

650 words

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.

Option 1

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.

Option 2

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?

Option 3

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Option 4

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?

Option 5

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Option 6

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?

Option 7

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?

Join thousands of students getting and giving peer feedback on college essays—all for free!