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Washington and Lee University

Lexington, Virginia4-yearPrivate

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Washington and Lee University’s 2023-24 Essay Prompts

Why This College Short Response

Not Required
250 Words

Please describe how you have familiarized yourself with Washington and Lee University and what aspects of W&L‘s community are most exciting to you.

Select-A-Prompt Essay

800 Words

In 800 words or less, please respond to one of the following:

Option 1

"To promote literature in this rising empire and to encourage the arts, have ever been amongst the warmest wishes of my heart." (George Washington, 1798, first president of the United States and first major benefactor of Washington and Lee University) Describe a work of art that has influenced you, and discuss the impact it has had on you.

Option 2

In mathematics, the shortest distance between two points on a flat surface is a straight line. While geometry is predictable, sometimes day-to-day life is not. Reflect on a time when your path was not as simple or direct as anticipated. How did you manage, and what did you learn?

Option 3

We live in a world in which much of our self-representation is curated online via short-lived social media ‘stories’ and disappearing photos. What photo or other representation of yourself is authentically you? What does it say about your growth into the person you are today and the person you want to become? Please use only the words in your essay to address this question. Do not include photographs or other materials in your answer.

Option 4

W&L’s Spring Term is a four-week, intensive experience during which students take only one course, allowing for undivided attention to the subject matter. Spring Term courses are known for innovative pedagogy, interdisciplinary scholarship, travel, and fieldwork in diverse settings. If you could design a Spring Term course, what would you propose, and why would you choose to pursue that topic?

Option 5

In his October 1963, A Talk to Teachers, James Baldwin said “…the whole process of education occurs within a social framework and is designed to perpetuate the aims of society.” Yet, as he aptly notes, “the paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated."  Baldwin suggests that the purpose of education is to teach us to think for ourselves, to question – and change – the “framework” that we have come to understand and accept. What norms of your home or community have you become conscious of during your time in high school, and how would you like to use that knowledge to make it a better place?

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.

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