Writing the Wake Forest Application Essays: Showcasing Individuality
UPDATE! The Wake Forest application prompts have been updated for 2020-21. Check out our new guide!
Wake Forest College, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, prepares its students to be informed citizens and compassionate community members. The Wake Forest application essay prompts touch on these values, but they also provide you ample opportunity to be creative and showcase your unique outlook on life.
Without further ado, take out a fresh sheet of paper or open up a new Word document, and get ready to do some freewriting!
1a. List 5 books you have read that intrigued you.
Questions to consider: What books did you enjoy discussing in English class? What intriguing books have you read on your own? What books took you out of your comfort zone? What books have you gotten lost in?
This prompt doesn’t give you room to explain your choices. As you build your list, aim for honesty and variety, instead of trying to impress the reader.
1b. As part of my high-school English curriculum, I was required to read _________.
I would have liked to replace it with______.
The required book I was most surprised I enjoyed was ________.
Questions to consider: What required reading did you least enjoy? Why do you think your teacher assigned it? Can you think of any other books with similar themes or stylistic elements that you would be more excited to read?
The second book you choose should be a logical replacement for the book you would prefer to remove from the curriculum. For example, you may have been required to read A Passage to India by Rudyard Kipling, which represents British-occupied India from the perspective of colonizers. You might choose, instead, a work that explores the impact of colonialism on a colonized community, such as Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
1c. Tell us how a work of fiction you’ve read has helped you to understand the world’s complexity (300 words)
Questions to consider: Can you think of a time that a book helped you understand someone very different from you? Have you read any books that expanded your awareness of a pressing social issue? Which books do you associate with pivotal times in your life?
Of all the Wake Forest application essays, this one has the highest word limit. Take advantage of the extra space to (briefly) summarize the book you choose, in case the reader isn’t familiar with it, but make sure to spend the majority of your essay describing why this book is meaningful to you.
2. What piques your intellectual curiosity, and why? (75-150 words)
Questions to consider: What are some broad topics that you’re interested in? What are some more specific questions that come up when you think about those topics? What do you ponder in the shower? What academic interests have you continued to explore outside of school?
The more specific you can be in your response, the better. For instance, rather than stating that you’re interested in theatre, you might tell the reader that you’re curious about how immersive theatrical experiences like Sleep No More are made.
3. As part of our “Voices of Our Time” series — which allows students, faculty, and staff to hear from some of the world’s leading thinkers — Wake Forest has hosted Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Alexander, Eboo Patel, and Thomas Friedman. If you could choose the next series speaker, whom would you pick, and why? (150 words)
Questions to consider: Are there any artists, scientists, or public figures whose work really inspires you? Why? How might their perspective benefit the wider Wake Forest community?
This question provides an opportunity for you to showcase your intellectual interests and your values. But you’ll also need to make a case for why the person you choose is a good fit for the “Voices of Our Time” series!
4. Give us your top ten list.
Questions to consider: What are you obsessed with? What do you think about at least once per day? If you could be doing anything right now, what would it be?
Do be aware of how the reader might perceive your list. For example, listing your top ten serial killers is the fastest way to rejection. But you could totally provide a top ten list of true crime podcasts!
5. At Wake Forest, we gather our students in “Calls to Conversation,” congregating small groups around dinner tables in faculty’s and administrators’ homes to discuss topics organized around a theme, for example “arts for social change,” “gender in society,” and “leading a meaningful life.” If you could design a theme for a “Call to Conversation,” what would you choose, and why? (150 words)
Questions to consider: Which of your recent personal experiences have inspired you to reflect more on your life or the community you live in? What are you questioning right now? What change do you hope to see in your lifetime? What do you hope to gain by discussing this topic with others?
Rather than choosing a partisan issue, think about topics that could inspire meaningful conversation across lines of difference.
6. We live in an age intensely interested in heroes. Professor Joseph Campbell defined “hero” as “someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Describe a hero in public life and how and why, in your opinion, they meet Professor Campbell’s definition. (150 words)
Questions to consider: What aspect of contemporary life do you value most? Why? Who are the “heroes” who brought about this reality? What sacrifices did they have to make to improve the world?
You can set yourself apart by identifying a hero who isn’t a household name. For example, instead of choosing Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, you might write about Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who demonstrated that children in Flint, Michigan had been exposed to lead.
If you apply with the Wake Forest University application instead of the Common App or Coalition App, you’ll need to respond to an additional prompt:
We are all different, and our lived experiences — influenced by our culture, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and/or religion — shape our understanding of the world.
How have your experiences shaped your development, and how do you plan to use those experiences to interact and engage with others who might be different from you within our Wake Forest Community? (~600 words)
Questions to consider: How have the communities you belong to nurtured your growth and made you a better person? What makes your understanding of the world unique? What new communities do you hope to engage with at Wake Forest? What values will guide your interactions with these communities?
This question has two parts, so make sure you answer both! You’ll want to locate a clear “guiding message” for your essay and support it with examples from your life.
Once you’ve reflected on these questions, you’ll be well on your way to set of Wake Forest application essays that showcase your individuality!