How to answer the Georgetown supplement

college admissions Common Application supplements

All universities value applicants who have thought through their reasons for applying. Georgetown takes it to the next level: more than a decade after all other major universities made the switch to the Common App, Georgetown remains the lone holdout. “We’re encouraging students to express themselves to us, rather than to a common process,” says Charles Deacon, the university’s longtime admissions dean. By filling out Georgetown’s independent application, students show that they are willing to jump through an extra hoop to study at the university. It is a sign of commitment.

Georgetown’s supplemental essay question is another way the university screens for applicants who have researched the school. It asks, “What does it mean to you to be educated? How might Georgetown College help you to achieve this aim?” As an applicant, this is your chance to show what the school can offer you—and what you can offer the school.

Part I: What does it mean to you to be educated?

The admissions committee wants to hear what education means to you, so you should feel free to define education as broadly or narrowly as you like. Perhaps your lifelong dream is to become a professor, in which case you may have a very academic definition of education. But you should also know that there can be more to it than book learning. Your idea of education can include friendships, sports, mental wellness, networking, internships, travel, the arts, spirituality, or any other field that adds to the development of a human being. 

Such a broad-ranging definition of education would be particularly welcome at Georgetown, where the Latin term cura personalis—“care of the whole person”—adorns banners on campus. Georgetown College’s website explains that the phrase “means that the university is committed not just to your academic achievement, but also your mental and physical health, your spiritual growth, and your development as a citizen of the world.” It empowers you to define education creatively.

To determine what education means to you, jot down bullet points, draft mini essays, or meditate on the best moments of your education to date. What is it that has most excited you about learning? What is it that has most deterred you? What are you are most looking forward to changing in the future? Pondering these questions will help you come up with a personal vision of education. 

Once you’ve done that, consider starting your essay by explaining why education holds a certain meaning for you. As the author Simon Sinek explains, “regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY—our driving purpose, cause or belief—never changes.” Starting with your why will give the admissions committee a sense of your mission in life. It will also pack a punch. If you were hiring doctors, which of the two cover letters would appeal to you more? One that says “As an emergency-room physician, I am applying for a vacancy at your hospital?” Or one that says, “As an emergency-room physician determined to give patients the highest standard of care, I am applying for a vacancy at your hospital?” Of course, it is the second sentence, the one that starts with purpose.

Illustrate your vision of education with examples. You can write of a book that hooked you, an opera that ignited your passion for music, or a teacher who got you on the right track. Always prefer the specific to the general. The weight of concrete fact will give your essay the heft it needs to sway the admissions committee.

Finally, remember that Georgetown is mostly concerned with the next step in your education—that is, going to college. There is no need to draw up an educational masterplan for life. Your education will continue well past your time at Georgetown, but the admissions committee does not expect you to say how. College will doubtless modify your educational philosophy in ways that are impossible to forecast. Majors may change. So may graduate-school plans and dream jobs. That is especially true in a liberal-arts school like Georgetown College, where students are required to study a broad range of subjects.  The admissions committee understands all this, so you should not feel obliged to manufacture a long-term plan. It is okay to think just one step ahead.

Part II: How might Georgetown College help you to achieve this aim?

This is really a question about two schools. You will need to show why you chose to apply to Georgetown University and, within that, Georgetown College. You may find it helpful to break your response into two parts.

First, show that you’ve done your homework about Georgetown University and Georgetown College. You will want to research courses, professors, dormitories, study abroad, clubs, societies, journals, advising services, social life, bands, orchestras, theatre groups, majors, minors, and other offerings at the school. Explain how these will help you pursue your vision of education as discussed above. Your answer to Part II would ideally flow from Part I.

Don’t say too much that you can copy and paste into an application to another university. Georgetown’s expansive course catalog may push along your intellectual development, but so will those of many other universities. The more specific you can be about Georgetown’s fit, the higher your odds of admission.

Likewise, stay away from run-of-the-mill reasons of interest. The admissions team will be well aware that Georgetown is in America’s capital, where students have access to a multitude of internships. That is a sound reason to go to Georgetown, but it will not set your application apart.

Second, explain not only what Georgetown can do for you; also explain what you can do for Georgetown. The university seeks those who will contribute to campus life, because its success depends on engaged students. Perhaps you edited your high-school newspaper and would like to take your skills to a student-run journal at Georgetown. Or maybe you are an athlete and are keen on joining one of Georgetown’s club teams. Let the admissions team know. They will appreciate that you have thought about contributing to campus life.

Arshan attends Yale Law and holds an MS in African Studies (Oxford) and a BS in Foreign Service & International Politics (Georgetown). He's a published author and an officer in the US Army Reserve.

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