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Not sure how to approach the American University supplement essay? With advice from a trained Admissions Expert, CollegeAdvisor.com’s guide to the American University essay prompts can help you stand out to the American University admissions committee.


If you need help developing your American University essay, create your free account or call (844) 343-6272 to schedule your complimentary advising consultation.

American University Supplemental Essays Guide: Quick Facts

  • U.S. News ranks American University at #79 in National Universities.
  • U.S. News classifies American University as a “more selective school,” with an acceptance rate of 39%.
  • Because there are not multiple American University essay prompts, we recommend completing the American University supplement carefully and thoughtfully.

How do I get into American University?

Before we dive into the American University supplement essay, let’s look at how to maximize your admissions odds. Since the American University admissions committee only accepts 39% of applicants, your American University supplement is incredibly important. 

High grades and test scores can help you impress the American University admissions committee. However, grades and scores alone won’t be enough to stand out in the American University admissions process. 

Last year, the average student admitted to American University had a GPA of 3.65. The middle 50% of admitted students scored 1220-1390 on the SAT and 27-32 on the ACT. So, if your scores are in or above that range, don’t forget to submit them. 

However, if you didn’t score well on standardized tests, that doesn’t mean you won’t be accepted. As a test-optional school, American University does not require you to submit SAT or ACT scores. Additionally, a strong overall application can overcome a slightly lower test score.  

Application options

The American University admissions committee accepts both the Common Application or the Coalition Application. You will also submit the American University supplement. On your Common or Coalition Application, you will report your GPA and courses, share your extracurricular involvement, and write a short personal statement. Each part of the application lets you show the American University admissions team what makes you unique. 

Admission to a selective school like American University depends on many factors, including the American University essay prompts. While grades and scores matter, the American University admissions committee also considers things like writing skills and personal qualities. They also evaluate whether American University is the right fit for you. 

To determine these more abstract metrics, the committee relies on the Common/Coalition App Personal Statement and the American University supplement essay. The American University essay prompts, therefore, let you show why you belong at American University. Below, you’ll find additional tips on how to write a strong “Why American University essay.”   

For more information about the Common Application Personal Statement, click here.  

Does American University Require any Supplemental Essays?

Yes. There is one American University essay that students must complete—the “Why American University essay.” Since there are not multiple American University essay prompts, you should do all you can to make this essay count. 

You only have 150 words to use in this American University supplement essay. Although the American University essay prompt is short, that doesn’t make it easier to complete. The difficulty lies in writing about a broad topic in a small amount of space. 

Your American University essay is your only chance beyond your Common App essay to showcase your writing skills. As such, your American University supplement can make a major difference in your application. A strong American University supplement essay, then, will increase your admissions odds. 

If you’re not sure where to begin, don’t worry. Below, we’ve provided a detailed guide on how to write a successful “Why American University essay.” 

What are American University’s Essays?

Why are you interested in American University? (150 words max.)

As we discussed, there are not multiple American University essay prompts. Take advantage of your one chance to impress the American University admissions committee!

You might be familiar with “Why School essays” from other supplements. So, approach the “Why American University essay” with the same strategy that you might have used on other applications. Namely, your essay should show the American University admissions committee why you belong at their school. 

This essay also helps the American University admissions committee envision you on campus. The committee wants to admit students who will enrich their community. Your American University essay, then, should show how you’d actively contribute to campus life. 

Standing out

No matter your interests, showing passion and leadership will help you stand out. In your American University supplement, therefore, you should highlight exactly how you’d engage with American University and its offerings.  

This American University supplement also assesses how well a student fits in with the school’s culture. American University Admissions doesn’t just want to know why you want to attend their school; they also want to know if their school will serve your needs. 

With this in mind, do some research before writing your American University supplement. The “Why American University essay” reveals how much you know about American University. It also shows how you’ll take advantage of the resources the school provides. The best essays will show specific knowledge about American University and provide strong evidence that the writer will succeed on campus.

Demonstrate your interest

Also, pay attention to how this prompt uses the word “interested.” In your American University supplement essay, you should show “demonstrated interest,” or DI. Universities often use DI as a tool to measure exactly how much a student wants to attend. Since “why school” essays are useful for determining DI, many universities use questions like the American University essay prompts in their supplements.

Now that you know more about the American University supplement essay, let’s look at how to write it. You can also use the tips in this guide to answer similar questions on other university supplements. If you apply anywhere else with a “why us” essay, the information below will help you complete supplicants like the American University essay prompts.

How do I Write American University’s Supplemental Essay?

Writing the “Why American University essay” starts with brainstorming the reasons why you want to attend. Even if American University is not your top choice, you should still have specific reasons why it interests you. The American University admissions team wants to know these reasons!

Think about why you would want to attend American University. Ask yourself what specific aspects of American University most interest you, and make a list. If you’re struggling, do some more research on the school. What extracurriculars does it offer that align with your interests? What academic programs seem exciting to you?

Focus on the details

Once you have your list, make the details as specific as possible. For example, if you wrote down that you like American’s academic programs, try to find a specific discipline or major that American University offers. If you wrote that you enjoy the setting in Washington D.C., you could narrow down a specific aspect of the city that you hope to visit as a student. The more specific and personal your reasons for applying are, the more the American University admissions committee will want to admit you. 

Then, narrow down your list to two or three specific areas of interest to discuss in detail. Because you only have 150 words in this American University supplement essay, you likely can’t mention every item on your list and stay within the word limit. So, instead of listing everything that interests you in your “Why American University essay,” focus on the most significant items. Although this significance can be subjective, you should likely discuss the programs and offerings that will most influence your choice to attend.

Do your research

After you have your topics, do some more research. Find out exactly how American University will help you pursue your interests. Your American University supplement essay will be more effective if you can reference traditions, specific academic courses, or other opportunities. This shows the American University admissions committee why the school is a good fit for you. Some good ways to get that information include:

  • Visiting the school’s website: You can look up specific course offerings, browse extracurricular activities, and explore various aspects of student life. Just be sure you use the school’s official page or another trusted source.
  • Speaking to a current or former student: If someone you know attends American University or has recently graduated, reach out to them. Their insights can help you connect your interests with specific opportunities at American University.
  • Attending a college fair: These events give you a chance to talk to American University admissions representatives about your interests. They also let you gather more information about the school. Plus, speaking to a representative at a college fair is a great way to show DI!

You should also mention any interactions you have had with students or staff in your American University supplement essay. Whether you visit the school (either in-person or virtually) or simply email an American University admissions counselor, every engagement with American University shows your demonstrated interest. Referencing these conversations in your American University supplement essay reinforces the research that you have done and shows how proactive you are. 

Find a hook

As you begin your “Why American University essay,” start with an interesting hook or topic sentence to grab your reader’s attention. If possible, avoid the standard: “The first reason I want to attend American University is…” because it sounds plain and formulaic. Think about immersing your reader into a story instead of restating the prompt. Some examples of strong introductions include:

  • A description of how you first heard about American University: Opening with the story of a memorable campus visit or an anecdote told by a family member about American University can be effective. This introduction establishes an immediate, personal connection with the American University admissions team.
  • A career or academic goal that American University will help you achieve: If you already know what career or major you want to pursue, this is a great way to make your intentions known. The rest of your American University essay can then explain why this school will help you achieve your goals.
  • A special or unique feature about American University: In your research, you may have encountered a tradition, club, class, or professor that makes American University stand out. Mentioning this in the opening sentence shows that you understand what sets American University apart from other schools.

In the body of your “Why American University essay,” stay focused on your core themes. Remember, you may not have enough room to address everything you want to say. Find the essential aspects of American University that make it the ideal school for you. Then, use them as the foundation of your American University supplement essay.

Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Does this essay show you’ve done research on American University?
  • Do you explain why American University is a good fit for you?
  • Does this essay reference specific qualities about American University?
  • Do you use an interesting hook or introductory sentence?
  • Does this essay describe your reasons for applying to American University? 

Want more advice about writing your American University supplement essay? Check out this video from American University admissions for additional tips on what to include!

American University Supplement Essay: Final Thoughts

When reviewing your American University supplement, the American University admissions team wants to see answers to two distinct questions: “what does this student know about our school” and “what makes our school a good fit for this student.”  Understanding these two implied questions behind the “Why American University essay” will help you craft the best possible response.

To answer the first question, let your research shine through in your essay. Use specific examples to let the American University admissions team know that you know a lot about the school. Finally, make sure your American University essay reflects what you might pursue in college.

To answer the second question, make sure you clearly articulate your goals. You want to connect those goals to opportunities at American University and explain how this particular school will help you achieve them. If the topics discussed in your American University essay could apply to any other college, look for more specific details.  

Finally, don’t hesitate to have someone else look over your American University essay before you submit it. A second pair of eyes can help you see ways to improve your writing that you may have missed! 


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This 2021-2022 essay guide on American University was written by Alex Baggott-Rowe, Davidson ‘16. For more CollegeAdvisor.com resources on essay writing and the American University essay, click here. Want help crafting your American University supplemental essay? Create your free account or schedule a complimentary advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.