barnard essay examples

Barnard Essay Examples – Introduction

If you are looking for Barnard Essay examples you’ve come to the right place. But, before we dive into how to write Barnard supplemental essays and explore six real Barnard essay examples, let’s talk a bit about the school itself.

First, Barnard College is a women’s liberal arts college in the heart of New York City. It is an elite institution, with the Barnard ranking at #18 in the Best Liberal Arts College list written by U.S. News. Barnard was the first university to confer degrees on women at its founding in 1889.

Barnard College is affiliated with the neighboring Columbia University. As a result, Barnard students have access to many Columbia resources while still benefiting from a liberal arts structure. Furthermore, its location within NYC means Barnard and its students live right within the city and everything New York has to offer.

Do you want to know how to get into Barnard? Do you hope to get accepted to this top-ranked women’s college? In this guide, we’ll cover a key part of the Barnard application: the Barnard supplemental essays. Not just tips, either—we’ll read several past Barnard supplemental essay examples and examine parts of those Barnard essays that worked.

Barnard Essay Examples Quick Facts:

  • Barnard acceptance rate: 11%. According to U.S. News, the Barnard ranking is most selective in terms of admissions.
  • Requirements for the Barnard supplemental essays: 
    • 2 required essays (<300 words)
    • 1 optional essay (<300 words)
  • Barnard application note: Barnard admissions accepts applications through the Common Application, Coalition Application, and QuestBridge.
  • Barnard Supplemental Essays Tip: Each of your Barnard essays should respond directly and thoughtfully to the prompt. Clearly demonstrate why you are a good fit for Barnard.

Does Barnard have a supplemental essay?

It’s probably clear from the title, but yes, there are Barnard supplemental essays. Let’s back up for a moment—what is a supplemental essay? Why do you need Barnard essays? Successful Barnard supplemental essays provide a dynamic snapshot of you and what you’re about. With the low Barnard acceptance rate, polished Barnard essays will maximize your chances of admission when you apply.

Barnard essays show the Barnard admissions team more about you. Who are you beyond your test scores and extracurriculars? Why are you applying to Barnard? With your Barnard essays, you can answer the Barnard admissions office’s questions. If you knock it out of the park like our Barnard supplemental essays examples, you may even get offered a spot.

How many essays does Barnard have?

There are three Barnard supplemental essays. These Barnard essays explore your intellectual curiosity, interest in Barnard, and personal values. Yes, these essays are in addition to your Common App or Coalition essay (sorry!). But they aren’t as long: Barnard essays are no more than 300 words. Moreover, one of the prompts is optional.

However, if you want to overcome the Barnard acceptance rate, you should write all three Barnard essays. The more your Barnard application tells the Barnard admissions team about yourself, the better. You have flexibility with the Barnard essays, so you can convey a lot. Use each of the Barnard essays to maximize your odds against the low Barnard acceptance rate.

Barnard Essay Prompts

Barnard supplemental essays for 2022–2023 are:

Required:

  • What factors encouraged your decision to apply to Barnard College and why do you think the college would be a good match for you? (300 words max)

  • At Barnard, academic inquiry starts with bold questions. What are some of the bold questions you have pondered that get you excited and why do they interest you? Tell us how you would explore these questions at Barnard. (300 words max)

Optional:

  • Pick one woman — a historical figure, fictitious character, or modern individual — to converse with for an hour and explain your choice. Why does this person intrigue you? What would you talk about? What questions would you ask them? (300 words max)

Of course, the prompts for Barnard essays can change between admissions cycles. If you’re a junior, you can still read these Barnard supplemental essays examples. Even if one or two Barnard essays are different next year, the strongest parts of Barnard essays that worked will still work. If you’re not applying to Barnard, these Barnard essay examples can also still help you write other essays.

Barnard Essay Examples

Now that we know the Barnard supplemental essay prompts, let’s look at some Barnard supplemental essays examples. We’ll look at six Barnard essays that worked and talk about why. Let’s start with the first question and some “Why Barnard” essay examples.

barnard essay examples

“Why Barnard” Essay Examples 

Before we jump into a “Why Barnard” essay example, we should look a bit more closely at the prompt. It’s essentially asking you two things:

You’ve probably encountered other “why this college” essays. So, these Barnard essay examples will look a bit familiar. But, a “Why Banard” essay example should be specific to Barnard’s opportunities and offerings. Barnard essays that worked are particular and personal to the school when n answering the prompt. At the same time, they use vivid and engaging language to tell the writer’s story in an eye-catching way.

Preparing for this essay

Most students will reference their intended major or minor in a “Why Barnard” essay example. You don’t necessarily have to—you could leave that for the second Barnard essay. On the other hand, your “bold question” may not pertain to your intended course of study. In any case, plan your Barnard essays in advance to minimize overlaps in content. Every word counts!

When brainstorming for this Barnard essay, think about why you want to attend Barnard. Be specific: if you want to attend a college in New York City, there are plenty of others. If it’s the Barnard ranking, there are many other highly ranked liberal arts colleges. Does Barnard have a particular course, club, or program that speaks to you? Are you drawn to the campus culture? Effective “Why Barnard” essay examples will have specific details while keeping you and your interests in focus.

Remember that the prompt is asking why Barnard is a good match for you, not the other way around. In other words, the Barnard ranking and stats are one thing—whether you’d be happy on campus is another. Look beyond the Barnard ranking; research the campus culture, student life, costs of attendance, and opportunities. How do they measure up to other schools? Is Barnard a good fit for you? Once you know that, it’ll be easier to answer that part of the prompt.

Now, let’s look at two Barnard essays that worked for this prompt.

“Why Barnard” Essay Example #1

Upon moving to America, I became the “token minority”. The culture, language, and tradition that I used to share with everyone are now viewed as “exotic”. However, at Barnard Bound, I got to be in a true diverse environment. For the first time in my life, I looked around the room and could not point out the dominant group. Instead, the diversity results in a wonderful collaborative and empowering atmosphere. It was the perfect blending of race, identities, and beliefs. As we took turns sharing our stories and uplifting each other through the stress of college admissions, I learned what it was like to not feel out of place in this melting pot country. 

However, it wasn’t until I heard the acknowledgement for the Lenape Indigeneous People that I knew this socially awareness environment is where I want to spend the next four years of my life. Under the oppressive communist regime of Vietnam, I had to stay silent in front of injustices that my countrymen faced. The feeling of helplessness fueled my desire to become a human rights activist. Throughout my childhood, I was too afraid to stand up for what I believe. I’m determined to use my voice to fight for justice. (As if fated, Barnard is one of the few schools to have a Human Rights concentration!!!)

After an incredible Barnard Bound weekend, I can’t help wanting to be at Barnard, where I will be in the diverse, supportive, and empowering community of social activists and scholars.

Why this essay worked

This “Why Barnard” essay example references Barnard Bound, a (currently) virtual program for prospective students. They can meet current Barnard students, faculty, alumni, and staff. During your college search, you should try to attend programs like this if possible. As you can see, they can yield many insights into whether the school is a good fit for you.

Remember the two components of this Barnard essay prompt? Look at how the writer addresses them here: they explain how their experience of Barnard Bound motivated them to apply. Then, notice how the writer links their personal experiences and values with Barnard. Not only do they indicate some specific things about Barnard, but they also make them personally relevant. In addition, effective Barnard essay examples use powerful language that evokes appropriately positive or negative feelings in the reader.

A common pitfall in “Why Barnard” essay examples—and “why” essays in general—is all facts and no feeling. In other words, Barnard essays may name-drop programs or features without firmly relating them to you or your values. Conversely, strong Barnard essay examples use personal experiences to tie the whole essay together. As a result, this “Why Barnard” essay example effectively conveys both the writer’s core motivations and how Barnard upholds them.

Barnard supplemental essays examples can be helpful for reference while planning and writing. Afterward, remember to ask for help when editing. A fresh pair of eyes can pick up areas for improvement. Ask someone you trust if your Barnard essays represent you well. Does it tell the reader who you are and how Barnard fits into your future?

“Why Barnard” Essay Example #2

I was introduced to Barnard by Kiana Davis, a Cohort 8 LEDA Scholar, and Barnard student. Kiana explained her transition from studying at a large public school, much like my own, to the intimate classroom experience created at Barnard. She spoke passionately about her fellow classmates who have built part of a satellite that is currently in space to dining with my favorite childhood character, Christy Carlson Romano (Kim Possible). Goosebumps ran through me as I desire to be part of a community that strives to confront the stereotypes of gender roles and female inferiority.

I believe that in New York City, I will be able to study the garbage system and create alternatives to produce clean energy that will reduce the ecological footprint left by our nation in one of the most polluted cities. I can envision myself examining the social and economic impact of global environmental change. Under Professor Martin Stute, I can conduct research projects on contaminated water and developing efficient ways to conserve and purify water resources globally through preserving major ecosystems.

These factors not only have allowed me to envision myself walking through the black-iron gates once again, as a Barnard woman, but reassure me that Barnard will challenge me to break boundaries by exploring a breadth of topics thoroughly, to a much fuller extent than I can at any other institution. 

Why this essay worked

Right out the gate, the second of our Barnard essay examples is saying, “Barnard and me.” The writer’s interaction with a Barnard student spoke to them on multiple levels. Even though they don’t reach as deeply as the previous essay, this writer makes a great impact. Their word choice, especially the image of goosebumps, effectively conveys how strongly they feel about Barnard. Thoughtful word choice is a hallmark of strong Barnard essays.

Similar to other Barnard essay examples, this uses NYC as a jumping-off point to talk about Barnard’s fit. The writer’s personal interests can blossom with opportunities in the city. Furthermore, strong Barnard essay examples show that the writer has done their research. Many Barnard essay examples take this approach of mentioning a professor whose research areas align with their interests. If you do, make sure you follow this “Why Barnard” essay example and connect it with your broader vision.

Another common mistake that these two “Why Barnard” essay examples avoid is being too vague. This Barnard essay, like the other “Why Barnard” essay example, takes a personal approach to wide-scale issues. While the first of our Barnard supplemental essays examples keyed in on human rights, this one is about the environment. Both Barnard essay examples  use personal interests and experiences to talk about issues of concern to the writers. Don’t shy away from complex issues—at the same time, don’t make your scope too broad.

Lastly, take note of strong conclusions in Barnard essays. In fact, both of these Barnard essay examples we’ve seen have effective conclusions. Why do the conclusions of these Barnard supplemental essays examples work? They are forward-facing: each writer looks ahead to being at Barnard and feeling proud of their community.

Barnard Supplemental Essay: The “Bold Questions” Essay  

The second Barnard essay prompt isn’t complicated at its core: what interests you? It’s asking you two things:

  • What are you curious about?
  • How can you pursue answers at Barnard?

Because of that second part, more conceptual questions may be better left alone. Think about topics you could research or collaborate with others to explore. Concrete topics are preferable here. However, if you can find a way to concretely explore a more general or abstract topic, go for it!

This essay prompt is new, so we don’t have Barnard essay examples for it. However, we have two Barnard essays that worked for a past prompt. Although the Barnard essay prompt is different, the strengths of these Barnard supplemental essays examples are still applicable.

With that said, let’s take a look at some Barnard essay examples from the past. The two below respond to the following prompt:

Alumna and writer Anna Quindlen says that she ‘majored in unafraid’ at Barnard. Tell us about a time when you majored in unafraid.

Barnard Supplemental Essays Examples #1

Moving from country to country and changing cultures as I was growing up definitely was not always easy. Especially as an adolescent, it can be intimidating to have to adapt to a completely different routine and make an entirely new circle of friends. For example, one of my biggest challenges was my move from Sydney to Madrid just before ninth grade. Facing an unfamiliar culture, a foreign language that I had to learn from scratch, and moving across the globe from all my friends and from what was familiar in Australia, felt scary. In addition, moving from a small school (35 students per grade) to the largest French school outside of France (300 students per grade) did not make the transition easier. 

Even though it was difficult, I responded to this challenge by grasping the opportunity to become fluent in Spanish as quickly as possible and to socialize with my Spanish and French peers alike. Looking back, I am extremely grateful for this experience. Having had the feeling of being an outsider has helped me become more sensitive to different cultures and gain an appreciation for learning about distinct customs, particularly in a country with such diverse regional traditions. During my experience in Spain, I definitely felt like I have “majored in unafraid,” and by doing so I have gained so much. I could have decided to stick to what was familiar, yet by being unafraid to push beyond my comfort zone, I grew in maturity, confidence, and open-mindedness.

Why this essay worked

This Barnard essay prompt calls for introspection—can you reflect critically on your experiences and how you’ve grown? This writer explores their experiences moving around by recounting specific details. Language, class size, and feeling alone are particular challenges they share with us. As stated above, specificity will go a long way in your Barnard essays.

This writer also goes beyond themselves in discussing what they gained by overcoming this challenge. As with other Barnard essays, you should keep a worldly perspective even if you are at the center. Not only did this writer gain confidence and maturity, but also honed their cultural sensitivity and appreciation for foreign customs.

Some Barnard essays (and those of other schools) may ask for you to be vulnerable. While you by no means are obligated to share traumatic events, it’s okay to open up a bit. Like this writer discussed how they felt intimidated, you can recount negative feelings. However, and especially for essays about overcoming challenges, you should balance it out. Share your triumphs, too!

Barnard Supplemental Essays Examples #2

My first moment of fearlessness was when I first stepped through the door of Dr. Sahn’s laboratory to start my summer research internship. I designed and built heart models to mimic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) disease and investigate strain comparisons in a 2D and 3D model. Due to my inexperience, my echocardiography scans produced nonspecific and ineffective strain rates, and were therefore useless in distinguishing the preferred cardiac diagnosis. In research, however, the challenge lies in the ability to be flexible and open to new procedures. 

I continued majoring in the unafraid when I boarded the plane to go to Princeton University for my Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) Summer Institute. Through the intensive seven-week program, I examined the economic, technological, social, and environmental needs facing the globe in the 21st Century. I debated topics ranging from the cycle of recidivism that fosters the prison industrial complex to the removal of people of color from 17th and 18th Century paintings in current academia. These enriching dialogues at three in the morning allowed me to recognize that not only does my voice matter, but the voices of other underrepresented communities do as well. I learned that my leadership abilities are no longer confined by my skin color, gender, or social and economic standing.

Why this essay worked

Number four of our Barnard essay examples leans into the writer’s intellectual pursuits. It’s likely these achievements were listed elsewhere in their application. However, the writer used one of their Barnard essays effectively to provide a deeper look at those experiences. For those with impressive academic resumes, your Barnard essays don’t have to exclude them—just write about them more personally.

Similar to other Barnard essays, this one doesn’t gloss over failures but doesn’t linger on them, either. The writer shows an understanding of the importance of failure in the world of research. If, like in these Barnard essays, you write about surmounting challenges, remember that failure is an option. In fact, you can almost always spin it as a positive.

In their more personal conclusion, this writer reflects on what they’ve learned from their experiences. Not just Barnard essays, but any college essay, will benefit from reflections on your own values and growth. When planning and writing your essays, don’t forget the personal. After all, on campus you’ll be a researcher/actor/lab partner second, and a person first.

Barnard Supplemental Essay Examples: “One Woman” Essay

For the last two Barnard essay examples, we’ll look at the third prompt. While this Barnard essay may say “optional,” if you know how to get into Barnard, you know this is crucial. A fuller picture for the Barnard admissions team will maximize your odds of beating the Barnard acceptance rate. In short, you should write all three Barnard essays for a strong Barnard application.

This is a common supplemental essay prompt: who would you invite to a dinner party, or to coffee? As a woman’s college, Barnard essays are of course about a woman you’d like to meet. This is the most creative of the Barnard essay examples, putting the spotlight entirely on you and your interests. 

Like the other Barnard essay examples, there are a few core questions to answer in this Barnard essay:

  • Why do you look up to this person?
  • What would you talk with them about?
  • What questions would you ask?

Make sure you directly address all three parts of the prompt like in the exemplary Barnard essay examples. In addition to a compelling topic, you should come up with particular things to ask or discuss.

Preparing for this essay

This prompt calls for a good brainstorming session. After reading these Barnard essay examples, Think about women and femmes you admire. Maybe it’s one of the Brontë sisters, or Jasnah Kholin, or Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Whoever it is, it should be someone you’re genuinely curious about.

From there, think about what you want to ask her about. You could ask an unconventional question, or one about an identity you haven’t discussed elsewhere. You may also dig deeper into an unexplored facet of something you have mentioned before. Here’s where you can go a little bit into admissions mode. What conversation topic interests you and would present a new side of you?

Let’s look at our last two Barnard supplemental essays examples that respond to the following prompt:

Pick one woman — a historical figure, fictitious character, or modern individual — to converse with for an hour and explain your choice. Why does this person intrigue you? What would you talk about? What questions would you ask them?

“One Woman” example #1

I would converse with Amy Tan, an Asian-American writer whom I admire because of her experiences assimilating to Western culture. Although she was born in the United States, she seeks to integrate her Chinese heritage into her new American experience. However, she does not lose her cultural identity as a Chinese-American due to this assimilation. 

I imagine my discussion with Amy Tan would include our definitions of being an Asian-American. Tan, a child of immigrants like myself, reflects upon her mother’s struggles living in America. I would share with her the struggles and discriminations my parents faced because of their inability to communicate their thoughts due to their imperfect, or “broken and limited” English. 

I would discuss with her why the language barrier prevents my parents from assimilating into the culture and incorporate these new continuities and changes into their lives like we have incorporated it to ours. They will still retain their roots and heritage. The opportunity to delve into her thoughts would prove fascinatingly illuminating because we both can examine why it is difficult for our parents to learn the language. As individuals assimilate into a different culture, they start to lose their cultural identity and struggle to uphold traditional beliefs the same way. Authentic culture is not defined by the maintenance of old traditions, but by the adaption to the world around it. 

Why this essay worked

The fifth of our Barnard supplemental essays examples directly answers all three parts of the prompt. The writer explains why they admire their subject, Amy Tan, and her work. Then, this Barnard essay connects the writer’s experiences and interests with a broad topic: Asian-American identity. From there, the writer details specific items for discussion and their significance to the wider world.

Presumably, if you want to have a deep talk with someone, you’ve got some things in common. Impactful Barnard essay examples point out some shared values or qualities between the writer and subject. These can be things like a similar background or way of thinking. Strong Barnard essays may also highlight values of the subject that the writer admires and wants to emulate.

In writing Barnard essays, a very common pitfall is not keeping the focus on you. Look at how this writer contextualizes Amy Tan with their main topic of cultural identity. Especially if you choose a lesser-known figure for this essay, it may be tempting to elaborate on their achievements. Keep it short, like in this Barnard essay, and try to link their accomplishments to your imagined conversation.

“One Woman” example #2

Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in an echo chamber. Every day, she heard the same opinion being reflected by everyone around her over and over again. People never disagreed with each other. There was little arguments because everyone shared the same opinion. Life was good. 

Until one day, she saw past the homogenous agreement and realized how wrong the world inside the chamber was. With all her courage, the girl shouted out the truth loud and clear in hope to break apart the deafening lies in that echo chamber. 

Dương Thu Hương was a communist loyalist for most of her youth. However, upon seeing the corrupts within the Vietnamese communist party, her illusion was broken. While most people would ignore the blatant injustices in the country out of fear of the oppressive government, she stood up for her people and uncovered the terrible truth of the communist government. 

Upon meeting Dương Thu Hương, I will thank her for her courage. It takes a tremendous amount of bravery to stand up against the organization one’s been a part for such a long time. After years of letting fear keep me from doing the right thing, her inspiring story motivated me to finally stand up for what I believe in and use my voice to fight for freedom. I will also discuss with her the current situation of Vietnam and our hopes and dreams for the future of Vietnamese people while learning more about her activism journey.

Why this essay worked

The last of our Barnard supplemental essays examples opens like a fable. For those who want to flex their creative muscles in their Barnard essays, you definitely can! This writer draws us in with something relatable and empowering, making us wonder about both writer and subject. What kind of echo chamber did the girl defy? Don’t shy away from a bold opening if you have one in mind.

Like in the previous Barnard essay, there is historical context, as well. After getting an idea of Dương Thu Hương’s values in the introduction, we get solid facts. Already, the writer presents the wider issues of government oppression and censorship. In the last paragraph, we get that personal touch, where the writer directly answers the prompt’s three questions in quick succession.

As discussed above, you should keep the focus on you. In this Barnard essay, however, “I” only appears in the last paragraph. What gives? In fact, the whole front half talks about Dương Thu Hương’s accomplishments in the face of adversity. Her values and courage are those inspiring, shared values we talked about; the writer is talking about herself, just indirectly.

As you can see, each of these Barnard essay examples shines for different reasons. Nevertheless, Barnard essays that worked all share several qualities. Let’s summarize what we’ve learned about writing the Barnard essays.

How do you write a Barnard essay? 

After reading through those Barnard supplemental essays examples, what can we take away? What did we learn from Barnard essays that worked, and how will that help you with your Barnard essays?

barnard essay examples

Top Tips for writing Barnard Supplemental Essays:

1. Start early

A good, polished essay takes time to plan, write, and revise. Give yourself plenty of time to read Barnard essay examples, and to draft and edit your Barnard essays. Keep an eye on those Barnard application deadlines, too! The Early Decision deadline is usually around November 1, while the Regular Decision deadline is at the beginning of January. Be sure to check the Barnard admissions site for the most current information!

2. Invest time in brainstorming

With the Barnard acceptance rate as low as it is, you need the best Barnard essays. So start your Barnard essay writing off on the right foot by brainstorming. Take 10–15 minutes to think about each prompt. For a “Why Barnard” essay example, list out things you like about Barnard. How do those make Barnard a good fit for you? For the third prompt, you can list out women and femmes you look up to and why. Good brainstorming makes for strong Barnard essays!

3. Think big

Keep thinking about your whole Barnard application and how it reflects you. Your Barnard essays shouldn’t say the same thing. Each of your three Barnard supplemental essays should show something unique about you. Use every word of your Barnard essays to flesh out your background, interests, and qualities for Barnard admissions.

4. Pick your passions

Applying for college can be pretty stressful—why make it worse by writing about something you don’t like? All of the Barnard supplemental essays examples we saw explored topics of interest to the writers. Couldn’t you feel the excitement in those Barnard essays? Make life easier and choose topics that you want to write about.

5. Be your authentic self

We know it’s cliché, but one of the most important things for your Barnard essays is that they’re yours. That is, that they reflect your experiences, values, and interests—not what you think Barnard admissions wants to hear. Successful Barnard supplemental essays reflect your true self.

Barnard Essay Examples – Final Thoughts

The Barnard supplemental essays are a crucial avenue for sharing unique parts of yourself with the Barnard admissions committee. For each of the three Barnard essays, you should respond directly to the prompt. Make your writing engaging for the reader with personal details while also acknowledging wider issues that you’re interested in.

We hope these Barnard supplemental essays examples have been helpful in planning your own Barnard essays. If you want more advice, we have a handy guide on how to get into Barnard College! Whether you’re staring down a Barnard application or just starting to research colleges, we have plenty of resources for you. Good luck, and happy writing!


Barnard Essay Examples

This article was written by Gina Goosby. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.