georgetown university essay guide
Photo courtesy of Georgetown University

In this Georgetown University Essay Guide, Admissions Experts and Georgetown graduates Brynlee and Tamara will cover how to approach the 2020-2021 Georgetown University supplementary essays. For more guidance on personal essays and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

Applying to Georgetown University

Located in Washington, D.C., Georgetown University is a top choice for students interested in public service, justice, and engagement with people around the world. Ranked 24th among national universities, it is highly selective, admitting approximately 15 percent of applicants in 2018. Its undergraduate program comprises four schools: Georgetown College, Walsh School of Foreign Service, McDonough School of Business, and School of Nursing & Health Studies. When you begin your application, you will need to select one of these four schools to apply to. Each school conducts its own admissions review, and you may not apply to more than one school.

Georgetown University does not use the Common App or Coalition App. Instead, it maintains its own application portal. This shouldn’t stress you out, though. While it is structured slightly differently from these shared application systems, Georgetown’s application asks for very similar information and requires essays that you will likely encounter in a similar form for other schools. You are required to create an account through their website, where you will fill out the Georgetown Application and the Application Supplement, and submit your recommendations.

When applying to Georgetown, you will have to respond to three general prompts (varying in length from about 150 to 650 words) as well as write one school-specific essay. Read on to learn more about the best strategies to respond to each one.

Tamara: When faced with a highly competitive admissions process, crafting strong essays fueled by personal experiences and self-reflection can help you greatly to stand out among many qualified candidates. As with any college admissions essay, the key is to personalize each essay in a way that explains why Georgetown University is the best place for you to spend the next four years of your academic career.

Brynlee: Before we begin, start thinking about your audience. As the oldest Jesuit university in North America, Georgetown looks for people who exemplify the “Jesuit values” — in short, people who are thoughtful, well-rounded, and community-oriented. As you write, you may find it helpful to pull up the list of Jesuit Values on Georgetown’s website and think about how you can reflect some of these traits in your application.

Tamara: As a graduate of Georgetown University, I cannot stress enough how important it is to research and understand the core values of the university before you begin your application. As a Catholic institution, Georgetown prides itself on incorporating its Jesuit identity into its teaching and sharing it with the campus community. You don’t have to be Catholic or even Christian to adhere to some of the ethical principles that shape Georgetown, such as service to others, inter-religious understanding, and community in diversity.

As you read on for specific tips for answering every 2020-21 essay prompt Georgetown requires, I advise you to keep this overarching importance of ethical, moral, and personal values in mind.

Essays for All Applicants

Prompt 1: Indicate any special talents or skills you possess (250 words)

Brynlee: This prompt is intentionally broad, so feel free to get creative! Many students write about hobbies or extracurricular activities that they have been involved with throughout high school. This is a perfectly fine approach — just remember that Prompt 2 asks you to write about your most meaningful extracurricular activity, and you don’t want to be repetitive.

For example, when I applied to Georgetown, I wrote about playing the piano. It helped me de-stress after long school days, and I could use my skill to bring happiness to others when I played publicly. If you choose a similar kind of topic (such as music or sports), make sure that you show the significance and specificity of that talent or skill. Can you use that talent to help others? Does that hobby help you to maintain balance in your life? Are you known on your team for being the best at a particular skill?

Hobbies may be a popular choice for this prompt, but they’re far from the only one. You may have some goofy or unique skills to share — like speaking in perfect ubbi dubbi for a whole day, or having a sixth sense of when your suitcase is at the maximum weight. Or, your skills could be more serious — you know how to stabilize your diabetic brother’s blood sugar, or you are a good listener for your friend in distress. Any of these could make wonderful essays. No matter your topic, it is best to connect it to a broader communal or personal impact.

Tamara: This prompt is very easy to overlook as you fill out the Georgetown Application Supplement. It’s hidden between your standard biographical information questions and questions about your choice of school and major within Georgetown — and it’s separate from the official essay section. Though it may be tempting to simply skip over this prompt, I highly recommend taking the time to respond. Your answer need not be more than 150-200 words or so, but it will signal to the admissions committee that you pay attention to detail and committed to putting your best foot forward as an applicant.

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t have the kind of special talent that you think is needed to stand out. The important thing is to highlight something that makes you unique and has contributed to your intellectual or personal growth.

Make sure not to revisit the same experiences you will describe in your activities, general essay (more on those below), or your school-specific supplement. This is a chance to talk about interests that may not otherwise fit as neatly with your application narrative. Have you self-taught yourself a foreign language? Are you a moderately successful YouTuber? Do you garden or bake elaborate cakes for your loved ones to destress? Are you the sibling your family turns to for moderating family disputes? Anything goes, as long as you can explain what skills you’ve acquired through this talent/hobby and how they can be applied to your academic and professional life going forward.

Prompt 2: Briefly discuss the significance to you of the school or summer activity in which you have been most involved. (1/2 page, single spaced)

Tamara: This prompt is an opportunity for you to highlight your most formative extracurricular experience. Think about the experience that has most impacted your academic interests and inspired you.

Don’t get too bogged down on which activity you believe the admissions officer may deem the most impressive or the most rare. It is true that, if you were to write about your experience as president of your MUN club or quarterback for the football team, you’d likely be one among dozens, if not hundreds, of students to describe this activity. However, that doesn’t mean that your story or the skills you’ve acquired aren’t unique.

In this essay, don’t concentrate so much on the accolades you’ve earned as a result of your activity; instead, talk about how the lessons you learned can be applied in your future college career. For example, when I wrote this essay, I discussed my time in my school paper and how the pressures of ever-present deadlines really opened my eyes to the importance of teamwork and cooperation to find common ground among personal differences and produce the best final product you can.

Only you know what extracurricular or summer experience most contributed to your interests and your unique perspective. Pick an activity that can help Georgetown admissions understand what makes you tick and where you are likely to apply yourself on campus.

Brynlee: You should be considering two factors when deciding what extracurricular activity to write about. First and foremost, it should be something meaningful to you beyond your participation in the activity itself. Secondly, it is usually best if this is an activity you have done for a long time. For example, one student wrote a wonderful essay about her growth over the four years she was on her high school’s lacrosse team, and how that motivated her to start a summer camp for incoming freshmen to practice lacrosse skills before they joined the team.

These rules are not hard and fast, however. If you’ve played a sport or been in a club for a long time, but you don’t have a connection to it beyond participation, it is probably not the right choice. Alternatively, if you participated in an activity for a short amount of time, but you engaged with it in profound ways, that could be a great topic. Perhaps you interned with a local Senate campaign over the summer, and because of that internship, you completed an independent research project about a controversial issue in your state. The time you spent on the actual internship was probably less than three months, but it had a massive impact on the rest of your high school education and your future goals.

In short, while it is best if your response has both of these factors, the impact of the activity is more important than the time you spent on it.

Prompt 3: As Georgetown is a diverse community, the Admissions Committee would like to know more about you in your own words. Please submit a brief essay, either personal or creative, which you feel best describes you. (1 page, single-spaced)

Brynlee: Georgetown may not be on the Common App, but many students reuse their main Common App essay here. By all means, save yourself some time and do that! There are, however, a few things to keep in mind.

First, you will notice that this essay has a page limit, rather than a word limit. In my experience, 650 words tends to be just slightly over 1 page, single spaced. Since you will submit this essay via a text box, not a document upload, don’t worry too much if you’re three or four lines over. Anything beyond that, and you will want to make some cuts so the essay is as close to a single page as possible.

Second, if your Common App essay is primarily about your academic interests, I would suggest adapting it for the school-specific essays instead and writing a new essay for this prompt.

Tamara: This essay is most similar to Common App’s first prompt: “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, please share your story.” If that’s the one you chose, you can copy/paste it into your Georgetown application and feel confident that it responds to this prompt just as well. If you’ve opted for one of the other six prompt options when writing your Common App, your response may need some tweaking before you submit it to Georgetown to better address the prompt as it is worded here.

The ultimate goal of this prompt, however, is identical to the Common App questions: Tell the admissions committee something about you, your life experiences and/or challenges you’ve encountered that has been central to shaping the person you are today and the values you hold.

In keeping with its commitment to the university’s Jesuit values, Georgetown’s prompt really focuses on diversity and how its incoming class will uphold that value. Remember that diversity doesn’t necessarily refer to race, ethnicity, or religious affiliation — rather, it’s about the unique experiences and perspectives each student can bring to campus. Perhaps you are someone who has lived in multiple countries and whose views are shaped by various cultures. Perhaps you’re an activist in your local community, working to expand access to academic opportunities for socioeconomically disadvantaged students or lobbying your local Board of Education to include conversations about race into your school’s curriculum. Amid hundreds of applicants with similar academic profiles and test scores, it’s your job to tell the admissions committee what makes you stand out.

School-Specific Essays

georgetown university essay guide
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.” by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Georgetown College

What does it mean to you to be educated? How might Georgetown College help you achieve this aim? (Applicants to the Sciences and Mathematics or the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics should address their chosen course of study.)

Brynlee: No matter your intended course of study, make sure to answer both parts of the prompt. As a math, science, or language major, you should be as specific about your program as you can. Similarly, if you are a humanities or social science major and you already know what you want to study, pick a few courses, professors, programs, or other opportunities at the university to support your answer.

For example, if you are applying as a Chinese major, you could write about how being educated means being able to meet new people and adjust to cultural differences. Then, you could list some aspects of the major that would help you achieve this goal. Practically speaking, becoming fluent in Chinese will enable you to converse with millions of people. Looking a little deeper, you could also talk about how practicing your language skills on campus will help you become comfortable talking to strangers, how reading non-Western literature will help you become more empathetic, or how becoming bilingual will help you to creatively solve problems.

If you don’t know what you want to study yet, don’t worry! Georgetown’s liberal arts curriculum is designed to help you explore and try new things. If you are undecided, I recommend two strategies. First, you can arrange your essay around a higher-level skill or characteristic that you hope to develop. For example, if you felt that the true mark of education was using your knowledge to help others, you could research and describe ways that you could link your classes to service opportunities in the DC community. Alternatively, you could pick one major that you may want to pursue, and write as if you’ve already decided that it is what you will study. You can always change your mind!

Tamara: This essay seeks to understand what education means to you in a global sense, beyond solving equations and writing book reports. How will a Georgetown education help you grow, allow you to give back to your community, enable you to understand the world around you? Why is Georgetown the best place for you to achieve your goals?

Do your research. Before you begin writing, I strongly encourage you to browse the university’s website and familiarize yourself with Georgetown University’s core values and principles. Then, think about how those values align with your own and how Georgetown’s approach to education fits with your goals.

It is not enough to praise the diverse cultural offerings of Washington, D.C. or the university’s high rankings. There are numerous top tier colleges within the District, and it’s your job to explain to the admissions committee why Georgetown is best suited to your needs. Find out what programs, service opportunities, student organizations, and community outreach schemes Georgetown offers that could further your education and serve as a stepping stone to your dream career. Be as specific as you can.

School of Nursing & Health Studies

Describe the factors that have influenced your interest in studying health care. Please specifically address your intended major (Global Health, Health Care Management & Policy, Human Science, or Nursing).

Brynlee: Any essay about academic interests should demonstrate your interest in a major, as well as the broader impact of studying that subject. Personal stories and connections to your major will help you stand out. For example, one student I worked with needed surgery to repair a brain abnormality during her junior year, and she hoped to study human science so she could become a neurosurgeon. Or, perhaps you are interested in the political battles over the Affordable Care Act, and you want to study Health Care Management & Policy so you can go to law school and become an advocate for health care justice.

One thing to note: the recent coronavirus pandemic will, understandably, spark an interest in healthcare careers for many students. It is not a bad thing to write about this, but if possible, connect it to either a personal experience with the virus, or to a longstanding interest in medicine, healthcare, or service. Admissions officers understand that the pandemic is uprooting many aspects of our lives, but they will also likely be dismissive of essays that don’t demonstrate a personal connection to health studies beyond the present moment.

Tamara: In this essay, you have the opportunity to tell the admissions committee how and why you became interested in health care and to explain why Georgetown offers you the best opportunity to pursue this passion. It’s really important that you provide specific, personal anecdotes and explanations that clarify your choice of major. It’s not enough to tell the reader that you care about helping others; you need to show them why.

For example, are you someone who suffers from a chronic illness and who wants to use their experience to help others with similar conditions to lead full lives? Did your community’s lack of resources in supporting children with special needs inspire you to become a policy maker and fight for greater access to medical care? Do you want to study viral diseases that devastate developing countries and help to eradicate them?

Ultimately, the admissions committee is seeking applicants whose academic, extracurricular, and personal experiences convey dedication to their chosen field of study. Writing an essay that demonstrates why you want to study health care, grounded in personal experience, can be more powerful than a long list of impressive leadership and extracurricular credentials.

Walsh School of Foreign Service

Briefly discuss a current global issue, indicating why you consider it important and what you suggest should be done to deal with it.

Brynlee: The strongest essays I have seen for the SFS are those that analyze a narrow situation but put it within a larger global context. Describing how you would end world hunger, illiteracy, or climate change in a single page would be impossible. And attempting to do so would demonstrate that you haven’t thought critically about your issue of choice. But if you can think of a way to deal with the issue on a small scale, you can write a very strong essay.

One student wrote about a series of programs he hoped to institute in order to strengthen educational opportunities in the Dominican Republic. This essay was successful because the student was familiar with the country in question, the policy suggestions he made were specific and realistic, and the essay was direct and concise. The SFS trains students to be successful diplomats and policymakers, and they value students who can convey a great deal of information in just a few words. While in most essays, personal stories and reflections are key, in this essay you should limit those to your explanation of why you consider the issue important, and spend the bulk of your time writing about your policy proposals.

Tamara: I applied, attended, and graduated from the School of Foreign Service. I distinctly remember that this essay was one of the hardest I had to write during my own college admissions cycle. I was worried that I was not educated enough on any global issues to discuss them intelligently, let alone propose suggestions. With advice from teachers and college counselors, I ultimately wrote an essay that earned me a spot in Georgetown’s Class of 2015. If you, too, are seeking admissions to the School of Service, here are some of the key tips to keep in mind as you begin writing your supplements:

1. Don’t pick a global issue simply because it’s making headlines when you sit down to write your essay. The relevance of the subject matter to current events is less important than your personal connection to the topic. The admissions committee doesn’t want to read a generic essay about global poverty or a MUN-style position paper arguing for intervention in an ongoing crisis. They want to know why and how you came to care about the topic.

In my essay, I discussed the issue of domestic violence in Russia (my native country) that I was aware of from first- and second-hand accounts among relatives and friends. As a solution, I argued for increasing female representation in local and national governments that would allow crucial issues such as this to be addressed more urgently. So when you pick your topic, think about why it matters to you — why you wish to solve this particular problem among the numerous challenges the world faces today.

2. No one expects you to solve a public health crisis, resolve a decades-long borders dispute between nations, or eliminate violence against women with one essay. When the prompt asks you to propose a solution, it is to allow the admissions officer a glimpse into your thought process. The reader wants to see that you can be compassionate as well as realistic. At the School of Foreign Service, you will learn what it takes to make policy decisions under real-world constraints, so it is a good idea to demonstrate your awareness that the world is not always black-and-white in your answer.

McDonough School of Business

The McDonough School of Business is a national and global leader in providing graduates with essential ethical, analytical, financial and global perspectives. Please discuss your motivations for studying business at Georgetown.

Brynlee: Like the NHS essay, the MSB essay is a fairly straightforward academic interests essay. The Georgetown business program embodies many of the same features that characterize the university’s other undergraduate schools, such as international engagement and service to others.

Like with the other academic interests essays, you should talk about why you chose your intended major for intellectual reasons, as well as the broader implications of choosing that major. For example, perhaps you enjoy the structure and clarity of math, and you hope to use your Accounting degree to help small businesses get on their feet. Or, perhaps you see business as an important way of maintaining international cooperation, and you are interested in the Business and Global Affairs joint degree program with the SFS. No matter what major you choose, make sure that you address your interest in the major for its own sake, as well as your goals for the future.

Tamara: Georgetown’s core ethical values are an important component of its teaching methods, and the admissions committee seeks out students who are inspired by those values. In this essay, you should focus on explaining why Georgetown’s approach to educating future business leaders resonates with your professional and academic goals.

For example, do you aspire to one day build a start-up that uses technology to empower disadvantaged students? Do you want to apply your business prowess to manage a non-profit organization? Before you begin writing, think about how you will use the knowledge and skills you gain at Georgetown’s business school to improve your community, solve problems, and uphold your values. Remember, being financially successful or reaching a top leadership position in a renowned company are not sufficient motivations to list in your response. Do your best to explain why studying your chosen major at this university will aid your intellectual and personal development.

This essay guide was written by Brynlee Emery (Georgetown University ‘19) and Tamara Evdokimova (Georgetown University ‘19). If you want to get help writing your Georgetown application essays from Brynlee, Tamara, or other Admissions Experts, register with today.