pepperdine university supplemental essays guide
Pepperdine University,” CampusGrotto | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Not sure how to approach the Pepperdine essay prompts? With tips from a Harvard graduate,’s guide to the Pepperdine supplemental essays will give you the tools to write Pepperdine essays sure to stand out in admissions. If you need more help responding to the Pepperdine essay prompts, click here to create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation with an Admissions Expert by calling (844) 343-6272.

Pepperdine Essay Guide Quick Facts:

  • Pepperdine has an acceptance rate of 42%—U.S. News ranks Pepperdine as a more selective school. · The Pepperdine University ranking is #49 in National Universities.
  • We recommend completing the Pepperdine supplemental essay carefully and authentically in order to maximize your admissions odds.

What is Pepperdine known for?

Pepperdine is a private Christian university located in Malibu, California. According to Pepperdine’s website, it provides “rich opportunities for intellectual and spiritual exploration within a diverse community.” Pepperdine is known for providing a strong liberal arts education on a scenic campus. After all, who wouldn’t want to go to college in Malibu?

Freshman applicants will apply to Seaver College, which houses Pepperdine’s undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences. The school boasts 82 degree programs, 17 NCAA Division I teams, and one of the highest-ranked study abroad programs. Famous alumni include football coach Mike Leach, former United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, and singer Brandy.

While Pepperdine welcomes students from all backgrounds, the university was founded with a Christian mission. Christian theology plays a major role in Pepperdine’s values. If you’re interested in attending a private university with a strong Christian background situated on a beautiful California campus, Pepperdine might be the place for you. This means you should put extra effort into your Pepperdine supplemental essays!

What is Pepperdine’s ranking?

According to U.S. News, the Pepperdine University ranking is #49 in National Universities. The Pepperdine University ranking is #13 in Best Undergraduate Teaching, and the Pepperdine University ranking is #47 in Best Value Schools.The Pepperdine University ranking can be a useful tool as you begin to research colleges and build your school list. Your school list should include the following categories: “reach” schools (which you’re less likely to get into), “target” or “match” schools (which you have a solid chance of getting into), and “safety” schools (which you’re quite likely to get into). It should include a couple of “reach” schools, a larger number of “target” or “match” schools, and a couple of “safety” schools.

Statistics like the Pepperdine University ranking can help you determine your admissions odds; this can be useful as you craft your school list. However, don’t get too hung up on the Pepperdine University ranking! Statistics like the Pepperdine University ranking depend on a variety of factors. At the end of the day, what matters most is that you apply to schools that fit your needs. Plus, the more time you spend on your Pepperdine supplemental essays, the more likely you are to get in. Remember, the Pepperdine supplemental essays are a key part of the admissions process!If you’re interested in Pepperdine, do your own research—after all, the Pepperdine University ranking can’t tell you everything. For more information about the Pepperdine University ranking (and college rankings in general), check out our recent article.

How do I get into Pepperdine University?

According to their website, Pepperdine University looks to assemble an entering class “filled with individuals who will add value to the Pepperdine community.” Pepperdine uses a holistic review process. This means, then, that they evaluate applicants’ grades and test scores alongside their personal qualities, achievements, and experiences. While the holistic review process looks slightly different at each school, Harvard Law does a great job summarizing the approach.

Because of the high Pepperdine University ranking, many students apply to Pepperdine with high grades and scores. The average first-year student GPA is between 3.69 and 3.96. Also, the average SAT total is between 131 and 1460. The average ACT composite score range is similarly high: 29-33. This means that if you want to get into Pepperdine, then strong grades and scores might not be enough. However, like many schools, Pepperdine University is test-optional for the 2021-22 application cycle. You want to show the Pepperdine admissions team that you’d be a dedicated member of the Pepperdine community. Your application should show that you’d be eager to contribute to campus both inside and outside of the classroom.

Be authentic

There’s no one way to get into Pepperdine. As you approach your Pepperdine application, then, don’t think about what Pepperdine wants to read. Don’t pad your resume with activities that don’t interest you, and don’t tailor your essays to what you think Pepperdine wants. Instead, focus on expressing your genuine identity. Why do you want to go to Pepperdine? Why do you think you would be an important addition to the Pepperdine community? If you can answer these questions and express those answers in your application, then you’re off to a great start.

One great way to maximize your admissions odds is to write an engaging, authentic, and unique Pepperdine supplement essay. In this guide, we’ll break down the Pepperdine University supplemental essay prompt in order to help you write a Pepperdine essay sure to stand out.

Does Pepperdine require a supplemental essay?

Yes—Pepperdine requires all students to complete one Pepperdine supplement essay. Since there are not multiple Pepperdine essay prompts, you should spend extra time drafting and revising your single Pepperdine supplement essay.

Think of your Pepperdine essay as your chance to address the admissions team on your own terms. In your Pepperdine supplement essay, then, focus on showing Pepperdine why you’ll be a crucial addition to their class. The best Pepperdine supplemental essays will offer authentic insight into an applicant’s identity as it relates to their future at Pepperdine.Below, you’ll find the Pepperdine University essay prompt. We’ve also included expert tips on how to write your Pepperdine essay!

Pepperdine Supplemental Essays – Prompt 1 (Required)

Once again, since there are not multiple Pepperdine essay prompts, you should give your single Pepperdine supplement essay your full attention.

Here is the Pepperdine University essay prompt:

Pepperdine is a Christian university where all are welcomed and encouraged to challenge each other in the pursuit of truth. Students, faculty, and staff members from all backgrounds participate in conversations of faith inside and outside of the classroom. Considering that Pepperdine is a Christian university, why are you interested in attending and how would you contribute to conversations of faith on campus? (300-500 words)

First, let’s break down the Pepperdine University essay prompt!

As you’ll notice, the Pepperdine University essay prompt centers around faith. The Pepperdine essay prompts you to discuss how faith influences your relationship with the world around you. It also asks why you want to engage in dialogues around faith on campus.While Pepperdine is a Christian school, it welcomes students from all religious (and non-religious) backgrounds. The Pepperdine essay prompt states that Pepperdine is “a Christian university where all are welcomed and encouraged to challenge each other in pursuit of truth.” This means that while Christianity is core to Pepperdine’s culture, so is interfaith dialogue. The Pepperdine essay prompts allow you to describe how these values align with your own interests, goals, and priorities.

Focus on exchange

Pepperdine doesn’t want all of its students to come from the same faith. Instead, it aims to create a culture where students and faculty can exchange views on faith and, in doing so, gain a broader perspective. If you’re excited to engage with others on topics of faith, you have the potential to write an excellent Pepperdine essay.So, what is the Pepperdine University essay prompt really asking?

Essentially, the Pepperdine University essay prompt asks you to write a “Why Pepperdine” essay, albeit with a bit of a twist. The Pepperdine essay prompts you to use your relationship to faith as a lens to explore why you want to attend Pepperdine. This means your response should include both details about your faith background as well as information about why Pepperdine interests you.With this in mind, your Pepperdine essay should use your relationship to faith to express why you want to go to Pepperdine. The best Pepperdine supplemental essays will use a student’s own background alongside their understanding of faith and dialogue to express why Pepperdine is the school for them.

How do I write my Pepperdine supplemental essay?

The Pepperdine essay prompts you to discuss two core things. First, the Pepperdine essay prompts you to discuss why you are interested in Pepperdine. Then, the Pepperdine essay prompts you to detail how you would engage with conversations of faith on campus. Strong Pepperdine supplemental essays will answer both of these questions with authenticity and detail.

Start by brainstorming your own views on faith and religion. Think about moments in your life that have shaped your understanding of faith. Maybe you were raised in a Catholic background that has shaped your views toward religion. Maybe you grew up Muslim and have engaged with your faith by talking to those from different backgrounds. Or maybe you don’t prescribe to a particular religion but are interested in how faith informs different communities. Remember, Pepperdine welcomes students from all backgrounds. The key to a strong Pepperdine essay is to explain why conversations around faith excite you—and why this interest will make you a valuable member of the Pepperdine community.

Of course, your Pepperdine essay should be free from any bigotry. Successful Pepperdine essays will display a student’s relationship to faith through the lens of the Pepperdine University essay prompt; that is, they will model how a student will engage with equitable, fair, and mutual talks about faith on campus. In other words, Pepperdine supplemental essays from atheists can be just as successful as those from religious applicants. Pepperdine is saying that their community holds space for skepticism, questioning, and disagreement.

Be specific

As you brainstorm, think about moments that have shaped your views on faith. For instance, maybe you had a conversation with a rabbi or pastor that helped you see things from a new perspective, or maybe you volunteered with a Christian organization dedicated to serving the common good. Make a list of experiences, values, and ideas—whether broad or narrow—that have shifted the way you view faith. Strong Pepperdine supplemental essays can spring from any number of topics, so don’t limit yourself!

Once you have this list, choose two or three moments, experiences, or ideas. Set a timer and do a ten-minute free-writing session for each. Don’t stop writing for the full ten minutes. The goal of your free-write shouldn’t be to produce a flawless Pepperdine essay. Instead, your free-write should just help you to think about how faith informs your life. Again, great Pepperdine supplemental essays can come from anywhere. Don’t censor yourself—just keep writing.

Once you’ve thought about your background, come back to Pepperdine. Why do you want to join a community engaged in dialogue around faith? What do you hope to learn from these conversations? What will you add to this interfaith dialogue? More broadly, why does the Pepperdine community attract you? If you’re having trouble answering these questions, try another free-write.

Research the school

Since the Pepperdine University essay prompt is a bit like a “Why Pepperdine” essay, do some research on the school. Look at programs, organizations, and events around faith that Pepperdine offers. What about Pepperdine engages you? The more specific you can be in your Pepperdine supplement essay, the better. Strong Pepperdine supplemental essays will engage directly with Pepperdine’s offerings.

After you’ve nailed down some ideas, it’s time to start drafting your Pepperdine supplement essay. Pepperdine supplemental essays can be between 300 and 500 words. This means you have a fair amount of space in your Pepperdine essay to discuss your relationship with faith and how it would grow at Pepperdine. However, don’t feel like you need to write 500 words if 350 will suffice. As long as your Pepperdine essay falls within the word count and fully expresses your ideas, you’re in great shape.

You might begin your Pepperdine essay with a story about your experiences with faith. Return to the list you made earlier—what moments stick out to you? Alternatively, what parts of your identity have informed your relationship to faith? The opening of your Pepperdine supplement essay should draw the reader in. Use vivid language and imagery in your Pepperdine essay to help your reader envision you on campus. The strongest Pepperdine supplemental essays will have strong openings that reveal something about how an applicant sees the world.

Looking forward

Once you’ve discussed your own faith in your Pepperdine essay, turn toward your future on campus. How will you engage with your peers around faith? How will these interactions help you grow? What can you do for the Pepperdine community, and what will Pepperdine do for you? The best Pepperdine supplemental essays will answer some or all of these questions.Finally, after you’ve finished your draft, do several rounds of edits. Each sentence of your Pepperdine essay should show the reader something new about you. Strong Pepperdine supplemental essays will make the admissions team excited about what an applicant would bring to campus. Make sure your personality shines through in your Pepperdine essay!

Pepperdine Essay Draft Key Questions

  • Does your Pepperdine essay demonstrate a deep engagement with faith-centered dialogue?
  • Do you demonstrate why joining a community founded in faith will enrich your college experience?
  • Does your Pepperdine supplement essay show that you’ve done your research on Pepperdine?
  • Do you show your reader that you will maturely and open-mindedly approach interfaith dialogue?

Want to hear more from Pepperdine University’s undergraduate admissions team on approaching the Pepperdine supplemental essays? Check out this video from the Senior Associate Director of Admissions below.

Pepperdine Supplemental Essays: Final Thoughts

The Pepperdine essay prompts you to think deeply about your relationship with faith. It’s not an easy question, and you shouldn’t rush your response. Take your time crafting your Pepperdine supplement essay. The best Pepperdine supplemental essays will show a deep engagement with the prompt. After all, if you can write authentically about your relationship with faith, you’ve already shown the Pepperdine admissions team how you’d engage in the conversations they discuss in the Pepperdine University essay prompt.

Since there are not multiple Pepperdine essay prompts, your Pepperdine supplement essay becomes even more important. However, while the Pepperdine supplement essay might seem overwhelming (especially in light of the Pepperdine University ranking), don’t be discouraged. If you start your Pepperdine essay early and give yourself time to brainstorm and draft, you should be in great shape. Don’t be intimidated by the Pepperdine supplement essay. Instead, use your Pepperdine essay to show the admissions team the reasons why you’d be an asset to their community. The strongest Pepperdine supplemental essays will help the reader envision an applicant engaging in dialogue around faith on campus.

Finally, don’t forget to proofread your Pepperdine essay for any errors in spelling and grammar. It might also help to ask a trusted adult to look over your Pepperdine essay for tone, syntax, and clarity. Successful Pepperdine essays will show skill in both writing and critical thinking. Good luck!

This 2021-2022 essay guide on Pepperdine was written by Abbie Sage, Harvard ‘21. Want more help responding to the Pepperdine University essay prompt? Click here to create your free account or schedule a free advising assessment with an Admissions Expert by calling (844) 343-6272.