Are you wondering how to begin the Rice essays? Using tips from our Admissions Experts, CollegeAdvisor.com’s guide to the Rice supplemental essays will show you exactly how to write engaging Rice essays and maximize your chances of admission. We’ll break down every Rice University essay prompt in detail to help you get ahead in the college process.

If you need help crafting your Rice supplemental essays, create your free account or schedule a no-cost advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.


Rice Essay Guide Quick Facts:

  • Rice has an acceptance rate of 9%—U.S. News ranks Rice as a highly competitive school.
  • We recommend using the short and long required Rice University essay prompts to highlight different aspects of your experiences—Rice Box image included—to help your application stand out.
  • Rice’s application philosophy is holistic and committee-based. In evaluating Rice essays, the admissions team also looks to see whether you’ve done your research on why Rice is the right school for you.

Does Rice University have supplemental essays?

Yes. In addition to the personal statement that you’ll write in the Common App or Coalition App, you’ll also have to answer both short and extended Rice supplemental essays. Instead of any single Rice University essay prompt, you will have multiple chances to shine!

The Rice supplemental essays 2021-2022 are available on the Common App site, but you can also visit the main Rice University site for a full list of application requirements. You might also complete an optional alumni interview to supplement your application.

How many supplemental essays does Rice University have?

There are three school-specific Rice supplemental essays and an image contribution in the 2021-2022 Common App.

You should use every opportunity in your Rice essays to express yourself in a personal, engaging manner. And because each of the Rice University supplemental essays covers a different topic with a different word limit, you’ll use different strategies for each one.

Keep reading to learn how to tackle each of the Rice supplemental essays!

How to write the Rice University Supplemental Essays — Question 1 (Required):

Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected. (150 words max).

This first Rice essay is short but sweet. At this point, your reader may have already glanced at your previous coursework and activities, as well as your personal statement. So, to add to that, what stories do you have about what you hope to study in college? The strongest Rice supplemental essays will give readers an authentic window into an applicant’s intellectual life.

Specifically, this Rice University essay question lets you offer some background on an activity or experience that showcases your intellectual interests. You may choose to start your first Rice essay with an anecdote that illustrates these interests in action.

Don’t be afraid to geek out about a topic and share how you have explored it in the classroom and beyond, whether that’s at a school club, summer program, or a personal passion project. In fact, your description of your interests and origins should take up most of the word count for this Rice essay—perhaps 90-120 words.

Additionally, if you don’t quite know what you’d like to study, that’s okay! Remember, the potential field or major you discuss in your Rice University essay is not binding. So, use your Rice essay to talk about the thing that interests you most!

Connect your interests to Rice

To wrap up your first Rice essay, connect your interests to something that Rice can do to help you excel. For example, if you have a penchant for the sciences, you might note unique research projects that previous Rice students have done with faculty. Or, if you’re interested in the humanities, you might emphasize Rice’s various unique minors like Museums and Cultural Heritage. This part of your Rice University essay can just be a few sentences—perhaps 30-60 words. Remember to be specific about why Rice is the school for you.

Rice Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Does your draft share a narrative, rather than just restating your activities list?
  • Do you limit your focus to a single field?
  • Does your essay connect your interest to opportunities available at Rice?
  • Do you use clear and evocative language?

How to write the Rice University Supplemental Essays — Question 2 (Required):

Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you? (150 words max).

This Rice University essay prompt is the classic “why school” essay that you may have encountered for other schools. While it might be tempting to adapt your “why school” essay from another application, you’ll want to start from scratch to make sure your Rice essay is as specific as possible.

No shortcuts on this Rice University essay prompt; you’ll have to do your homework. Begin by asking, “What about Rice suits you?” If you haven’t already, this Rice essay is a great chance to share if you have reached out to a current student, watched an official YouTube video, or attended an information session. And if you have not yet, it’s not too late! It all starts with a virtual tour.

However, remember that this Rice essay is still a chance for the reader to get to know you. Are there other interests that you have not been able to discuss in other parts of your application? As you approach this Rice University essay prompt, think about what might be missing from your application. For instance, maybe you already have written some responses to a few of your activities. Perhaps there is another that you could highlight in this Rice essay.

Take this Rice University essay as a way to share something new about yourself. When all is said and done, the admissions office at any university hopes to admit a class full of talented people who will bring and explore various pursuits and interests. The best Rice supplemental essays will reveal what a given student will bring to their class and community.

Rice Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Does your draft include specific references to the academic community at Rice University?
  • Do you share how Rice’s resources connect to your personal education goals?
  • Does your draft focus on just one or two aspects of Rice as they relate to your interests?

How to write the Rice University Supplemental Essays — Question 3 (Required):

Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life for all members of our campus community. The Residential College System and undergraduate life is heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural tradition each student brings. What life perspectives would you contribute to the Rice community? (500 words max).

A lot of students struggle with the sheer volume of words that this Rice University essay prompt gives applicants. You might feel that you don’t have any traditions or experiences that you can discuss with the depth that this Rice essay demands.

If this sounds like you, know that you are not alone. And, secondly, the room this Rice essay allows you is by design. This is your time to shine.

“Life experiences” and “cultural traditions” are central to this Rice essay. For some, this may mean meaningful touchstones like holidays, food, music, and dance. As you write, try to engage your reader’s senses. What do the surroundings look, sound, smell, and feel like? Just as you might envision an opening scene of a movie, you should use this Rice essay to make the reader feel like they are right there with you. Successful Rice supplemental essays will use vivid and evocative language to tell an engaging story.

Define “community” and “culture”

That being said, you don’t need to fixate on a single anecdote to make your Rice essay shine. You can think of your cultural traditions more broadly than any key moment. In considering your cultural background, you might initially think about your family. However, you can also use this Rice University essay to draw connections to a wider set of themes. Community and culture manifest in a variety of forms. From school clubs to youth groups, or even online Discord channels, we all engage in communities that inform our identities. All of these communities can give you useful material for your Rice supplemental essays.

If you’re still struggling, don’t be discouraged. Everyone has a story to share, and the Rice supplemental essays are designed to help you do so. You could start by imagining how your friends would describe you. Or, it could be helpful to think of a simple timeline of your life so far. From birth to now, consider some milestones that have contributed to who you are today. You might also describe a hero or mentor who has changed your direction.

Identify your milestones

Although this Rice essay gives you up to 500 words, you must not lose sight of the fact that this essay is about you. If you choose to describe how other people have made an impact on your life, remember to bring it back to yourself and your experiences. Above all, your Rice essay should center on how your experiences and traditions have made you the person you are.

As with the other Rice supplemental essays, make sure you remain centered on your own story and clearly communicate this story to your readers. Though it may be tempting to wax philosophical, you should focus on writing explicitly about yourself and your experiences. When in doubt, be more direct while trying to engage the reader. Metaphors and quotes can help ground your Rice University essay at times, but be careful not to overuse them.

How do you wrap up the conclusion of such an open, personal essay? While there is no one “correct” way to end the Rice supplemental essays, take a moment to reflect on how these experiences have made an impact on you. How would you be different without them? Where have these milestones taken you to where you have been, where you are now, and perhaps where you hope to be in the future? Successful Rice University supplemental essays will answer these questions and more.

Rice Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Do you write between 400 and 500 words?
  • Does your Rice essay center on yourself and your development?
  • Is your draft concrete and specific?
  • If applicable, do you use specific examples of how you have shared your perspectives or learned from those of other people?

What to upload for the Rice Box (Required):

One of Rice’s long-standing traditions is “The Box,” a question on our application where we ask all of our applicants to share an image of something that appeals to them. The Box gives you the opportunity to present us with an image that shares something about yourself, your interests or what is meaningful to you. This image is not used for evaluative purposes in the application, but allows you to put your stamp on the application about who you are aside from what you have achieved. Be sure to choose an image that speaks for itself and does not need an explanation. The Box must be a two-dimensional image that is uploaded in the Common Application or the Coalition Application, or uploaded in the Rice Admission Student Portal.

This Rice university essay prompt is not an essay at all. However, the Rice Box does a lot of the things your Rice essays do—namely, it gives the admissions team a window into who you are and what you care about.

Understandably, this unique prompt throws many students off. Remember that while the Rice Box might let you stand out, it should not detract from the effort you put into the required Rice University supplemental essays.

Don’t sweat your image choice

Notice the part of the prompt that reads, “This image is not used for evaluative purposes…and does not need an explanation.” In short, this image will not make or break your application—instead, it should be a fun addition to your overall profile.

Your submission should be able to speak for itself without a supplemental description. Some ideas for your Rice Box image might include a section of your bookshelf, a place you enjoy, an important memento, a project you enjoyed, or a hobby you mention elsewhere.

Don’t get hung up on the Rice Box! Find an image that speaks to you, and leave it at that. Then, spend the bulk of your time crafting your Rice University supplemental essays.

Rice Box Key Questions:

  • Is your image clear enough, while staying within the file size limit?
  • Is your image tasteful and appropriate for an academic context?
  • Does your image reveal something interesting about you?

Tips for writing Rice University essays

Rice uses a holistic approach to evaluate applications. As you craft your Rice supplemental essays, keep this in mind. Above all, your reader wants your Rice essays to provide context on what makes you the person you are.

The Rice essays are your chance to show the admissions team that you’re more than a statistic. Your Rice supplemental essays are also your opportunity to speak directly to your readers. Tell them who you are, what you value, and why you belong at their school. Strong Rice essays will leave the admissions committee with a clear, authentic understanding of an applicant’s background and aspirations.

If any special circumstances have influenced your academic or personal development, you may want to discuss them in your Rice University supplemental essays. This can help the admissions team gain insight into your perspective.

Rice University Supplemental Essays — Final Thoughts

As you craft your Rice essays, remember to be intentional and specific. Also, these tips are just a starting point. Every Rice University essay prompt is different, and you’ll want to examine each of them on their own terms. There are multiple ways to approach your Rice essays; as you draft, you’ll learn what works best for you.

CollegeAdvisor has been helping students in the U.S. and abroad get into Rice University. Check out Norwegian students Line T.’s admissions journey.

Your Rice supplemental essays give you the creative latitude to make them your own, so use this to your advantage. Good luck!


This 2021-2022 essay guide on Rice University was written by Christopher ZhouNeed some more tips for how to excel in your Rice supplemental essays? We’ve got you covered. CollegeAdvisor.com has the tools you need to succeed in your Rice University supplemental essays and beyond.  For more CollegeAdvisor.com resources on Rice, click here.

Want expert help crafting your Rice supplemental essays? Create your free account or schedule a no-cost advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.