Like good things that come in small packages, great essays can come from small word counts. But with just 250 words available to you for packing in content, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Fear not, aspiring Bucknell Bison. We’ve got just the strategy to help you crush this essay.
The good news about this prompt (besides the short word count) is that it’s straightforward: If you’ve chosen a major, Bucknell wants to know why you’ve picked that field of interest. Undeclared? No problem. Admission officers still want to know more about your academic interests. And if you’ve shown an interest in a second major, here’s your chance to elaborate on it.
Whatever field of study you choose to talk about, the big question you’ll want to address is “why?” And, quite honestly, this is a great question to be asking—for both the essays and life in and after college.
While it’s a great question, it can feel like an intimidatingly large one for a short-ish essay. It’s easier if you break the big question down into some smaller, more manageable ones, like:
What academic subjects have I enjoyed in high school? What did I like about them? How did I pursue them?
Were there any projects, personal experiences, internships, or extracurricular activities that excited me in high school and made me want to know more about a subject?
What question do I find myself contemplating often? How would I go about finding its answer?
What skill sets do I want to develop? How might I use those skills once I learn them?
What resources, research opportunities, or classes at Bucknell look interesting or exciting to me?
Which Bucknell professors would I like to work with or get to know better?
Here’s a great example of a prior-year Bucknell essay that addresses some of these bite-sized questions, with tips and analysis below for how you could take a similar approach.
My love for chemistry started with nail polish. As a twelve-year-old girl, I loved its vibrant colors and glossy shine. I would research different methods of nail-painting, and one day I discovered a technique called water marbling. My eyes sparkled while watching the nail polish glide across water, and I was desperate to understand why it floated. To find an answer, I conducted tests with nail polish, dish soap, and toothpaste to see which of the additives would float.
My curiosity with chemistry continued through baking. Watching the yeast rise in my brioche dough left me puzzled. What was causing the loaf to grow? After some preliminary research, I ran to my 10th grade chemistry teacher and begged him to explain everything about yeast fermentation. Hearing his lesson on anaerobic respiration ignited the same sparkly eyes that my twelve-year-old nail polish obsessed self knew too well. From that moment on, I knew that chemistry was the right major for me.
At Bucknell University, I hope to fuel my new passion of biochemistry through the cutting edge facilities and inspiring professors. After taking biology and organic chemistry this year, I’ve discovered that I enjoy studying human cells. I would love to continue my studies in Bucknell’s technologically advanced labs, and to initiate research under Bucknell’s biochemistry professors like Professor Rovnyak. With all of the enriching opportunities that Bucknell offers, I hope to have the best four years of my life inside and outside of a lab. (245 words)
— — —
Tips + Analysis
Don’t be afraid to be a little unconventional. Have an unusual origin story for your educational interests? Let’s hear it. Often, those make for strong starts to essays and are like a breath of fresh air to admission officers. This student chose to open her chemistry-focused essay with a novel story about nail polish and marbling instead of leading with her second paragraph—a far-more-common baking-as-a-chemistry-experiment anecdote.
Go deep, not wide. It might seem tempting to try to show off several different sides of your academic curiosity—majors and minors and concentrations, oh my! Don’t. Instead, choose to go deep and show several major-related interests and experiences. Through her focus on biochemistry as a major, this student showed her interest in experimentation, her love of learning, and a plan for the future.
Not having a major is OK. Really. We know the feeling: It’s intimidating to respond to an essay that’s asking you about your first and second majors, when you’re still struggling with the pressure of selecting a first. Math. No, business. Wait, psychology. Breathe. It’s perfectly fine (and entirely expected) to not know what you want to major in. Bucknell thinks so too, which is why “undecided status” is specifically included as an option in the prompt. College is a time for experimentation, and we expect you’ll explore lots of new interests during your four years. So if you’re not confident in your major (or even potential major), you can just as effectively discuss an academic area you’re interested in learning more about. We’d bet you can’t tell whether the student above is a confident biochemistry major or simply a student who enjoys testing her theories on the world around her. Either way, the essay works.
End with the future. While the bulk of your essay will be giving the back story on how and why you became interested in an academic field, you might end with a look ahead. What might you find yourself doing in 10 or 20 years? What contributions might you be making? In this essay, the author uses her conclusion as a place to hypothesize what her college experience at Buckell might look like. Showing curiosity and enthusiasm, with just a touch of why Bucknell is the right-fit school for her, she convinces us she’s had solid past experiences and a well-prepared future.