How to Write the Syracuse University Supplemental Essay: Examples + Guide 2021/2022

This is essentially a short “Why us?” essay, with an added twist.  

Because it’s so short, the key will be finding 5-7 reasons that set Syracuse apart from all the other schools you’re applying to.

Here’s the “Why us?” essay guide—pay particular attention to the Cornell example, which is one of our favorites. We talk a bit about how to tackle the shorter version, and the Tufts essay is a great example of that.
Here’s the short version of how to write the “Why us?” essay:

  • Spend 1 hr+ researching 5-7 reasons why Syracuse might be a great fit for you (ideally 3-5 of the reasons will be unique to Syracuse and connect back to you).

  • Make a copy of this chart to map out your college research.

  • Create an outline for your essays based on either Approach 1, 2 (recommended), or 3 in the full guide above.

  • Write a first draft!

As you write, try to avoid these common mistakes: 

Mistake #1: Writing about the school’s size, location, reputation, weather, or ranking.

Mistake #2: Simply using emotional language to demonstrate fit.

Mistake #3: Screwing up the mascot, stadium, team colors or names of any important people or places on campus.

Mistake #4: Parroting the brochures or website language.

Mistake #5: Describing traditions the school is well-known for.

Mistake #6: Thinking of this as only a “why them” essay.

One last tip: The prompt is careful to emphasize that you should talk about how you see yourself contributing to a “diverse, inclusive, and respectful campus community.” It’s important that you don’t skip over this part in your answer. In recent years, Syracuse has been confronting ongoing student concerns about diversity/self-segregation and safety, and by including this piece in its supplemental essay prompt, school officials are demonstrating a commitment to these core principles. If Syracuse is a university you’re seriously thinking about attending, take some time to think deeply about how you’d fit into its growing mission of safety and equity. 

Before you start, ask yourself what diversity or inclusion would look like for you in a college setting and maybe brainstorm some words that come to mind in relation to these guiding principles. Then, brainstorm personal experiences, values, or interests from your own life that resonate with those words or thoughts. If it’s helpful, consider what distinct communities you’re a part of and use those as a way to think through what unique experiences or perspectives you might bring to the table. Here’s a step-by-step guide that offers a short exercise to help you think through this exercise.

Here are a couple essays that do a great job of answering this multi-layered “Why us?” prompt:

Syracuse University Essay Example 1:

One of my parents’ greatest goals while raising me was to make me as “well rounded” as possible. However, in the 21st century, students often fantasize about receiving an “A” or gaining “hours” rather than focusing on the true meaning of school and extracurricular activities: learning and personal growth. Syracuse offers an authentic and versatile education, not only scholastically from its premier curriculum and faculty, but also culturally from the diverse community and nearby international powerhouse of New York City. 

Syracuse’s open curriculum offers me a true education by providing me with an environment where I can freely delve into unique history courses such as Renaissance London and Utopia, and Institution: Early Monasticism, in order to create an experience that matches my interests. I am also drawn to Syracuse’s huge emphasis on research. As someone who possesses an inquiring mind, I hope to visit Ghana through the Niemczycki Endowed Scholarship Fund so I can move towards fluency in Twi (my parents’ dialect), help preserve historical diaries at the Dubois Centre for Pan-African Culture, and conduct research on how foreign interest contributes to poverty in Ghana. Syracuse’s dedication to a positive environment for all students delights me as I hope to join the Pride Union to fight against homophobic stigma. After having a lengthy discussion with a representative at a local college fair, I realized that Syracuse’s close-knit and supportive community filled with intellectual individuals is perfect for me, especially since I love being academically challenged. (Written by Joanne Boadi)

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Tips + Analysis:

  1. Connect to your lived experience. Remember, this essay isn’t just about what you could get from a Syracuse education but also what you as a unique applicant would add to the community. Notice how this author connects aspects of her upbringing with opportunities available at the university. Also, by getting personal, the author answers the second part of the prompt about diversity and inclusivity, highlighting how her Ghanaian background would enable her to take on important political research in the Syracuse community.

  2. Explain your impact. The author here doesn’t just reference opportunities at Syracuse in passing; she does so with intention. Every time she brings up a campus organization, she explains why she’s interested in it and what she’d do as a member of it. Writing about the contributions you see yourself making helps admission officers envision your impact on the campus environment more tangibly. It also shows that you’re thinking through your involvement in the community on a deeper level, demonstrating a commitment to Syracuse’s core values.

  3. Cut the fluff. Let’s be real: This is a short word count, and you probably have more to say than space will allow. While it’s important to write clearly and articulately, you don’t want to sacrifice critical information for the sake of poetic prose. If you can’t think of a clever pun or a witty insight, it’s okay. This author isn’t trying to be funny or write a Shakespearean sonnet in her answer either. She ropes us in with a quick thought about the cultural climate she was raised in, then gets right to the most important part of her response.

Syracuse University Essay Example 2:

As a kid I devised ways to catch fishing worms, as an athlete I designed new soccer drills, and in high school I used a formalized innovation strategy to design and develop products. I’m now in the early stages of designing a portable optical machine to produce durable eyeglass frames through my non-profit. In short, I’ve been an inventor and problem-solver my whole life. 

I intend to major in mechanical engineering with a minor in entrepreneurship to help me develop the competencies I need to grow as an engineer and further my mission of tackling challenges to help people live more productive, independent lives. The resources and learning opportunities at Syracuse–from the SU MakerSpace to the ME Capstone Design program, research centers, and SyracuseCoE–will help make this a reality. 

I value the ME program’s focus on creating a more sustainable world through classes like Sustainable Manufacturing. I plan on studying with Professor Moon to better understand system modeling and sustainability in complex systems. 

Professor Moon also leads the field in research on new product development processes. As part of the product development process that I followed in my high school Engineering courses, I used 3D design tools extensively. Syracuse offers research opportunities in areas such as CAD design and optimization where researchers are developing AI techniques to improve the product development process.

This combination of experiential learning and innovative research opportunities is unique to Syracuse and would help me become the engineer and inventor I hope to be.

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Tips + Analysis

  1. Try to vary sentence and paragraph length. On a logistical level, it’s a good idea to mix up the kinds of sentences you’re using and the way you’re structuring your paragraphs to maintain your reader’s interest. The author here does a great job of sticking to relatively short and concise micro-paragraphs. The breaks in between help us understand when she’s moving on to a new topic. For instance, her first paragraph deals with her experiences growing up, and her second is more about how she envisions her life and studies at Syracuse preparing her for her future. Having that paragraph break in between notifies us that she’s moved on to a new focus, while also helping us visualize her growth over time. Before you write, spend some time thinking about how you can use the structure of your answer to amplify the narrative you’re trying to tell.

  2. Consider emphasizing research opportunities. Syracuse places a lot of emphasis on research and independent study, so if those opportunities interest you, this prompt is your chance to write about that (if it doesn’t, that’s okay too—don’t try to fake it). In this essay, the author talks about her interest in working with Professor Moon on product development and discusses why this project excites her. If you have a general idea of what you’re interested in, browse the course catalogue for the coming year or spend some time investigating what research professors at Syracuse are doing. 

  3. Put your academic goals in the context of the larger community. This prompt asks you to go one step further than the normal “Why us?” essay. It wants to know how your role as a student at Syracuse will affect the school’s culture, recognizing that college isn’t just about in-class lectures. You’ll also be interacting with a diverse group of people with backgrounds that may be completely different than your own. Consider thinking through how your coursework might influence places, people, and communities outside the classroom. This author relates her studies to her goal of helping people live more productive, independent lives and making the world more sustainable. If you have the details, you can get even more specific, drawing on personal experience to help your reader understand the scope and significance of the impact you see yourself making at Syracuse.

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