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4 Tips for Writing a Stellar Boston College Essay

Posted by Hannah Muniz | Aug 10, 2020 12:00:00 PM

College Admissions, College Essays



Ranked among the top 40 colleges nationwide, Boston College is an excellent college choice, especially if you're hoping to attend a religious institution. As part of the application process, you'll need to submit a Boston College essay. So what should you write about in your essay to raise your chances of getting admitted here?

In this guide, we closely analyze all Boston College essay prompts, providing you with our best tips and advice. We'll also take a look at real Boston College essay examples to give you an idea of what a successful Boston College essay can look like.

So let's get started!


What Is the Boston College Essay?

In addition to the Common Application essay prompts, Boston College requires all first-year applicants to submit a separate essay as part of the Boston College Supplement (which you can find in the Common App under the heading "Writing Supplement").

With this writing supplement, you have four possible essay prompts to choose from:

#1: Great art evokes a sense of wonder. It nourishes the mind and spirit. Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?

#2: When you choose a college, you will join a new community of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and stories. What is it about your background, your experiences, or your story, that will enrich Boston College's community?

#3: Boston College strives to provide an undergraduate learning experience emphasizing the liberal arts, quality teaching, personal formation, and engagement of critical issues. If you had the opportunity to create your own college course, what enduring question or contemporary problem would you address and why?

#4: Jesuit education considers the liberal arts a pathway to intellectual growth and character formation. What beliefs and values inform your decisions and actions today, and how will Boston College assist you in becoming a person who thinks and acts for the common good?

Each essay prompt expects you to give specific details and a unique, compelling story of who you are, how you came to be this way, and what you hope to do with your education at Boston College.

Regardless of the essay prompt you choose, your Boston College essay must be no longer than 400 words, making it a little shorter than a typical college essay, which is 500-600 words long.

The good news is you only have to answer one of the prompts listed above. But how can you choose the best essay prompt for you? Read on as we examine all the Boston College essay prompts, one by one.


All Boston College Essay Prompts, Analyzed

In order to submit a great Boston College essay, you'll need to know what each prompt is asking you to do and which one will work best based on your personality, experiences, and/or interests. Below, we offer a close analysis of all four Boston College essay prompts.




Boston College Essay Prompt 1

Great art evokes a sense of wonder. It nourishes the mind and spirit. Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?


This first Boston College essay prompt is all about art, specifically a piece of art that's had a major impact on you. Keep in mind that the prompt specifically asks about a song, poem, speech, or novel. If you've been inspired by a different form of art—like a painting, sculpture, or dance piece—you'll probably be fine writing about that as well.

If possible, though, it's best to try to stick with the four options in the prompt; this way you know you're answering it correctly.

You also want to avoid rattling on and on about the art piece and why it's so great. Instead, focus on why this piece of art has affected you to such a degree and how this impact has manifested in your life. Remember that admissions counselors want to get to know you better.


Should You Choose This Prompt?

This essay prompt is ideal for applicants who intend to major in a creative field, such as music or creative writing, due to its emphasis on inspiration and what kind of art has impacted your own approach to creativity. It's a great invitation to talk about your major, your passion, and your future goals.

Even if you don't plan to major in a creative field or have no idea what you want to major in, this is a good prompt to respond to if you can easily think of a piece of art that has changed you in some critical way. If you can't, another prompt would probably be better suited for you.


Tips for Answering This Prompt

  • Avoid writing about a super famous work. While it's okay to focus on something you read for school, don't go with extremely famous and clichéd works, such as The Great Gatsby or Romeo and Juliet.

  • Focus on you more than the piece of art. The point of this essay is to explain what creative work has greatly inspired or impacted you, not why this work is so great. Think about the qualities or goals you now have because of your exposure to this piece, and concentrate on those and how you developed them in your essay.

  • Be clear about how this artwork has affected you. For example, perhaps the first time you listened to the English medieval song "Bryd One Brere," which is thought to be the oldest love song on record, you felt so moved by its lyrics that you decided to learn more about medieval England. As a result, you're thinking of majoring in history. This response lets readers get to know you a little better—and it also proves you know your history, too.




Boston College Essay Prompt 2

When you choose a college, you will join a new community of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and stories. What is it about your background, your experiences, or your story, that will enrich Boston College's community?


This second Boston College essay prompt is a diversity essay prompt: it wants to know what kinds of qualities, experiences, and/or perspectives you personally will bring to the Boston College community. In short, what makes you special?

For this essay, you'll want to focus on one specific trait, experience, or quality you have, ideally one that's an integral part of your identity.

For example, if you come from an ethnic group that historically was forced to conceal its traditions and customs, you could discuss how being able to freely express and embrace your cultural roots has made you want to encourage others to do the same.


Should You Choose This Prompt?

There are many categories of diversity that you may choose to write about if they pertain to you. Here are some examples:

  • Your cultural group, race, or ethnicity
  • Your religion
  • Your socioeconomic background
  • Your sex or gender identity
  • Your sexual orientation
  • A club, group, or organization you're part of
  • Your local community
  • Your hometown or home country
  • A unique experience, struggle, or moment from your life

To tackle this prompt, you don't need to fall under a strictly defined category of people. For example, you could write about a unique circumstance in your life or a specific event that was particularly meaningful to you and significantly affected your perspective on diversity in general.


Tips for Answering This Prompt

  • Try to avoid trite topics that can apply to many applicants. If you come from a family of immigrants, for instance, you could certainly write about this; however, this topic isn't super unique, so be sure you're focusing on something specific about that experience. Some ideas include how being an immigrant has shaped your family's values or an experience you had with anti-immigration protesters.

  • Focus on one defining quality. Even if you fit into multiple categories above, it's best to keep your focus narrow, as this will help keep your essay tight and impactful.

  • Be clear about how your experience will enrich Boston College's community. It should be obvious how your perspective will positively affect those around you. Maybe you plan to start a club or promote a volunteering effort, for example. Ultimately, you want to prove that you're going to make the campus more diverse and inclusive.

  • Don't write about something that isn't meaningful to you. If your experience didn't have much of an effect on you and/or doesn't matter much to you now, definitely choose something else to write about. Don't exaggerate the significance of anything, or you'll risk coming across insincere and inauthentic.




Boston College Essay Prompt 3

Boston College strives to provide an undergraduate learning experience emphasizing the liberal arts, quality teaching, personal formation, and engagement of critical issues. If you had the opportunity to create your own college course, what enduring question or contemporary problem would you address and why?


With this prompt, you're essentially being asked what kinds of academic fields or social issues you're interested in and why you'd like to study them.

This essay is a great opportunity for you to delve into a specific idea or problem you want to learn more about in college. The topic you choose for your essay can be pretty much anything, from an ancient philosophical theory to how smart phones impact American culture.

In short, what excites, interests, or captivates you intellectually? And why?

Before tackling this question, take time to consider what you're passionate about. That can be an academic field you want to study, a challenging problem in your future career field, or a contemporary social issue.


Should You Choose This Prompt?

Most applicants have some idea of what they want to study in college. So if there's a particular field you're interested in, you can use this as a jumping-off point. Narrow your topic so you'll be discussing a very specific interest, question, or idea. For example, if you plan to major in psychology, you could talk about how you plan to use your major to start a practice dedicated to helping children aging out of the foster care system. The more specific you are, the better your response will be.

You can also approach this prompt from a social perspective. Are there any problems in contemporary society that you believe need to be addressed in a new way? For example, perhaps you're not a fan of the way women of color are represented in schools' history textbooks and you want to find new solutions for making history courses more diverse.

With this topic, the sky's pretty much the limit. Here are some other potential topics you could talk about:

  • Environmental issues or climate change
  • Political/economic instability or other problems in a country/area
  • Discrimination, stigmas, or other issues relating to inequality
  • Potential challenges facing technology, science, the arts, specific industries, etc.


Tips for Answering This Prompt

  • Explain why you are so invested in this problem. Do you have direct experience with the issue you're focusing on? How did (or does) it make you feel? Maybe you're curious about how we could improve public access for people with physical disabilities, and the reason you developed an interest in solving this problem is that you often watched your friend—who used a wheelchair—advocate for better accessibility in your high school.

  • Include a (creative) title for your course. The prompt asks you to create a college class about the topic you're passionate about. While there's no need to get overly creative, make sure your class's name is concise and accurately reflects the proposed content. If you were writing about the topic described above, you could title your course something like "Public Access for People with Disabilities: Barriers and Solutions."




Boston College Essay Prompt 4

Jesuit education considers the liberal arts a pathway to intellectual growth and character formation. What beliefs and values inform your decisions and actions today, and how will Boston College assist you in becoming a person who thinks and acts for the common good?


Boston College is a highly ranked Jesuit institution, so it's not surprising that the school is curious about applicants' values. The purpose of this prompt is to help Boston College understand how your own values will fit with and further promote the Jesuit principles of ethics and community service.

This essay prompt can be broken down into two basic questions:

  • What are your beliefs and values regarding your role in your community?
  • How will Boston College fit with these values and allow you to grow as a person?


Should You Choose This Prompt?

If you're applying to Boston College, you likely already know that it's a Jesuit institution, meaning it strongly values qualities such as morality, service, and interdisciplinary learning.

If you have strong values that align with these Jesuit principles, have a clear reason for wanting to attend a Jesuit institution, and can readily envision how you plan to use your BC education for the "common good," this would be a great prompt for you.

Some values you could write about in your essay include the following:

  • Honesty
  • Morality/ethics
  • Empathy/compassion for others
  • Selflessness


Tips for Answering This Prompt

  • Focus on one specific value/quality you have. For instance, if honesty is important to you, you could discuss a time you had to decide between telling the truth or telling a lie, and how this choice impacted the role honesty plays in your daily life.

  • Explain how Boston College will help you develop this value you have. You could talk about specific classes, extracurricular activities, clubs, and volunteer opportunities. For example, maybe you've noticed that Boston has a high poverty rate, but BC doesn't have a student organization that's addressing that problem. You could then use this prompt to talk about potentially starting a club to help local disadvantaged families.


Boston College Essay Examples

Now, let's take a look at two real Boston College essay examples written by admitted applicants.

Note that since the Boston College essay prompts change frequently, so these essays might not correspond directly to one of the four prompts listed above.


Boston College Essay Example 1

This first Boston College essay we'll look at could have easily been written for the second prompt described above (the diversity essay prompt) as it focuses on the applicant's unique multicultural background.

Note that this sample essay is more than 550 words, whereas the current Boston College essay requirements state that essays may not exceed 400 words.

Here is the essay:

"Happy birthday!" "Feliz cumpleanos!" "Kol sana wa enta tayyab!" After my family sings me happy birthday in English, Spanish, and Arabic, I blow out the candles on my cake amidst thunderous cheers that reverberate throughout the five boroughs of New York City. My birthday celebrations, likened by my friends to United Nations assemblies, feature my one, cohesive, yet ever so dissimilar, family, stepping out of their respective Ecuadorian and Egyptian roles to further thrust upon me their expectations. Some would fold under this pressure, but I embrace this trust. While they have not always been able to put me in optimal positions, it has all congregated to a driving force in my cultured and diverse mind.

My never ending quest to achieve success for my family began at a young age, through my trips to Ecuador and Egypt. I not only grew fond of their eloquent languages, but of their modest values. On my first trip to Ecuador as a toddler, my Uncle Guillermo was found dead in an alley one morning, no cause, no explanation. Instead of shielding me from the forlorn passing of one of my heroes, my relatives used this as an opportunity to develop my value for awareness. They told me that Guillermo's death was linked to his severe alcoholism. He had been afflicted for decades, all while selling away the family's possessions to fuel his addiction. He, like many from the impoverished, drug ridden country, knew no better. Some would view a traumatizing event like this as an excuse to end up along a similar path, but it immediately ingrained in me the farsighted principles that I maintain to this day. There are no excuses for me to approach education halfheartedly, for I have witnessed the malevolent effects of ignorance.

When my grandma, Anisa Saad, told me that she views my future with the same reverence that she views the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, I finally realized how delicate my actions are. I knew that making something out of myself meant just as much to my family as it did to me. The Egyptian Revolution was the first time since 1981 that Egyptians had a voice. As they overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, they created an irrevocable identity. They proved that regardless what comprises your past or your background, your impact on the world is only what you make of it. My grandma told me that all she could think about as she cast her vote in the first ever democratic election was that she was changing the world. She said that if a 78-year-old widow living with three of her children and a bad back could change the world, a prioritized pupil with a keen understanding of different societies has boundless potential.

In New York City, the quintessential hub of culture, I found it easier to expand on my expectations and values. I am most people's culturally passionate friend rather than the kid whose ethnicity is indeterminable. I am a New Yorker's idea of a New Yorker; an assiduous product of the "melting pot." No idea is too farfetched to believe, no goal too unattainable. With my grandma's words in mind, I face any problem that the Concrete Jungle throws at me. I seek to make sure the Salazar's of Ecuador and the Badran's of Egypt finally have significant names in the world. I want to blow out my birthday candles with a family proud that I made it, not hoping that I do.



Here's what makes this Boston College essay work:

  • It has a compelling hook. The first few sentences about the applicant's multicultural and multilingual family immediately draw us in. It makes you want to learn more about why this applicant gets told happy birthday in three languages, and how their experience shapes their values.
  • It's highly specific and detailed. We're given people's actual names, from Uncle Guillermo to Anisa Saad. These concrete details ground us readers in the story while highlighting clear connections between the applicant's life experiences and values.


body_dandelion_detailedZoom in on the details for your Boston College essay.


Boston College Essay Example 2

This next real Boston College essay example is less focused on diversity and more on community service, a major Jesuit value that Boston College would be more than happy to read about in your essay!

At just under 400 words, this essay should help give you an idea of about how long your Boston College essay can be.

"Can you teach me how to tie my shoes?" I looked down. There was Miguel. He pointed at his untied shoelaces. "Come sit down over here," I said as I pulled over a chair. "Just remember this: Loop, Swoop, and Pull." I tied his shoelace. "Now you try on the other." He bent down. "Loop ... Swoop, and ... Pull." He completed a perfect bow.

Later on in that day, Thomas came over to me. "Can you help me tie my sneaker?" Miguel was next to me. I was helping him learn the letters of the alphabet. "I think Miguel can help you." I looked down at him and he nodded. He brought Thomas to the side. "Just remember, Loop, Swoop, and Pull."

In-between studying for the SATs and preparing for my varsity basketball season, I volunteered in a local preschool for Head Start and Special Needs Children in the summer before my junior year. I worked with students who were attending their first year of the school during that year. I was invited back to volunteer again the next summer. I was with the second-year students and Miguel and Thomas were again in my class.

"Do you want to see me write my name?" Miguel asked the first day of my second summer at the school. He used a purple marker and a blank piece of white paper and clearly wrote "Miguel." Thomas approached me. "Look, I can tie my shoes now." He bent down. "Loop, Swoop, and Pull," he whispered as he completed a perfect bow. "It's great to see you guys again. I'll be here the whole summer."

The goal of the program is to prepare the students for success in kindergarten. The best thing about going to the school for two years was to see the progress Miguel, Thomas, and the other kids made. I saw the children walk on the stage at the graduation ceremony at the end of the summer term. I know they will be able to excel in kindergarten.

I began to visualize Thomas and Miguel being at the top of their class in kindergarten next year. I am proud of the work the school does for the children and the progress the children make in the school. I look forward to returning to volunteer next summer.



Here's what makes this Boston College essay work:

  • It tells a detailed, interesting story. Many students have volunteered at schools or helped out younger children, but this Boston College essay lets readers really see the uniqueness of the applicant's experience. We learn about two children, Thomas and Miguel, and how the process of helping them fundamentally shaped the applicant.
  • It's highly focused. No part of this essay feels extraneous or as if it doesn't belong. It uses a well-organized structure that's easy to follow. We also learn through small details that the applicant successfully maintains other commitments, too, such as varsity basketball. So not only is this person caring, they're also a great multitasker!
  • It focuses on a key Jesuit value: giving back to others. If you plan to respond to Prompt 4, this is a great essay to look to for tips. It's all about helping the common good and highlights the applicant's desire to continue helping the community.




How to Write a Great Boston College Essay: 4 Tips

Before we wrap up, here are four general tips to help you write a great Boston College essay.


#1: Be Clear and Specific

Your Boston College essay should be clear and have specific, concrete details that tell a compelling narrative about you and what you value. Your essay will have more personal impact if you can incorporate critical details, such as the names of people, your reactions/emotions to events or actions, etc.

In addition, make sure your story is focused and doesn't meander onto less relevant, less interesting, or less significant topics.

For instance, if you're writing about how you enjoy volunteering at retirement homes, there's no point in elaborating on other values you have or other service projects you're involved in since doing so will take away from the main focus of your essay.


#2: Speak Honestly About Embracing Jesuit Values

As with any college essay, be authentic. Exaggerations and lies are pretty easy for admissions committees to detect, so don't bother trying to make a particular experience in your life seem more significant than it really was.

Be honest with yourself: what's important to you? What do you believe Boston College must know about you? And what do you feel defines who you are and what you want to do?

Remember that Boston College is a Jesuit school that strongly values specific qualities, including morality, honesty, and community service. If you have a strong passion for any Jesuit values and often exercise them in your life, make sure you're talking about them to emphasize how Boston College is an ideal fit for you.


#3: Don't Repeat What You Wrote for the Common App Essay

All Boston College applicants must write a separate personal statement that responds to one of the Common App prompts. Since many of the Common App prompts are similar to the Boston College essay prompts listed above, it's critical that you do not repeat any major themes or topics in your two essays.

Each essay is meant to showcase a different side of you, and if you're simply repeating yourself, you won't be revealing new and interesting aspects of your personality—which will not impress the Boston College admissions committee!


#4: Edit and Proofread Multiple Times

You'll want to spend a good amount of time editing and proofreading your Boston College essay.

The best way to do this is to write a rough draft and then put it away for a few days. After some time has passed, take out your essay so you can look it over with a fresh perspective. Note any areas that are irrelevant, awkward, or grammatically incorrect.

Once you've done this a few times, give your essay to someone else to read, such as a teacher, parent, or older sibling. Ask for feedback on what you can improve in terms of flow, organization, and overall story.

Now should now have an excellent Boston College essay ready to submit!


What's Next?

If you're applying to Boston College, you're likely applying to other colleges on the East Coast, too. Check out our expert guides to the Duke essay, the Tufts essays, and the Harvard essay.

Need help writing your Common App essay? Our tips will show you how to write a Common App essay guaranteed to make you stand out from other applicants!

To learn more about Boston College, including what GPA and SAT/ACT scores you'll need to get in, check out our Boston College admission requirements page.


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Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

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