Villanova University is a private, Catholic research university in Pennsylvania. With a 29 percent acceptance rate, it's considered moderately competitive—but even that level has an average GPA just shy of 4.0. But acceptance to Villanova isn't just about your test scores and GPA; you'll also need to nail the Villanova supplement essay, rounding out your application with a strong representation of yourself.
In this guide, we'll cover all of Villanova's essay prompts and how to best answer them, including potential topics and pitfalls.
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Find yourself a quiet place and a good study playlist.
What Are the Villanova Essay Prompts?
Villanova University only accepts the Common Application. In addition to the required Common Application essay question, you'll be writing one additional supplement specifically for Villanova.
Just one supplemental essay is required, but you'll have three prompts to choose from. Your response should be one page, double-spaced, in length.
No prompt is inherently better than the others—pick whichever appeals to you most. Each one is unique to Villanova, and they all have some unique twists on the expected essay format.
In the spirit of Saint Augustine, we believe that everyone in the Villanova community learns from each other. What is a lesson that you have learned in your life so far that you will share with others?
Colleges, especially research universities like Villanova, are all about community and collaboration. You might have a particularly brilliant mind, but that's not all it takes to succeed—the ability to work with and learn from others is also key, and Villanova wants to hear about a lesson you learned that you will share with others at the school.
This is a good opportunity to be humble and acknowledge what you've learned along the way. Think of an important lesson you've learned, one that you think other students at Villanova would benefit from knowing. This means the lesson should be important enough to be worth passing on and not so specific to your life that your advice won't be relevant to many other people.
If a lesson doesn't immediately come to mind, consider times when you really struggled with a challenge. How did you solve the problem? Conversely, think about times you did really well. What lessons had you learned previously that allowed you to achieve such success?
You might also consider the people you typically get advice from. Did one of them impart an especially useful lesson? The lesson doesn't need to come from someone else--it's fine if you learned it on your own--but if a mentor helped you to learn this lesson, that's worth mentioning in your essay.
Don't spend too much time worrying about choosing an experience or situation that's particularly impressive—instead, focus on choosing a lesson that you feel is especially valuable for people at Villanova to know. A story of you learning how to properly test samples in a cancer research lab may sound impressive, but that lesson wouldn't apply to many people at Villanova, and therefore wouldn't work well for this essay. Choose a lesson you think would improve Villanova/the world in general if more people knew about it and practiced it, even if it isn't particularly flashy or novel.
A key thing to avoid in answering this question is prioritizing your achievement over the lesson you learned. That doesn't mean you shouldn't write about a great achievement—if you won an impressive award or invented something new, definitely share that!—but rather that you should focus on showcasing why the lesson was useful and how it will benefit others at Villanova. Remember, this is a lesson that needs to apply to many people at the school, beyond just yourself.
You may live in one of the busiest cities in all the world or come from a small town with just one traffic light. The place that you call home has probably shaped who you are in some way. Tell us about where you are from and what, from there, you will bring to Villanova.
To answer this question, think about the communities you belong to and the ways they have impacted you. The prompt mentions population size of your home, but this isn't something you need to discuss if it hasn't really had an impact on you. You can choose a more specific part of your community, such as a cultural group you're part of, opportunities you've been able to pursue because of your hometown, or even just a favorite nature walk you have that allows you to decompress and see matters in a different light.
Choose one or more aspects of your home to discuss. We recommend not talking about more than three, just to make sure you can go in-depth on each of them. Remember that you shouldn't just describe your home in this essay; you also need to discuss how it impacted you and how it will impact your life at Villanova.
If you choose to discuss, say, your home's large Polish population, spend no more than a third of the essay describing Polish events you attended, foods you ate, friends you made in that community, etc. The rest of your essay should focus on how this part of your home affected you and how it will affect the type of person you are at Villanova. Did being part of the Polish community teach you the value of tradition and now you'll dive into celebrating Villanova's traditions? Did it help you make friends when you were lonely and now you'll always be on the lookout for a fellow Villanova student who looks like they could use a friend?
Remember, the purpose of the essay isn't just for Villanova to learn about your home. What they're really interested in is you, and the type of person you are. They want to know both how your home affected your past as well as your future (i.e. the type of person you'll be at Villanova).
Your essay will be strongest if you focus on actionable ways your community shaped you, as well as actionable ways you'll use what you gained from it at Villanova. If your home taught you the importance of knowing people with different backgrounds and opinions, don't just say that now you'll be open to meeting different kinds of people at Villanova. Make it more actionable and say that you'll use your past experiences to sign up for clubs you may not know much about, you'll make an effort to get to make friends even with people you don't initially have much in common with, you'll volunteer to help foreign exchange students get settled in at the school, etc. Really show that you'll take the lessons you learned from your home to be a positive influence at Villanova.
Please describe a choice for change that you have made in your life that has greatly affected your life or the lives of others.
Colleges, including Villanova, want to admit students who are both willing and able to handle changes in their lives. Students who can handle change are often happier and more productive students because they can accept a disruption to the status quo and still continue to thrive.
Think about a major change you've made in your life. It could be a change you made to improve yourself, such as deleting social media to stop comparing yourself to others, or it could be a change you made to expand your boundaries, such as deciding to do a foreign exchange trip in high school. The change could also have had a minimal impact on you, but a large impact on others. The key thing is that it must be a change you decided to make. Your parents deciding to move across the country would likely have a large impact on you, but it wouldn't work for this essay because it wasn't a change you decided to make yourself.
For this question, avoid topics that are too shallow or that didn't really have a significant impact on you. Changing which sport you play may have changed your schedule and what your practices are like, but it likely didn't change who you are as a person (but if it did, then it's a valid topic to write about!) You want to choose a change that really affected who you are as a person. Dig deep on this question and pick something with a clear narrative. Your essay should showcase something positive about you, whether it's your work ethic, your passion, or your caring for others.
It's also possible to discuss a change you made that had a negative impact on you or that you now feel is a mistake, but you should still end your essay on a positive note that shows how you learned and improved from this experience.
Once you have a change you've made in mind, think about the reasons behind why you made the change and what happened as a result of the change. The majority of your essay shouldn't focus on the change itself but what changed as a result. What were you unhappy with in your life that made the change necessary? Then, once you made the change, how did it impact you or others? Who benefited as a result of the change and how? What did you learn as a result of this change? Make sure to show that you're both able to make large changes in your life and learn from them to become a better person.
Believe it or not, relaxation is an important part of writing your college essays.
Key Tips for Writing the Villanova Essay
Though Villanova's essay prompts are targeted specifically for their school, there are quite a few guidelines you can follow to make your essay strong regardless of what school you're applying for.
Brainstorming doesn't have to be an intensive process. Beginning a project is often the hardest part; taking a minute or five to get a bunch of ideas down on paper, regardless of their quality, lets you get to work without pressure. Take a deep breath, set a timer, and start jotting down as many ideas as you can think of. Once you're done, pick the ones that sound most appealing and move on to the next step.
Now that you have some ideas, you can start spinning them into outlines. Take a few of the ideas that are most appealing to you and start answering the supplemental questions that should come up in your essay. For example, if you're answering the first prompt, you should not only be thinking about your personal experiences with diversity, but also how you hope to support equity at Villanova.
Sketch out a brief plan for each topic. If you find you don't have enough points to make, it's probably not the right idea. Repeat until you have a few outlines to choose from, and then choose the one that you feel strongest about.
Now that you already have an outline, it's far easier to actually write your essay. On your first draft, don't worry too much about staying within the page limit. Don't even worry about word choice or having something you're ready to show somebody else. Just focus on getting all of your ideas down on the page so that you have something to do for the next stage.
Now comes the point where you start taking what you've done and turning it into gold. Editing isn't just about fine-tuning your grammar and spelling; read your draft aloud to find places where your sentences run on too long, or places where you've used the wrong word. Cut extra words and take out sections that aren't serving your thesis. Be brutal; you can always add things back in if you find you miss them!
Once you've done a few editing passes on your essay, it's time for the scariest part: showing it to others. Ask a few people who are invested in your success but who aren't likely to be too harsh or overly kind in their suggestions—teachers, coaches, and other authority figures are generally good choices—to take a look at your essay and let you know what they think. Let them mark up your draft with any mistakes that they find, and set all that feedback aside for a bit. It's a good time to take a break from your essay so that you can come back to it with fresh eyes.
Now that you've had some time away from your essay, it's time to revise. Take all that feedback you received and consider it. You don't have to fix anything that doesn't feel right to you, but do consider why your reviewers may have made that suggestion. Does your essay lack clarity? Could you have chosen a better word? Why are they confused?
Always be sure that your essay sounds like you wrote it, though. Remember: your essay is meant to showcase the things that make you unique. If it reads like every other students' application, it's not working right! If one of your readers has made big suggestions that don't sound like something you'd say, rephrase them until they do, or just don't use them. It's more important that your essay represents you.
A great essay is just one part of a successful Villanova application. Find out what ACT scores and GPA the admissions office is looking for with this handy guide!
If you're seeking financial aid from Villanova, this guide to their tuition and financial aid will help you figure out how much you need and how much you can expect to get.
Though Villanova has some unique considerations for their essays, there are some common tricks and strategies you can use to write your college essay. This guide covers some of the best ways to ensure your application essay is a success!
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Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.