SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

5 Tips for Writing an Amazing Villanova Essay

Posted by Melissa Brinks | Oct 3, 2020 4:00:00 PM

College Admissions



Villanova University is a private, Catholic research university in Pennsylvania. With a 28 percent acceptance rate, it's considered moderately competitive—but even that level of selectiveness 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.

Feature Image: abbike18/Wikimedia Commons


body_essay-20Find 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.

Two more supplemental essays are required as part of your application. The first essay gives you four options, and you only have to answer one. You'll have about 250 words to work with!

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.

The second essay is a "Why This College" essay. Essentially, admissions counselors want to know why Villanova is the perfect school for about 100 words, which isn't very much space!

Now, let's take a closer look at these essay prompts and how to answer them.


For the first essay, you'll get to choose which prompt you answer. Read on to make sure you're picking the Villanova prompt that gives you the best chance of getting in!


Essay Prompt #1: Villanova Free Choice

This section gives you four essay prompts. You'll only have to answer one!

The Villanova website suggests that you answer this essay in 250 words even though you have a maximum of 300 words on the Common App. Our recommendation? Keep your response as close to 250 words as possible!


Free Choice Option #1: The Truest Thing Prompt

What is the truest thing that you know? How did you come to this conclusion?


What Is This Essay Asking You to Do?

Everyone has principles that guide their life, and this free choice essay prompt is asking you to describe one of yours. In about 250 words, you'll need to respond to this prompt--if you choose it--by selecting the one truest thing you know, and explaining how you came to that conclusion.

Now, don't get bogged down worrying about whether Villanova admissions will agree that your "truest thing" is actually the truest: the prompt asks about the truest thing that you know because they want to see what values guide your life to make you who you are. To "justify" your answer, you'll just need to tell the story of how you came to the conclusion that your truest thing is true.


What Makes A Good Answer?

#1: Tell a story. Think about an experience or situation that showcased the truth of the thing you decide to write about. For example, say you decide that your truest thing is Mr. Rogers' claim: "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." Maybe there was a situation where your community was hit hard by a natural disaster and you were encouraged by working alongside with the helpers who came to help restore your community. Whatever truest thing you choose to write about, telling the story of how you saw the truthfulness of it in a real situation from your life will make this response memorable.

#2: Pick something that's that's totally you. There are probably a lot of things you find to be true that guide your life, but for this response, write about the one that is most likely to showcase one of your core qualities or values. For instance, maybe you've been working hard to practice meditation, and you've become known for your ability to keep calm in tough times. So your truest thing is that though mindfulness, we can find peace in the world around us. Whatever the case may be, write about a "truth" that exemplifies who you are.

#3: Think outside the box. Consider "truest things" that aren't necessarily super serious. Can funny things be true? Can truest things be said with a touch of sarcasm? Yes, and yes. Remember that the point of these free choice essay is to show the person behind the application. As long as you can provide meaningful context for your "truest thing," it's totally fine if yours is funny, ironic, or just kind of kooky.


What Are Some Potential Essay Topics?

On top of the essay options above, consider these potential topics:

  • You pick a quote from your favorite literary character and tell the story of how that quote became true to you. Maybe that happened through a tough situation with a friend, but it taught you the value of learning from literature...and the insight helped you patch up the situation!

  • You tell the story of how you went into a challenging situation believing one thing to be true, but came out on the other side of the situation with a whole new perspective. You explain why that new perspective informs your everyday life choices in the present.


Are There Pitfalls You Should Avoid?

#1: Don't get too cheesy. Your "truest thing" can be something basic to human existence, an ironic quote from Friends, or a principle taken from a philosophical or religious perspective that guides your life, but don't get too cheesy if you're picking a quote. Maybe leave the Dr. Seuss quotes for graduation ceremonies and try putting your "truest thing" into your own words instead.

#2: Don't obsess about finding a quote. Instead of getting caught up trying to think of some pithy quote to talk about, let your memories of meaningful moments in your life guide you to what to write about here. Your "truest thing" doesn't have to be some flowery statement from Bill Gates or John F. Kennedy. You can use your own experiences as your "truest thing," too!


Free Choice Option #2: The Inclusion Prompt

Villanovans are known for "holding doors open" because inclusion is at the core of who we are. Take us on a journey through your background and describe how your life experience has shaped your understanding of the word "inclusion".


What Is This Essay Asking You to Do?

Do your core values and life choices line up with Villanova's values? If yes, can you prove it? That's basically the crux of what this free choice prompt is asking. Villanova has strong core values that they want to see their future students exhibiting in their own lives. This is your time to show that you hold those core values too.

Specifically, this prompt is asking you to tell your story with the concept of "inclusion." In other words, you'll need to explain how you presently understand the concept of inclusion, and back that up through a description of your real life experiences.


What Makes A Good Answer?

#1: Focus on your background. To answer this question well, dig into your background. Are you a person who has experienced a radical act of inclusion? Are you a part of a demographic that has been excluded in various ways? Alternatively, are you a part of a demographic that has done lots of excluding, and are you trying to change that? Use your personal experience as a way to answer this prompt.

#2: Explain what inclusion means to you. While there's a generally accepted definition of what constitutes "inclusion," you may have had life experiences that have infused the word with some specific meanings to you. If you have a definition of inclusion in your own words that you feel is powerful, include it in your response, and explain how you arrived at that definition.

#3: Place yourself at the center of the action. A good response here will highlight how you have been directly involved in or impacted by inclusion as you understand it. For example, maybe you realized your high school English reading list included no texts written by people of color, so you got with other students to advocate for changes to the reading list. Highlight something you've done or experienced firsthand to showcase how, like Villanova, "holding doors open" is at the core of who you are.


What Are Some Potential Essay Topics?

If you're looking for topic ideas, in addition to the two mentioned above, try these on for size:

  • You tell the story of a time when you pushed for a change that would make a policy or experience inclusive of a group who was being left out. Then you explain what that moment taught you about how inclusion/exclusion affects people's lives.

  • You tell the story of a time when someone "held a door open" for you, and how that changed your understanding of what inclusion means. You offer your definition of inclusion based on this experience in your response to this prompt.


Are There Pitfalls You Should Avoid?

#1: Avoid shallow answers. This question isn't really asking you to write about the time that someone was left out on the playground and you invited them into your jump rope game. You'll need to think a bit deeper than that about what "inclusion" can mean, and you'll have to show that you understand inclusion on a cultural, social, and/or political level. Think about the implications of inclusion beyond just inviting someone "in" who was on the outside, and your answer will show Villanova admissions that you have a complex understanding of one of the school's core values.

#2: Avoid answers where you aren't an active participant. There have probably been times in your life when you observed people being excluded and you didn't act. But this isn't the time to write about situations where you were just a passive observer. Instead, think about a situation in your life where you were involved in the action of inclusion and, without getting too braggy, explain how you participated in the situation. This free choice option is your chance to show that you can and will act when you see someone needing a door held open.



This prompt is all about your relationship with technology!


Free Choice Option #3: The Connectivity Prompt

Generation Z is arguably the most technologically savvy cohort in history. They find answers to questions, discover troves of new music, or even start the next global social movement, all within seconds. How has this seemingly limitless connectivity influenced the person you have become?


What Is This Essay Asking You to Do?

The word "connectivity" is the key word to think about in this free choice prompt. It's pretty much common knowledge that everyone associates Gen Z with social media, but it's less commonly known what Gen Z thinks about living in a tech-saturated world.

In other words, this prompt is giving you the chance to explain the realities of limitless connectivity in your life. If you select this prompt, think of it as asking you to explain your philosophy of technology use, and how you've noticed constant connectivity affecting who you choose to be in one big way.


What Makes A Good Answer?

#1: Focus on who you are now. A good response to this question is going to focus on how you've been shaped by technology, either consciously or subconsciously. Identify one of your personality traits, beliefs, ideas, or values that has been heavily influenced by the connections you've made using technology. Once you have that down, explain it! For example, maybe seeing social media used as a platform for social justice has influenced you to speak up and use your voice to participate in social justice movements when you used to be afraid to speak out. The goal is to highlight the person you are now because of social connectivity and technology.

#2: Focus on connections. Tailor your response to explaining how technology has connected you to people, ideas, or even movements. For instance, maybe you've been able to work with your family to flesh out your family tree thanks to the Internet, and perhaps you were even able to connect with distant relatives through social media as a result. Maybe this taught you how access to an online archive makes history available to everyday people. This kind of response focuses on how you used connections that only the Internet provide to learn something new.


What Are Some Potential Essay Topics?

In addition to the examples above, consider the following possible topics:

  • You explain how the limitless connectivity on social networking sites has given you a global perspective on art and culture. You describe how you've connected with other teens from different parts of the world to collaborate on art projects and share them online.

  • You describe how seeing hashtags used in the #MeToo movement and the movement to end gun violence helped you understand a whole new way create social change. You explain that these examples have motivated you to explore channels for political activism through social media in your own life.


Are There Pitfalls You Should Avoid?

#1: Don't trash social media. Everyone knows that limitless connectivity has its drawbacks. But this free response question isn't the place to harp on the ethical issues wrapped up in social media. Instead, focus your response on how you've handled the complexities of limitless connectivity in your life.

#2: Don't lose track of your goal. You don't want to waste your response by talking on about all the different ways you use social media and technology in your life. That's not the point of this question. Instead of focusing on technology itself, focus on explaining how one of the conditions created by networked technology—AKA, limitless connectivity—has shaped the person you are today.


Free Choice Option #4: The Second Chances Prompt

In St. Augustine's book Confessions, one of the themes is the idea of redemption and second chances. Tell us a story about second chances. It can be your experience or one that you have come across through others or through media.


What Is This Essay Asking You to Do?

This essay prompt is asking you to explain your understanding of the idea of redemption based on your personal experiences and/or observations.

This question is tied to Villanova's core values, so it's going to be important to them to see that you're a person who d has thought through the value of second chances. Telling a story about your experiences with second chances will show admissions counselors that you understand the positive potential of mistakes.


What Makes A Good Answer?

#1: Tell a personal story. If possible, you want to tell a story from your real life experience here. If there was a time you were given a second chance, or a time when you gave someone else a second chance, briefly explain what happened. For instance, maybe you got super busy in high school and neglected your younger sister. When she told you her feelings were hurt, you apologized and made a commitment to spend more time with her. In your response, you could explain how receiving a second chance from a family member taught you that not all hurt is intentional, and you now give others the benefit of the doubt when you're upset.

#2: Reflect on your experience. Like with most of the essay prompts here, you also need to explain what you learned from the experience. This is especially crucial if you choose to write about a second chance situation you've observed through the media. Since it wasn't your firsthand experience, be sure to provide a little analysis and explain what this portrayal of a second chance taught you about redemption.


What Are Some Potential Essay Topics?

On top of the possible topics mentioned above, here are two more sample topics to consider:

  • You decide to describe your first ever memory of being given a second chance when you were a young child. You describe how that experience laid the foundation for your current definition of redemption.

  • You had a teammate who let the team down, but when they came back to apologize, the team welcomed them back with open arms. You explain how the experience taught you the transformative power of unconditional love and how second chances make communities stronger.


Are There Pitfalls You Should Avoid?

#1: You forget the personal aspect. Yes, there are plenty of stories about second chances in religious literature and folklore, but chances are that Villanova admissions is already familiar with those stories. You need to tell a story that is more personal or current than that—a real experience or observation of a second chance that has impacted you.

#2: Keep it personal, but not too personal. If you choose to tell about a time that you were given a second chance or that you gave someone else a second chance, don't go too far into the gory details. While you want your response to be genuine and personal, you also want to leave out any details that are TMI put the other people involved in an uncomfortable position.


(Sophia J/Wikimedia)


The "Why Nova" Essay

The second Villanova essay you'll have to write for your Villanova supplement is the "Why This College" essay. Here's the prompt:

You may be aware that our community, which we have affectionately named "Nova Nation," is an exciting place to be. With a legacy spanning 178 years, there is rich history to look back on, and an abundant future to look forward to. Our second Villanova essay question asks: Why do you want to call Villanova your new home and become part of our community? For this short response, please reveal what you find appealing about Villanova in about 100 words.


What Is This Essay Asking You to Do?

You'll need to get to know the Villanova community in order to respond to this required essay prompt. In approximately 100 words, you need to do one main thing in your response here: explain what it is about Villanova that makes you want to call it "home."

Since the prompt uses words like "home," "community," and "history," you want your response to show that you've done your research about Villanova. This means that your response should go beyond praising Villanova's great academics or religious affiliation to highlight specific things that you've learned about the school's history, culture, and identity that make you feel like you'll fit right in as a student there.


What Makes A Good Answer?

#1: Go into specifics about "Nova." This prompt is inviting you to show what you know about Villanova by touching on specific aspects of the school that appeal to you. For example, maybe your research revealed that undergraduate students at Villanova can partner with faculty for research projects, and that makes you feel like you'll be welcomed into a community of scholarly collaboration. Think about who you are and who you hope to be at Villanova, then write about one or two aspects of Villanova that make you think, "This is a place where I can achieve my goals."

#2: Explain the why. In addition to describing specific aspects of Villanova's offerings that appeal to you, you want to explain why those things are appealing. For example, maybe you're thrilled to find out that the English department offers an annual Literary Festival, so you explain that that aspect of Villanova is appealing to you because you're an aspiring author. Pairing your "what" with a "why" shows that your decision to apply to Villanova is based on thoughtful reflection.

#3: Connect everything to the future. Picture yourself at Villanova in the context of the things that appeal to you about the school. If you're excited about the Literary Festival, mention in your response that you can't wait to help organize the festival when you are a student. Positioning yourself as an active future member of the Villanova community in your response will help admissions see that you're serious about your education and about Villanova.


What Are Some Potential Essay Topics?

In addition to the examples above, here are a couple of potential essay topics:

  • Your research reveals that Villanova has come out strong in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. You write about how this stance for justice makes you feel that your dedication to racial justice will be supported by the school when you are a student there.

  • Your research reveals that Villanova lives out the Christian Mission by engaging in tangible, ongoing service toward creating a more equitable society. You write about how you feel excited about participating in these efforts as a member of the Nova Nation.


Are There Pitfalls You Should Avoid?

#1: Avoid talking about academics only. This essay is your chance to show that you're attracted to Villanova for more than just its stellar academics. Take this chance to show that "education" means more to you than just sitting in a classroom making good grades. Think about things about Villanova community life that foster learning outside of the classroom and write about them here.

#2: Don't include too many talking points. Yes, Villanova's athletic programs, and their outreach programs, and their undergraduate research opportunities might all be things that draw you to the school, but it's best to pick just one thing here and write about it. This will keep your response from being chaotic and all over the place. Consider choosing the one thing about Villanova that gets you the most excited and go all in for explaining why and how you'll fit into that niche once you get to campus.


body_girl-1Believe 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!


Get Feedback

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.


What's Next?

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!


Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.

Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.

Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Craft Your Perfect College Essay


Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Melissa Brinks
About the Author

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.

Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
100% Privacy. No spam ever.

Student and Parent Forum

Our new student and parent forum, at, allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.

Join the Conversation

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!