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5 Tips for Writing an Amazing Villanova Essay

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Posted by Melissa Brinks | Sep 29, 2021 4:00:00 PM

College Admissions

 

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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 additional supplemental essays specifically for Villanova.

Two more supplemental essays are required as part of your application. The first essay, called Villanova Free Choice, gives you five 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 add their own flair to 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 you...in about 150 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 five 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 Equity and Justice Prompt

St. Augustine states that well-being is “not concerned with myself alone, but with my neighbor’s good as well.” How have you advocated for equity and justice in your communities?

 

What Is This Essay Asking You to Do?

Essay prompts addressing equity and justice are very common in the college application process. Why? Because equity and justice are core values of many schools! This means that your response needs to show that you value equity and justice too. 

To show that you hold these core values, you’ll need to tell a real story about a time when you advocated for equity and justice in a community you belong to. The community you choose to write about is up to you, but your response should focus on the actions you took to promote the well-being of your “neighbors,” and why.

 

What Makes A Good Answer?

#1: Focus on your communities. To answer this question well, think about where you come 

from. What communities are you a part of? Who are the people in these communities? Your act of advocating for equity and justice should involve people who you consider to be your “neighbors”--and that ultimately means that your response should be personal. Pick a scenario in which you advocated for equity and justice for people you truly care about. Your passion will definitely shine through in your response!

#2: Explain what equity and justice mean to you. While there's a generally accepted definition of what constitutes "equity and justice," you may have had life experiences that have infused these words with some specific meanings to you. If you have a definition of equity and justice 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 equity and justice 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, equity and justice are at the core of who you are.



 

What Are Some Potential Essay Topics?

In addition to the essay topics above, consider these possibilities: 

  • You realized that many students at your school didn’t have a working understanding of what “equity” actually means! You organized a production with your school’s theatre department that put on a dramatic portrayal of what equity looks like in real life. Proceeds from the production went to a nonprofit organization that students in your school collectively chose.
  • You worked with the students who are in the top 10 percent of your high school class to offer summer tutoring sessions to lower income elementary school students who struggled with standardized testing.

 

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 about what "equity and justice" can mean, and you'll have to show that you understand these concepts on a cultural, social, and/or political level. Think about the implications of equity and justice 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: Don’t brag. Yes, you need to make your actions the centerpiece of your response to this question. But don’t exaggerate the effects of your efforts! Just be truthful about what you accomplished and what the outcome was. There’s no need to brag about your advocacy. The facts of your active participation in efforts for equity and justice will speak for themselves in your response.

 

Free Choice Option #2: The Truest Thing Prompt

What is the truest thing that you know?

 

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 the helpers who worked to 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 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 through 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 essays 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!

 

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This prompt is all about your relationship with technology!

 

Free Choice Option #3: The Second Chances Prompt

One of the themes in St. Augustine's book, Confessions, is the idea of redemption. Tell us your story of being given a second chance.

 

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 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. The prompt is explicit here: you’re being asked to tell a story about a time you were given a second chance. 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. Specifically, you need to reflect on what your experience of being given a second chance taught you about redemption. You don’t have to get too philosophical, but you should tie in some explanation of what redemption means to you after being given a second chance in your life.

 

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 an experience when you let your team down, but when you came to apologize, the team welcomed you 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 may put the other people involved in an uncomfortable position.

 

Free Choice Option #4: The Lessons Learned Prompt

In the Villanova community, we believe that we all learn from one another. What is a lesson in life that you have learned that you would want to share with others?

 

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 community values that they want to see their future students exhibiting in their own lives. This is your time to show that the lessons you’ve learned in your life have led you to similar values--and that you’re willing to share them with others.

Specifically, this prompt is asking you to tell your story through the lens of a lesson you’ve learned. In other words, you'll need to explain what you learned, how you learned it, 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 experiences with others in your life. This question emphasizes the idea of learning from your community. Think of a time in your life when you learned something meaningful from a person in your community, whether that’s a friend, mentor, or even someone you didn’t necessarily connect with previously. Use your personal experience as a way to answer this prompt.

#2: Emphasize the experience that taught you the lesson. A good response to this question will show the lesson you learned rather than telling. Did you learn that it’s okay to lean on others when you’re struggling? Did you learn how to find contentment despite difficult circumstances? Whatever you choose to write about, you need to focus on your feelings and actions surrounding what you learned. Delving into the details of the experience that taught you the lesson--and how you felt about it--rather than waxing philosophic about the lesson itself will make a compelling response to this question. 

#3: Pivot to Villanova at the end. Like most of these prompts, this one is asking you to provide some insight into what kind of a student you’ll be at Villanova. This means that part of your response must include your thoughts on why you’d want to share your lesson with the Villanova community. So, think about more universal applications of your lesson. If you were sharing your lesson with fellow students at Villanova, how would you make it relatable to their lives as well?

 

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 … but despite your efforts, the change didn’t happen. Then you explain what that experience taught you about how inclusion/exclusion affects people's lives.

  • You tell the story of a lesson you learned due to your life circumstances in your home. You explain how those conditions helped form your core outlook on persevering through difficult life circumstances in your response to this prompt.

 

Are There Pitfalls You Should Avoid?

#1: Avoid cliches. This essay isn’t the place to write about how you learned to never judge a book by its cover or that a penny saved is a penny earned. Don’t invoke idioms or common catchphrases here--they’ll come across as shallow and insincere. The best way to avoid this is to come up with a real example from your life and put what you learned in your own words.

#2: Avoid answers where you aren't an active participant. There have probably been times in your life when you learned something, but you weren’t an active participant in the situation. But this isn't the time to write about situations where you were just a passive observer. Instead, think about a time in your life where you were involved in the action and explain how you participated. This free choice option is your chance to show Villanova that you are willing and able to learn in a wide range of circumstances.

 

Free Choice Option #5: The Technology Prompt

Augustine's “Miracles are not contrary to nature but only contrary to what we know about nature.” Tell us about a societal issue that you believe the wonder of technology is well-poised to help solve.

 

What Is This Essay Asking You to Do?

This essay prompt is a classic problem-and-solution question, but with a twist: it’s asking you to think of a problem affecting society on a broad scale and explain how you think technology could help solve it. 

This prompt isn’t just for tech experts, though. If you choose this prompt, this is your opportunity to write about a societal issue that you truly care about and use the knowledge you have about technology to imagine a solution. Yes, you want your response to be grounded in reality, but this is also your chance to dream about how real technologies could bring about a better future.

 

What Makes A Good Answer?

#1: Write from the heart. The best response to this question will be rooted in things you’re already familiar with. Choose to write about a societal issue that’s close to your heart, whether that’s something that affects your local community, a cultural community you’re a member of, or an issue affecting people all over the world. Writing about an issue you truly care about will help your response read as genuine and sincere.

#2: Focus on what you know. The second piece of your response should propose a solution to the societal problem you care about--a solution that involves technology. The technology you propose as a solution to that problem should be something you have experience with in some way. For instance, maybe you’ve spent hours researching cutting edge tech for renewable energy, or you brought a little joy to your high school by doing the daily announcements on TikTok during the COVID-19 pandemic. Choosing an application of technology that you can write about with confidence will make a convincing response to this question.

 

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, and how you would scale this collaboration up for teens around the world.

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

 

Are There Pitfalls You Should Avoid?

#1: Don't trash social media. Everyone knows that technology 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 the potentials of social media and other technology to solve real problems.

#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 a particular condition created by technology could be applied to existing societal problems.

 

(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 nearnly 180 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 150 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 150 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.

 

Brainstorm

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.

 

Outline

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.

 

Write

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.

 

Edit

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.

 

Revise

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 student's 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!

 


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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.



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