College Essays

University of Wisconsin-Madison Supplemental

Prompt (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Tell us why you decided to apply to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected undecided please describe your areas of possible academic interest. (650 words). *


“Let’s assume that people are rational, even though they hardly ever are.” My economics teacher prefaces every lesson with this statement because while it’s helpful to assume that people are rational in AP economics, this simplification glosses over what makes people human. And it’s not just in AP economics where people’s behaviors and interactions within society are simplified. Oftentimes, people’s stories are reduced to a single sound bite or headline. This year I did a personal exploration into an aspect of human irrationality through a deep dive into the sensationalization of the news in the US, and how that eroded our trust in one of our most important linkage institutions. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there are so many classes that delve into aspects of this phenomenon, each framing the subject in unique ways. For instance, the class Collective Behavior discusses the influence of mass media, like news, on day-to-day interactions and thought processes. Through these classes, I hope to deepen my understanding of this topic beyond the personal research that I’ve already done, while also actively contributing my own thoughts. As a whole, sociology allows me to explore many of my interests in a nuanced way as it meshes politics, economics, and social justice into one discipline, enabling me to begin to understand the world around me as well as my role in it. 

As a prospective sociology student, I believe that it is important for a university to keep its students updated on the latest current events, and I find that the UW is proactive in this aspect. The university is extremely responsive to changing social climates and current events, arranging courses and discussions to align with them. A new class covering the Russia-Ukraine war and lectures regarding the history of the Israel-Hamas war demonstrate how the university isn’t afraid to talk about sensitive subjects. I want to be in an environment where it is commonplace to tackle complex subjects head-on because I believe that’s where real learning and meaningful discourse occur. 

I wasn’t brought up in such an environment as I spent most of my life living in an insular community. While my teachers and coaches have pushed me to consider new perspectives and to tackle problems from new angles, in the Basking Ridge bubble, as it’s affectionately called by locals, people generally have the same opinions and dissenters are few and far between. I have always sought to pop this bubble, whether it is through attending national forensics tournaments and being exposed to speeches that forced me to look at new viewpoints, or tutoring and interacting with students brought up in a culture completely different from mine. While those were enriching experiences, I want to learn and grow in a large community where I’m constantly pushed to question my beliefs and strive for more. I also hope to contribute to this environment where others feel comfortable doing the same. To achieve this, I hope to start an organization at UW where students have the chance to have casual debates about current events over a group lunch or dinner. Through this, I’d like to make sociology and talking about such topics less intimidating for others and more social. UW provides an amazing support system that allows students, like myself, to branch out. Additionally, I hope to be an active member of the Wisconsin Speech and Debate Society to further my speaking skills while also simultaneously allowing me to bring attention to and advocate for lesser-known issues such as dismantling the current toxic girlboss culture taking over social media. Beyond that, I hope to develop some of my hobbies such as joining the Badger Ballroom Dance Team, and thereby reintroducing myself to the world of ballroom dance.  

As I work toward gaining a better understanding of society at large, UW would be the first step in achieving this goal.

Tips for Writing

The title for the so-called “Why Us” essay is pretty deceiving. A much better title would be “Why are we (you and the college) a good fit for one another?” Essentially, you have to convince the college admissions officer that you will make the most of the college’s resources to generate an actual impact. Although this may seem extremely daunting, let’s break this down into a few steps: 

  1. Do your research on the school. There are so many resources available that can tell you about what a university offers to its students. 
    1. For information about academics, browse the school’s website and its course listings. 
    2. For information about student life and the overall vibe of the school, talk to an alumni, read the school’s student newspaper, or take an in-person/virtual campus tour. 
    3. You can also email the admissions office directly! This can be helpful for schools that track demonstrating interest as well. 
  2. Consolidate your research. Which classes, research, internships, or clubs most align with your passions/interests?  
    1. Including these details demonstrates to the college that you are passionate about something, have taken the time to consider the university carefully, and aren’t just applying on a whim or because someone else is forcing you to. 
  3. Make an outline. Every good essay needs an outline to ensure that the ideas flow properly. 
  4. Free write (whilst keeping your outline in mind). Sometimes we become so fixated on making every sentence perfect that we end up not being able to write much of anything at all. A “bad” draft is leagues better than no draft at all. 
  5. Most importantly, let your voice shine through in the essay. This will ensure that your essay is unique and memorable. 

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