Williams application adds reflective essay

In an effort to get to know students applying to the College better, the admission office has added a short essay to its supplement to the Common Application.

Applicants for the Class of 2013 will write up to 300 words on the prompt: “Imagine looking through a window at any environment that is particularly significant to you. Reflect on the scene, paying close attention to the relation between what you are seeing and why it is meaningful to you.”

This aims to “get insights into students’ characters” and “see what their worlds are like,” said Dick Nesbitt, director of admission.

Due to the flexibility of common application prompts, “you would get students writing on topics that really didn’t tell us much about themselves,” Nesbitt said. The additional personal statement is meant to change this. “The idea is really to see what students value and what’s important to them,” he said.

According to Nesbitt, such an add-on to the Common Application is not unusual. “We realized that we were one of few schools among our cohort without an additional essay,” he said.

Following the admittance of this year’s first-year class, the admission office decided to change its application in part after considering the application used by Questbridge.
Questbridge, a non-profit organization that matches high-ability, low-income students with elite colleges and universities, requires the completion of multiple essays in its application.

According to Nesbitt, his office was able to glean “a better picture” of students submitting Questbridge applications.

Both the idea of an additional essay and this particular prompt are works in progress. “It’s a little bit of an experiment,” Nesbitt said. “That’s another 7,500 essays to read.”