Give yourself an extra boost by reading over our Boston College supplemental essay examples. These will give you a sharp, sure-fire form for how to make your own essays work, as well as showing you the format, content, and style and tone that you should be aiming for – obviously with your own, personal touches to your material to make it all your own.
Of course, even with copious amounts of training and knowledge, it can still be difficult to figure out exactly how to start a college essay, let alone how to write a college essay. Gaining information like college essay tips can be useful, but reading existing essays can give you an insight that tips and tricks just can’t.
In this article, we will cover all possible of Boston College’s supplemental college essay prompts, giving a sample essay for each. We will also include a brief section discussing format and requirements.
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Boston College Supplemental Essay Prompts and Examples
Essay Prompt #1: Students at Boston College are encouraged to consider critical questions as they pursue lives of meaning and purpose. What is a question that matters to you and how do you hope Boston College will help you answer it?
A Question of Happiness
A fleeting smile, or a long laugh, or maybe – at most – a joyous afternoon: these feelings and experiences, lumped under the catch-all category of “happiness” have long made me wonder what people mean when they talk about that emotion, and whether or not we can achieve a state of lasting joy. I don’t mean to be depressive about this, but the fact of the matter is that, when I look around, I see a lot of people deeply concerned with what happiness is and how to get it, even if they don’t realize that that’s what they are doing.
Advertisers plaster walls with quick messages either telling us that buying their product will make us happy or that failing to buy their product will lose us the happiness that we do possess. But what is it? Is it even worth it?
Viktor Frankl discusses happiness in Man’s Search for Meaning, almost in contrast to meaning itself. Momentary glimpses of bright, sunshiny emotion just aren’t as valuable as long-lasting “meaning”. But then, what is that?
Voltaire seems to agree that some kind of foolish grinning isn’t the be-all-end-all of existence. Pangloss, in Candide, is nothing if not a scathing critique of foolish optimism
Oscar Wilde belonged to the aesthetes, and followed on the tail of the Romantics, all of whom looked for beauty in life. Unconcerned with ugliness, Wilde led a gaudy life of wit and glamour – right up until he didn’t, that is. Was he happier before or after Reading Gaol?
Our society spends much of its time and efforts in the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, it is built directly into the maxims of the United States, as penned by Jefferson, who seems to have believed the seeking of happiness to be third only to life and freedom.
I hope to study philosophy at Boston College, and investigate these questions and thinkers, to dive deeper into their understandings of the world, and their point-counterpoint philosophies. I believe Boston College, with its Jesuit traditions – grounded in spirituality and a questioning nature – is optimal for the investigation of such matters.
It seems natural that a priestly tradition should confront the Truth of the Universe, and that a questioning tradition should be optimal for exploring and questioning of that Ultimate Truth.
Essay Prompt #2: In 20XX, we faced a national reckoning on racial injustice in America - a reckoning that continues today. Discuss how this has affected you, what you have learned, or how you have been inspired to be a change agent around this important issue.
“Black lives matter!” they chanted into the grim air above the street, fists raised high, but not as high as voices and spirits. Police stand by, full riot gear, and watch the protestors warily – waiting for their time to move, either with trepidation or anticipation, depending on what you think of cops. All across the country, chapters of ANTIFA and the Proud Boys square off, illuminated by Tiki torch light shining on Guy Fawkes masks.
And I sit at home, filled with anxiety and worry. I know that I must do something, I must act, and stand up for what I believe in. I want to be a part of this new movement, but I am scared. Of my body? No. Let them try and break me down. At best, they could only turn me into dust and clay, and that wouldn’t be so bad. No, what I am afraid of is being sent away.
You see, I am an immigrant to this country, with DACA status, but I feel afraid nevertheless that I might be deported for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I love this country and want to help shape it for the better. I look around and see people like me, people of color, with black and brown skin, being ostracized, other-ized, and demonized just for having the audacity to “be” in a world that doesn’t accept us.
“Coward,” I hear you say, and you are not entirely wrong. But listen to me – the coward – before you write me off, as so many others have.
I might not front-line myself at every protest, but I have been in training. I was the head of my high school’s debate club and participated in our student government.
I volunteer with a cultural center in my city. I speak French and Spanish in addition to English, and I have used my skills with language to help other immigrants understand all-important documents and forms. This has given me insight into immigration law.
Boston College, your college, is a place where I want to study law. I want to become an immigration lawyer to steel myself and become a bastion and champion for others like me. If I can do that, I can free up so many voices to shout with impunity, and let loose the raking cry of “Freedom!” from their throats.
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Essay Prompt #3: At Boston College, we hope to draw on the Jesuit tradition of finding conversation partners to discuss issues and problems facing society. Who is your favorite conversation partner? What do you discuss with that person?
We haven’t seen eye-to-eye on anything since he first rolled a ball to me across the living room floor, and I just watched it slowly come to a stop before crawling off to the bookshelf. My father had a hope that my one-year-old self would gravitate to athletics, and I chose literature instead. In the intervening years, that divide of interest became more and more pronounced, culminating with my teenage years, during which my father and I came to embody the cliché of the conservative parent and the liberal child.
Dinner table conversation is an exercise in dialectic and debate club, my mother and my younger brother often simply flipping their eyes back and forth between father and me, as though they were observing a match at spoken word Wimbledon.
But, for all the argument, I have never – or rarely ever – actually fought with father. He and I debate, but we do not rage.
You see, it isn’t that father discouraged me from the bookshelf, it was merely that he had hoped I would show more promise with baseball – his favorite sport. In fact, I do go to ball games with him, and enjoy myself immensely.
I would rather have my father for a conversation partner and continue our never-ending dialogues than converse with anybody else. Those arguments taught me how to find an intellectually-defensible position and hold my ground. Frequently, father would do this for me, offering me a hint or a tip on how to parry his verbal attack, and even riposte once in a while.
As much as we disagree on politics, economics, and social policy, father values me for me. He might think I have the wrong idea about how the country’s leadership ought to go, but he is proud of my mind and loves that I can debate well.
I have learned so much from my father. Most valuable to me is that lesson: to debate with honor and integrity, to defend positions with facts and reason, to make a solid argument, and never to let a debate get in the way of bonding and love. Most of all, he gave me the knowledge that he is proud of me.
He also made me come a bit more to the center on economic policy – but don’t tell him I said that.
Essay Prompt #4: Socrates stated that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Discuss a time when reflection, prayer, or introspection led to clarity or understanding of an issue that is important to you.
I grew up in the church, and sang the hymns about casting cares upon Jesus. I learned in Sunday School about how God takes “burdens” away – always vague burdens that seemed to always be in the past. These people spoke and sang about troubles that were, thanks to God, and rarely did they touch on struggles that are. The discussion was firmly couched in a troubled past, as though trouble could only be non-existent – something that was, not something that is.
When I was diagnosed with depression, I was fourteen years old, and a lot of people around me thought it was just a teenage phase, or worse, that I just hadn’t been reading my Bible enough. This was very frustrating for me, and led to my resenting church for quite some time. So, I stopped going, and that made me more unhappy than ever, because I had cut myself off from a large chunk of my social life. This is not a good management technique for depression.
I’ll fast-forward a bit to when I was talking with a therapist, talking of suicidal ideation – as the medical industry clinically terms it – and he recommended that I try meditating as a coping strategy. I was skeptical – a typical, surly teenager – but I promised I would try it earnestly.
It took a week to learn the technique to the point where I could sit and meditate for longer than a few minutes, but when I did, something curious happened. I found myself falling into an old prayer mindset, mentally thumbing through old bedtime prayers and Psalms in my head.
Now, I don’t know if this is a spiritual result, or just the correct application of meditation, but I found myself able to cope. It was as though I had gained an inner dialogue to replace my inner monologue, one of comforting peace.
I am moving back towards my social networks, and finding myself better able to cope with my mental health. Through this meditation/prayer – or whatever you want to call it – I have come to the understanding that medication and therapy might be useful, but they cannot defend me from my mental health problems alone. I need family, friends, and maybe even “divine intervention” for that.
Prayer and meditation have given me a grounding and insight into how to deal with my mental health.
Essay Prompt #5: Each year at University Convocation, the incoming class engages in reflective dialogue around a common text. What book would you recommend for your class to read and explore together – and why?
It’s rare to encounter a text that explores both the profane and the sacred, the grit and the shine, the grim and the glorious. Samuel Martin’s This Ramshackle Tabernacle does tackle all of that and more.
It’s a series of short stories, interconnected, centered around the denizens of an East Coast Canadian village, and it dives into their lives and the mysticism that pervades those lives.
I think that the book is full of wonderful areas for discussion for a variety of reasons.
First, as a sequence of short stories, it gives a variety of perspectives and ideas, without unbalancing the cohesive tone of the book. This would allow any class to have a rich discussion because of all the different approaches to the themes that the book explores.
Second, those themes are resonant and powerful. The book talks about drug abuse, faith and spirituality, depression, small town life, growing up, and growing old. It is, in short, a book about life in all its complexity, and that too allows for a rich and variegated discussion.
Finally, because these stories are grounded in a specific reality – a time and place located north-east, as I said – but that that specificity makes each story relatable. I grew up in the city, but I still found myself relating to the characters in the book and the circumstances they find themselves in. Such is the magic of Martin’s prose.
The book is filled with magic, too, both in terms of an everyday magic that great literature has, and with a magic-real genre element that comes into play, particularly in the final story, Shekinah.
It seems like the perfect book for a school of the Jesuit tradition, as it engages with faith in a down-to-earth way, and I think that would be a perfect model for students at Boston College to come and bring their own life experiences to the discussion – both in terms of similarity and difference.
That is the final magic of This Ramshackle Tabernacle: it is something familiar, yet different, and I believe it would resonate with, and challenge, any avid reader like myself.
Essay Prompt #6: For Human-Centered Engineering major applicants only: One goal of a Jesuit education is to prepare students to serve the Common Good. Human-Centered Engineering at Boston College integrates technical knowledge, creativity, and a humanistic perspective to address societal challenges and opportunities. What societal problems are important to you and how will you use your HCE education to solve them?
When I heard about human-centered engineering, I knew I had found a calling. I will not say “job,” “career,” or even “vocation,” because calling is the right word.
My mother and father both are social workers, and whether through asking them questions about their work, hearing their end of a myriad of telephone conversations, having their clients come by the house – often unannounced – or via volunteering with them at a soup kitchen, I have come to be as passionate about the crises of homelessness and vagrancy as they are.
Since I was a little boy, I have always played with Legos and tinker toys and other build-it playthings, and displayed an aptitude for such interests. That skillset translated into an interest in architecture and engineering, and that became one of my top priorities for a future career.
Those two elements of my life – building and care for the homeless – come together in human-centered engineering. I want to help solve the homelessness crisis that abounds within the borders of our – affluent – country.
There are large concerns with this problem. Affordability is a factor, as is space. Being able to buy a livable amount of room in an urban center is difficult even for somebody who has a job and a support network, let alone a street person. I believe that these people deserve shelter and warmth as a basic human right – both to housing and dignity.
So, whatever is built must be compact and cheap, yet sturdy and effective.
Another problem: these must be accessible, exclusive to use by their owners; yet unhoused persons often move from one place to another, even when they are accessible, only to turn up later, needing another shelter.
How do I make an affordable, effective, durable, warm, exclusive-yet-accessible housing project?
I believe that HCE education can help. By allowing me to investigate, simultaneously, the issues around construction and the issues around the social aspects of the housing problem in our country, I believe that I can begin to address the housing shortage. I believe that I can provide homes for people with low or no income, people who are unhoused at the moment, and people whose lifestyles and lack of support network has hitherto prevented them from achieving the dignity they all deserve.
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Boston College Supplemental Essay Format and Requirements
All essay prompts have a 400-word limit. Do not exceed this limit. Triple-check that you are in the right word count, along with your spelling and grammar.
All applicants choose one prompt to write, selecting from prompts 1-5. There is an exception, however. This is that human-centered engineering (HCE) majors are required to write their essay for prompt six. If you’re majoring in HCE, no need to hem and haw about which essay to choose; the downside is that you have no options.
Format follows standard essay-writing format.
Start with an opening paragraph that sets up the rest of the essay; make sure you include an attention-grabber for your opening sentence. Called the “hook” for a reason, this sentence should arrest and hold the attention of any reader: they must need to keep reading. If you need more on openings, check out college essay introduction examples to give you some insightful inspiration.
Next, you move on to the body of the essay where you include your main points, arguments, or points for your essay. Stick to one major point, maybe with one or two secondary points to strengthen your main argument or topic. At 400 words, you don’t have a lot of room to get in to multiple areas.
Finally, cap the essay off with a concluding paragraph that brings your ideas together neatly.
Obviously, studying how to write an essay is essential, but that doesn’t mean you stick to pure instruction and guidebooks. Using sample college essays to show you the application of knowledge that a lecture or textbook just won’t provide.
If you need more help, check out some common application essays or enlist the aid of a college essay review service to give you a leg up.
1. How many of the prompts do I have to write?
One essay, chosen from prompts 1-5; prompt 6 is specific to human-centered engineering major applicants.
Do note, however, that this can vary from year to year, so be sure to always check before applying.
2. How long does it take to write an essay?
We encourage you to spend between eight and ten weeks perfecting your essay. This doesn’t mean all-day-every-day, just that you will spend some time with it more, and over a course of time that gives you the ability to become familiar with every aspect of it, to re-write it, and to keep checking to make sure it’s perfect.
You should also seek out advice while re-writing and revising.
3. Where should I get help with writing my essays?
From a professional essay writing service who will help you edit and revise your work. The emphasis here is on edit and revise; they should not do your writing for you, since that would essentially be plagiarism. Instead, you’ll be the one writing and they will give you advice how to edit and re-write.
4. How do I know when my essay is done?
When you’ve worked at it for some time and the deadline is tomorrow. You obviously have to send it in before the deadline. Until that time, you should be carefully working on your essay.
5. Can I recycle my essays?
This depends on the context. Your essays are your writing, so nobody can tell you not to send it elsewhere, unless you’ve signed an exclusive publishing contract or something like that.
Note that secondary essay prompts are set by each school, so it might turn out to be the case that you won’t find your essays applicable from one school to another – at least, not without further, possibly extensive, revision.
If a prompt is close, you can use some or most of the existing essay, editing where necessary. Make sure you answer the prompt, though; if your essay doesn’t fit, don’t waste your time trying to force it; just write a new essay that is more fitting.
6. Boston College uses commonapp.org for their application process, can you give me some information about that?
Absolutely! More and more, universities, colleges, and other post-secondary educational institutions are using centralized application services that streamline the application process. Commonapp is used by over 900 institutions and helps with “...logistics and systemic barriers...” that face prospective students. These systems, including Commonapp, allow students to – mostly – make one application that can go out to multiple institutions.
7. If my application goes to multiple institutions, how is it that my secondary essay prompts might differ from school to school?
Secondary applications are different, and although you must submit your supplemental essays through Commonapp, they are different from school to school. Each institution has their own missions, goals, and values, and they want to make sure that you will be the best fit for the school.
With that in mind, it’s always a great idea to familiarize yourself with the value statements of the schools you are applying to. Find ones that resonate with you so that your essays with sync up perfectly with your place of choice and stand out to the application committee.
8. How many schools should I apply to?
We recommend that you apply to six to eight schools. Give yourself a wide enough net that you have variety, options, and possibilities, as well as giving yourself more chances of acceptance. On the other hand, you don’t want to apply to so many schools that you are overwhelmed by applying to all of them.
Try not to pick schools that are your “top choice” and then consolation prizes. If you get rejected by the former, you’ll resent any one of the latter that you do wind up attending. Instead, think of your picks as all being excellent opportunities.
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