Essay Scoop: How to Answer University of Washington Essays

Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

The University of Washington essays and application evaluate student candidates holistically, emphasizing more than grades and scores. That means that the essays you submit are absolutely critical! Your writing needs to effectively tell your story to reviewers and convince them that you should be at their school.

Let’s take a look at the prompts you’re working with to make sure your essays hit the right note.


Before we dive in, here are some things you need to know:

  • The UW application lives on the Coalition Application. That means that you will have to make a Coalition Application account in order to submit. However…
  • The actual Coalition-wide essay is not a required element for the University of Washington. It may still be required for other schools, but you do not have to submit it for UW. You only need to answer their specific prompts, which means…
  • There are two essays and two optional responses, so roll up your sleeves! It’s not the heaviest stack to work through, but you shouldn’t try to crank these out last minute.

The application specifically states,

“Some of the best statements are written as personal stories. In general, concise, straightforward writing is best and good essays are often 300-400 words in length.”

When in doubt, aim for meaningful stories about your life that have changed your perspective in lasting ways.

The application website also helps you out with how to allocate your intent. They inform you that:

“We’ve observed most students write a polished formal essay, yet submit a more casual short response.”

Awesome advice! Now, let’s read through the two required prompts and see what that means. Let’s tackle the University of Washington essays.

  1. Essay Prompt: Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. (500 words)
    For this essay, you will need to address a topic that is close to your heart and will impact your academic life. What’s more, your character should show through with every sentence that you write. This is on the longer side for personal statements, so take the time to incorporate concrete details and put the reader in your shoes. It’s a great chance to talk about your intellectual passions, demonstrate your curiosity or resilience, and showcase your achievements—but be sure that you are going beyond the resume! Your topic doesn’t have to be the most meaningful experience of your life until now—but it should be able to encapsulate your personality well.
  2. Short Response: Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW. // Tip: Keep in mind that the UW strives to create a community of students richly diverse in cultural backgrounds, experiences, values and viewpoints. (300 words)
    Remember, the essays on this application are critical to how you are weighed as a candidate, and the reviewers will be looking to see if they can understand your potential as a student outside of the numbers and hard facts. Think about the people in your life that have contributed to your intellectual development. Think about the people you turn to when things are difficult for support. These people (in addition to being wonderful and deserving of a solid thank-you) that you will be able to talk about with ease, and that genuine enthusiasm and love will reach your readers. Since the app also specifically states that they value diversity, think about what makes your community special and unique.

There are also two optional fields. If you’re wondering what to write for these, check out this blog post about optional essays for more context and tips.

So there you have our review of the University of Washington essays. If you know that you need help with your essays, chat with our team to learn how we can support you and your family. The more eyes you have proofreading and providing ideas and feedback on your work, the better.  

Questions? Let us know!