Purdue University Essay Prompts

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Purdue asks for three essays, two of which are arguably even essays at all, as they only allow up to 100 words for your answer. The third is longer, with 250 words allowed. These are short essays, and require you to get right to the point to ensure that all the necessary information is conveyed.

Extracurricular - Example

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (250 words)

In June 2018, I interned at Code Park, a Houston-based startup educating underprivileged children about coding technology.

I taught students proper coding syntax using the Scratch programming language, an easy to use coding language that allows beginners to create animations, games, and other projects through puzzle-style coding compositions. Through this interactive training, students enjoyed creative cartoon animations on their screen when they entered text into a compiler.

We provided computers called Raspberry Pis – cost effective microchips with accessible, user-friendly software – to teach students programming. In essence, we were introducing the students to computer science. Code Park gave everyone an opportunity to experience a core concept of computer programming: input and output.

Scratch is a programming language with little behind-the-scenes coding; every line affects the end result. Putting hard work into the compiler guarantees rewarding results as an output.

This surprised many of my students, who came from schools that were underfunded, understaffed, and demoralized. At first the children were shy, choosing to remain silent when they didn’t understand a concept. Rather than just lecturing to them, though, I made my classes more engaging by asking them questions on command functions or what they were creating in the program. As I taught, I communicated both information and motivation. I showed my students how to input, and helped them believe that their hard work would create worthwhile and entertaining outputs.  

This opportunity not only gave me leadership experience, but also provided a chance for making a positive impact in my community.

 To me, leadership is uniting everyone around the same vision, motivating them with a shared sense of victory. Last summer, that meant children cheering around their freshly-made cartoons; ten years from now, it will mean engineers celebrating their latest project – and maybe one of my students will be celebrating with me.

Extracurricular - Analysis

This question is quite open ended, which makes it very easy to adapt one of your other essays to answer it. We suggest repurposing a community or leadership essay if you have written one which discusses an extracurricular, as these are both values colleges like to see in students, and will allow you to explore an extracurricular as well. Further, Purdue does not ask for either a leadership or a community essay, meaning you don’t have to worry about repeating yourself.

This is the longest essay Purdue asks for, and allows you to share the most details about your life and accomplishments. That said, this is still not a long essay, so most of your word count should go towards discussing what you actually did, in place of flowery prose.

In the example above, the author first explains the mechanics of what they did for a computer science internship; what they taught, what code they used, and what hardware they worked with. This demonstrates the depth and breadth of their CS experience to the school, and shows that they actually know what they’re talking about, and their passion for the field.

Next, they discuss how they interacted with the students they were in charge of, and how they worked to ensure the relationships they formed were good ones. This shows the author’s leadership ability and empathy, and demonstrates their willingness and ability to teach others.

These are all traits colleges want to see in students, as community minded and engaged students are more likely to contribute positively to the campus community as well. You do not need to demonstrate these exact traits in your own essay, but you should show what values you hold, and what you will be able to contribute to Purdue should you be admitted.

The essay doesn’t really have a hook, but that’s ok; there really isn’t room for one. There is a solid conclusion, and we support spending the word count on this. The final note of your essay is often what readers remember best, and this essay ends on a positive and community minded idea. 

Finally, if you discuss one of your extracurriculars in your personal statement, you should try to discuss a different one in this essay. Admissions officers only know what you tell them, so you should endeavor to tell them as much as possible.

Why Major - Example

Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the major you have selected. (Respond in 100 words or fewer.)

Wandering through the dense jungles of the Malaysian peninsula as a second grader, I was awestruck by the vibrant colors: vast green leaves, yellow moss creeping up the trees, and massive red petals from the giant rafflesia flowers.

Unfortunately, by 2050, researchers project millions of animal species will face extinction and millions more humans will be displaced from their homes due to climate change, careless fossil fuel byproduct pollution, deforestation, and land degradation. Considering these dangers, I want to use my mathematical and analytical abilities to be an environmental engineer and preserve the world’s oldest– and most beautiful– landscapes.

Why Major - Analysis

This is a short essay, to the point where it may be better to call it a short answer question. That said, you should still treat it with the seriousness of an essay in your approach.

What Purdue is looking for here is the same thing many schools look for: why you want to study the subject you want to study. Committing to a major is a big step, and Purdue wants to be sure you are certain of your choice, as changing your mind later can be difficult.

Fortunately, many schools ask for an essay of this sort, so it is usually easy to adapt a previously written essay to answer this question. The most difficult part will be editing your essay down to fit within the reduced word count.

In the example above, the author spends the first few sentences setting a scene, before introducing a problem to be solved. Finally, they say they want to pursue their major in order to solve this problem, and return to the well-crafted scene the essay began with.

While the exact structure of your essay will differ, you should explain clearly why you want to pursue your chosen major. Since there is so little space, everything you include should be done so deliberately. When you are editing another school’s essay down, determine what the most important parts are to the overall message, and what can be cut safely.

Why Us - Example

How will opportunities at Purdue support your interests, both in and out of the classroom? (Respond in 100 words or fewer.)

The best engineers are focused on preventing problems so well that nobody ever even knows those problems existed in the first place. With a Purdue education, I will be able to solve some of these challenging engineering problems firsthand. Research opportunities like the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) will allow me to explore engineering questions that can help advance society globally under the tutelage of expert professors and mentors. Meanwhile, in clubs like BoilerMake and Purdue Mechatronics, my interests in cyber security and engineering will flourish alongside new friends as we code new solutions to the world’s  most pressing problems.

Why Us - Analysis

Purdue’s final prompt is another common one; they want to know why you desire to attend their school. Since many schools ask this question, you should already have material to work with when writing this essay. Due to the limited word count allowed however, you will have to be much more selective about what you discuss.

In the example above, the author touches briefly on several topics, but still manages to provide specific examples. Their use of these examples is important; referencing programs and clubs by name shows the school that you have done your research, and that you are serious about attending.

The author has one example of an academic program, and spends the bulk of the essay discussing Purdue’s academics. We recommend you do the same, as the reason you attend college is to learn, so you should talk about why you want to learn at that school. 

The author also mentions a pair of clubs they wish to join. While this should not be the main focus of your essay, including it can be helpful to show how you want to engage with the community at Purdue. Indeed, the author expresses just such a wish for community at the end of this essay.

Purdue isn’t looking for praise of their programs, they want to see how specifically the programs they offer will benefit you and your goals. There is not much room for a hook or deep exploration. You can either choose a single aspect of the school and dive in deeply, or pick a few things to touch on more briefly. Which you decide to use should reflect what drew you to the school in the first place.

You should not talk about the school’s location, and any mention of sports should be brief, unless you are a recruited athlete. While Purdue is proud of these things, they should not be your main draw to the school.

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