Rice requires prospective students to write three essays, in addition to the personal statement. The first two essays are fairly straightforward, both only 150 words. The first asks you to explain which major you’re interested in and why, while the second asks you why you want to attend Rice. The third question is far longer and asks what you will bring to the campus community and culture at Rice.
Rice cares deeply not just about students’ academic potential, but about their character, and how they will fit into the established community at Rice. Below, we include the full questions, and examples of well written essays. We then analyze what the questions are asking for, and how the examples did that well.
There is a breadth of intellectual opportunities here at Rice. Further explain your intended major and other areas of academic focus you may explore. (150 words)
I witnessed firsthand the way political decisions surrounding Hurricane Harvey turned Houston into a scene from an apocalyptic blockbuster. Rather than drowning my faith in government intervention, I resolved to wade into the muddy waters of public policy.
In the 1970s, ‘Housing Houston’ mobilized “explosive property development” on low-lying lands. This get-rich-quick scheme prioritized economic growth over personal safety, opening the floodgates for dangerous conditions. How can we learn from past disasters to develop sustainable crisis response methods that prioritize personal safety over economic interests?
A Social Policy Analysis degree will enable me to answer such questions by deepening my understanding of the dialectical relationship between people and the economy. By taking advantage of Rice’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning and courses like Sociology of Disaster and Economic Modeling and Public Policy, I will gain the technical knowledge to respond to the sensitive policy issues of my generation.
While the question does ask about your intended major, it is far more open to students who wish to pursue other avenues of exploration. By leaving the question more open, if you are not solidly certain about which major you wish to pursue, you may instead write about why you are undecided, or what topics you are trying to decide between.
The essay above uses a brief hook. These are useful to explain to the audience how you came to be interested in a particular major, but should not take up too much space in the essay, as the word count is so limited. The example above strikes a good balance, explaining their interest while not getting sidetracked from the main point of the essay.
Rice is an intellectual institution, and prides itself on this fact. Therefore, intellectual curiosity, or a desire to use your knowledge for the public good are both good motivations to discuss. While there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to study a particular major to get a good job or make a lot of money, this is not the proper venue to discuss these motivations.
Finally, you should concretely explain, albeit briefly, why Rice is the best venue for you to explore this major. This does not have to be in depth, but concretely tying your interests to the institution helps make the case that you are well suited for Rice, and it is well suited for you.
What aspects of the Rice undergraduate experience inspired you to apply? (150 words)
While other kids were gawking at Houston Zoo elephants and watching 4D-movies at the Children’s Museum, I was at Rice, scribbling on expansive whiteboards with one hand and clutching complimentary hot chocolate with the other. My drawings still stain the walls of my dad’s office in McNair Hall, Room 237. I had left my mark on Rice long before I was old enough to realize that Rice had left its imprint on me.
Auditing Intro to American Politics this past summer transformed Rice from merely a place of comfort to a place of possibility. I am eager to both expand on existing ventures and forge new connections in my beloved hometown. In addition to diving into coursework and taking advantage of opportunities like the CCL’s Loewenstern Fellowship, I will engage with organizations like the Pre-Law Society, Rasikas Dance, and Global Brigades, where I intend to start an Environmental Chapter.
This is an incredibly broad question, which means that you have a lot of leeway in answering it. Due to the limited space, you can either cover several aspects briefly, or dive more in-depth on a single topic. Both are valid, and you should focus on what draws you most to Rice.
The essay above is a somewhat unique case, as the author clearly has a much deeper and longer personal connection with Rice than most. If you do have one of these connections with the school, then focusing on it is a good strategy. If you don’t have this kind of connection, then focus on what draws you to the school. Specificity is key here. Which programs do you want to explore? Which classes do you want to take? Which professors are doing research which you want to be a part of? Which clubs excite you?
There is no one right way to answer this question, but whatever answer you give should convincingly explain why you want to attend Rice, and why Rice is the only logical choice for you.
Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life (helping other members with anxiety) for all members of our campus community. The Residential College System is heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What personal perspectives would you contribute to life at Rice? (500 word limit)
“I’m coming!” The crowd of teenage girls surrounding Ananya backstage parted like the Red Sea. I rested my hands on her shoulders and guided her breathing, the lull of my voice cascading over the chatter of 50,000 people that echoed through the stadium. As her hyperventilation abated, I ran through my signature pre-performance pep-talk:
It’ll be over before you know it.
If the worst happens, will it matter in five years?
You can’t change the result, so there’s no reason to stress over it.
Five minutes later, she was on stage beside me and ten other Bharatnatyam dancers with a beaming smile, leftover tears flinging from her lashes with each jati.
Until a year ago, I was the one having bi-weekly anxiety attacks; something as inconsequential as misplacing a pencil case would catapult me into panic, leaving me with little room to breathe. Not only were these episodes unpleasant in the moment, but the time and mental space they drained kept me from getting my homework done in time to read before bed or even eat dinner with my family. I began to avoid high-pressure situations; rather than auditioning for the school play, I stayed in the wings, free from the critical gaze of the audience. Despite practicing yoga and “taking deep breaths,” this persistent stress plagued me for years like a pinched nerve at the back of my skull.
In 10th grade, my hip young English teacher spent an entire class discussing nihilism. We were all captivated by the revolutionary (for our young minds) idea that life is meaningless. Despite the harsh nature of a useless existence, I was reminded of a key passage from the Bhagavad Gita: “You have a right to ‘Karma’ [actions] but not to any of the Fruits themselves.” Although there is no substitute for conscientious hard work and dedication, the outcome itself cannot be controlled.
It sounds gruesome, but my newfound understanding of the sacred text of my childhood and the calm “detachment” it produced in me was a direct result of recognizing my own finitude. While I don’t remind hyperventilating dancers that they’re going to die some day, I do remind them that no one will remember the second girl from the left missing a beat–including that girl herself. I soon became the rock of our dance group, offering reality checks with doses of encouragement:
Visualize the worst that can happen, and notice it’s insignificance and inevitability.
If you focus only on the result, you lose control of the process.
Getting worked up won’t improve your ability to perform.
A leader doesn’t have to be a cult of personality cracking the whip of achievement. A leader can be someone who shows that because determinations like success and failure are out of our hands, we are free to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to the process itself. I am eager to share this liberating blend of Eastern and Western thought with my fellow Residential College members at Rice University.
This prompt is confusingly worded, but in the end is just a community essay, if far longer than most such are. They want to know how you will contribute to the vibrant community on their campus, and how well you will fit with their idea of a Rice student. The best way to show how you will contribute is to provide examples of how you have contributed to a community in the past.
The essay above does this well, showing the author’s values and ability to contribute to the success of a group, and their ability to support others in their quest for a common goal. Above all, it shows who the author is as a person, what they believe in, what they value, and how they think about the world.
For this essay, Rice wants to determine who you are, so they can determine how you will fit in with the current community. You can show this in any number of ways, but any essay should display your ability to contribute to a group or cause greater than yourself.
Rice lists their values as: Responsibility, Integrity, Community, and Excellence. Think about what these mean for a campus, and how you have demonstrated any or all of these values through what you’ve done. You don’t necessarily need to discuss these values explicitly, or attempt to cram them into an essay where they don’t fit. Instead, think about what values you best exemplify, and how they might be best portrayed in an essay.