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Richmond Question: Do and Don't

By Tom Nicholas

June 25, 2013

As you may have read in my last post, we have a new Richmond Question this year:

"From small, faculty-led classes to funded undergraduate research, the University of Richmond offers the benefits of both a liberal arts college and the opportunities and resources typically found in large research universities. Tell us how you would utilize these resources in order to reach your goals.

In the near future, I plan to share some general thoughts and tips for college essay-writing, so be on the lookout for new blog posts. But in announcing the new Richmond Question, I thought it would be appropriate to share some advice specific to our prompt. Here are a couple of “do” and “don’t” suggestions as you begin to think about your essay:

Do use the prompt as an opportunity to share something about yourself and your interests. That’s the whole point of college essay prompts (whether Richmond’s, the Common Application’s, or any other college’s). We’re not looking for you to wax eloquent about the University of Richmond or go on about how wonderful it is (that’s our job); we want to get to know you, and how you see yourself fitting into our community of scholars and thriving here.

Don’t answer the question more than once. That is, avoid paragraphs that could stand alone as short answers to the question, and avoid lists. Rather, focus your essay on a common thread – who you are, your hopes and aspirations, a particular passion, a unique goal – and tie everything into that. You’re still being asked to write a coherent essay with a central thesis or idea that connects to the rest of it, just like you’ve been taught in English class.

Do your research. A quick scour or search of Richmond’s website won’t be enough to write meaningfully about your future and fit. Take the time to explore our programs; read the stories and get into the details. We hope you’ve been doing this anyway, but if you haven’t, this is a great time to get to know Richmond better – which will ultimately be to your benefit, if and when you’re deciding whether to enroll here.

Don’t tell us what we already know about the University (or, worse, plagiarize portions of Richmond’s website). One of our primary responsibilities as admission officers is to promote the University to prospective students and families, so trust me, we know the University really well. Better than you do, in all likelihood. So it’s safe to assume that we know what you’re talking about when you reference the Jepson School or Sophomore Scholars in Residence; you don’t have to explain them to us. Spend your words talking about yourself and your future, not telling us about the University of Richmond.

Do be genuine. We’re not looking for forced enthusiasm; we’re looking for thoughtful reflection on who you are and how you see yourself growing at Richmond. (Enthusiasm is okay, but it’s not the point of the essay prompt.)

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Tom NicholasTom Nicholas
Associate Director of Admission 


A Richmond alumnus (Class of 2007), Tom has been working and blogging for the Office of Admission since he graduated. He loves his alma mater and the city that shares its name.

Learn more about Tom


Beth Anne SpachtBeth Anne Spacht
Senior Assistant Director of Admission


Beth Anne was a double major at Richmond (English and Latin American & Iberian Studies) and now enjoys helping prospective students discover the best of her alma mater.

Learn more about Beth Anne

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