Rice University Essay Requirements

The goal here is to strike a balance between discussing the academic advantages of Rice, and the sociocultural elements of Rice’s campus that dovetail with your personality and goals. You will especially want to avoid the pitfall of common sentiments here — instead of citing the low student-to-faculty ratio and small class sizes that the university’s website advertises (which is also found at other schools), dig deeper beyond the first sub-page on Rice’s website to find information that most candidates do not have.


Also refrain from repeating the benefits of the particular school and major you wrote about in the previous essays; although they may well be unique characteristics of Rice, this question asks for you to expound on how you embody the spirit of Rice as a cultural community rather than the academic benefits you may reap at the school.


While the social climate of any school is largely intangible and difficult to determine from the outside, you can discuss student organizations that particularly interest you, as well as aspects of the Rice community that are implied by their admissions materials. For example, if promoting interdisciplinary studies is a priority for you, referencing groups like the Houston Institute Club, whose mission is to “explore the intersection of the humanities with the sciences and technology,” could demonstrate how the culture of Rice satisfies that personal principle.


It is particularly helpful to reach out to current Rice students to get an idea of what their typical day and college culture are like. Questions to consider include: What is the extent of intellectual debate on Rice’s campus? What kinds of conversations do students have outside of the classroom?


To lend some cohesiveness to the essay, tie your answer to the first question (how did you learn about Rice?) with that of the second (what motivated you to apply?). What was it about your first impression of Rice that made you want to attend the school?


The extra 100 words available in comparison to the previous 150-word limits lend the illusion of “sufficient space” to write about many disparate elements of Rice. However, 250 words, on an absolute scale, are very little. Allocate a modest 50 words to the introduction and conclusion each, and you are left with a mere 150 words for the content. Hence, it is vital that you focus on two critical factors that inspired your application. This strategy also avoids giving your essay the appearance of a list of praise for Rice.


Rice University Application Essay Prompts


Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 word limit)

This question is common among universities and requires you to name one extracurricular activity or work experience that uniquely defines you. The prompt has the potential to make your application stand out for reasons outside of the academic realm. Examples of extracurricular activities or work experiences could range from serving as the president of your high school’s local branch of UNICEF to working as a cashier at the nearby McDonald’s.


While the activity itself might not hold as much weight, your leadership and accomplishments in the aforementioned activity — that is, what exactly about your involvement in the activity that makes it significant — do. Thus, you should have been involved in the selected activity for some considerable time.


The tight word limit ensures that you select the activities that are the most important to you. Especially effective essay topics would be activities that enabled you to step outside of your comfort zone, have some special personal significance, and/or are related to your potential major. Writing on these allows you to communicate something about yourself beyond just your involvement in the activity through this essay, be it your long-term devotion to your desired field of study or your capacity to overcome personal hardship.

With the understanding that the choice of academic school you indicated is not binding, explain why you are applying to that particular school of study. (150 word limit)

This prompt goes hand-in-hand with the preceding question by gauging your academic interests to supplement your extracurricular profile. In addition to elaborating on your general academic interests, we at CollegeVine recommend that you highlight some unique attributes of the corresponding school at Rice to tie your response together.


Talk about your specific interest and experiences in the major and area of interest. Unfortunately, with a required response of 150 words, this essay prompt is not long enough to be a fully developed essay like that of the Common Application. Thus, you should be especially judicious in the balance between describing your general academic interests and discussing the finer details of the relevant school at Rice.

How did you first learn about Rice University, and what motivated you to apply? (250 word limit)

“Why our school?” is perhaps the most common prompt seen in college supplements and requires you to highlight specific aspects of the school that appeal to you. Ensure that you do your research and find attributes of the school that connect well with your interests.


You could discuss the residential college system, faculty-to-student ratio, and/or top architecture program, to name a few key aspects of the school. Regardless of your selection, you should point out how that aspect has some personal connection to you. In tying personal experiences, accomplishments, and interests into the offerings at Rice, you can make your essay all the more compelling.


With a slightly larger word limit, this question enables you to flesh your ideas out more thoroughly than the previous questions. As a result, you have the option of either focusing on one or two attributes of the school that particularly resonate with you or generally discuss multiple aspects that appeal to you. If possible, we at CollegeVine suggest the former to help make your application as unique and tailored to you as possible.

In keeping with Rice’s long-standing tradition (known as “The Box”), please share an image of something that appeals to you. See the Help Section for more information.

The Box is perhaps the most interesting of all the prompts. It allows you to express your identity through an image as opposed to a worded response. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so choose carefully.


You could submit a photograph of a family heirloom or a gift given to you as a volunteer at the hospital. By forcing you to choose one image, admissions officers will see your image as a reflection of what is important to you. Thus, use your best judgment and avoid inappropriate images such as those that might reflect any extreme political standing. It would be wise, if possible, to choose an image that was mentioned or described in either your Common Application essay or one of the above prompts, so that the image has some context.


If you are looking for more personalized help on your application, consider CollegeVine’s essay editing and application guidance programs. Our team would love to evaluate your application and help you further set yourself apart in the applicant pool!


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