Those ‘potential to contribute’ essays

November 27, 2006 at 7:57 pm 4 comments

Posted by Dee

The UC application always has a “Potential to Contribute” essay as do many other colleges, and it’s often difficult to come up with ideas of what to write about; after all, you’re going to school to learn, not to teach.

But, that said, every college or university looks at its students not only as people coming to class to learn, but as investments who will one day, in some way, give back to the university. So, here are some ways I’ve thought of that you can “contribute.” Not all of these will be applicable to everyone; feel free to use these as inspiration for your own essays and be sure that when you write your essay is not generic, but rather it shows who you are.

– Diversity. Plenty of schools are interested in upping their diversity-factor. Maybe this is how you could contribute to the university, by increasing their community’s diversity. Keep in mind that this need not be racial or gender or ethnic diversity, but that diversity can come in many forms; maybe you’re an art-lover in a school that has few or a recreational athlete in a community that is not too sports-enthusiastic. And then the whole purpose of your essay can show how you will “contribute” by attending sports games and getting really spirited (yes, your contribution can be as simple as that), or starting an art club.

– Physically contributing. Maybe you enjoy community service. You could make this entire essay all about how you will actually give back to the college community by participating in service projects. If you take this route, be sure to highlight service experiences you’ve had in the past; remember, these essays are ultimately for you to show why you’re the candidate they should accept!

– I don’t know, but I’ve contributed in the past. I think this was the route I took when I applied to the UCs. Basically my essay didn’t pick out any particular way I would contribute but rather I used the essay as an opportunity to show that I had had plenty of leadership experience in the past and that I was very passionate for my extracurricular activities, therefore although I didn’t yet know how I would specifically contribute, I knew that I would.

– Research. Some folks, especially science and social science people, may be really into research. Most universities, especially research universities, will love this. If this applies to you, you could definitely talk in this essay about how you hope to do research (maybe you could even name a department you would want to do research in or a professor you’d want to work with; but, be careful with naming because you then ought to make sure that every school you apply this essay to actually has the professor or department you reference). Then, you could also use this essay to talk about any past research you’ve done or any special projects or recognitions you’ve received in conjunction to it; again remember, these essays are to detail impressive aspects of yourself.

– The arts. Maybe you’re an actor or a dancer or a painter or a musician. Maybe you’ll be contributing by joining the university’s arts programs. Feel free to then elaborate on your past experiences in this area.

– Working student. Are you definitely set on working while in college? Nearly all universities hire their own students for many positions; maybe this is a way you will contribute. This essay may then also give you the opportunity to talk about any monetary hardships you’ve had or your personal values about the importance of working or any great experiences or lessons you’ve gained because of past work.

– Personality. This could make for an interesting essay. If you have some dynamite aspects to your personality that are worth writing a whole essay about, go ahead. Not sure exactly what this essay would look like, but maybe my mentioning this gave someone inspiration…


Entry filed under: Accepted, Admissions, Application, Art, Athletics, Classes, College trends, Colleges/Universities, Community, Community service, Contribution, Dance, Department, Description, Diversity, Education, Environment, Essays, Ethnicity, Extracurricular activities, Gender, High school, Honor, Leadership, Money, Motivation, Music, Personal statement, President, Professor, Question, Research, School clubs, Science, Social science, Sports, Teacher, Theatre, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UCLA, UCSB, University of California, Work.

Little vacation for the T-day holiday A “duh” tip #4

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lucy  |  January 13, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Thank you, this really helped me, I had no clue what to write. The inispiring question has now been inspired.

  • 2. Lucy  |  January 13, 2008 at 11:15 pm


  • 3. arwen  |  February 21, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    thank you so much dee!

  • 4. arset  |  August 24, 2011 at 8:10 am

    thanks…that was a good article!


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