Guidance for Bryn Mawr applicants

Some colleges try to be all things to all people, promising that no matter what you envision for your college experience, they’re large enough to offer it to you.  Bryn Mawr College is most certainly not one of those places, which is one of the reasons why I like it so much.

It takes a certain kind of young woman to seek out, appreciate, and ultimately attend a school like Bryn Mawr, someone who set out to find the right colleges (not just the most famous ones), who’s done a thoughtful college search process, who isn’t worried so much about what colleges want her to be, but rather, how she can best express to them who she really is.   If this sounds like you, here are some tips to help the Bryn Mawr admissions committee see that you match with the school.

1.  Start by thoughtfully considering not just your reasons for applying, but also your reasons you would consider attending Bryn Mawr.

One way to consider your match with a college is to imagine how you would feel if you knew today that you were going to be attending school there in the fall.  That will help you get past the surface reasons for applying to a school and really think about whether you could be happy and successful there.

Start by reading about the history and mission of Bryn Mawr.  Those things are important to understand at a school like this.  Read the profiles of young women who attend and what they have to say about their experiences.  Read about the professors, the academic programs that interest you, and the alumni who recount their time at Bryn Mawr.  Now ask yourself, do you feel even more interested in attending?  Do you wish you could be there right now just to see for yourself what that environment is like?  Are you already imagining yourself on campus as a freshman, taking in all of the learning inside and outside of the classroom? 

If the answer is, "Yes!” then carry that excitement with you through the application and interview process.  Your thoughtful and sincere desire to attend will be evident.     

2. Take Bryn Mawr up on their recommendation to interview.

The website says that interviews are not required but are strongly recommended.  To us, that means, "Do an interview."  With only one essay required on its Common Application Supplement, you don't have a lot of opportunities to communicate your match with the school.  An interview gives you a real chance to have a meaningful exchange with someone in a way that the application doesn't.  And at a school that cares as much about matchmaking as Bryn Mawr does, this is something you probably don't want to skip.

3. Speaking of the additional essay…

Here's where we can show you some of the method to our madness.  Bryn Mawr's supplemental essay prompt reads:

"Please attach an essay of no more than one page telling us what you think you would gain from the educational experience at Bryn Mawr and what you would contribute to the community."

Now you can see how why students who take our advice in #1 our much better prepared to provide a compelling answer here.  Remember, this essay should not be about Bryn Mawr–it should be about you and your future experience at Bryn Mawr.  If you tell them they have a beautiful campus, great professors and small classes, you've just told the admissions committee three things it knows already (remember, they do work there). 

A more thoughtful answer shares your hopes and expectations for your personal learning and growth while you are in college, how you want to be different when it's over, what you want to do in the world after graduation and how Bryn Mawr will help you get there. 

Those are not easy questions to answer.  In fact, lots of students have no idea what their goals for personal learning and growth are for college, which is absolutely fine, but not at a school like Bryn Mawr.  Applicants who match well here have answers to those questions.  And even if they can’t confidently map out with detail how their years in college and beyond are going to look, they’re certainly thinking about those things.   So be specific.  Let the admissions committee hear that you’ve given thoughtful consideration to what your hopes are for your Bryn Mawr years.   

And don't forget the part of the prompt that asks about what you will contribute.  Colleges want you to take advantage of all they have to offer but they also want you to make meaningful contributions to the campus community.  Contributions can be made in lots of ways on a college campus, but the common characteristic of a contributing student is one who is happy, engaged (in and out of the classroom) and participating fully in her college experience. 

What does that look like?

It’s the pre-med student who also plays on the club ultimate Frisbee team.  It’s the Spanish speaker who volunteers in the community to teach recent immigrants English.  It’s the writer who holds informal poetry discussions with her fellow wordsmiths, the student who works as a resident advisor in the dorms, the black belt in karate who teaches on-campus self-dense classes for women, the guitar player who plays shows with two fellow Bryn Mawr musicians at the local coffee house, and the future politician who lobbies for important campus issues in the student government. 

All of these students are contributing by becoming fully engaged members of the campus community.  By doing so, they’re impacting other students and making the college experience more fulfilling for those around them. 

So when you respond to this prompt, remember that when you describe your college goals, think about—and relate—how those goals will make you a contributing member of the campus community.

Note:  Before you follow our tips, we recommend you read our "How to" guide here: Download HowToUse30Guides

And if you have other questions about essays, applications, interviews or financial aid, visit our online store.  We’ve got books, videos and downloadable guides to help you.  Or you could speak with one of our online college counselors.


  1. Francisco says

    Hi Kevin….
    Thank you very much for your advice…..Felt this question was a bit generic,But your explanation has given me just what i needed to understand and to successfully answer the prompt……..They’re basically asking you to tell them what influenced you to apply,how you will engage academically and how you’ll add to the campus diversity……..and just as you earlier pointed out…only a student who truly wants to attend the U of chicago…will know how to approach the promp……