Boston College Essay Guide 2020-2021

Essay Guides 8 min read
Photo courtesy of Boston College

In this Boston College Essay Guide, we will cover how to approach the 2020-2021 Boston College supplementary essays. For more guidance on personal essays and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

Boston College is located in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Students have the best of both worlds, living in a suburban area, but residing only six miles from the city of Boston. With a 24% acceptance rate, the Class of 2024 was Boston College’s most selective applications cycle. The average SAT score for admitted students was 1457, and the average ACT score was 34. Boston College has an undergraduate student body of approximately 9,500 students. There is no Greek life, but students engage in intentional community through Living & Learning communities and extracurriculars.

Boston College draws on the heritage of St. Ignatius and the school’s Jesuit Catholic identity is apparent in nearly every facet of the student experience. Through courses such as “PULSE,” students study theology and philosophy while engaging in service to the community. Boston College also has a course series called “Perspectives” where freshmen develop answers to philosophical and theological questions. Regardless of intended major, every Boston College student engages in a core curriculum that not only broadens their intellectual horizons but also aids in the major discernment process.

Interesting Statistics:

  1. 96% of students participate in some form of service during their four years
  2. 70% of the student body is Catholic
  3. 50% of students study abroad

Choose one of the following prompts (400 word limit):

Option A: Great art evokes a sense of wonder. It nourishes the mind and spirit. Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?

In this prompt, Boston College is asking for insight into what inspires you, what is important to you, and what makes you curious. The admissions readers want to know what is meaningful to you, not what you think is meaningful to them, so take time to brainstorm this prompt prior to writing. Don’t expect an idea to jump out at you right away or force a work of art that isn’t significant in your life.

Although the prompt asks for a song, poem, speech, or novel, you should focus on yourself, rather than writing an expository essay on the work. The whole purpose of your application is to tell the reader more about yourself, not the piece of art. Is there a work that has changed or challenged a perspective you have? A song with sentimental value? Did a character in a novel teach you something particularly interesting?

I recommend selecting a work from the categories provided, unless there is another work of art that is incredibly significant in your life. There is already an abundance of content to choose from within these four categories.

Try not to choose a book that you read for class, such as To Kill a Mockingbird or The Great Gatsby — these will be overused and do not reflect your initiative or personal motivations. Well-known speeches such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” should also be avoided. If the message of a typically overused selection is inspiring to you, there likely exists another work that conveys a similar message.

To avoid being vague in your writing, try to hone in on a specific part of the book, line in the poem or song, or section of the speech.

Option B: When you choose a college, you will join a new community of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and stories. What is it about your background, your experiences, or your story, that will enrich Boston College’s community?

This prompt is the most open-ended prompt that Boston College provides, but that makes it all the more important to give your answer a focus by establishing a central message. Look at your application holistically, and reflect on what else you want to tell the admissions officers about you.

In your essay, describe both what you would bring to the Boston College community and what the community can offer you; college “fit” is a two-way street. The first step to determining how you can enrich the Boston College community is to understand the community’s values. Their mission statement, marketing materials, current students, and alumni are great resources.

This question hints at efforts to increase the diversity of the student body, but this can be exhibited in a variety of ways — background, ethnicity, religion, or ideology. Portray your true self; no one else can tell your story! Do you have an interest, passion, or hobby that most peers your age don’t have? Did you have a moment where you realized a key difference or similarity between yourself and someone else?

Think about the defining moments in your life. What are the stories that get told and retold about you around the dinner table? Was there a pivotal interaction with someone in your life? Did you overcome an adversity? Many stories and personal connections stem from community membership, so is there something about your community that has helped make you who you are? Something unique about your hometown?

This prompt is broad, so start brainstorming on a smaller scale, then extrapolate a broader message from that moment. Keep in mind that Boston College is looking to build a class of “well-angled” rather than “well-rounded” students; they don’t want a class of students who do everything, but rather a class of students who are each special in their own way and contribute something unique to the student body.

Option C: Boston College strives to provide an undergraduate learning experience emphasizing the liberal arts, quality teaching, personal formation, and engagement of critical issues. If you had the opportunity to create your own college course, what enduring question or contemporary problem would you address and why?

It can be daunting to dream up an entire course, so I suggest asking yourself “What would the topic be for my TEDtalk?” This is a great approach to help you think about what interests you, and that’s the very thing Boston College wants to know. Put yourself in the shoes of someone scrolling through the course catalog. What course would intrigue you? What would you be interested in learning?

There are two primary ways to go: You could talk about something you know a lot about and are very interested in, or you could talk about a topic you don’t know much about and want to learn more.

The crucial part of this prompt is, “enduring question or contemporary problem.” While your course by no means needs to be on a strictly academic topic, you should give careful thought to the gravity of the content of the course. Use this prompt as an opportunity to demonstrate your social conscience and engage with the big questions in life and the world through a specific, personal lens.

Is there a problem you want to solve? An idea you have for making the world a better place? Boston College offers a large variety of courses that are interdisciplinary and unique. Whether you take one of the Perspectives courses by Dr. Kerry Cronin on the philosophy of dating, or study the intersection of Islam and Liberal Democracy, you will be intrigued by the breadth and depth of Boston College’s course offerings.

Most importantly, don’t forget the “why” component of the prompt. Clearly establish the personal connection between yourself and the topic of your course. If you choose a broad topic such as climate change, education reform, or racial justice, for example, be sure to connect the content to yourself. Weaving your personal story into the narrative is crucial to making your course memorable and meaningful. You probably haven’t selected the topic of your course at random, so use your limited word count to elaborate on the significance of the topic to you, rather than detailing the nitty-gritty details of the course. Finally, come up with a creative title!

Option D: Jesuit education considers the liberal arts a pathway to intellectual growth and character formation. What beliefs and values inform your decisions and actions today, and how will Boston College assist you in becoming a person who thinks and acts for the common good?

This prompt is essentially asking, “Why are you applying to Boston College?” Those who have a really specific reason for wanting to attend — whether academic, extracurricular, or otherwise — should feel encouraged to write this essay.

However, it might be more challenging for someone who does not know Boston College well. Applying to college is a two-way street: Boston College wants you to articulate what you will gain from attending and what you will contribute to the campus community. If your values do not align closely with the Jesuit ideology, it might not be in your best interest to respond to this prompt. To learn more about Boston College, I recommend reading their student newspaper, The Heights.

When brainstorming, figure out what Boston College values. As a Jesuit institution, they care deeply about their students' morals, beliefs, and characters — more so than the average university. Pay careful attention to the buzzwords in the prompt: “character” and “common good.” The school’s Jesuit roots also indicate a focus on interdisciplinary study and education of the student both inside and outside the classroom. Boston College wants to know what you are going to do with your education and who you are going to be when you graduate.

Avoid the trap of trying to cover too much when answering the prompt. I recommend writing about 1-3 beliefs or values, rather than trying to touch on too many. Use specific, vivid examples from your life, rather than simply telling the reader what your values are. Articulate how you gained the beliefs and values you hold and discuss how they may have grown or changed. Is St. Ignatius a role model in your life? Did your parish priest have an impact on how you view your faith? Be sure to completely answer the prompt by detailing how Boston College will assist you in promoting the common good.


This essay guide was written by Caroline Marapese, Notre Dame ‘20. If you want to get help writing your Boston College application essays from Caroline or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.

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