Amherst College 2017-2018 Supplementary Writing Sample Essay Prompts

September 11, 2017

Interested in studying at a liberal arts college? Check out what Amherst has to offer and their 2017-2018 supplemental essay prompts.

Liberal art colleges puts an emphasis on a well-rounded education, so students can gain broad knowledge on a range of academic subjects and develop intellectual and analytical skills. Liberal arts colleges are typically small in size, with undergraduate enrollment ranging from 300 to 4,000 students.

On the top of the list of liberal arts colleges is Amherst College, locate in Amherst, MA. Amherst is a member of the Five Colleges consortium, which comprises of four liberal art colleges and one university. In addition to Amherst, the rest are Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Given the proximity, students are encouraged to cross-register and take classes at the other colleges at no extra cost.

Amherst offers degrees in more than 35 different majors students can choose from. On top of being able to take advantage of the courses available to the Five Colleges consortium, students can also apply for the 3-2 dual degree engineering program with Dartmouth. Finally, in addition to Amherst’s rigorous academics, they also known for their a capella groups, like the Zumbyes, and Route 9!

Amherst’s application gives you two options. Make sure you read the descriptions for both before making your choice. So, if you’re interested in applying to Amherst, here are the 2017-2018 supplemental essay prompts:

Option A:

Respond to one of the following quotations in an essay of not more than 300 words. It is not necessary to research, read, or refer to the texts from which these quotations are taken; we are looking for original, personal responses to these short excerpts. Remember that your essay should be personal in nature and not simply an argumentative essay.

Essay Prompt 1

“Rigorous reasoning is crucial in mathematics, and insight plays an important secondary role these days. In the natural sciences, I would say that the order of these two virtues is reversed. Rigor is, of course, very important. But the most important value is insight—insight into the workings of the world. It may be because there is another guarantor of correctness in the sciences, namely, the empirical evidence from observation and experiments.” 

Kannan Jagannathan, Professor of Physics, Amherst College

Essay Prompt 2

“Translation is the art of bridging cultures. It’s about interpreting the essence of a text, transporting its rhythms and becoming intimate with its meaning… Translation, however, doesn’t only occur across languages: mentally putting any idea into words is an act of translation; so is composing a symphony, doing business in the global market, understanding the roots of terrorism. No citizen, especially today, can exist in isolation– that is, I untranslated.” 

— Ilán Stavans, Professor of Latin American and Latino Culture, Amherst College, Robert Croll ’16 and Cedric Duquene ’15, from “Interpreting Terras Irradient,” Amherst Magazine, Spring 2015.

Essay Prompt 3

“Creating an environment that allows students to build lasting friendships, including those that cut across seemingly entrenched societal and political boundaries…requires candor about the inevitable tensions, as well as about the wonderful opportunities, that diversity and inclusiveness create.” 

— Carolyn “Biddy” Martin, 19th President of Amherst College, from Letter to Amherst College Alumni and Families, December 28, 2015.

Essay Prompt 4

“Difficulty need not foreshadow despair or defeat. Rather, achievement can be all the more satisfying because of obstacles surmounted.” 

—Attributed to William Hastie, Amherst College Class of 1925, the first African-American to serve as a judge for the United States Court of Appeals

Option B:

Submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year that best represents your writing skills and analytical abilities. We are particularly interested in your ability to construct a tightly reasoned, persuasive argument that calls upon literary, sociological or historical evidence.

You should not submit a laboratory report, journal entry, creative writing sample or in-class essay. Also, if you have submitted an analytical essay in response to the “essay topic of your choice” prompt (Prompt #7) in the Common Application writing section, you should not select Option B. Instead, you should respond to one of the four quotation prompts in Option A.

Optional Research Questions

If you have engaged in significant research in the natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, social sciences or humanities that was undertaken independently of your high school curriculum, please provide a brief description of the research project: (50-75 words)


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About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.


Browse Successful Application Files

Amherst ‘19

Accepted to Amherst, Holy Cross, UMass, Northeastern, Stonehill

Hi! My name is Asia and I'm currently a biology major on pre med track at Amherst College. I play tennis and the baritone saxophone!
Amherst ‘19

Accepted to Amherst, Tufts, Wellesley, Holyoke, Clark

Incoming freshman at Amherst College! Looking to study Political Science or Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought.
Amherst ‘19

Accepted to Amherst, Georgetown, American, Arizona

I'm a student from Arizona who's interested in Economics!
Amherst ‘19

Accepted to UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Northwestern, UPenn, NYU, USC, Emory, UCSD, Northeastern, Amherst

I was raised by imaginary friends. I'd like to think they did a bang-up job, no?

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