American University Supplemental Essay 2024 | Strategies and Insights for Success

In the 1990s, American University boasted an acceptance rate of nearly 80%. However, in recent years, this figure has plummeted to as low as 26%, typically resting below 40%. As a test-optional institution for over a decade, this transformation into a highly-selective university in Washington, D.C. underscores its commitment to a holistic approach in evaluating candidates. Consequently, the American University supplemental essay now holds significant weight in the admissions process. In this era of heightened selectivity, crafting a compelling supplemental essay is paramount for AU applicants, offering a prime opportunity to exhibit their writing prowess and leave a lasting impression on admissions officers.

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American University Supplemental Essay

The American University supplemental essay prompt for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle is straightforward but critical: “Why are you interested in American University?”

Applicants are given a tight limit of 150 words to make their case, akin to delivering an elevator pitch to a potential investor. This essay demands concise yet compelling content that highlights why AU is a top choice for the applicant.

Crafting Your Response

  1. Research and Specificity: Utilize school-specific research to tailor your response. Highlight unique aspects of AU that resonate with you, such as its diverse academic programs, global student body, robust student organizations, or renowned study abroad opportunities.
  2. Demonstrate Fit: Showcase how AU aligns with your academic and personal goals. Discuss how its academic offerings, small class sizes, research opportunities, internships, or campus culture contribute to your aspirations and interests.
  3. Avoid Common Pitfalls: Steer clear of generic statements and clichés. Instead, focus on specific features of AU that genuinely attract you. Avoid listing unrelated accolades or statistics that don’t directly contribute to your narrative.

Key Points to Consider

  • Highlight AU’s unique offerings, such as its academic programs, global opportunities, research funding, and internships.
  • Emphasize personal connections to AU’s values, community, or mission.
  • Keep the response concise and impactful, utilizing every word to convey your enthusiasm and fit for AU.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Recycled Statements: Avoid regurgitating generic statements from other “Why Us?” essays. Such content can appear impersonal, stale, and irrelevant to AU’s unique qualities.
  2. Itinerary of Plans: Refrain from listing all the activities you plan to do in Washington, D.C. Instead, focus on how AU’s location enhances your academic and personal goals.
  3. Generic Statements: Steer clear of clichéd phrases like “AU feels like home” or “I’ve wanted to attend since kindergarten.” Provide specific examples and reasons to support your affinity for AU.

Strategies for Success

  1. Active Involvement: Demonstrate your potential as an engaged member of AU’s student body. Showcase your past and current experiences that illustrate your commitment to contributing positively to campus life.
  2. Evidence of Fit: Clearly articulate why AU is an ideal fit for you and vice versa. Provide concrete examples of how AU’s academic programs, faculty, research opportunities, and campus culture align with your interests and aspirations.
  3. Specific Citations: Reference specific aspects of AU that appeal to you, such as academic programs, professors, research opportunities, internships, study abroad programs, and student organizations. Tailor your essay to highlight how these resources will enhance your AU experience.
  4. Resource Utilization: Explain how you plan to leverage AU’s extensive resources both inside and outside the classroom to maximize your academic and personal growth. Showcase your proactive approach to taking advantage of AU’s offerings.

By avoiding common pitfalls and employing these strategies, you can craft a compelling “Why American U?” essay that resonates with the admissions committee and highlights your fit for AU’s vibrant community.

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Importance of the American University Supplemental Essay

In American University’s applicant evaluation process, only two factors are designated as “very important”: the rigor of coursework and the GPA earned. In the second tier of importance are essays, recommendations, talent/ability, character/personal qualities, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work. It’s evident that essays, including both the main Common App essay and the supplemental prompt, hold considerable weight in this holistic assessment.


While American University’s evaluation process considers various factors, including GPA and coursework rigor as the most crucial, essays play a pivotal role. As applicants strive to secure their place in this competitive environment, crafting compelling supplemental essays becomes essential. These essays offer candidates a unique opportunity to express their genuine interest in AU and showcase their potential contributions to the university community. Therefore, applicants should approach the supplemental essay with careful consideration and attention to detail, recognizing its significance in the overall admissions process.