Amherst College Writing Supplement Options
In addition to the main essays you must write as part of the Common Application, Coalition Application or QuestBridge Application, Amherst requires a supplementary writing sample of all applicants.
There are two options for satisfying Amherst’s supplementary writing requirement for the first-year application: Option A and Option B. Applicants should respond to one, but not both, of these options. Before deciding, you should carefully read the descriptions of both Option A and Option B (including the special Option B instructions for applicants who elect to respond to the “essay topic of your choice” prompt in the Common Application writing section). Please note that these descriptions are provided for convenience of preview only; your actual writing supplement should be submitted through the Common Application online system or the Coalition Application online system (unless you are submitting the QuestBridge application only, in which case you will be instructed on how to email, mail or fax your supplement to our office).
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.
“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
“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.
“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.
“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 in the Common Application writing section, you should not select Option B. Instread, you should respond to one of the four quotation prompts in Option A.