Admissions Blog: 5 great alternatives to writing a college application essay

Posted on December 07, 2018 by Savanna Klein ’16

Photo class
My favorite part of reading applications is getting to know prospective students better. I like to learn more about their interests, what draws them to those interests and what draws them to Sweet Briar! A big chunk of that information comes from the most creative part of the application — the essay. At Sweet Briar, the essay portion is no longer limited to just a written essay. Here are five other options you can consider for letting us get to know you in the most authentic way possible.

  1. Put your essay in video form.

Feel more comfortable speaking out loud in front of a camera than writing on a sheet of paper? Do you prefer to express yourself visually through dance or performance? Send your admissions counselor a video (links to private YouTube videos work well) of your essay.

  1. Send us your writing portfolio.

Have you been working on multiple written pieces? Do you have a collection of short stories? Poems? Non-fiction essays? We’d love to read a small collection of them!

  1. Send us your art portfolio.

Is visual art more your style? Painting? Drawing? Sculpture? Photography? The possibilities are limitless! Contemplating art is always a fun way for us to switch it up when reading your application.

  1. Let us interview you.

Would you rather tell us about yourself in person? You can schedule an interview with a counselor when you visit Sweet Briar. We can also interview you over Skype or other video technology. Contact your admissions counselor to schedule an online interview.

  1. Have another creative idea? Email or call your admissions counselor to see if we’ll accept it.

Remember that these creative twists on the traditional essay should still tell us about yourself and respond in some way to the prompts posed on your application. They don’t have to be novels (or full-length feature films!), but please keep them a reasonable length. A good rule of thumb is no more than three pages for an essay, less than five minutes for a video, and no more than 10 pages for a portfolio.

As always, contact the admissions office ( or 434-381-6142) or your admissions counselor if you have any other questions.

Want to know more about our application requirements? Visit for details.

Savanna Klein
Savanna Klein ’16 is an admissions counselor at Sweet Briar, where she majored in environmental studies and minored in economics. She loves whitewater kayaking and seeing prospective students get excited about Sweet Briar when they discover that it’s the right fit for them. You can read more about Savanna here.