Tips for Applying to Rice


Applying to college is a time where you get to really showcase yourself and your achievements. We asked six of our very own Rice Admission Officers to give advice on how to create a high quality application that will present you in an authentic light.

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Tip 1: Activities

The goal of the Activities section of the application is to present a well-rounded and impactful profile that reflects your unique experiences, passions and contributions. You can showcase your diversity of interests and passions to help you present yourself as an individual with a range of skills and experiences. Highlight your most meaningful activities where you have had the greatest impact on your personal growth, skill development, or contribution to your community. Emphasize any leadership roles where you have demonstrated initiative, responsibility, and the ability to influence and guide others. Provide detailed descriptions and quantify your impact within your activities. And don’t forget to add other ways you spend your time outside the classroom such as work or family responsibilities. They are just as important as school activities to give admission officers insight into your lived experience.

- Shana C.


Tip 2: Essay

Simply put, the college essay is a writing sample used in college applications for consideration in admission. That being said, it’s a fantastic way to showcase three things: your personality, the way you think and your overall unique story. Colleges want unique perspectives in their classes, which is why you shouldn’t fall into the trap of writing what you think colleges want to hear. We want to be able to use your story to create a depiction of a real student at Rice. The most important thing you can do to help you properly articulate your unique perspective is to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm ideas and create an outline for your actual essay. Once you have that down, the rest of the process should be pretty straightforward. What’s left for you to do is translate your outline into an essay and then revise it before your submission. Lastly, remember that you have plenty of people to support you and help you revise your essay. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but be sure to stay true to your own story!

- Emily F.

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Tip 3: Supplemental Essays

The supplemental essays are university-specific prompts that serve as one of the many pieces admission officers use to evaluate your application. These prompts give students the opportunity to convey their interest in a specific institution. Colleges have a limited number of students they can enroll every year, and they like to see students who are excited by what they have to offer. The supplemental essays provide space to express that excitement. It is important to read the prompts carefully. You can't just copy and paste your responses, as they will differ from college to college. Students are encouraged to research the universities they apply to, and reflect on which attributes draw you to that particular school. It could be an academic program, a location on campus, or the student culture. When you are specific about what parts of the university experience excite you, colleges gain a better understanding of how you will positively impact their community.

- Jose C., Hanszen '21

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Female holding up her hands in Rice owl formation in front of a tapestry mural that says "Welcome Class of 2027".

Tip 4: Letters of Recommendation

Your letters of recommendation are a great way to understand how you impact the community as well as the classroom from an external perspective. In order for these letters to have the best impact on your application, they should be from the teachers who you have the most interaction with and who can give a thorough account of your participation and work within the class. It is also recommended that one of these letters of recommendation come from a professor related to your major of interest, thus allowing the admission officers reading the application to best assess how your class work can translate to your intended major. This will also be a way to reiterate your interest in the major(s) you intend to pursue. Make sure to ask your teachers for a letter of recommendation early, so they have enough time to craft a thoughtful letter by the time you need it, especially since you may not be the only one to ask this same teacher for a letter of recommendation.

- Gabby A., Will Rice ‘19

Tip 5: Researching Schools

Deciding which schools to apply to can be a daunting task. To make it easy on yourself, I recommend pulling up the sites of all the schools you are considering and looking at the pages for each major you're interested in. What are the faculty working on? Does their research or most recently published work align with what you want to learn about or do in your own professional career? Find the schools that have faculty focused on what you feel you will benefit most from and the choice becomes clear!

- Al A., Lovett '20

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Two students sitting at a table looking towards their professor.

Tip 6: Covering Costs

It’s no secret that going to college can be quite expensive, and many families are reluctant to talk about finances. However, the cost of attending a school should be one of the first things that’s discussed when deciding whether or not to add it to your list. For many students, their most affordable options will be their in-state public colleges and universities and institutions that meet full need, like Rice. Additionally, every college that participates in the federal student aid program is required to offer a net price calculator, and that is a great way to quickly determine if a school is a good financial fit for you!

- Jack G.

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You may feel pressured to think that you must have everything in your life figured out for a competitive application, but that is definitely not the case. As long as you have a general direction of where you imagine yourself to be in the future and you're able to articulate it, then you already have the upper hand. Get ready to start your application!

If you have any additional questions or want to learn more about our application process, check out the following resources:

Read our blog posts!

- Your Application Checklist

- Introducing the Application Advice Series

- Demystifying Early Decision

Breaking Down the Rice Investment

- Advice for your Admission Interview

Check out the Apply page of our admission website for more details about the application timeline!

Sign up for an on-campus visit and/or our virtual events!

Walk in to our office or give us a call at 713-348-7423 during any weekday between 9am-5pm to speak to an admission counselor or email us at!

(Last updated on 8/9/23. Please note, this post was published prior to the 2024-2025 admission cycle. For updated admission policies, please visit our website.)


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