Johnson Scholarship Essay Prompts

2024-2025 Prompts

The Johnson Scholarship Program awards scholarships of at least tuition, room, and board to approximately 44 students in each entering class. Johnson Scholars also receive up to $10,000 in additional funding to support summer experiences such as internships, research projects, or volunteer experiences. Recipients are selected based on academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, and the potential to contribute to the intellectual and civic life of the W&L community.

To be considered for a Johnson Scholarship, please submit your completed Common App or Coalition Application as well as the required additional Johnson Scholarship application essay, which can be found in the W&L section of the Common App. Please find below this year’s Johnson Scholarship application essay prompts. You will be asked to choose one to answer. If you have additional questions about the Johnson Scholarship, please contact your admissions counselor.

In 800 words or less, please respond to one of the following:

  • "To promote literature in this rising empire and to encourage the arts, have ever been amongst the warmest wishes of my heart." (George Washington, 1798, first president of the United States and first major benefactor of Washington and Lee University) Describe a work of art that has influenced you, and discuss the impact it has had on you.
  • In mathematics, the shortest distance between two points on a flat surface is a straight line. While geometry is predictable, sometimes day-to-day life is not. Reflect on a time when your path was not as simple or direct as anticipated. How did you manage, and what did you learn?
  • We live in a world in which much of our self-representation is curated online via short-lived social media ‘stories’ and disappearing photos. What photo or other representation of yourself is authentically you? What does it say about your growth into the person you are today and the person you want to become? Please use only the words in your essay to address this question. Do not include photographs or other materials in your answer.
  • W&L’s Spring Term is a four-week, intensive experience during which students take only one course, allowing for undivided attention to the subject matter. Spring Term courses are known for innovative pedagogy, interdisciplinary scholarship, travel, and fieldwork in diverse settings. If you could design a Spring Term course, what would you propose, and why would you choose to pursue that topic?
  • In his October 1963, A Talk to Teachers, James Baldwin said “…the whole process of education occurs within a social framework and is designed to perpetuate the aims of society.” Yet, as he aptly notes, “the paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated."  Baldwin suggests that the purpose of education is to teach us to think for ourselves, to question – and change – the “framework” that we have come to understand and accept. What norms of your home or community have you become conscious of during your time in high school, and how would you like to use that knowledge to make it a better place?

QuestBridge Applicants: Please visit the QuestBridge website for Johnson Scholarship application instructions.