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Last updated July 6, 2023

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Writing a College Essay About Nature? 5 Questions to Ask First

Key Takeaway

Writing an effective college essay about nature requires a focus on outcomes and personal growth. Ask yourself questions about what you've gained, whether it relates to your field of study, and how it presents your interdisciplinary interests.

Working in admissions at a college in the Pacific Northwest, I can’t tell you how many essays I read that were about nature. It can be a great topic, especially if you’re applying to a school that prides itself on its outdoor opportunities.

But you can’t just write any old essay about nature. It still has to serve the purpose of a personal statement.

In this post, we’ll go through five questions that will help you assess whether to write about nature and, if so, how to approach it. Plus, stick around until the end to see a few examples of college essays about nature.

A quick word

I want to start with a quick refresher on why you write college essays in the first place.

Each part of your application works together to form a cohesive application narrative. Your personal statement anchors this narrative, and your supplementals add to and diversify it.

Remember that admissions officers are strapped for time and overwhelmed with applications. Your application has to make a good first impression and keep your admissions officers’ attention.

It also has to tell admissions officers something distinctive about you that will make them want to offer you one of their limited spaces on campus. Everything must connect back to who you are.

Whether you’re writing a personal statement or a supplemental about nature, never lose sight of this question: what do I want my admissions officers to learn about me from this essay?

Let that question guide your topic selection.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Writing a College Essay About Nature

Alright, with that quick note out of the way, let’s move on to these questions. College essays about nature can take on endless shapes and sizes, but these questions should get you started out on the right foot.

1. What is the outcome of my time in nature?

There’s no point in writing about a topic in your college application if it’s not clear what the outcome was. Is your story related to an internal, contemplative hobby? Or did you build something, hike a challenging trail, or go on some sort of distinctive outdoor adventure?

What were the intangible outcomes? In other words, what did you learn, how did you grow, how did it change who you are today?

And what were the tangible outcomes? Did you improve yourself or the world around you? Did you clean up a park? Feel physically empowered after climbing a mountain you thought you couldn’t?

Writing with an eye toward outcomes will keep your essay focused on what matters most.

2. What new knowledge have I gained through my interactions with nature?

The outcome of your time in nature can also be about what you learned.

Whether your big takeaways were academic, intellectual, creative, or personal, exploring the knowledge you gained while interacting with nature can be a compelling way to emphasize the personal meaning nature has in your life.

Let’s pretend you want to take a more academic approach. You might choose to write about how looking through your telescope was the first time you felt like a physicist. Or maybe you did fieldwork for your biology class and it made you realize you actually hate the outdoors and want to be in a lab all day.

Or perhaps the way a sunset reflected on the water inspired a painting you created. Or a walk you took resulted in the biggest epiphany of your life. The possibilities are endless.

3. Is nature related to my field of study?

Your essay doesn’t have to relate to your intended major, but finding a connection is one way to approach writing about nature.

If you want to go into biology or environmental studies, for example, then writing about your love of nature, a conservation project you worked on, or a special outdoor skill you have might make a lot of sense.

In these cases, focusing on outcomes is especially important. You want to show admissions officers that your academic interest is also something deeply and personally meaningful to you. You aren’t just interested in it as an academic matter. You’re ready to step out into the real world and make it happen.

4. If not, how does nature show my interdisciplinary interests?

If your topic doesn’t relate to your intended major, then you might also consider how you can relate the idea of nature to any interdisciplinary interests you have.

Whether you’re applying for a major in the humanities or the sciences, interdisciplinary thinking skills are always good to demonstrate.

Taking this approach can help you tie together your application narrative. Maybe you want to study public health but are also an avid rock climber. Your personal statement about rock climbing could lead into the idea that everyone has a right to access outdoor recreation as a public health matter.

5. Am I writing a supplemental essay?

Of course, how you approach your college essay about nature will depend on whether you’re writing a personal statement or a supplemental essay.

A personal statement should be a meaningful representation of who you are, while a supplemental essay should show strong school or academic fit.

If you’re writing a supplemental essay about nature, think about what kinds of connections to the school you might be able to make. Are there relevant natural features nearby, like mountains, wetlands, or lakes? Are there co-curricular clubs that you can reference, like ecology club or backpacking club?

In supplemental essays, making specific connections between your interests and what the school has to offer can show admissions officers that you’re a natural fit.

College Essay About Nature Examples

Ready to read some great examples of college essays about nature?

Our first example, Gone Fishing, talks about the writer’s journey learning to love nature.

Kayaking the Missouri shows a student’s leadership in nature, and Ski Patrol dives into the lessons the writer learned while working on ski patrol.

Key Takeaways

Nature is a common college essay topic, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about it. The topic can lead to really impactful personal statements and supplemental essays, as long as you keep your focus on outcomes and meaning.

Ask yourself these questions before you get started on your college essay about nature to make sure you’re keeping your attention on what will have the greatest effect on admissions officers.

And when you’re ready to take your college essays to the next level, consider signing up for the Essay Academy, our all-in-one digital college essay course.

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