Schreyers Honors College Sample Essay Question

I was invited to contribute an essay for our local NPR station’s “This I Believe.” This essay is apart of a yearlong project on grieving called “Learning to Live: What’s Your Story?”The audio can be found here and the essay is below.

We all believe many different things over the course of our lives and our beliefs shift; much as the relentless waves alter the contours of the shore, new experiences cause us to grow and adapt.

A few years ago I wrote a “This I Believe” essay about the importance of honor, of doing what is right at all times. I continue to hold that belief, but in the last few years I’ve also realized the value and importance of expressing loss.

I believe in the necessary and restorative power of grief.

On New Year’s Eve 2012 our son Mack died of sepsis, an uncontrollable blood infection that took his life in a matter of hours. While I had spent more than a decade in the academic and theological study of Jewish and Christian responses to loss, nothing could prepare me for the loss of my child. Shortly after Mack died our friend shared a slim volume on grief by Granger Westberg. It is called “Good Grief” and in it Westberg points out that we grieve all sorts of things in our lives, big and small.

We recognize and understand that when someone we love dies, we will grieve. We mourn the fact that they will no longer be in our lives. Those around us will often recognize that we are grieving, offering us support and the emotional space to express our feelings of loss. But we often do not realize that we grieve all sorts of “little things” as well.

Shortly after Mack died, a student met with me to discuss her academic future. She said, “I’m sorry to bother you Dean Brady. My changing majors is nothing compared with you and your wife losing your son.” Of course they are different categories of loss, but as I told the student, for her, at that point in her life, this was a major loss and change. She had always intended to be a physician and realizing this was not her future was truly heart breaking for her. She was grieving the loss of that intended future, just as we grieved the future we had dreamed of for our son.

In the Penn State community there are many who still grieve the events that followed the disclosure in 2011 that a Penn State football coach had sexually molested young boys. In talking with members of our Penn State community, I realized that, although few acknowledged it, we were, each in our own way, grieving. We were grieving for those young boys and the scars they carry, we were grieving that memories of past football victories would now be tarnished, we were grieving our own loss of innocence.

We all grieve and we grieve all sorts of things. I believe grief is healing. If we embrace it, its waters, which feel like they might drown us, will purify us instead.

Christian BradyTagged Essay, Life

First-Year Admissions

The first step in applying to the Schreyer Honors College is to complete and submit the Penn State Undergraduate Admissions Application. You'll find a link to the Schreyer Honors College application through the general Penn State application.

The SHC admissions application includes:

  • Three required essay questions
  • Short answer questions about your leadership experiences, academic honors, etc.
  • Online recommendations from two teachers
  • Your high school academic record (we will utilize the academic record you submitted as part of your Undergraduate Admissions application. No other documentation is required)
  • An additional $35 application fee (if you have a financial need fee waiver for the Penn State application, your fee will be waived automatically for the SHC application)

Standardized test scores are not evaluated for the SHC application, but you will need them for the general Penn State application. Due to the variety of grading scales, the Schreyer Honors College does not set a minimum grade point average for its applicants.

It has long been the practice of Schreyer Honors College not to consider standardized test scores as they are not accurate predictors of a student's success in the Schreyer Honors College.

Selection Criteria

The Undergraduate Admissions Office will evaluate your credentials for admission to the university, and a Faculty Selection Committee will review your Honors College application. These decisions are made independently of each other.

The Honors College application evaluation includes:

  • An academic record review, which includes the academic profile of your high school
  • An assessment of the three required written essays
  • An assessment of the short answer question responses
  • A reading of the letters of recommendation
  • An optional interview (see below)

For the written components, you should simply strive to write well. Clearly outline your ideas or positions. Share what you think (not what you think others want to read). Fill in the blanks. Help us get to know you. And, most importantly, be authentic.

Optional Interview

If we receive your application by November 30th, you will be invited to participate in an optional interview as part of the selection process.

Our goal is for you to have a comfortable conversation with one of our alumni volunteers. They are eager to meet you, learn more about your interest in Schreyer, and share with you some of their Penn State experiences.

Interview details:

  • Honors College alumni conduct interviews on specified dates in major metropolitan areas through the beginning of February.
  • If a regional interview is not scheduled in your area, arrangements may be made for you to meet with one of our alumni volunteers. The meeting will be conducted in person or through online conferencing if necessary.
  • You will be e-mailed in December about how to sign up for an interview.
  • As this is an optional interview, your application will not be negatively impacted if you are not able to participate.
  • Every attempt will be made to accommodate all interview requests, but due to alumni availability, we cannot guarantee that every request will be honored.

Supplemental Information

If you have creative talents and/or accomplishments that you would like to share, you are welcome to submit supplemental information that will give us insight into your abilities. We do require all supplemental materials be submitted electronically at the time of application so please include links to a website where we can view your work. You may embed these links in the application where it is most appropriate; we often find the best placement to be within the short answer questions where you have the opportunity to discuss your activities and accomplishments.

You may also use the short answer questions to discuss any additional information regarding your:

  • Home school/high school profiles and/or course descriptions
  • Substantial personal circumstances that may have impacted your academic performance

Admissions Timeline


Penn State/SHC Applications Available

The first day the Penn State and Schreyer Honors College applications are available to prospective students.


Penn State/SHC Application Priority Filing Deadline (11:59 PM EST)

The last day to submit your application to be eligible for an optional admissions interview. In order to meet this deadline, you must have a submitted application for both Penn State and the Schreyer Honors College.


SHC Application Deadline (11:59 PM EST)

The last day applications to the Schreyer Honors College are accepted. In order to meet this deadline, you must have a submitted application for both Penn State and the Schreyer Honors College and have submitted all of the required documentation for both applications.


SHC Recommendations Deadline (11:59 PM EST)

The last day recommendations for the Schreyer Honors College are accepted. This deadline has been extended from December 20.


Schreyer Decisions Released

Schreyer Honors College decisions are released in late February/early March. You will be notified of the exact date and time.


Penn State/SHC Offer Acceptance Deadline

The last date prospective students can accept their offers to Penn State and the Schreyer Honors College.

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