James Madison University Application Essay Prompts For College

Application review of Early Action applicants is completed by mid-January. Application review of Regular Decision applicants is completed by mid-April. All Early Action and Regular Decision applicants with complete files are given the same consideration by a committee of Honors College professors and administrators. However, a large percentage of our seats are filled by Early Action applicants.

Your academic record and essays are evaluated on the following criteria:
  • High School grades
  • Strength of application essays
  • Leadership and service
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Strength of High School curriculum.

The typical successful applicant will have demonstrated the following characteristics:
  • Leadership & Service:  1-2 deep and sustained engagements in leadership positions or service activities. (Honors values long-term engagement in a few experiences more highly than shallow participation in a long list of activities.)
  • Essays:  Essays are evaluated for an understanding of the Honors College’s purpose. Essays are also evaluated for coherent arguments, appropriate word choices, and should sufficiently address the question prompts. Applicants are especially encouraged to submit essays that show evidence of scholarship, creative endeavors, service, leadership, personal reflection, and collaboration. Please write your essays off-line before copy-pasting them into the online application form. Essays are required to be a minimum of 200 words and a maximum of 500 words in length.
  • Grades:  Mostly A's and A-'s with no more than 2-3 B's.
  • Strength of Curriculum: 4-5 AP or dual enrollment classes or participation in an IB program

In addition, consideration is given for exceptional experiences, unique personal distinctions and special honors, and Governor’s School or similar participation. Self-reporting of SAT or ACT test scores is optional, but not required.

Freshman Application Process

A complete JMU application includes:

  • The online application. JMU supports the Coalition and plans to accept the Coalition Application for the entering class of 2018.
  • $70 application fee
  • An official high school transcript (including senior year schedule)
  • ACT or SAT1 test scores (sent directly from the testing agency)
  • Applicants may be required to submit official Dual Enrollment College Transcripts upon request.

Your application will be reviewed once you have submitted all of the above required information. In order to expedite the process, please send only the required documents listed above. The Office of Admissions processes documents (electronic and paper) in the order in which they are received.

Required Information

Online Application and Fee

Your application is not sent to us until you pay your $70 processing fee and it is authorized. You can pay by debit/credit card or check (US bank accounts only). Note that there are special admissions requirements if you intend on majoring in art, music, theatre, dance or nursing.

High School Transcript

Please submit an official copy of your high school transcript electronically or via postal mail (not both) including 9th, 10th and 11th grades and a senior year class schedule. If you are meeting all requirements for graduating in less than 4 years, and a grade is omitted on the transcript, we require a written explanation from your guidance counselor.

The Secondary School Report Form (PDF). Many high schools have developed their own version of this form. Ask your school counselor to complete the Secondary School Report Form and send it to JMU's Office of Admissions. 

Please note: Multiple copies of the high school transcript with letters of recommendation attached will not be reviewed unless the transcript is clearly marked “Revised Transcript” with a notation of what that revision is.

Official SAT I or ACT Scores

JMU requires your official test results be sent to us electronically direct from the testing agency. When reviewing test scores we use the highest individual verbal and highest individual math scores from the SAT. For the ACT we use your single highest composite score. SAT IIs are not required nor considered in the admissions process.

Optional Information

Personal Statement

Your optional personal essay gives you an opportunity to tell the admissions committee more about yourself. You may use it to highlight special interests, talents, goals, unique experiences or a special circumstance. Please keep the personal statement to a 500-word maximum. If you do not submit the personal statement with your online application, please include it with your high school transcript packet, not under separate cover.

Letter of Recommendation

If an applicant wishes to have one letter of recommendation included with their application, it must be requested by the applicant via our online recommendation system during the application process. JMU will contact the recommender with instructions for submitting the recommendation letter. Any additional letters of recommendation will not be reviewed. Please give your recommender plenty of notice to have your recommendation arrive in a timely fashion.

Activities, Honors and Awards

The online application provides a place to list six honors and awards as well as six activities. We recommend that you choose your six most notable. We are looking for quality involvement rather than long lists. Please tell us about club, organization and athletic activity. We are also interested in students who have been involved in community service or held part-time jobs.  Resumes will not be considered.

Checking Your Status

You can monitor the status of your application via MyMadison. Admissions decisions are also posted here — you will not receive a notification in the mail. Instructions for accessing this site will be e-mailed to you within 3-5 days of receiving your online application.

View the MyMadison tutorial.

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