Four scholars walking on a sidewalk in a city
Brian, Dylan, Analicia, & Salma, Opportunity Scholars

Baccalaureate Short Answer Guide

We ask questions in the application to help us assess applicants’ interest in the fields of STEM or health care and how they approach challenges. We want to select students who are more likely to persist in their field of study and overcome obstacles even when it’s hard.


  • Please note that WSOS will not disclose any identifying information to essay reviewers.
  • We don’t score or review for grammar, writing ability, or English-language skills!   

Application Questions

Essay Question #1:

The mission of the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) is to build pathways into high-demand Washington careers for Washington students. We do this by reducing barriers to education for high-potential students in the state through financial aid, student supports, and career services. WSOS values Scholars who demonstrate strong interest in, and a drive to pursue, science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), and health care majors and careers.

We encourage you to write about the steps that you have taken to actively explore the field of the major you’ve chosen. We equally value hearing about formal opportunities (like participating in a related club, volunteering, or internship) and self-directed opportunities (like researching by going to the library or watching YouTube videos).

Think about an experience you had that inspired you to pursue a STEM or health care major.

In 500 words or fewer, tell us:

  • What influenced your interest in that major?
  • What are steps you have taken to learn more?
  • What career do you see yourself entering with this major?

Writing tip: We want to know that you have taken the time to learn about your desired career. We recognize that not all opportunities are available to everyone. The steps you’ve taken to learn more about your desired major can be formal education or self-directed.

Essay question #2

In addition to a strong STEM or health care interest, WSOS values Scholars who demonstrate resilience, initiative, and follow-through. We know students are more likely to succeed in STEM or health care majors and careers when they exhibit these qualities. We also understand that Scholars’ academic success to date may have been limited by extenuating circumstances despite strong potential for future excellence.

Think about a significant experience that challenged you (academically or personally).

In 300 words or fewer, tell us:

  • What was the challenge?
  • What did you do to overcome the challenge?
  • What did you learn about yourself as you faced the challenge?

Writing tip: We want to make sure you have the ability to find and use resources to support you in overcoming challenges, and we want to know if you view obstacles as roadblocks or growth opportunities.

Sample Answers: 

We encourage applicants to review the essays from the 2019 application below. Each of these essays received a good score.

The essays below were not edited or changed, and they do have minor grammatical and spelling errors. We don’t score or review for grammar, writing ability, or English-language skills; we want applicants to answer the questions honestly.

Essay question #1 examples

Student One

It seems that the things you say you will never do inevitably become the things you live out. As I entered high school I vividly remember myself saying that I would never become a math teacher. This was because while I did love math, once I reached high school math I couldn’t understand the purpose behind the subject. Learning logarithms and imaginary numbers and graphing polynomials were skills I knew that I would never use in my future‒or so I thought. However, as I started searching for the reasoning behind the math I became more and more intrigued. I have always enjoyed doing math, but during the last couple of years, my passion for math flourished. Admittedly, I get excited when I get calculus homework. There’s something about the idea of always being able to find a solution if you try enough times or with the right equation that pulls me in. My interest in math roots deeper than just numbers, but rather in the grit that it takes to solve the problems as they become more complex.

When asked for a specific experience that inspired me to pursue teaching secondary mathematics, I would say that there wasn’t one shining moment. While I do remember explaining a problem on the board in front of my Advanced Algebra Two class and my teacher saying, “Wow… you would be a great teacher, I just want to listen to you explain that again.” I did say thank you and stuck the thought at the back on my mind, but still wasn’t so sure. That situation, as well as other comments, may have influenced me some, but really it was the constant accumulation of exploring the math field further, asking questions and investigating the field of teaching as well that have made me want to keep pursuing math.

In order to foster my love for math, I have taken courses such as CWU Math 152, CWU Math 153, CWU Math 172, and AP Calculus. I also joined our math team to combine some of my favorite things: people, teamwork, challenges, and of course, math. I have had the opportunity to teach four times a week in 45 minutes increments this semester in a seventh-grade English class. I couldn’t be more grateful to already be in the classroom and getting an inside look as to what it takes to be a teacher. It has helped me learn how to explain concepts better and further confirm that I will teach math as opposed to English.

When I picture my life down the road, I picture teaching secondary mathematics that doesn’t just teach algorithms and the fundamental theorem of calculus but develops grit within each student. I really found a love for math when I found that it taught me how to persevere. I found satisfaction in solving a problem that took me several attempts. I, in turn, am determined to create a challenging, engaging, environment for students to foster that same grit and love for math.

Student Two

The one of many experiences that inspired me to pursue in a STEM major started during the summer of 2016 where I got the opportunity to raise chickens for the Grays Harbor County Fair for FFA. FFA is a youth organization that helps build leadership and careers in the agricultural field, as well as science and business. From my experience in raising chickens, I learned how to properly raise quality chickens for the auction and was able to successfully sell them. Though raising and marketing the chickens was my number one priority, I was intrigued in the process of keeping then healthy and working with them to make sure they didn’t get sick. The was the moment that inspired me into the field of animal science, more specifically veterinary science. I would continue to raise animals for the fair for the next two years, each with raising a different type of animal. In the summer of 2017, I raised turkeys for the fair, which taught me how to raise turkeys also the science of turkeys. In the summer if 2018, I was able to raise a pig for the fair. Raising a pig is one of the most popular types of livestock to raise at the fair and I took it upon myself to be able to learn how to raise them. From my time in raising my pig, I did manage to find myself in a situation where I had to work with my pig because it had some minor health problems. My pig had suffered from sunburn and I quickly solved the problem by putting ointment on the sunburn, while also adding a place for shade and cooling my pig off with water. My pig also managed to get a few cuts from the other pig I was raising, so I quickly had to separate them and treat my pig with some ointment to help heal it’s wounds. At fair, my pig was healed up and I managed to get reserve champion in marketing in my weight class. Getting reserve champion in market for my first year of raising a pig was such a huge accomplishment for me because I put countless hours in raising and taking care of my pig. Besides from raising animals, I took the opportunity to apply at a veterinary hospital as a kenny assistant. I managed to get the job in October of 2018 and I am constantly learning everyday from my work. From my work, I am learning the basics of science and have been able to work with the veterinarians and veterinarian technicians in holding animals while they explain the process to me so I understand what is happening. In the future, the career that I see myself entering with a major in veterinary science, I plan to become a veterinarian because I’ve always enjoyed working with animals and making sure that they are healthy.

Essay question #2 examples

Student Three

In the beginning of my junior year in high school, I enrolled in the Running Start program at Tacoma Community College. As I began my second year at TCC, the courses required for the Prenursing Associates Degree gradually became more and more difficult. All my life, although I took honor classes, school did not impose a great challenge to me, and I easily passed my classes with exceptional grades despite not studying a lot. However, I quickly found out that my old habits had to change if I wanted to excel in my courses at TCC. When I first began my Anatomy and Physiology class, there were many days where I found myself crying and having a mental breakdown due to the stress. I had yet to find the importance in changing my last-minute-studying habits, and the amount of information to understand was too great. Knowing that I would be severely disappointed in myself if I had to retake any courses, I took the initiative to begin studying a week in advance for the exams. Every day, I dedicated a few hours to my challenging classes such as Organic Chemistry, Microbiology, and Anatomy and Physiology. Although this may not seem like a significant challenge to many, the different shift in the academic atmosphere was truly challenging to me. Taking these classes allowed me to realize the commitment, dedication, and motivation I will need to possess throughout the entirety of nursing school. Due to taking these classes prior to entering a university, I was able to have a head start on changing my studying habits which will heavily impact the rest of my academic career.

Student Four

Learning to take constructive criticism had always been difficult for me, until 10th grade when I was introduced to the Hermit Crab Community on social media. I started my Instagram page and hurled myself into a world I had absolutely no idea even existed. I had thought I was the first to create a page dedicated to hermit crabs. I was surprised to find an established, niche community of hermit crab lovers and expected to enter it easily. However, other members of the group were harsh critics, and the process was more difficult than I had expected.

I suddenly received an overwhelming number of comments accusing me of improper crab care practices. I was surprised to hear that I was not caring for my hermit crabs correctly. I had been a proud crab mom for 11 years! I reluctantly accepted their criticism and fixed my crabitat. Among the most important changes, I learned that a ratio of five parts soil to one part sand would create the ideal acidity for molting. Eventually, two of my crabs molted. Now I acknowledge that without exposure to the Hermit Crab Community, my two hermit crabs would most likely have died in the molt.

I am thankful that I was exposed to new ideas and new people even if it meant receiving some criticism. My willingness to be vulnerable and receive constructive criticism allowed me to see a certain situation through a variety of perspectives. I will bring to my college of enrollment not only unique interests like my love for hermit crabs, but an openness to new perspectives and a desire to learn from the individuals around me.