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How To Apply

The Honor Scholar Program at DePauw University is interested in the life of the mind, specifically, the life of your mind. What intellectual pursuits do you engage in beyond the classroom? What issues keep you thinking long after class is over? What do you find yourself doing in the little spare time you have as a high school senior?

Honor Scholar applications received by February 1, 2017 will receive fullest consideration, although we may continue to accept later applications on a case-by-case basis. Should you have questions regarding the application process, please feel free to contact Amy Welch at 765-658-6575 or at

1) Apply to DePauw University

  • Please complete an application for admission to DePauw University.
  • (Important Note: You can continue with the Honor Scholar application process before receiving an admission decision from the University. If the Honor Scholar Program appeals to you, please continue below. You will receive notification from our Office of Admission soon.)

2) Draft your essay response

  • Choose, think about, and respond to one of the prompts at the bottom of this page in an essay of about 500 words.  The word limit is a soft limit, so write your best answer, and don’t worry if your essay is a bit longer than 500 words.
  • Please double space your text and include your name and mailing address at the top of your essay. 
  • Save the file as your last name, first name (e.g., Julian, Percy) as a Word or PDF file. 

3) Finalize and submit your application 

  • Thank you for your interest in the Honor Scholar Program.  We are no longer accepting applications for Fall 2017.  If you have decided to attend DePauw, we encourage you to consider applying for lateral entry into our program.  This would occur in the Fall semester, once you have had a chance to settle in and learn more about your academic opportunities at DePauw.

4) Join us for an Interview

  • If your essay receives a positive review from our faculty committee, you will be invited to campus for a formal interview. The result of this interview process then serves as the basis for extending invitations to students to participate in the Honor Scholar Program.

Before You Begin Your Essay...

Like the Honor Scholar Program itself, these essays address a variety of topics and represent different kinds of opportunities for thought. The topics may touch on sensitive issues; they may challenge you to think in ways to which you are not accustomed. Because creativity and analytical ability are part of the essence of our program, we think that you will find these essays both challenging and rewarding to consider and write about.   

Read all the prompts carefully, think about them, and then choose one for your essay. Remember—there are no right answers here—think of this challenge as an opportunity for you to explore interesting issues and build a case for your point of view. The Honor Scholar Program takes the essays seriously, and we worked hard to generate questions at once diverse and engaging.

Because the Honor Scholar program also takes you and your ideas very seriously—both now and after you arrive—at least two faculty members will carefully read your essay. You should be aware that the essay and the interview that may follow are the most important factors in admission for the Honor Scholar Program. The Honor Scholar Program does not simply look at your test scores and GPA to gauge admission. We believe that the intellectual curiosity, engagement, and interest we want in our students manifest more clearly in written work (the essay) and personal interaction (the interview) than in SAT or ACT scores. So, take the essay seriously and use this opportunity to show us what you can do!

Prompt Option 1: cognitive Enhancement

Neuroscientists argue that our understanding of brain function has advanced to the point that effective “cognition-enhancing” drugs and other techniques (e.g., modifying gene expression in the brain) to “optimize” brain function will soon be available. Henry Greely, Michael Gazzaniga, and others (2008, Nature, 456, 702-705) argue that this is a good thing. They say that “we should welcome new methods of improving our brain function” and that “…drugs … along with newer technologies such as brain stimulation and prosthetic brain chips, should be viewed in the same general category as education, good health habits, and information technology...” Others fear unforeseen side effects, are concerned about the social implications, and/or are concerned on religious/philosophical grounds. What do you think? Build a case for or against the development and use of such “cognition-enhancing” techniques. Make your position clear, describe the bases for your position, and demonstrate that you are aware of the costs and benefits of your chosen approach.

Prompt Option 2: Religiosity and Conflict

Recent research by Jeremy Ginges and colleagues (2009, Psychological Science, 20, 224-230) strongly suggests that beyond the positive social impacts that religious belief and activity may have (e.g., community support, charitable work, etc.), religious behavior (attending religious services, taking part in religious rituals, etc.) is related to a person’s support for “terrorism,” defined as including suicide attacks or killing/dying for a religious cause. In other words, the more people engaged in religious behaviors, the more strongly they supported such violent acts. In addition, religious behaviors predicted the tendency to "blame people of other religions for much of the trouble in this world.” This was true for a variety of religious believers (Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Christians) across several countries. 

Does all of this surprise you? What does this information mean? How could you explain it? What implications does this have for our understanding of conflicts around the world, including those in which your country is involved?

Prompt Option 3: The Mouse and the Cat

"Alas,” said the mouse, “the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when at last I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into.”

“You only need to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up.

Imagine that you are the mouse in this scenario from Kafka’s “A little fable” (c. 1920). You are given a moment’s reprieve to tell the cat what you think of its advice. What do you tell the cat? Why? How do you (the mouse) view the world/life and how do you think the cat’s view compares to yours?

 PROMPT OPTION 4: I contain Multitudes                                                                                                        

According to Islamic law, traditional Muslim values, and common understanding, alcohol is prohibited in Islam. Yet, in a recent book, Shahab Ahmed begins by juxtaposing the two thought pieces indented below: the first comes from Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself”; the second is an anecdote about Muslim cultural practice.

Read both and discuss what you think Ahmed is trying to communicate by bringing these insights together.

         Do I contradict myself?
         Very well, then, I contradict myself.
         (I am large, I contain multitudes).
                                                   ----Walt Whitman

          Some years ago, …I witnessed a revealing exchange between an eminent
          European philosopher…and a Muslim scholar….The Muslim colleague was
          indulging in a glass of wine. Evidently troubled by this, the distinguished don
          eventually asked “Do you consider yourself a Muslim?” “Yes,” came the reply. 
          “How come, then, you are drinking wine?” The Muslim colleague smiled gently.
          “My family have been Muslims for a thousand years,” he said, “during which time
          we have always been drinking wine….You see, we are Muslim wine-drinkers.” The
          questioner looked bewildered. "I don’t understand,” he said.  “Yes, I know,” replied
          his native informant, “but I do.”

 Reference:  Ahmed, S.  (2015).  What is Islam?  Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press. 

 Prompt option 5:  The Age of the Algorithm                                                                                         

If you browse to and look at Weapons of Math Destruction by data scientist Cathy O’Neil, you will see other books that you might like.  Hidden algorithms (mathematical computer models) generate the recommendation.  Most of us appreciate this use of “invisible” models, but the hidden use of our data can be more troubling.

For example, O’Neil describes the ways in which major national insurance companies collect or purchase information about us, and then use hidden algorithms to predict not only our risk, but how likely we are to comparison shop.  The companies then offer lower rates to people who are predicted to compare, and higher rates to people deemed unlikely to compare.

So companies from Amazon to insurers, and government at multiple levels, are using sophisticated computer models to offer us better service (the book recommendations) and to “exploit” us (the insurance example).  On balance, do we benefit more or are we harmed more from having companies know so much about us, and using that information as they do?  Develop an argument for or against how we now collect and use people’s data.  Indicate in your answer that you can see costs and benefits to different approaches.

Reference:  O’Neil, C.  (2016).  Weapons of math destruction.  New York:  Crown Publishers  

prompt option 6:  Look at me                                                                                                                                                                             

Abed Al-hakeem Abu Riash

What does this image say to you?  You may take any approach or perspective you like in responding to the photograph.  That is, you could tell a story based on the photo, look at it as a piece of art, or comment on the political or cultural meanings it might convey.