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How to Write the Community Essay – Guide with Examples (2023-24)

September 6, 2023

Students applying to college this year will inevitably confront the community essay. In fact, most students will end up responding to several community essay prompts for different schools. For this reason, you should know more than simply how to approach the community essay as a genre. Rather, you will want to learn how to decipher the nuances of each particular prompt, in order to adapt your response appropriately. In this article, we’ll show you how to do just that, through several community essay examples. These examples will also demonstrate how to avoid cliché and make the community essay authentically and convincingly your own.

Emphasis on Community

Do keep in mind that inherent in the word “community” is the idea of multiple people. The personal statement already provides you with a chance to tell the college admissions committee about yourself as an individual. The community essay, however, suggests that you depict yourself among others. You can use this opportunity to your advantage by showing off interpersonal skills, for example. Or, perhaps you wish to relate a moment that forged important relationships. This in turn will indicate what kind of connections you’ll make in the classroom with college peers and professors.

Apart from comprising numerous people, a community can appear in many shapes and sizes. It could be as small as a volleyball team, or as large as a diaspora. It could fill a town soup kitchen, or spread across five boroughs. In fact, due to the internet, certain communities today don’t even require a physical place to congregate. Communities can form around a shared identity, shared place, shared hobby, shared ideology, or shared call to action. They can even arise due to a shared yet unforeseen circumstance.

What is the Community Essay All About?             

In a nutshell, the community essay should exhibit three things:

  • An aspect of yourself, 2. in the context of a community you belonged to, and 3. how this experience may shape your contribution to the community you’ll join in college.

It may look like a fairly simple equation: 1 + 2 = 3. However, each college will word their community essay prompt differently, so it’s important to look out for additional variables. One college may use the community essay as a way to glimpse your core values. Another may use the essay to understand how you would add to diversity on campus. Some may let you decide in which direction to take it—and there are many ways to go!

To get a better idea of how the prompts differ, let’s take a look at some real community essay prompts from the current admission cycle.

Sample 2023-2024 Community Essay Prompts

1) brown university.

“Students entering Brown often find that making their home on College Hill naturally invites reflection on where they came from. Share how an aspect of your growing up has inspired or challenged you, and what unique contributions this might allow you to make to the Brown community. (200-250 words)”

A close reading of this prompt shows that Brown puts particular emphasis on place. They do this by using the words “home,” “College Hill,” and “where they came from.” Thus, Brown invites writers to think about community through the prism of place. They also emphasize the idea of personal growth or change, through the words “inspired or challenged you.” Therefore, Brown wishes to see how the place you grew up in has affected you. And, they want to know how you in turn will affect their college community.

“NYU was founded on the belief that a student’s identity should not dictate the ability for them to access higher education. That sense of opportunity for all students, of all backgrounds, remains a part of who we are today and a critical part of what makes us a world-class university. Our community embraces diversity, in all its forms, as a cornerstone of the NYU experience.

We would like to better understand how your experiences would help us to shape and grow our diverse community. Please respond in 250 words or less.”

Here, NYU places an emphasis on students’ “identity,” “backgrounds,” and “diversity,” rather than any physical place. (For some students, place may be tied up in those ideas.) Furthermore, while NYU doesn’t ask specifically how identity has changed the essay writer, they do ask about your “experience.” Take this to mean that you can still recount a specific moment, or several moments, that work to portray your particular background. You should also try to link your story with NYU’s values of inclusivity and opportunity.

3) University of Washington

“Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW. (300 words max) Tip: Keep in mind that the UW strives to create a community of students richly diverse in cultural backgrounds, experiences, values and viewpoints.”

UW ’s community essay prompt may look the most approachable, for they help define the idea of community. You’ll notice that most of their examples (“families,” “cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood”…) place an emphasis on people. This may clue you in on their desire to see the relationships you’ve made. At the same time, UW uses the words “individual” and “richly diverse.” They, like NYU, wish to see how you fit in and stand out, in order to boost campus diversity.

Writing Your First Community Essay

Begin by picking which community essay you’ll write first. (For practical reasons, you’ll probably want to go with whichever one is due earliest.) Spend time doing a close reading of the prompt, as we’ve done above. Underline key words. Try to interpret exactly what the prompt is asking through these keywords.

Next, brainstorm. I recommend doing this on a blank piece of paper with a pencil. Across the top, make a row of headings. These might be the communities you’re a part of, or the components that make up your identity. Then, jot down descriptive words underneath in each column—whatever comes to you. These words may invoke people and experiences you had with them, feelings, moments of growth, lessons learned, values developed, etc. Now, narrow in on the idea that offers the richest material and that corresponds fully with the prompt.

Lastly, write! You’ll definitely want to describe real moments, in vivid detail. This will keep your essay original, and help you avoid cliché. However, you’ll need to summarize the experience and answer the prompt succinctly, so don’t stray too far into storytelling mode.

How To Adapt Your Community Essay

Once your first essay is complete, you’ll need to adapt it to the other colleges involving community essays on your list. Again, you’ll want to turn to the prompt for a close reading, and recognize what makes this prompt different from the last. For example, let’s say you’ve written your essay for UW about belonging to your swim team, and how the sports dynamics shaped you. Adapting that essay to Brown’s prompt could involve more of a focus on place. You may ask yourself, how was my swim team in Alaska different than the swim teams we competed against in other states?

Once you’ve adapted the content, you’ll also want to adapt the wording to mimic the prompt. For example, let’s say your UW essay states, “Thinking back to my years in the pool…” As you adapt this essay to Brown’s prompt, you may notice that Brown uses the word “reflection.” Therefore, you might change this sentence to “Reflecting back on my years in the pool…” While this change is minute, it cleverly signals to the reader that you’ve paid attention to the prompt, and are giving that school your full attention.

What to Avoid When Writing the Community Essay  

  • Avoid cliché. Some students worry that their idea is cliché, or worse, that their background or identity is cliché. However, what makes an essay cliché is not the content, but the way the content is conveyed. This is where your voice and your descriptions become essential.
  • Avoid giving too many examples. Stick to one community, and one or two anecdotes arising from that community that allow you to answer the prompt fully.
  • Don’t exaggerate or twist facts. Sometimes students feel they must make themselves sound more “diverse” than they feel they are. Luckily, diversity is not a feeling. Likewise, diversity does not simply refer to one’s heritage. If the prompt is asking about your identity or background, you can show the originality of your experiences through your actions and your thinking.

Community Essay Examples and Analysis

Brown university community essay example.

I used to hate the NYC subway. I’ve taken it since I was six, going up and down Manhattan, to and from school. By high school, it was a daily nightmare. Spending so much time underground, underneath fluorescent lighting, squashed inside a rickety, rocking train car among strangers, some of whom wanted to talk about conspiracy theories, others who had bedbugs or B.O., or who manspread across two seats, or bickered—it wore me out. The challenge of going anywhere seemed absurd. I dreaded the claustrophobia and disgruntlement.

Yet the subway also inspired my understanding of community. I will never forget the morning I saw a man, several seats away, slide out of his seat and hit the floor. The thump shocked everyone to attention. What we noticed: he appeared drunk, possibly homeless. I was digesting this when a second man got up and, through a sort of awkward embrace, heaved the first man back into his seat. The rest of us had stuck to subway social codes: don’t step out of line. Yet this second man’s silent actions spoke loudly. They said, “I care.”

That day I realized I belong to a group of strangers. What holds us together is our transience, our vulnerabilities, and a willingness to assist. This community is not perfect but one in motion, a perpetual work-in-progress. Now I make it my aim to hold others up. I plan to contribute to the Brown community by helping fellow students and strangers in moments of precariousness.    

Brown University Community Essay Example Analysis

Here the student finds an original way to write about where they come from. The subway is not their home, yet it remains integral to ideas of belonging. The student shows how a community can be built between strangers, in their responsibility toward each other. The student succeeds at incorporating key words from the prompt (“challenge,” “inspired” “Brown community,” “contribute”) into their community essay.

UW Community Essay Example

I grew up in Hawaii, a world bound by water and rich in diversity. In school we learned that this sacred land was invaded, first by Captain Cook, then by missionaries, whalers, traders, plantation owners, and the U.S. government. My parents became part of this problematic takeover when they moved here in the 90s. The first community we knew was our church congregation. At the beginning of mass, we shook hands with our neighbors. We held hands again when we sang the Lord’s Prayer. I didn’t realize our church wasn’t “normal” until our diocese was informed that we had to stop dancing hula and singing Hawaiian hymns. The order came from the Pope himself.

Eventually, I lost faith in God and organized institutions. I thought the banning of hula—an ancient and pure form of expression—seemed medieval, ignorant, and unfair, given that the Hawaiian religion had already been stamped out. I felt a lack of community and a distrust for any place in which I might find one. As a postcolonial inhabitant, I could never belong to the Hawaiian culture, no matter how much I valued it. Then, I was shocked to learn that Queen Ka’ahumanu herself had eliminated the Kapu system, a strict code of conduct in which women were inferior to men. Next went the Hawaiian religion. Queen Ka’ahumanu burned all the temples before turning to Christianity, hoping this religion would offer better opportunities for her people.

Community Essay (Continued)

I’m not sure what to make of this history. Should I view Queen Ka’ahumanu as a feminist hero, or another failure in her islands’ tragedy? Nothing is black and white about her story, but she did what she thought was beneficial to her people, regardless of tradition. From her story, I’ve learned to accept complexity. I can disagree with institutionalized religion while still believing in my neighbors. I am a product of this place and their presence. At UW, I plan to add to campus diversity through my experience, knowing that diversity comes with contradictions and complications, all of which should be approached with an open and informed mind.

UW Community Essay Example Analysis

This student also manages to weave in words from the prompt (“family,” “community,” “world,” “product of it,” “add to the diversity,” etc.). Moreover, the student picks one of the examples of community mentioned in the prompt, (namely, a religious group,) and deepens their answer by addressing the complexity inherent in the community they’ve been involved in. While the student displays an inner turmoil about their identity and participation, they find a way to show how they’d contribute to an open-minded campus through their values and intellectual rigor.

What’s Next

For more on supplemental essays and essay writing guides, check out the following articles:

  • How to Write the Why This Major Essay + Example
  • How to Write the Overcoming Challenges Essay + Example
  • How to Start a College Essay – 12 Techniques and Tips
  • College Essay

Kaylen Baker

With a BA in Literary Studies from Middlebury College, an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, and a Master’s in Translation from Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, Kaylen has been working with students on their writing for over five years. Previously, Kaylen taught a fiction course for high school students as part of Columbia Artists/Teachers, and served as an English Language Assistant for the French National Department of Education. Kaylen is an experienced writer/translator whose work has been featured in Los Angeles Review, Hybrid, San Francisco Bay Guardian, France Today, and Honolulu Weekly, among others.

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How to Write the “Community” Essay

A step-by-step guide to this popular supplemental prompt.

geographical community essay

When college admissions officers admit a new group of freshmen, they aren’t just filling up classrooms — they’re also crafting (you guessed it) a campus community. College students don’t just sit quietly in class, retreat to their rooms to crank out homework, go to sleep, rinse, and repeat. They socialize! They join clubs! They organize student protests! They hold cultural events! They become RAs and audition for a cappella groups and get on-campus jobs! Colleges want to cultivate a thriving, vibrant, uplifting campus community that enriches students’ learning — and for that reason, they’re understandably curious about what kind of community member they’ll be getting when they invite you to campus as part of their incoming class.

Enter the “community” essay — an increasingly popular supplemental essay prompt that asks students to talk about a community to which they belong and how they have contributed to or benefited from that community. Community essays often sound something like this:

University of Michigan: Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it. (250 words)

Pomona College: Reflecting on a community that you are part of, what values or perspectives from that community would you bring to Pomona?  (250 words)

University of Rochester: Spiders are essential to the ecosystem. How are you essential to your community or will you be essential in your university community? (350-650 words)

Swarthmore: Swarthmore students’ worldviews are often forged by their prior experiences and exposure to ideas and values. Our students are often mentored, supported, and developed by their immediate context—in their neighborhoods, communities of faith, families, and classrooms. Reflect on what elements of your home, school, or community have shaped you or positively impacted you. How have you grown or changed because of the influence of your community? (250 words)

Yale: Reflect on a time when you have worked to enhance a community to which you feel connected. Why have these efforts been meaningful to you? You may define community however you like. (400 words)

Step 1: Pick a community to write about

Breathe. You belong to LOTS of communities. And if none immediately come to mind, it’s only because you need to bust open your idea of what constitutes a “community”!

Among other things, communities can be joined by…

  • West Coasters
  • NYC’s Koreatown
  • Everyone in my cabin at summer camp
  • ACLU volunteers
  • Cast of a school musical
  • Puzzle-lovers
  • Powerlifters
  • Army brats who live together on a military base
  • Iranian-American
  • Queer-identifying
  • Children of pastors

Take 15 minutes to write down a list of ALL the communities you belong to that you can think of. While you’re writing, don’t worry about judging which ones will be useful for an essay. Just write down every community that comes to mind — even if some of them feel like a stretch.

When you’re done, survey your list of communities. Do one, two, or three communities jump out as options that could enable you to write about yourself and your community engagement? Carry your top choices of community into Step 2.

Step 2: Generate content.

For each of your top communities, answer any of the following questions that apply:

  • Is there a memorable story I can tell about my engagement with this community?
  • What concrete impacts have I had on this community?
  • What problems have I solved (or attempted to solve) in this community?
  • What have I learned from this community?
  • How has this community supported me or enriched my life up to this point?
  • How have I applied the lessons or values I gleaned from this community more broadly?

Different questions will be relevant for different community prompts. For example, if you’re working on answering Yale’s prompt, you’ll want to focus on a community on which you’ve had a concrete impact. But if you’re trying to crack Swarthmore’s community essay, you can prioritize communities that have impacted YOU. Keep in mind though — even for a prompt like Yale’s, which focuses on tangible impact, it’s important that your community essay doesn’t read like a rattled-off list of achievements in your community. Your goal here is to show that you are a generous, thoughtful, grateful, and active community member who uplifts the people around you — not to detail a list of the competitions that Math club has won under your leadership.

BONUS: Connect your past community life to your future on-campus community life.

Some community essay prompts ask you — or give you the option — to talk about how you plan on engaging with community on a particular college campus. If you’re tackling one of those prompts (like Pomona’s), then you guessed it: it’s research time!

Often, for these kinds of community prompts, it will serve you to first write about a community that you’ve engaged with in the past and then write about how you plan to continue engaging with that same kind of community at college. For example, if you wrote about throwing a Lunar New Year party with international students at your high school, you might write about how excited you are to join the International Students Alliance at your new college or contribute to the cross-cultural student magazine. Or, if you wrote about playing in your high school band, you might write about how you can’t wait to audition for your new college’s chamber orchestra or accompany the improv team for their improvised musicals. The point is to give your admissions officer an idea of what on-campus communities you might be interested in joining if you were to attend their particular school.

Check out our full College Essay Hub for tons of resources and guidance on writing your college essays. Need more personalized guidance on brainstorming or crafting your supplemental essays? Contact our college admissions team.

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Last updated March 21, 2024

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Blog > Essay Advice , Supplementals > How to Write a Community Supplemental Essay (with Examples)

How to Write a Community Supplemental Essay (with Examples)

Admissions officer reviewed by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University

Written by Kylie Kistner, MA Former Willamette University Admissions

Key Takeaway

If you're applying to college, there's a good chance you'll be writing a Community Essay for one (or lots) of your supplementals. In this post, we show you how to write one that stands out.

This post is one in a series of posts about the supplemental essays . You can read our core “how-to” supplemental post here .

When schools admit you, they aren’t just admitting you to be a student. They’re also admitting you to be a community member.

Community supplemental essays help universities understand how you would fit into their school community. At their core, Community prompts allow you to explicitly show an admissions officer why you would be the perfect addition to the school’s community.

Let’s get into what a Community supplemental essay is, what strategies you can use to stand out, and which steps you can take to write the best one possible.

What is a Community supplemental essay?

Community supplemental essay prompts come in a number of forms. Some ask you to talk about a community you already belong to, while others ask you to expand on how you would contribute to the school you’re applying to.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

1: Rice University

Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life for all members of our campus community. The Residential College System and undergraduate life is heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural tradition each student brings. What life perspectives would you contribute to the Rice community? 500 word limit.

2: Swarthmore College

Swarthmore students’ worldviews are often forged by their prior experiences and exposure to ideas and values. Our students are often mentored, supported, and developed by their immediate context—in their neighborhoods, communities of faith, families, and classrooms. Reflect on what elements of your home, school, or community have shaped you or positively impacted you. How have you grown or changed because of the influence of your community?

Community Essay Strategy

Your Community essay strategy will likely depend on the kind of Community essay you’re asked to write. As with all supplemental essays, the goal of any community essay should be to write about the strengths that make you a good fit for the school in question.

How to write about a community to which you belong

Most Community essay prompts give you a lot of flexibility in how you define “community.” That means that the community you write about probably isn’t limited to the more formal communities you’re part of like family or school. Your communities can also include friend groups, athletic teams, clubs and organizations, online communities, and more.

There are two things you should consider before you even begin writing your essay.

What school values is the prompt looking for?

Whether they’re listed implicitly or explicitly, Community essay prompts often include values that you can align your essay response with.

To explain, let’s look at this short supplemental prompt from the University of Notre Dame:

If you were given unlimited resources to help solve one problem in your community, what would it be and how would you accomplish it?

Now, this prompt doesn’t outright say anything about values. But the question itself, even being so short, implies a few values:

a) That you should be active in your community

b) That you should be aware of your community’s problems

c) That you know how to problem-solve

d) That you’re able to collaborate with your community

After dissecting the prompt for these values, you can write a Community essay that showcases how you align with them.

What else are admissions officers learning about you through the community you choose?

In addition to showing what a good community member you are, your Community supplemental essays can also let you talk about other parts of your experience. Doing so can help you find the perfect narrative balance among all your essays.

Let’s use a quick example.

If I’m a student applying to computer science programs, then I might choose to write about the community I’ve found in my robotics team. More specifically, I might write about my role as cheerleader and principle problem-solver of my robotics team. Writing about my robotics team allows me to do two things:

Show that I’m a really supportive person in my community, and

Show that I’m on a robotics team that means a lot to me.

Now, it’s important not to co-opt your Community essay and turn it into a secret Extracurricular essay , but it’s important to be thinking about all the information an admissions officer will learn about you based on the community you choose to focus on.

How to write about what you’ll contribute to your new community

The other segment of Community essays are those that ask you to reflect on how your specific experiences will contribute to your new community.

It’s important that you read each prompt carefully so you know what to focus your essay on.

These kinds of Community prompts let you explicitly drive home why you belong at the school you’re applying to.

Here are two suggestions to get you started.

Draw out the values.

This kind of Community prompt also typically contains some kind of reference to values. The Rice prompt is a perfect example of this:

Rice is lauded for creating a collaborative atmosphere that enhances the quality of life for all members of our campus community . The Residential College System and undergraduate life is heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural tradition each student brings. What life perspectives would you contribute to the Rice community? 500 word limit.

There are several values here:

a) Collaboration

b) Enhancing quality of life

c) For all members of the community

d) Residential system (AKA not just in the classroom)

e) Sharing unique life experiences and cultural traditions with other students

Note that the actual question of the prompt is “What life perspectives would you contribute to the Rice community?” If you skimmed the beginning of the prompt to get to the question, you’d miss all these juicy details about what a Rice student looks like.

But with them in mind, you can choose to write about a life perspective that you hold that aligns with these five values.

Find detailed connections to the school.

Since these kinds of Community prompts ask you what you would contribute to the school community, this is your chance to find the most logical and specific connections you can. Browse the school website and social media to find groups, clubs, activities, communities, or support systems that are related to your personal background and experiences. When appropriate based on the prompt, these kinds of connections can help you show how good a fit you are for the school and community.

How to do Community Essay school research

Looking at school values means doing research on the school’s motto, mission statement, and strategic plans. This information is all carefully curated by a university to reflect the core values, initiatives, and goals of an institution. They can guide your Community essay by giving you more values options to include.

We’ll use the Rice mission statement as an example. It says,

As a leading research university with a distinctive commitment to undergraduate education, Rice University aspires to pathbreaking research , unsurpassed teaching , and contribution to the betterment of our world . It seeks to fulfill this mission by cultivating a diverse community of learning and discovery that produces leaders across the spectrum of human endeavor.

I’ve bolded just a few of the most important values we can draw out.

As we’ll see in the next section, I can use these values to brainstorm my Community essay.

How to write a Community Supplemental Essay

Step 1: Read the prompt closely & identify any relevant values.

When writing any supplemental essay, your first step should always be to closely read the prompt. You can even annotate it. It’s important to do this so you know exactly what is being asked of you.

With Community essays specifically, you can also highlight any values you think the prompt is asking you to elaborate on.

Keeping track of the prompt will make sure that you’re not missing anything an admissions officer will be on the lookout for.

Step 2: Brainstorm communities you’re involved in.

If you’re writing a Community essay that asks you to discuss a community you belong to, then your next step will be brainstorming all of your options.

As you brainstorm, keep a running list. Your list can include all kinds of communities you’re involved in.


  • Model United Nations
  • Youth group
  • Instagram book club
  • My Discord group

Step 3: Think about the role(s) you play in your selected community.

Narrow down your community list to a couple of options. For each remaining option, identify the roles you played, actions you took, and significance you’ve drawn from being part of that group.

Community: Orchestra

These three columns help you get at the most important details you need to include in your community essay.

Step 4: Identify any relevant connections to the school.

Depending on the question the prompt asks of you, your last step may be to do some school research.

Let’s return to the Rice example.

After researching the Rice mission statement, we know that Rice values community members who want to contribute to the “betterment of our world.”

Ah ha! Now we have something solid to work from.

With this value in mind, I can choose to write about a perspective that shows my investment in creating a better world. Maybe that perspective is a specific kind of fundraising tenacity. Maybe it’s always looking for those small improvements that have a big impact. Maybe it’s some combination of both. Whatever it is, I can write a supplemental essay that reflects the values of the university.

Community Essay Mistakes

While writing Community essays may seem fairly straightforward, there are actually a number of ways they can go awry. Specifically, there are three common mistakes students make that you should be on the lookout for.

They don’t address the specific requests of the prompt.

As with all supplemental essays, your Community essay needs to address what the prompt is asking you to do. In Community essays especially, you’ll need to assess whether you’re being asked to talk about a community you’re already part of or the community you hope to join.

Neglecting to read the prompt also means neglecting any help the prompt gives you in terms of values. Remember that you can get clues as to what the school is looking for by analyzing the prompt’s underlying values.

They’re too vague.

Community essays can also go awry when they’re too vague. Your Community essay should reflect on specific, concrete details about your experience. This is especially the case when a Community prompt asks you to talk about a specific moment, challenge, or sequence of events.

Don’t shy away from details. Instead, use them to tell a compelling story.

They don’t make any connections to the school.

Finally, Community essays that don’t make any connections to the school in question miss out on a valuable opportunity to show school fit. Recall from our supplemental essay guide that you should always write supplemental essays with an eye toward showing how well you fit into a particular community.

Community essays are the perfect chance to do that, so try to find relevant and logical school connections to include.

Community Supplemental Essay Example

Example essay: robotics community.

University of Michigan: Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it. (Required for all applicants; minimum 100 words/maximum 300 words)

From Blendtec’s “Will it Blend?” videos to ZirconTV’s “How to Use a Stud Finder,” I’m a YouTube how-to fiend. This propensity for fix-it knowledge has not only served me well, but it’s also been a lifesaver for my favorite community: my robotics team(( The writer explicitly states the community they’ll be focusing on.)) . While some students spend their after-school hours playing sports or video games, I spend mine tinkering in my garage with three friends, one of whom is made of metal.

Last year, I Googled more fixes than I can count. Faulty wires, misaligned soldering, and failed code were no match for me. My friends watched in awe as I used Boolean Operators to find exactly the information I sought.(( The writer clearly articulates their place in the community.)) But as I agonized over chassis reviews, other unsearchable problems arose.

First((This entire paragraph fulfills the “describe that community” direction in the prompt.)) , there was the matter of registering for our first robotics competition. None of us familiar with bureaucracy, David stepped up and made some calls. His maturity and social skills helped us immediately land a spot. The next issue was branding. Our robot needed a name and a logo, and Connor took it upon himself to learn graphic design. We all voted on Archie’s name and logo design to find the perfect match. And finally, someone needed to enter the ring. Archie took it from there, winning us first place.

The best part about being in this robotics community is the collaboration and exchange of knowledge.((The writer emphasizes a clear strength: collaboration within their community. It’s clear that the writer values all contributions to the team.))  Although I can figure out how to fix anything, it’s impossible to google social skills, creativity, or courage. For that information, only friends will do. I can only imagine the fixes I’ll bring to the University of Michigan and the skills I’ll learn in return at part of the Manufacturing Robotics community((The writer ends with a forward-looking connection to the school in question.)) .

Want to see even more supplemental essay examples? Check out our college essay examples post . 

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geographical community essay

How to Write the Community Essay for UPenn

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara and Aja Altenhof in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.

What’s Covered:

Writing about diversity, consider unconventional identities and perspectives, navigating the word count.

The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) requires applicants to submit supplemental essays in addition to the main Common App essay . For the second supplemental essay, UPenn asks students to respond to the following prompt:

How will you explore community at Penn? Consider Penn will shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape Penn. (150-200 words)

This article provides some tips to help you craft your response to this essay prompt, including strategies to avoid common topics, as well as tips to navigate the short word limit.

When approaching this prompt, many students first think to write about diversity, equity, and inclusion. While this topic can work in some cases, it is important to note that this prompt is not inherently about diversity. It is first and foremost a space to showcase the best parts of yourself outside of the classroom that will positively impact, and thrive within, the UPenn community.

Students who have a unique or interesting approach to answering this question typically tend to be the most successful when it comes to writing about diversity for this prompt. If you are interested in writing about diversity, equity, and inclusion, but your topic is not nuanced or particularly strong, you can consider other strategies and topics for this essay.

One strategic way to choose a topic for this prompt is by being unconventional in how you define your perspective or identity, especially when you consider your mindset and elements of your personality. 

As you consider your perspective, it can be helpful to explore how that perspective has been defined through your experiences. For example, depending on your background, you could consider what it is like to go through life as an athlete, as a journalist, or as a debater. 

Keep in mind that you will ultimately have to consider how that perspective impacts your engagement with the community around you, and the personality and values that you bring to the table.

In truth, this supplemental essay may be the trickiest of the three UPenn essays to write. This is because you have to address both parts of the prompt, how UPenn is going to shape your perspective or identity, and how your identity and perspective will shape UPenn, all within just 200 words. There are a few useful tactics that you can employ to help navigate this essay’s short word count.

One trick you can use to help you navigate this essay is by using a “call and response structure.” In this structure, you describe a trait that you have and then, within the same sentence, articulate a behavior or an outcome that this trait will cause on campus. You can also use this structure in the opposite way, to highlight an aspect of Penn’s campus experience and the way in which it will impact your own identity or perspective.

Furthermore, because this essay is on the shorter side, it can be difficult to tell a full story within it. That said, you certainly can hint at an anecdote or an experience that relates to the value, unique perspective, and opportunities and experiences that you will bring with you to UPenn.

For more information on writing UPenn’s supplemental essays, check out our post on How to Write the UPenn Supplemental Essays 2022-2023 .

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geographical community essay

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  • Facilitation of Community Processes
  • Community Health Assessment and Planning
  • Section 2. Understanding and Describing the Community

Chapter 3 Sections

  • Section 1. Developing a Plan for Assessing Local Needs and Resources
  • Section 3. Conducting Public Forums and Listening Sessions
  • Section 4. Collecting Information About the Problem
  • Section 5. Analyzing Community Problems
  • Section 6. Conducting Focus Groups
  • Section 7. Conducting Needs Assessment Surveys
  • Section 8. Identifying Community Assets and Resources
  • Section 9. Developing Baseline Measures
  • Section 10. Conducting Concerns Surveys
  • Section 11. Determining Service Utilization
  • Section 12. Conducting Interviews
  • Section 13. Conducting Surveys
  • Section 14. SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
  • Section 15. Qualitative Methods to Assess Community Issues
  • Section 16. Geographic Information Systems: Tools for Community Mapping
  • Section 17. Leading a Community Dialogue on Building a Healthy Community
  • Section 18. Creating and Using Community Report Cards
  • Section 19. Using Public Records and Archival Data
  • Section 20. Implementing Photovoice in Your Community
  • Section 21. Windshield and Walking Surveys
  • Section 22. Using Small Area Analysis to Uncover Disparities
  • Section 23. Developing and Using Criteria and Processes to Set Priorities
  • Section 24. Arranging Assessments That Span Jurisdictions
  • Main Section

What is a community?

What do we mean by understanding and describing the community, why make the effort to understand and describe your community, whom should you contact to gather information, how do you go about understanding and describing the community.

For those of us who work in community health and development, it's important to understand community -- what a community is, and the specific nature of the communities in which we work. Anything we do in a community requires us to be familiar with its people, its issues, and its history. Carrying out an intervention or building a coalition are far more likely to be successful if they are informed by the culture of the community and an understanding of the relationships among individuals and groups within it.

Taking the time and effort to understand your community well before embarking on a community effort will pay off in the long term. A good way to accomplish that is to create a community description -- a record of your exploration and findings. It's a good way to gain a comprehensive overview of the community -- what it is now, what it's been in the past, and what it could be in the future. In this section, we'll discuss how you might approach examining the community in some detail and setting down your findings in a community description.

While we traditionally think of a community as the people in a given geographical location, the word can really refer to any group sharing something in common -- place (such as a city, neighborhood, or school district), experience (such as shared experience of racism), or interest (e.g., a community's concern about poverty or violence prevention).

These various communities often overlap. A Black art teacher, for example, might see herself (or be seen by others) as a member of the Black, arts, and/or education communities, as well as of a particular faith community. Whichever community defines your work, you will want to get to know it well.

Understanding the community entails understanding it in a number of ways. Whether or not the community is defined geographically, it still has a geographic context -- a setting that it exists in. Getting a clear sense of this setting may be key to a full understanding of it. At the same time, it's important to understand the specific community you're concerned with. You have to get to know its people -- their culture, their concerns, and relationships -- and to develop your own relationships with them as well.

Physical aspects . Every community has a physical presence of some sort, even if only one building. Most have a geographic area or areas they are either defined by or attached to. It's important to know the community's size and the look and feel of its buildings, its topography (the lay of the land -- the hills, valleys, rivers, roads, and other features you'd find on a map), and each of its neighborhoods. Also important are how various areas of the community differ from one another, and whether your impression is one of clean, well-maintained houses and streets, or one of shabbiness, dirt, and neglect.

If the community is one defined by its population, then its physical properties are also defined by the population: where they live, where they gather, the places that are important to them. The characteristics of those places can tell you a great deal about the people who make up the community. Their self-image, many of their attitudes, and their aspirations are often reflected in the places where they choose -- or are forced by circumstance or discrimination -- to live, work, gather, and play.

  • Infrastructure . Roads, bridges, transportation (local public transportation, airports, train lines), electricity, land line and mobile telephone service, broadband service, and similar "basics" make up the infrastructure of the community, without which it couldn't function.
  • Patterns of settlement, commerce, and industry . Where are those physical spaces we've been discussing? Communities reveal their character by where and how they create living and working spaces. Where there are true slums --  substandard housing in areas with few or no services that are the only options for low-income people -- the value the larger community places on those residents seems clear. Are heavy industries located next to residential neighborhoods? If so, who lives in those neighborhoods? Are some parts of the community dangerous, either because of high crime and violence or because of unsafe conditions in the built or natural environment?
  • Demographics .  It's vital to understand who makes up the community.  Age, gender, race and ethnicity, marital status, education, number of people in household, first language -- these and other statistics make up the demographic profile of the population. When you put them together (e.g.,  the education level of black women ages 18-24), it gives you a clear picture of who community residents are.
  • History . The long-term history of the community can tell you about community traditions, what the community is, or has been, proud of, and what residents would prefer not to talk about. Recent history can afford valuable information about conflicts and factions within the community, important issues, past and current relationships among key people and groups -- many of the factors that can trip up any effort before it starts if you don't know about and address them.
  • Community leaders, formal and informal . Some community leaders are elected or appointed -- mayors, city councilors, directors of public works. Others are considered leaders because of their activities or their positions in the community -- community activists, corporate CEO's, college presidents, doctors, clergy.  Still others are recognized as leaders because, they are trusted for their proven integrity, courage, and/or care for others and the good of the community.
  • Community culture, formal and informal . This covers the spoken and unspoken rules and traditions by which the community lives. It can include everything from community events and slogans -- the blessing of the fishing fleet, the "Artichoke Capital of the World" -- to norms of behavior -- turning a blind eye to alcohol abuse or domestic violence -- to patterns of discrimination and exercise of power. Understanding the culture and how it developed can be crucial, especially if that's what you're attempting to change.
  • Existing groups .  Most communities have an array of groups and organizations of different kinds -- service clubs (Lions, Rotary, etc.), faith groups, youth organizations, sports teams and clubs, groups formed around shared interests, the boards of community-wide organizations (the YMCA, the symphony, United Way), as well as groups devoted to self-help, advocacy, and activism.  Knowing of the existence and importance of each of these groups can pave the way for alliances or for understanding opposition.
  • Existing institutions . Every community has institutions that are important to it, and that have more or less credibility with residents. Colleges and universities, libraries, religious institutions, hospitals -- all of these and many others can occupy important places in the community. It's important to know what they are, who represents them, and what influence they wield.
  • Economics .  Who are the major employers in the community?  What, if any, business or industry is the community's base? Who, if anyone, exercises economic power? How is wealth distributed? Would you characterize the community as poor, working, class, middle class, or affluent?  What are the economic prospects of the population in general and/or the population you're concerned with?
  • Government/Politics . Understanding the structure of community government is obviously important. Some communities may have strong mayors and weak city councils, others the opposite. Still other communities may have no mayor at all, but only a town manager, or may have a different form of government entirely.  Whatever the government structure, where does political power lie? Understanding where the real power is can be the difference between a successful effort and a vain one.
  • Social structure . Many aspects of social structure are integrated into other areas -- relationships, politics, economics -- but there are also the questions of how people in the community relate to one another on a daily basis, how problems are (or aren't) resolved, who socializes or does business with whom, etc. This area also includes perceptions and symbols of status and respect, and whether status carries entitlement or responsibility (or both).
  • Attitudes and values . Again, much of this area may be covered by investigation into others, particularly culture. What does the community care about, and what does it ignore? What are residents' assumptions about the proper way to behave, to dress, to do business, to treat others? Is there widely accepted discrimination against one or more groups by the majority or by those in power? What are the norms for interaction among those who with different opinions or different backgrounds?

We'll discuss all of these aspects of community in greater detail later in the section.

There are obviously many more aspects of community that can be explored, such as health or education.  The assumption here is that as part of an assessment, you'll aim for a general understanding of the community, as described in this section, and also assess, with a narrower focus, the specific aspects you're interested in.

Once you've explored the relevant areas of the community, you'll have the information to create a community description. Depending on your needs and information, this description might be anything from a two-or three-page outline to an in-depth portrait of the community that extends to tens of pages and includes charts, graphs, photographs, and other elements. The point of doing it is to have a picture of the community at a particular point in time that you can use to provide a context for your community assessment and to see the results of whatever actions you take to bring about change.

A community description can be as creative as you're capable of making it.  It can be written as a story, can incorporate photos and commentary from community residents (see Photovoice), can be done online and include audio and video, etc. The more interesting the description is, the more people are likely to actually read it.

You may at this point be thinking, "Can't I work effectively within this community without gathering all this information?" Perhaps, if it's a community you're already familiar with, and really know it well. If you're new to the community, or an outsider, however, it's a different story. Not having the proper background information on your community may not seem like a big deal until you unintentionally find yourself on one side of a bitter divide, or get involved in an issue without knowing about its long and tangled history.

Some advantages to taking the time to understand the community and create a community description include:

  • Gaining a general idea, even before an assessment, of the community's strengths and the challenges it faces.
  • Capturing unspoken, influential rules and norms. For example, if people are divided and angry about a particular issue, your information might show you an event in the community's history that explains their strong emotions on that subject.
  • Getting a feel for the attitudes and opinions of the community when you're starting work on an initiative.
  • Ensuring the security of your organization's staff and participants.  There may be neighborhoods where staff members or participants should be accompanied by others in order to be safe, at least at night. Knowing the character of various areas and the invisible borders that exist among various groups and neighborhoods can be extremely important for the physical safety of those working and living in the community.
  • Having enough familiarity with the community to allow you to converse intelligently with residents about community issues, personalities and geography. Knowing that you've taken the time and effort to get to know them and their environment can help you to establish trust with community members.  That can make both a community assessment and any actions and activities that result from it easier to conduct.
  • Being able to talk convincingly with the media about the community.
  • Being able to share information with other organizations or coalitions that work in the community so that you can collaborate or so that everyone's work can benefit.
  • Providing background and justification for grant proposals.
  • Knowing the context of the community so that you can tailor interventions and programs to its norms and culture, and increase chances of success.

When should you make an effort to understand and describe the community?

  • When you're about to launch a community assessment. The first step is to get a clear sense of the community, before more specifically assessing the area(s) you're interested in.
  • When you're new to a community and want to be well informed before beginning your work. If you've just started working in a community -- even if it's work you've been doing for years -- you will probably find that taking the time to write a community description enriches your work.
  • When you've been working in a community for any length of time and want to take stock. Communities are complex, constantly-changing entities. By periodically stopping to write a detailed description of your community, you can assess what approaches have worked and what haven't; new needs that have developed over time and old concerns that no longer require your effort and energy; and other information to help you better do your work.
  • When you're feeling like you're stuck in a rut and need a fresh perspective. Organizations have to remain dynamic in order to keep moving forward. Reexamining the community -- or perhaps examining it carefully for the first time -- can infuse an organization with new ideas and new purpose.
  • When you're considering introducing a new initiative or program and want to assess its possible success.Aside from when you first come to a community, this is probably the most vital time to do a community description.
  • When a funder asks you to, often as part of a funding proposal.

While researching and writing a community description can take time, your work can almost always benefit from the information you gather.

Much of your best and most interesting information may come from community members with no particular credentials except that they're part of the community . It's especially important to get the perspective of those who often don't have a voice in community decisions and politics -- low-income people, immigrants, and others who are often kept out of the community discussion. In addition, however, there are some specific people that it might be important to talk to. They're the individuals in key positions, or those who are trusted by a large part of the community or by a particular population. In a typical community, they might include:

  • Elected officials
  • Community planners and development officers
  • Chiefs of police
  • School superintendents, principals, and teachers
  • Directors or staff of health and human service organizations
  • Health professionals
  • Community activists
  • Housing advocates
  • Presidents or chairs of civic or service clubs -- Chamber of Commerce, veterans' organizations, Lions, Rotary, etc.
  • People without titles, but identified by others as "community leaders"
  • Business owners

General Guidelines

To begin, let's look at some basic principles to keep in mind.

  • Be prepared to learn from the community . Assume that you have a lot to learn, and approach the process with an open mind. Listen to what people have to say. Observe carefully. Take notes -- you can use them later to generate new questions or to help answer old ones.
  • Be aware that people's speech, thoughts, and actions are not always rational . Their attitudes and behavior  are often best understood in the context of their history, social relations, and culture. Race relations in the U.S., for example, can't be understood without knowing some of the historical context -- the history of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and the work of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Don't assume that the information people give you is necessarily accurate . There are a number of reasons why informants may tell you things that are inaccurate. People's perceptions don't always reflect reality, but are colored instead by what they think or what they think they know.  In addition, some may intentionally exaggerate or downplay particular conditions or issues for their own purposes or for what they see as the greater good. (The Chamber of Commerce or local government officials might try to make economic conditions look better than they are in the hopes of attracting new business to the community, for instance.)  Others may simply be mistaken about what they tell you  -- the geographical boundaries of a particular neighborhood, for example, or the year of an important event. Get information, particularly on issues, conditions, and relationships from many sources if you can. As time goes on, you'll learn who the always-reliable sources are.
  • Beware of activities that may change people's behavior . It's well known that people (and animals as well) can change their normal behavior as a result of knowing they're being studied.  Neighborhood residents may clean up their yards if they're aware that someone is taking the measure of the neighborhood. Community members may try to appear as they wish to be seen, rather than as they really are, if they know you're watching. To the extent that you can, try not to do anything that will change the way people go about their daily business or express themselves. That usually means being as unobtrusive as possible -- not being obvious about taking pictures or making notes, for instance. In some circumstances, it could mean trying to gain trust and insight through participant observation.
Participant observation is a technique that anthropologists use.  It entails becoming part of another culture, both to keep people in it from being influenced by your presence and to understand it from the inside.  Some researchers believe it addresses the problem of changing the culture by studying it , and others believe that it makes the problem worse.
  • Take advantage of the information and facilities that help shape the world of those who have lived in the community for a long time . Read the local newspaper (and the alternative paper, too, if there is one), listen to local radio, watch local TV, listen to conversation in cafes and bars, in barbershops and beauty shops.  You can learn a great deal about a community by immersing yourself in its internal communication. The Chamber of Commerce will usually have a list of area businesses and organizations, along with their contact people, which should give you both points of contact and a sense of who the people are that you might want to get in touch with. Go to the library -- local librarians are often treasure troves of information, and their professional goal is to spread it around. Check out bulletin boards at supermarkets and laundromats.  Even graffiti can be a valuable source of information about community issues.
  • Network, network, network .  Every contact you make in the community has the potential to lead you to more contacts. Whether you're talking to official or unofficial community leaders or to people you just met on the street, always ask who else they would recommend that you talk to and whether you can use their names when you contact those people. Establishing relationships with a variety of community members is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure that you'll be able to get the information you need, and that you'll have support for working in the community when you finish your assessment and begin your effort.

Gathering information

To find out about various aspects of the community, you'll need a number of different methods of gathering information . We've already discussed some of them, and many of the remaining sections of this chapter deal with them, because they're the same methods you'll use in doing a full community assessment. Here, we'll simply list them, with short explanations and links to sections where you can get more information about each.

  • Public records and archives . These include local, state, and federal government statistics and records, newspaper archives, and the records of other organizations that they're willing to share. Many of the public documents are available at public and/or university libraries and on line at government websites. Most communities have their own websites, which often contain valuable information as well.
  • Individual and group interviews . Interviews can range from casual conversations in a cafe to structured formal interviews in which the interviewer asks the same specific questions of a number of carefully chosen key informants. They can be conducted with individuals or groups, in all kinds of different places and circumstances. They're often the best sources of information, but they're also time-consuming and involve finding the right people and convincing them to consent to be interviewed, as well as finding (and sometimes training) good interviewers.
Interviews may include enlisting as sources of information others who've spent time learning about the community.  University researchers, staff and administrators of health and human service organizations, and activists may all have done considerable work to understand the character and inner workings of the community.  Take advantage of their findings if you can.  It may save you many hours of effort.
  • Surveys . There are various types of surveys. They can be written or oral, conducted with a selected small group -- usually a randomized sample that represents a larger population -- or with as many community members as possible . They can be sent through the mail, administered over the phone or in person, or given to specific groups (school classes, faith congregations, the Rotary Club). They're often fairly short, and ask for answers that are either yes-no, or that rate the survey-taker's opinion of a number of possibilities (typically on a scale that represents "agree strongly" to "disagree strongly" or "very favorable" to "very unfavorable.")  Surveys can, however, be much more comprehensive, with many questions, and can ask for more complex answers.
  • Direct or participant observation .  Often the best way to find out about the community is simply to observe . You can observe physical features, conditions in various areas, the interactions of people in different neighborhoods and circumstances, the amount of traffic, commercial activity, how people use various facilities and spaces, or the evidence of previous events or decisions. Participant observation means becoming part of the group or scene you're observing, so that you can see it from the inside.
Observation can take many forms.  In addition to simply going to a place and taking notes on what you see, you might use other techniques -- Photovoice, video, audio, simple photographs, drawings, etc.  Don't limit the ways in which you can record your observations and impressions.

Understanding the Community

Now let's consider what you might examine to understand and describe the community. You won't necessarily look for this information in the order given here, although it's a good idea to start with the first two.

The community's physical characteristics.

Get a map of the community and drive and/or walk around. (If the community isn't defined by geography, note and observe the areas where its members live, work, and gather.) Observe both the built and the natural environment. In the built environment, some things to pay attention to are:

  • The age, architecture, and condition of housing and other buildings . Some shabby or poorly-maintained housing may occupy good buildings that could be fixed up, for example -- that's important to know. Is there substandard housing in the community? Look for new construction, and new developments, and take note of where they are, and whether they're replacing existing housing or businesses or adding to it. (You might want to find out more about these. Are they controversial? Was there opposition to them, and how was it resolved? Does the community offer incentives to developers, and, if so, for what?)  Is housing separated by income or other factors, so that all low-income residents, for instance, or all North African immigrants seem to live in one area away from others? Are buildings generally in good condition, or are they dirty and run-down? Are there buildings that look like they might have historic significance, and are they kept up? Are most buildings accessible to people with disabilities?
  • Commercial areas .  Are there stores and other businesses in walking distance of residential areas or of public transportation for most members of the community? Do commercial buildings present windows and displays or blank walls to pedestrians? Is there foot traffic and activity in commercial areas, or do they seem deserted? Is there a good mix of local businesses, or nothing but chain stores? Are there theaters, places to hear music, a variety of restaurants, and other types of entertainment? Do many buildings include public spaces -- indoor or outdoor plazas where people can sit, for example? In general, are commercial areas and buildings attractive and well-maintained?
  • The types and location of industrial facilities . What kind of industry exists in the community? Does it seem to have a lot of environmental impact -- noise, air or water pollution, smells, heavy traffic? Is it located close to residential areas, and, if so, who lives there? Is there some effort to make industrial facilities attractive -- landscaping, murals or imaginative color schemes on the outside, etc?
  • Infrastructure .  What condition are streets in?  Do most streets, at least in residential and commercial areas, have sidewalks? Bike lanes? Are pedestrians shielded from traffic by trees, grass strips, and/or plantings? Are roads adequate for the traffic they bear? Are there foot bridges across busy highways and railroad tracks, or do they separate areas of the community and pose dangers for pedestrians? Is there adequate public transportation, with facilities for people with physical disabilities? Does it reach all areas of the community? Can most people gain access to the Internet if they have the equipment (i.e., computers or properly equipped cell phones)?
This is a topic that is ripe for examination. In many rural areas, particularly in developing countries, but often in the developed world as well, there is very little infrastructure.  Roads and bridges may be impassable at certain (or most) times of year, phone service and TV reception nonexistent, Internet access a distant dream. Public transportation in many places, if it exists at all, may take the form of a pickup truck or 20-year-old van that takes as many passengers as can squeeze into or onto the bed, passenger compartment, and roof. Is any of this on the government's or anyone else's radar as a situation that needs to be addressed? What is the general policy about services to rural and/or poor populations?  Answers to these and similar questions may both explain the situation (and the attitudes of the local population) and highlight a number of possible courses of action.

I n the category of natural features, we can include both areas that have been largely left to nature, and "natural" spaces created by human intervention.

  • Topography . An area's topography is the shape of its landscape. Is the community largely hilly, largely flat, or does it incorporate areas of both? Is water -- rivers, creeks, lakes and ponds, canals, seashore -- a noticeable or important part of the physical character of the community? Who lives in what areas of the community?
  • Open space and greenery. Is there open space scattered throughout the community, or is it limited to one or a few areas? How much open space is there? Is it mostly man-made (parks, commons, campuses, sports fields), or is there wilderness or semi-wilderness? Does the community give the impression  of being green and leafy, with lots of trees and grass, or is it mostly concrete or dirt?
  • Air and water . Is the air reasonably clear and clean, or is there a blanket of smog? Does the air generally smell fresh, or are there industrial or other unpleasant odors? Do rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water appear clean? Do they seem to be used for recreation (boating, swimming, fishing)?
There is an overlap between the community's physical and social characteristics. Does the lay of the land make it difficult to get from one part of the community to another? (Biking, or in some cases even walking, is difficult in San Francisco, for example, because of the length and steepness of the hills.)  Are there clear social divisions that mirror the landscape -- all the fancy houses in the hills, all the low-income housing in the flats, for instance?

Studying the physical layout of the community will serve you not only as information, but as a guide for finding your way around, knowing what people are talking about when they refer to various areas and neighborhoods, and gaining a sense of the living conditions of any populations you're concerned with.

Community demographics.

Demographics are the facts about the population that you can find from census data and other similar statistical information. Some things you might like to know, besides the number of people in the community:

  • Racial and ethnic background
  • Age.  Numbers and percentages of the population in various age groups
  • Marital status
  • Family size
  • Employment - Both the numbers of people employed full and part-time, and the numbers of people in various types of work
  • Location - Knowing which groups live in which neighborhoods or areas can help to recruit participants in a potential effort or to decide where to target activities

In the U.S., most of this and other demographic information is available from the U.S. Census , from state and local government websites, or from other government agencies.  Depending on what issues and countries you're concerned with, some sources of information might be the U.S. Centers for Disease Control , the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services , similar websites in other countries, and the various agencies of the United Nations .

On many of these websites, notably the U.S. Census, various categories can be combined, so that you can, for example, find out the income levels in your community for African American women aged 25-34 with a high school education. If the website won't do it for you, it's fairly easy to trace the patterns yourself, thus giving you a much clearer picture of who community residents are and what their lives might be like .

Another extremely useful resource is County Health Rankings & Roadmaps , which provides rankings for nearly every county in the nation. The County Health Rankings model includes four types of health factors: health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic, and the physical environment. The County Health Rankings illustrate what we know when it comes to what’s making people sick or healthy, and the new County Health Roadmaps show what we can do to create healthier places to live, learn, work and play. These reports can help community leaders see that our environment influences how healthy we are and how long we live, and even what parts of our environment are most influential.

Community history.

This can be a complex topic. The "standard" history -- when the community was founded and by whom, how long it has existed, how people lived there in the past, its major sources of work, etc. -- can often be found in the local library or newspaper archives, or even in books or articles written for a larger audience. The less comfortable parts of that history, especially recent history -- discrimination, conflict, economic and/or political domination by a small group -- are may not be included, and are more likely to be found by talking to activists, journalists, and others who are concerned with those issues. You might also gain information by reading between the lines of old newspaper articles and tracking down people who were part of past conflicts or events.

If this all sounds a lot like investigative reporting, that's because it is.  You may not have the time or skills to do much of it, but talking to activists and journalists about recent history can be crucial.  Stepping into a community with an intervention or initiative without understanding the dynamics of community history can be a recipe for failure.

Community government and politics.

T here are a number of ways to learn about the structure and operation of local government:

  • Go to open meetings of the city council, town boards, board of selectmen, or other bodies, as well as to public forums on proposed actions, laws, and regulations.  Such meetings will be announced in the local paper.
In most of the U.S., these meetings are public by state law, and must be announced in specific ways at least two days ahead.
  • Community bylaws and regulations are often available at the public library.
  • Make an appointment to talk to one or more local government officials.  Many hold regular office hours, and might actually take pleasure in explaining the workings of the local government.
  • Talk to community activists for a view of how the government actually operates, as opposed to how it's supposed to operate.
  • Read the local newspaper every day.
Reading the newspaper every day is a good idea in general if you're trying to learn about the community.  It will not only have stories about how the community operates, but will give you a sense of what's important to its readers, what kinds of activities the community engages in and views as significant, what the police do -- a picture of a large part of community life. Real estate ads will tell you about property values and the demand for housing, ads for services can help you identify the major businesses in town, and the ages and education levels of the people in the marriage and birth announcements can speak volumes about community values.  Newspaper archives can also reveal the stories that help you understand the emotions still surrounding events and issues that don't seem current.  The newspaper is an enormous reservoir of both direct and between-the-lines information.

As we all know, government isn't only about the rules and structures that hold it together. It's about people and their interactions...politics, in other words. The political climate, culture, and assumptions in a particular community often depend more on who elected and appointed officials are than on the limits or duties of their offices.

The politics of many communities embody the ideal of government working for the public good. In other communities, politics takes a back seat to economics, and politicians listen largely to those with economic power -- the CEO's, owners, and directors of large businesses and institutions.  In still others, the emphasis is on power itself, so that political decisions are made specifically to keep a particular party, group, or individual in control.

Obviously, only in the first case is the public well served. In the other situations, fairness and equity tend to go out the window and decisions favor the powerful. Understanding the politics of the community -- who has power, who the power brokers are, who actually influences the setting of policy, how decisions are made and by whom, how much difference public opinion makes -- is fundamental to an understanding of the community as a whole.

There's no formal way to get this information. Government officials may have very different interpretations of the political scene than activists or other community members. You'll have to talk to a variety of people, take a good look at recent political controversies and decisions (here's where newspaper archives can come in handy), and juggle some contradicting stories to get at the reality.


Community institutions, unless they are dysfunctional, can generally be viewed as assets. Finding them should be easy: as mentioned above, the Chamber of Commerce will probably have a list of them, the library will probably have one as well, the local newspaper will often list them, and they'll be in the phone book. 

They cover the spectrum of community life, including:

  • Offices of local, state, and federal government agencies (Welfare, Dept. of Agriculture, Office of Immigration, etc.)
  • Public libraries.
  • Religious institutions. Churches, synagogues, mosques.
  • Cultural institutions.  Museums, theaters, concert halls, etc. and the companies they support.  These may also encompass community theater and music companies run and staffed by community volunteer boards and performers.
  • Community centers.  Community centers may provide athletic, cultural, social, and other (yoga, support groups) activities for a variety of ages.
  • YMCA's and similar institutions.
  • Senior centers.
  • Hospitals and public health services.
  • Colleges and universities.
  • Public and private schools.
  • Public sports facilities. These might be both facilities for the direct use of the public -- community pools and athletic fields, for example -- or stadiums and arena where school, college, or professional teams play as entertainment.

Groups and organizations.

The groups and organizations that exist in the community, and their relative prestige and importance in community life, can convey valuable clues to the community's assumptions and attitudes. To some extent, you can find them in the same ways that you can find institutions, but the less formal ones you may be more likely to learn about through interviews and conversations. 

These groups can fall into a number of categories:

  • Health and human service organizations .  Known on the world stage as NGO's (Non-Governmental Organizations), these are the organizations that work largely with low-income people and populations at risk. They encompass free or sliding-scale health clinics, family planning programs, mental health centers, food pantries, homeless shelters, teen parent programs, youth outreach organizations, violence prevention programs, etc.
  • Advocacy organizations . These may also provide services, but generally in the form of legal help or advocacy with agencies to protect the rights of specific groups or to push for the provision of specific services. By and large, they advocate for recognition and services for populations with particular characteristics, or for more attention to be paid to particular issues.
  • Service clubs . Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, Elks, Masons, etc.
  • Veterans' organizations . In the U.S., the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars are the major veterans' organizations, but many communities may have others as well.
  • Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations . Some of these may be oriented toward specific types of businesses, while others, like the Chamber, are more general.
  • Groups connected to institutions . Church youth or Bible study groups, school clubs, university student groups (e.g., Foreign Students' Association, community service groups).
  • Trade unions . These may be local, or branches of national or international unions.
  • Sports clubs or leagues . Enthusiasts of many sports organize local leagues that hold regular competitions, and that may compete as well with teams from other communities. In many rural areas, Fish and Game clubs may function as informal community centers.
  • Informal groups . Book clubs, garden clubs, parents' groups, etc.


Some of the information about economic issues can be found in public records, but some will come from interviews or conversations with business people, government officials, and activists, and some from observation. It's fairly easy to notice if one huge industrial plant dominates a community, for example, or if every third building appears to be a construction company. There are a number of questions you might ask yourself and others to help you understand the community's economic base and situation: What is the anchor of the community's tax base? Who are the major employers? Does the community have a particular business or business/industry category that underlies most of the jobs? Are there lots of locally-owned businesses and industries, or are most parts of larger corporations headquartered elsewhere?  Are there corporate headquarters in the community? Is there a good deal of office space, and is it empty or occupied?  Is there new development, and is the community attracting new business? What is the unemployment rate?

Social structure.

This may be the most difficult aspect of the community to understand, since it incorporates most of the others we've discussed, and is usually unspoken. People's answers to questions about it may ignore important points, either because they seem obvious to those who've lived with them for all or most of their lives, or because those things "just aren't talked about." Distrust or actual discrimination aimed at particular groups -- based on race, class, economics, or all three -- may be glossed over or never mentioned. The question of who wields the real power in the community is another that may rarely be answered, or at least not answered in the same way by a majority of community members. It's likely that it will take a number of conversations, some careful observation and some intuition as well to gain a real sense of the community's social structure.

Describing the Community

Once you've gathered the information you need, the next step is describing the community. This is not really separate from understanding the community: in the process of organizing and writing down your information, you'll be able to see better how it fits together, and can gain greater understanding.

There are many ways you can create a description of the community. The most obvious is simply to organize, record, and comment on your information by category:  physical description, government, institutions, etc. You can comment about what has changed in the community over time, what has stayed the same, and where you think the community might be going. You might also include an analysis of how the various categories interact, and how that all comes together to form the community that exists. That will give you and anyone else interested a reasonably clear and objective description of the community, as well as a sense of how you see it.

For a fuller picture, you could add photographs of some of the locations, people, conditions, or interactions you describe (perhaps as a Photovoice project), as well as charts or graphs of demographic or statistical information. For even more detail, you might compose a portrait in words of the community, using quotes from interviews and stories of community history to bring the description to life.

Given the availability of technology, you don't have to limit yourself to any specific format. Computers allow you to easily combine various media -- photos, graphics, animation, text, and audio, for example. The description could  add in or take the form of a video that includes a tour of the community, statements from and/or interviews with various community members (with their permission, of course), an audio voice-over, maps, etc.  A video or a more text-based description -- or both -- could then be posted to a website where it would be available to anyone interested.

Once you have a description put together, you might want to show it to some of the community members you talked to in the course of exploring the community. They can suggest other things you might include, correct errors of fact, and react to what they consider the accuracy or inaccuracy of your portrait and analysis of their community. With this feedback, you can then create a final version to use and to show to anyone interested. The point is to get as informative and accurate a picture of the community as possible that will serve as a basis for community assessment and any effort that grows out of it.

The last word here is that this shouldn't be the last community description you'll ever do. Communities reinvent themselves constantly, as new buildings and developments are put up and old ones torn down, as businesses move in and out, as populations shift -- both within the community and as people and groups move in and out -- and as economic, social, and political conditions change. You have to keep up with those changes, and that means updating your community description regularly.  As with most of the rest of the community building work described in the Community Tool Box, the work of understanding and describing the community is ongoing, for as long as you remain committed to the community itself.

Understanding a community is crucial to being able to work in it. Failing to understand it will deny you credibility and make it difficult for you both to connect with community members and to negotiate the twists and turns of starting and implementing a community initiative or intervention. An extremely important part of any community assessment, therefore, is to start by finding out as much about the community as you can -- its physical and geographical characteristics, its culture, its government, and its assumptions. By combing through existing data, observing, and learning from community members, you can gain an overview of the community that will serve you well. Recording your findings and your analysis of them in a community description that you can refer to and update as needed will keep your understanding fresh and help others in your organization or with whom you collaborate.

Online Resources

A  community description of Nashua, New Hampshire .

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps . Ranking the health of nearly every county in the nation, the County Health Rankings help us see how where we live, learn, work, and play influences how healthy we are and how long we live. The Rankings & Roadmaps show us what is making residents sick, where we need to improve, and what steps communities are taking to solve their problems. The health of a community depends on many different factors – ranging from individual health behaviors, education and jobs, to quality of health care, to the environment, therefore we all have a stake in creating a healthier community. Using the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, leaders and advocates from public health and health care, business, education, government, and the community can work together to create programs and policies to improve people's health, reduce health care costs, and increase productivity.

Describing the Community , from a WHO (World Health Organization) manual: Emergency Preparedness: A Manual for Managers and Policy Makers.  WHO, 1999.

The Distressed Communities Index  (DCI) is a customized dataset created by EIG examining economic distress throughout the country and made up of interactive maps, infographics, and a report. It captures data from more than 25,000 zip codes (those with populations over 500 people). In all, it covers 99 percent — 312 million — of Americans.  is a clearinghouse for information on evaluation, assessment, and research information.

This  Human Development Index Map  is a valuable tool from  Measure of America: A Project of the Social Science Research Council . It combines indicators in three fundamental areas - health, knowledge, and standard of living - into a single number that falls on a scale from 0 to 10, and is presented on an easy-to-navigate interactive map of the United States.

The   Institute of Medicine  advances scientific knowledge to improve health and provides information and advice concerning health policy.

The  National Institute for Literacy  provides information about research and initiatives to expand the community of literacy practitioners, students, and policymakers.

Sustainable Measures  provides a searchable database of indicators by broad topics (health, housing) and keywords (AIDS, access to care, birth weight, etc.) for communities, organizations and government agencies at all levels.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services , the principal agency for protecting the health of U.S. citizens, is comprised of 12 agencies that provide information on their specific domains, such as the  Administration on Aging . Others cross health boundaries, such as the  Centers for Disease Control , which maintains national health statistics. The " WONDER " system is an access point to a wide variety of CDC reports, guidelines, and public health data to assist in research, decision-making, priority setting, and resource allocation.

The  U.S. National Institute of Mental Health  provides statistics and educational information for the public as well as information for researchers.

Print Resources

Jones, B. (1979). Defining your neighborhood. In Neighborhood Planning: A Guide for Citizens and Planners . Chicago, IL: Planners Press, pp. 8-11.

Scheie, D. (1991). August-September). Tools for taking stock. The Neighborhood Works . Chicago, IL: Center for Neighborhood Technology, pp. 16-17.

Spradley, J. P. (1980). Locating a social situation. In Participant Observation . Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, pp. 45-52.

Warren, R.B., Warren, D.I. (1977). The Neighborhood Organizer's Handbook . Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, pp.167-196.

Cultural Diversity Essay & Community Essay Examples

If you’ve started to research college application requirements for the schools on your list, you might have come across the “cultural diversity essay.” In this guide, we’ll explore the cultural diversity essay in depth. We will compare the cultural diversity essay to the community essay and discuss how to approach these kinds of supplements. We’ll also provide examples of diversity essays and community essay examples. But first, let’s discuss exactly what a cultural diversity essay is. 

The purpose of the cultural diversity essay in college applications is to show the admissions committee what makes you unique. The cultural diversity essay also lets you describe what type of “ diversity ” you would bring to campus.

We’ll also highlight a diversity essay sample for three college applications. These include the Georgetown application essay , Rice application essay , and Williams application essay . We’ll provide examples of diversity essays for each college. Then, for each of these college essays that worked, we will analyze their strengths to help you craft your own essays. 

Finally, we’ll give you some tips on how to write a cultural diversity essay that will make your applications shine. 

But first, let’s explore the types of college essays you might encounter on your college applications. 

Types of College Essays

College application requirements will differ among schools. However, you’ll submit one piece of writing to nearly every school on your list—the personal statement . A strong personal statement can help you stand out in the admissions process. 

So, how do you know what to write about? That depends on the type of college essay included in your college application requirements. 

There are a few main types of college essays that you might encounter in the college admissions process. Theese include the “Why School ” essay, the “Why Major ” essay, and the extracurricular activity essay. This also includes the type of essay we will focus on in this guide—the cultural diversity essay. 

“Why School” essay

The “Why School ” essay is exactly what it sounds like. For this type of college essay, you’ll need to underscore why you want to go to this particular school. 

However, don’t make the mistake of just listing off what you like about the school. Additionally, don’t just reiterate information you can find on their admissions website. Instead, you’ll want to make connections between what the school offers and how you are a great fit for that college community. 

“Why Major” essay

The idea behind the “Why Major ” essay is similar to that of the “Why School ” essay above. However, instead of writing about the school at large, this essay should highlight why you plan to study your chosen major.

There are plenty of directions you could take with this type of essay. For instance, you might describe how you chose this major, what career you plan to pursue upon graduation, or other details.

Extracurricular Activity essay

The extracurricular activity essay asks you to elaborate on one of the activities that you participated in outside of the classroom. 

For this type of college essay, you’ll need to select an extracurricular activity that you pursued while you were in high school. Bonus points if you can tie your extracurricular activity into your future major, career goals, or other extracurricular activities for college. Overall, your extracurricular activity essay should go beyond your activities list. In doing so, it should highlight why your chosen activity matters to you.

Cultural Diversity essay

The cultural diversity essay is your chance to expound upon diversity in all its forms. Before you write your cultural diversity essay, you should ask yourself some key questions. These questions can include: How will you bring diversity to your future college campus? What unique perspective do you bring to the table? 

Another sub-category of the cultural diversity essay is the gender diversity essay. As its name suggests, this essay would center around the author’s gender. This essay would highlight how gender shapes the way the writer understands the world around them. 

Later, we’ll look at examples of diversity essays and other college essays that worked. But before we do, let’s figure out how to identify a cultural diversity essay in the first place. 

How to identify a ‘cultural diversity’ essay

So, you’re wondering how you’ll be able to identify a cultural diversity essay as you review your college application requirements. 

Aside from the major giveaway of having the word “diversity” in the prompt, a cultural diversity essay will ask you to describe what makes you different from other applicants. In other words, what aspects of your unique culture(s) have influenced your perspective and shaped you into who you are today?

Diversity can refer to race, ethnicity, first-generation status, gender, or anything in between. You can write about a myriad of things in a cultural diversity essay. For instance, you might discuss your personal background, identity, values, experiences, or how you’ve overcome challenges in your life. 

However, don’t feel limited in what you can address in a cultural diversity essay. The words “culture” and “diversity” mean different things to different people. Above all, you’ll want your diversity essays for college to be personal and sincere. 

How is a ‘community’ essay different? 

A community essay can also be considered a cultural diversity essay. In fact, you can think of the community essay as a subcategory of the cultural diversity essay. However, there is a key difference between a community essay and a cultural diversity essay, which we will illustrate below. 

You might have already seen some community essay examples while you were researching college application requirements. But how exactly is a community essay different from a cultural diversity essay?

One way to tell the difference between community essay examples and cultural diversity essay examples is by the prompt. A community essay will highlight, well, community . This means it will focus on how your identity will shape your interactions on campus—not just how it informs your own experiences.

Two common forms to look out for

Community essay examples can take two forms. First, you’ll find community essay examples about your past experiences. These let you show the admissions team how you have positively influenced your own community. 

Other community essay examples, however, will focus on the future. These community essay examples will ask you to detail how you will contribute to your future college community. We refer to these as college community essay examples.

In college community essay examples, you’ll see applicants detail how they might interact with their fellow students. These essays may also discuss how students plan to positively contribute to the campus community. 

As we mentioned above, the community essay, along with community essay examples and college community essay examples, fit into the larger category of the cultural diversity essay. Although we do not have specific community essay examples or college community essay examples in this guide, we will continue to highlight the subtle differences between the two. 

Before we continue the discussion of community essay examples and college community essay examples, let’s start with some examples of cultural diversity essay prompts. For each of the cultural diversity essay prompts, we’ll name the institutions that include these diversity essays for college as part of their college application requirements. 

What are some examples of ‘cultural diversity’ essays? 

Now, you have a better understanding of the similarities and differences between the cultural diversity essay and the community essay. So, next, let’s look at some examples of cultural diversity essay prompts.

The prompts below are from the Georgetown application, Rice application, and Williams application, respectively. As we discuss the similarities and differences between prompts, remember the framework we provided above for what constitutes a cultural diversity essay and a community essay. 

Later in this guide, we’ll provide real examples of diversity essays, including Georgetown essay examples, Rice University essay examples, and Williams supplemental essays examples. These are all considered college essays that worked—meaning that the author was accepted into that particular institution. 

Georgetown Supplementals Essays

Later, we’ll look at Georgetown supplemental essay examples. Diversity essays for Georgetown are a product of this prompt: 

As Georgetown is a diverse community, the Admissions Committee would like to know more about you in your own words. Please submit a brief essay, either personal or creative, which you feel best describes you. 

You might have noticed two keywords in this prompt right away: “diverse” and “community.” These buzzwords indicate that this prompt is a cultural diversity essay. You could even argue that responses to this prompt would result in college community essay examples. After all, the prompt refers to the Georgetown community. 

For this prompt, you’ll want to produce a diversity essay sample that highlights who you are. In order to do that successfully, you’ll need to self-reflect before putting pen to paper. What aspects of your background, personality, or values best describe who you are? How might your presence at Georgetown influence or contribute to their diverse community? 

Additionally, this cultural diversity essay can be personal or creative. So, you have more flexibility with the Georgetown supplemental essays than with other similar diversity essay prompts. Depending on the direction you go, your response to this prompt could be considered a cultural diversity essay, gender diversity essay, or a college community essay. 

Rice University Essays

The current Rice acceptance rate is just 9% , making it a highly selective school. Because the Rice acceptance rate is so low, your personal statement and supplemental essays can make a huge difference. 

The Rice University essay examples we’ll provide below are based on this prompt: 

The quality of Rice’s academic life and the Residential College System are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What personal perspective would you contribute to life at Rice? 

Breaking down the prompt.

Like the prompt above, this cultural diversity essay asks about your “life experiences,” “cultural traditions,” and personal “perspectives.” These phrases indicate a cultural diversity essay. Keep in mind this may not be the exact prompt you’ll have to answer in your own Rice application. However, future Rice prompts will likely follow a similar framework as this diversity essay sample.

Although this prompt is not as flexible as the Georgetown prompt, it does let you discuss aspects of Rice’s academic life and Residential College System that appeal to you. You can also highlight how your experiences have influenced your personal perspective. 

The prompt also asks about how you would contribute to life at Rice. So, your response could also fall in line with college community essay examples. Remember, college community essay examples are another sub-category of community essay examples. Successful college community essay examples will illustrate the ways in which students would contribute to their future campus community. 

Williams Supplemental Essays

Like the Rice acceptance rate, the Williams acceptance rate is also 9% . Because the Williams acceptance rate is so low, you’ll want to pay close attention to the Williams supplemental essays examples as you begin the writing process. 

The Williams supplemental essays examples below are based on this prompt: 

Every first-year student at Williams lives in an Entry – a thoughtfully constructed microcosm of the student community that’s a defining part of the Williams experience. From the moment they arrive, students find themselves in what’s likely the most diverse collection of backgrounds, perspectives, and interests they’ve ever encountered. What might differentiate you from the 19 other first-year students in an Entry? What perspective would you add to the conversation with your peer(s)?

Reflecting on the prompt.

Immediately, words like “diverse,” “backgrounds,” “perspectives,” “interests,” and “differentiate” should stand out to you. These keywords highlight the fact that this is a cultural diversity essay. Similar to the Rice essay, this may not be the exact prompt you’ll face on your Williams application. However, we can still learn from it.

Like the Georgetown essay, this prompt requires you to put in some self-reflection before you start writing. What aspects of your background differentiate you from other people? How would these differences impact your interactions with peers? 

This prompt also touches on the “student community” and how you would “add to the conversation with your peer(s).” By extension, any strong responses to this prompt could also be considered as college community essay examples. 

Community Essays

All of the prompts above mention campus community. So, you could argue that they are also examples of community essays. 

Like we mentioned above, you can think of community essays as a subcategory of the cultural diversity essay. If the prompt alludes to the campus community, or if your response is centered on how you would interact within that community, your essay likely falls into the world of college community essay examples. 

Regardless of what you would classify the essay as, all successful essays will be thoughtful, personal, and rich with details. We’ll show you examples of this in our “college essays that worked” section below. 

Which schools require a cultural diversity or community essay? 

Besides Georgetown, Rice, and Williams, many other college applications require a cultural diversity essay or community essay. In fact, from the Ivy League to HBCUs and state schools, the cultural diversity essay is a staple across college applications. 

Although we will not provide a diversity essay sample for each of the colleges below, it is helpful to read the prompts. This will build your familiarity with other college applications that require a cultural diversity essay or community essay. Some schools that require a cultural diversity essay or community essay include New York University , Duke University , Harvard University , Johns Hopkins University , and University of Michigan . 

New York University

NYU listed a cultural diversity essay as part of its 2022-2023 college application requirements. Here is the prompt:

NYU was founded on the belief that a student’s identity should not dictate the ability for them to access higher education. That sense of opportunity for all students, of all backgrounds, remains a part of who we are today and a critical part of what makes us a world class university. Our community embraces diversity, in all its forms, as a cornerstone of the NYU experience. We would like to better understand how your experiences would help us to shape and grow our diverse community.

Duke university.

Duke is well-known for its community essay: 

What is your sense of Duke as a university and a community, and why do you consider it a good match for you? If there’s something in particular about our offerings that attracts you, feel free to share that as well.

A top-ranked Ivy League institution, Harvard University also has a cultural diversity essay as part of its college application requirements: 

Harvard has long recognized the importance of student body diversity of all kinds. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, personal development, or the intellectual interests you might bring to your Harvard classmates.

Johns hopkins university.

The Johns Hopkins supplement is another example of a cultural diversity essay: 

Founded in the spirit of exploration and discovery, Johns Hopkins University encourages students to share their perspectives, develop their interests, and pursue new experiences. Use this space to share something you’d like the admissions committee to know about you (your interests, your background, your identity, or your community), and how it has shaped what you want to get out of your college experience at Hopkins. 

University of michigan.

The University of Michigan requires a community essay for its application: 

Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong and describe that community and your place within it. 

Community essay examples.

The Duke and Michigan prompts are perfect illustrations of community essay examples. However, they have some critical differences. So, if you apply to both of these schools, you’ll have to change the way you approach either of these community essays. 

The Duke prompt asks you to highlight why you are a good match for the Duke community. You’ll also see this prompt in other community essay examples. To write a successful response to this prompt, you’ll need to reference offerings specific to Duke (or whichever college requires this essay). In order to know what to reference, you’ll need to do your research before you start writing. 

Consider the following questions as you write your diversity essay sample if the prompt is similar to Duke University’s

  • What values does this college community have? 
  • How do these tie in with what you value? 
  • Is there something that this college offers that matches your interests, personality, or background?  

On the other hand, the Michigan essay prompt asks you to describe a community that you belong to as well as your place within that community. This is another variation of the prompt for community essay examples. 

To write a successful response to this prompt, you’ll need to identify a community that you belong to. Then, you’ll need to think critically about how you interact with that community. 

Below are some questions to consider as you write your diversity essay sample for colleges like Michigan: 

  • Out of all the communities you belong to, which can you highlight in your response? 
  • How have you impacted this community? 
  • How has this community impacted you?

Now, in the next few sections, we’ll dive into the Georgetown supplemental essay examples, the Rice university essay examples, and the Williams supplemental essays examples. After each diversity essay sample, we’ll include a breakdown of why these are considered college essays that worked. 

Georgetown Essay Examples

As a reminder, the Georgetown essay examples respond to this prompt: 

As Georgetown is a diverse community, the Admissions Committee would like to know more about you in your own words. Please submit a brief essay, either personal or creative, which you feel best describes you.

Here is the excerpt of the diversity essay sample from our Georgetown essay examples: 

Georgetown University Essay Example

The best thing I ever did was skip eight days of school in a row. Despite the protests of teachers over missed class time, I told them that the world is my classroom. The lessons I remember most are those that took place during my annual family vacation to coastal Maine. That rural world is the most authentic and incredible classroom where learning simply happens and becomes exponential. 

Years ago, as I hunted through the rocks and seaweed for seaglass and mussels, I befriended a Maine local hauling her battered kayak on the shore. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I had found a kindred spirit in Jeanne. Jeanne is a year-round resident who is more than the hard working, rugged Mainer that meets the eye; reserved and humble in nature, she is a wealth of knowledge and is self-taught through necessity. With thoughtful attention to detail, I engineered a primitive ramp made of driftwood and a pulley system to haul her kayak up the cliff. We diligently figured out complex problems and developed solutions through trial and error.

After running out of conventional materials, I recycled and reimagined items that had washed ashore. We expected to succeed, but were not afraid to fail. Working with Jeanne has been the best classroom in the world; without textbooks or technology, she has made a difference in my life. Whether building a basic irrigation system for her organic garden or installing solar panels to harness the sun’s energy, every project has shown me the value of taking action and making an impact. Each year brings a different project with new excitement and unique challenges. My resourcefulness, problem solving ability, and innovative thinking have advanced under her tutelage. 

While exploring the rocky coast of Maine, I embrace every experience as an unparalleled educational opportunity that transcends any classroom environment. I discovered that firsthand experience and real-world application of science are my best teachers. In school, applications of complex calculations and abstract theories are sometimes obscured by grades and structure. In Maine, I expand my love of science and renourish my curious spirit. I am a highly independent, frugal, resilient Mainer living as a southern girl in NC. 

Why this essay worked

This is one of the Georgetown supplemental essay examples that works, and here’s why. The author starts the essay with an interesting hook, which makes the reader want to learn more about this person and their perspective. 

Throughout the essay, the author illustrates their intellectual curiosity. From befriending Jeanne and creating a pulley system to engineering other projects on the rocky coast of Maine, the author demonstrates how they welcome challenges and work to solve problems. 

Further, the author mentions values that matter to them—taking action and making an impact. Both facets are also part of Georgetown’s core values . By making these connections in their essay, the author shows the admissions committee exactly how they would be a great fit for the Georgetown community. 

Finally, the author uses their experience in Maine to showcase their love of science, which is likely the field they will study at Georgetown. Like this writer, you should try to include most important parts of your identity into your essay. This includes things like life experiences, passions, majors, extracurricular activities for college, and more. 

Rice University Essay Examples

The Rice University essay examples are from this prompt: 

The quality of Rice’s academic life and the Residential College System are heavily influenced by the unique life experiences and cultural traditions each student brings. What personal perspective would you contribute to life at Rice? (500-word limit)

Rice university essay example.

Like every applicant, I also have a story to share. A story that makes me who I am and consists of chapters about my life experiences and adventures. Having been born in a different country, my journey to America was one of the most difficult things I had ever experienced. Everything felt different. The atmosphere, the places, the food, and especially the people. Everywhere I looked, I saw something new. Although it was a bit overwhelming, one thing had not changed.

The caring nature of the people was still prevalent in everyday interactions. I was overwhelmed by how supportive and understanding people were of one another. Whether it is race, religion, or culture, everyone was accepted and appreciated. I knew that I could be whoever I wanted to be and that the only limitation was my imagination. Through hard work and persistence I put my all in everything that I did. I get this work ethic from my father since he is living proof that anything can be accomplished with continued determination. Listening to the childhood stories he told me, my dad would reminisce about how he was born in an impoverished area in a third world country during a turbulent and unpredictable time.

Even with a passion for learning, he had to work a laborious job in an attempt to help his parents make ends meet. He talked about how he would study under the street lights when the power went out at home. His parents wanted something better for him, as did he. Not living in America changed nothing about their work ethic. His parents continued to work hard daily, in an attempt to provide for their son. My dad worked and studied countless hours, paying his way through school with jobs and scholarships. His efforts paid off when he finally moved to America and opened his own business. None of it would have been possible without tremendous effort and dedication needed for a better life, values that are instilled within me as well, and this is the perspective that I wish to bring to Rice. 

This diversity essay sample references the author’s unique life experiences and personal perspective, which makes it one example of college essays that worked. The author begins the essay by alluding to their unique story—they were born in a different country and then came to America. Instead of facing this change as a challenge, the author shows how this new experience helped them to feel comfortable with all kinds of people. They also highlight how their diversity was accepted and appreciated. 

Additionally, the author incorporates information about their father’s story, which helps to frame their own values and where those values came from. The values that they chose to highlight also fall in line with the values of the Rice community. 

Williams Supplemental Essay Examples

Let’s read the prompt that inspired so many strong Williams supplemental essays examples again: 

Every first-year student at Williams lives in an Entry—a thoughtfully constructed microcosm of the student community that’s a defining part of the Williams experience. From the moment they arrive, students find themselves in what’s likely the most diverse collection of backgrounds, perspectives and interests they’ve ever encountered. What might differentiate you from the 19 other first-year students in an entry? What perspective(s) would you add to the conversation with your peers?

Williams college essay example.

Through the flow in my head

See you clad in red

But not just the clothes

It’s your whole being

Covering in this sickening blanket

Of heat and pain

Are you in agony, I wonder?

Is this the hell they told me about?

Have we been condemned?

Reduced to nothing but pain

At least we have each other

In our envelopes of crimson

I try in vain

“Take my hands” I shriek

“Let’s protect each other, 

You and me, through this hell”

My body contorts

And deforms into nothingness

You remain the same

Clad in red

With faraway eyes

You, like a statue

Your eyes fixed somewhere else

You never see me

Just the red briefcase in your heart

We aren’t together

It’s always been me alone

While you stand there, aloof, with the briefcase in your heart.

I wrote this poem the day my prayer request for the Uighur Muslims got denied at school. At the time, I was stunned. I was taught to have empathy for those around me. Yet, that empathy disappears when told to extend it to someone different. I can’t comprehend this contradiction and I refuse to. 

At Williams, I hope to become a Community Engagement Fellow at the Davis Center. I hope to use Williams’ support for social justice and advocacy to educate my fellow classmates on social issues around the world. Williams students are not just scholars but also leaders and changemakers. Together, we can strive to better the world through advocacy.

Human’s capability for love is endless. We just need to open our hearts to everyone. 

It’s time to let the briefcase go and look at those around us with our real human eyes.

We see you now. Please forgive us.

As we mentioned above, the Williams acceptance rate is incredibly low. This makes the supplemental essay that much more important. 

This diversity essay sample works because it is personal and memorable. The author chooses to start the essay off with a poem. Which, if done right, will immediately grab the reader’s attention. 

Further, the author contextualizes the poem by explaining the circumstances surrounding it—they wrote it in response to a prayer request that was denied at school. In doing so, they also highlight their own values of empathy and embracing diversity. 

Finally, the author ends their cultural diversity essay by describing what excites them about Williams. They also discuss how they see themselves interacting within the Williams community. This is a key piece of the essay, as it helps the reader understand how the author would be a good fit for Williams. 

The examples provided within this essay also touch on issues that are important to the author, which provides a glimpse into the type of student the author would be on campus. Additionally, this response shows what potential extracurricular activities for college the author might be interested in pursuing while at Williams. 

How to Write a Cultural Diversity Essay

You want your diversity essay to stand out from any other diversity essay sample. But how do you write a successful cultural diversity essay? 

First, consider what pieces of your identity you want to highlight in your essay. Of course, race and ethnicity are important facets of diversity. However, there are plenty of other factors to consider. 

As you brainstorm, think outside the box to figure out what aspects of your identity help make up who you are. Because identity and diversity fall on a spectrum, there is no right or wrong answer here. 

Fit your ideas to the specific school

Once you’ve decided on what you want to represent in your cultural diversity essay, think about how that fits into the college of your choice. Use your cultural diversity essay to make connections to the school. If your college has specific values or programs that align with your identity, then include them in your cultural diversity essay! 

Above all, you should write about something that is important to you. Your cultural diversity essay, gender diversity essay, or community essay will succeed if you are passionate about your topic and willing to get personal. 

Additional Tips for Community & Cultural Diversity Essays

1. start early.

In order to create the strongest diversity essay possible, you’ll want to start early. Filling out college applications is already a time-consuming process. So, you can cut back on additional stress and anxiety by writing your cultural diversity essay as early as possible. 

2. Brainstorm

Writing a cultural diversity essay or community essay is a personal process. To set yourself up for success, take time to brainstorm and reflect on your topic. Overall, you want your cultural diversity essay to be a good indication of who you are and what makes you a unique applicant. 

3. Proofread

We can’t stress this final tip enough. Be sure to proofread your cultural diversity essay before you hit the submit button. Additionally, you can read your essay aloud to hear how it flows. You can also can ask someone you trust, like your college advisor or a teacher, to help proofread your essay as well.

Other CollegeAdvisor Essay Resources to Explore

Looking for additional resources on supplemental essays for the colleges we mentioned above? Do you need help with incorporating extracurricular activities for college into your essays or crafting a strong diversity essay sample? We’ve got you covered. 

Our how to get into Georgetown guide covers additional tips on how to approach the supplemental diversity essay. If you’re wondering how to write about community in your essay, check out our campus community article for an insider’s perspective on Williams College.

Want to learn strategies for writing compelling cultural diversity essays? Check out this Q&A webinar, featuring a former Georgetown admissions officer. And, if you’re still unsure of what to highlight in your community essay, try getting inspiration from a virtual college tour . 

Cultural Diversity Essay & Community Essay Examples – Final Thoughts

Your supplemental essays are an important piece of the college application puzzle. With colleges becoming more competitive than ever, you’ll want to do everything you can to create a strong candidate profile. This includes writing well-crafted responses for a cultural diversity essay, gender diversity essay, or community essay. 

We hope our cultural diversity essay guide helped you learn more about this common type of supplemental essay. As you are writing your own cultural diversity essay or community essay, use the essay examples from Georgetown, Rice, and Williams above as your guide. 

Getting into top schools takes a lot more than a strong resume. Writing specific, thoughtful, and personal responses for a cultural diversity essay, gender diversity essay, or community essay will put you one step closer to maximizing your chances of admission. Good luck! is here to help you with every aspect of the college admissions process. From taking a gap year to completing enrollment , we’re here to help. Register today to receive one-on-one support from an admissions expert as you begin your college application journey.

This essay guide was written by senior advisor, Claire Babbs . Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how can support you in the college application process.

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geographical community essay

geographical community essay

How to Write a Geography Essay that Transcends Borders

geographical community essay

Have you ever found yourself floating effortlessly in the Dead Sea, that magical stretch of water between Israel and Jordan? It's the saltiest lake globally, turning you into a buoyant bobber without much effort. Now, just as geography unveils such fascinating quirks about our planet, writing an essay on this subject can be an equally intriguing venture.

Let's take a stroll through the world of geography essays together. We'll start by figuring out what exactly makes up a geography essay definition and then dive into the secrets of writing a great one. Along the way, we'll share some helpful tips, break down the important parts, and talk about why geography matters in today's world. Whether you're a student trying to do well in your geography class or just curious about why geography is important, this article is here for you. Let's get started!

Ready to Turn Your Passion for Places into an Epic Essay?

Geography geek or not, we've got your back. Let us craft your custom essay that's as intriguing as it is insightful!

Essential Factors When Writing a Geography Essay

A great essay comes from a good understanding of the topic. Let's share some tips to help you create an impressive essay.

  • Stick to What You Know : Pick geography topics that you're familiar with.
  • Think Global : Show how your chosen topic connects to bigger issues like climate change or cultural diversity.
  • Grab Attention : Choose a topic that interests you and your readers.
  • Show with Examples : Use real examples to explain geography concepts in your essay.
  • Stay on Track : Make sure everything in your essay relates to the main message.
  • Use Sources : Share your thoughts based on what reliable sources say.
  • Make it Real : Describe landscapes in a way that brings them to life for your readers.

In the next parts, our skilled writers, who you can buy essay from, will share a simple guide to help you write essays successfully!

Exploring What Is a Geography Essay

In simple terms, a geography essay is a well-organized explanation of geographic topics and ideas. It's more than just listing facts—it's a chance for you to showcase what you understand about geographical principles, processes, and their real-world impacts.

what is geography essay

  • Keep it Focused : Your essay should revolve around a specific topic or question in geography. This focus helps you stay on track and make your writing clear and relevant.
  • Grasp the Concepts : Geography essays should include important geographical ideas like spatial relationships, scale, location, and interactions. These concepts give you the tools to understand and explain the world.
  • Use Data : Geography relies on data and evidence. Bring in facts, maps, visuals, and statistics to support your points and show geographical patterns.
  • Think Critically : A good essay doesn't just share information; it digs into the details. Explore the nuances, root causes, and broader impacts to give a deeper insight. ‍
  • Connect to Reality: These essays often link theory with real-world issues. Whether you're talking about global warming, urbanization, cultural landscapes, or geopolitical shifts, these essays show why geography matters in our interconnected world.

How to Start a Geography Essay

Starting your essay in the right way not only grabs your readers' attention but also sets the stage for a well-organized and interesting exploration of your selected geography research paper topics .

  • Establish the Geography : Kick-off by placing your topic in a geographic context. Explain where and why this topic matters, considering both local and global perspectives.
  • Spark Interest : Draw your readers in by asking a thought-provoking question or sharing a surprising statistic related to your geography essay topics.
  • Give Background Info : Provide a quick overview of the subject to make sure your readers have the basic knowledge needed to follow your arguments.
  • Include a Quote : Think about using a fitting quote from a well-known geographer, researcher, or historical figure to add depth and credibility to your introduction.
  • Set the Tone : Decide on the tone of your essay—whether it's informative, analytical, or persuasive—and let that tone shine through in your introductory language and style.

Select a Subject You're Comfortable Discussing

Picking the right research paper topic in geography is a big deal—it can really shape how the whole writing journey goes. One smart move to kick off your research paper well is to go for a subject you genuinely feel comfortable talking about. Here's why it matters:

  • Expertise Shines : When your research paper topic matches what you already know and enjoy, your expertise shines through. You can use what you know to analyze and explain the subject better.
  • Stay Motivated : Choosing a topic that genuinely interests you, like doing a geography essay about earthquakes, can be a great source of motivation. This inner drive helps you stay engaged during the whole research and writing process, leading to a better end result.
  • Research Efficiency : Knowing your topic makes the research process smoother. You know where to find good sources, what keywords to use, and how to tell if information is reliable.
  • Confident Analysis : Understanding your topic well, say, when dealing with a geography essay about global warming, gives you confidence. This confidence comes through in your analysis, making it more convincing.
  • Boosted Creativity : Being comfortable with your topic can boost your creativity. You're more likely to come up with new ideas and unique perspectives when you're discussing something you're familiar with.

Let's explore a range of research topics that provide plenty of chances for thorough investigation and analysis. Feel free to choose the one that aligns with your interests and fits the particular focus of your research.

  • Microclimates in Urban Spaces: Analyzing Local Community Impacts
  • Geopolitics of Water Scarcity: Transboundary Water Conflict Case Study
  • Ecotourism in Unexplored Territories: Balancing Conservation and Development
  • Digital Cartography's Influence on Public Perception of Geographic Information
  • Role of Indigenous Knowledge in Sustainable Resource Management
  • Urban Heat Islands: Assessing Heat-Related Risks in Growing Cities
  • Climate Change Impact on Traditional Agricultural Practices in Vulnerable Regions
  • Geography of Infectious Diseases: Spatial Analysis of Disease Spread
  • Patterns of Renewable Energy Adoption: A Global Comparative Study
  • Cultural Landscapes in Transition: Globalization's Impact on Local Identities

Geography Essay Example

For a closer look at how to structure and compose an effective geography essay, we've put together a compelling example for your review. As you go through it, you'll discover the essential elements that contribute to making an essay both informative and engaging.

Exploring the Impact of River Dams on Ecosystems


Rivers are the lifeblood of many ecosystems, shaping landscapes and sustaining diverse forms of life. This essay delves into the intricate relationship between river dams and ecosystems, aiming to unravel the multifaceted consequences that altering natural watercourses can bring. By examining case studies and ecological principles, we seek to shed light on the complex web of interactions that define the impact of river dams on the environment.

River dams significantly modify the natural flow of water, creating reservoirs and altering the hydrological patterns downstream. This transformation often leads to changes in habitat availability for aquatic species. Case studies from various dam projects will be explored to illustrate the tangible effects on biodiversity and ecosystem structure.

Furthermore, many fish species rely on river systems for migration and spawning. Dams can present barriers to these natural processes, affecting fish populations and, consequently, the predators and prey in the broader food web. This section will examine how dams disrupt fish migration and explore potential mitigation strategies to minimize ecological consequences.

What's more, the alteration of river flow caused by dams influences water quality and sediment transport downstream. Sediment accumulation in reservoirs can have cascading effects on aquatic ecosystems. This part of the essay will delve into scientific studies highlighting changes in water quality and sedimentation patterns due to dam construction.

Beyond the ecological realm, the construction of river dams often has social and economic repercussions. Local communities dependent on rivers for their livelihoods may face challenges due to altered water regimes. Investigating case studies, we will explore the human dimension of the impact of river dams on communities and economies.


In summary, the complex interplay between river dams and ecosystems demands thoughtful reflection. This essay has offered a glimpse into the diverse outcomes that come with changing natural watercourses, underscoring the importance of a comprehensive grasp of the ecological, social, and economic aspects at play. By delving into the intricate realm of river dam impacts, we acquire valuable insights into the nuanced equilibrium between human progress and environmental sustainability.

How to Write a Geography Essay: Insights and Pointers

When it comes to writing geography essays, it's not just about throwing out facts and figures. It's about digging deeper into geographical ideas, understanding how things relate, and sharing your findings in a way that makes sense. Our paper writing service experts are here to give you some handy tips:

  • Dig Deep with Research: Start by really getting into your topic. Collect data, look at maps, and read up on what others have to say about it.
  • Sort Your Thoughts: Organize your essay so it's easy to follow. That usually means having an intro, some main parts, and a wrap-up at the end. Keep it logical.
  • Think and Talk Analysis: Get into the nitty-gritty of your analysis. Use geography ideas to explain your data and give your own take on things.
  • Show Your Proof: Back up what you're saying with proof. Throw in maps, charts, or stories to make your points and show patterns.
  • Question Everything: Think hard about different opinions and what your findings might mean in the big picture. Don't be afraid to question things and see where it takes you.

Breaking Down the Geography Essay Structure

A well-formatted geography essay structure is like a well-organized map – it guides readers through your analysis with clarity and purpose. To effectively break down the structure, consider the following key insights:

  • Geographical Essence: Always consider the geographical context when framing your essay format . How does the landscape influence the subject, and in turn, how does it fit into the broader global narrative?
  • Tailored Tone for Audience: Reflect on your audience. Are you speaking to geography enthusiasts, educators, policymakers, or the general public? Adjust your language and explanations to match their level of familiarity and interest.
  • Conciseness and Wordplay: Maintain clarity by adhering to word limits and embracing conciseness. Focus on delivering pertinent information with a touch of engaging wordplay to captivate your readers.
  • Innovative Perspectives: Aim for innovation in your analysis. While leveraging existing research, offer a fresh viewpoint or a unique twist on the topic to keep your essay from blending into the background.
  • Ethical Dimensions: If your research involves human subjects, sensitive data, or fieldwork, be conscientious of ethical considerations. Seek necessary approvals, ensuring that your research adheres to ethical standards.
  • Geographic Fluency: Demonstrate a keen grasp of geographic fluency in your essay. Showcase not just knowledge of concepts but an understanding of the interconnectedness of regions, adding depth to your exploration.
  • Visual Appeal: Consider incorporating visual elements such as maps, charts, or images to enhance your essay's visual appeal. A well-chosen visual can often communicate complex geographical information more effectively.
  • Future Implications: Extend your analysis to contemplate the future implications of the geographical factors you're discussing. How might current trends shape future landscapes, and what role does your topic play in this evolving narrative?

Geography Essay Introduction

The introductory paragraph is the starting point of your essay, where you contextualize, captivate your audience, and introduce your central thesis statement.

For instance, if your essay explores the effects of rising sea levels on coastal communities, your introduction could commence with a striking observation: ' In the coastal realms, where communities have thrived for generations, the encroaching rise of sea levels is transforming the very landscapes that have long shaped human existence. This unsettling shift is a direct consequence of global warming, a phenomenon casting profound implications across the globe .'

The core section of your essay, the main body, encompasses several paragraphs that house your analysis, arguments, evidence, and illustrations.

Within a segment examining the consequences of industrial pollution on river ecosystems, you might assert: ' Industrial effluents discharged into rivers represent a significant contributor to pollution. As evidenced by studies [cite], the toxic chemicals and pollutants released into water bodies pose severe threats to aquatic life, disrupting ecosystems and endangering the delicate balance of river environments. '

Geography Essay Summing Up

When wondering how to write a conclusion for an essay , remember that it acts as the final chapter, summarizing crucial findings, reiterating your thesis, and offering concluding insights or implications.

In a conclusion addressing the impact of desertification on agricultural communities, you might recapitulate: ' Surveying the intricate interplay between environmental degradation and agricultural sustainability in regions affected by desertification reveals a nuanced narrative. Despite the adversities posed, there exists an imperative for innovative solutions and adaptive strategies to ensure the resilience of agricultural communities in the face of advancing desertification. '

More Tips for Writing a Geography Essay

Here are some special tips on writing a geography essay that can enhance the depth and sophistication of your entire piece, showcasing a thorough grasp of geographic concepts and methods.

  • Embrace diverse viewpoints – consider cultural, economic, and environmental angles for a richer analysis.
  • Use geospatial tools like maps and satellite imagery to visually enhance your essay and emphasize spatial relationships.
  • Bolster your arguments with real case studies to illustrate the practical application of your geographical analysis.
  • Integrate recent global events into your essay to showcase relevance and stay aligned with the dynamic nature of geography.
  • Explore intersections with other disciplines, providing a more comprehensive understanding of your topic.
  • Highlight how local phenomena contribute to broader global narratives, emphasizing interconnectedness.
  • If you're writing a cause and effect essay , compare urbanization trends in different cities to show the reasons and outcomes.

Why Geography Matters as a Subject of Study

Geography goes way beyond just maps and names of places; it's a lively and important field that helps us make sense of the world. Here's why geography matters:

why geography matters

  • Knowing Spaces: It helps us understand how places, regions, and landscapes connect. This understanding is crucial for making smart choices about things like where to put resources, plan cities, and handle emergencies.
  • Being a Global Citizen: It encourages us to appreciate different cultures and how we're all connected. It helps us see how big events, like climate change or pandemics, affect countries locally and globally.
  • Taking Care of Nature: This subject gives us insights into environmental problems and solutions. It teaches us about issues like cutting down forests, losing habitats, and climate change so we can make choices that help our planet.
  • Thinking Smart: Geography makes us think critically. It involves looking at complex information, considering different opinions, and drawing smart conclusions. These skills are handy in lots of jobs.
  • Fixing Real Problems: What we learn in geography helps us solve actual problems – from designing better roads to managing water wisely and dealing with natural disasters.
  • Making Rules and Plans: It has a say in making rules and plans. It guides decisions about how to use land, build things, and take care of resources.
  • Loving Different Cultures: Geography helps us appreciate all kinds of cultures and how they relate to the environment. It lets us understand why places are important and how their histories have shaped them.

Ready to Explore the World without Leaving Your Desk?

Let our expert writers be your guides on this geographical voyage and map out your academic success together!

To sum it up, geography gives you the knowledge and skills to navigate our complex and connected world. Writing a geography essay helps you make smart choices, promote sustainability, and face global challenges. Whether you're exploring local landscapes or looking at global issues, geography lays the groundwork for understanding our planet and its diverse inhabitants through the art of essay writing.

Daniel Parker

Daniel Parker

is a seasoned educational writer focusing on scholarship guidance, research papers, and various forms of academic essays including reflective and narrative essays. His expertise also extends to detailed case studies. A scholar with a background in English Literature and Education, Daniel’s work on EssayPro blog aims to support students in achieving academic excellence and securing scholarships. His hobbies include reading classic literature and participating in academic forums.

geographical community essay

is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

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Doing community geography

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  • Published: 26 June 2021
  • Volume 87 , pages 293–306, ( 2022 )

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geographical community essay

  • Heather Fischer   ORCID: 1 ,
  • Daniel Block 2 ,
  • Amber Bosse 3 ,
  • Timothy L. Hawthorne 4 ,
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  • Hamil Pearsall 6 ,
  • Amanda Rees 7 &
  • Jerry Shannon 8  

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Community Geography offers researchers, community groups, and students opportunities to engage in action oriented applied geographical research. Creating and sustaining these research programs can be challenging, programs can involve many partners from both academic and the community, have different goals and purposes, and utilize a variety of methods to perform research. In this paper we offer a framework of three primary overarching principles for implementing CG projects; (1) Who, (2) Why, and (3) How. (1) “Who” describes who is involved in CG, including researchers, community partners, academic institutions, (2) “Why” describes the justifications and benefits of taking this approach. (3) “How” explains how CG borrows methodologies from many disciplines within geography and beyond. Our examples are not exhaustive; rather, they serve as starting points to inspire researchers interested in CG.

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Community geography can enable mutually beneficial research and action that empowers communities and affects social change (Hawthorne et al., 2014 , 2015 ; Rees et al., 2020 ; Robinson, 2010 ; Robinson & Hawthorne, 2018 ; Robinson et al., 2017 ; Shannon et al., 2020 ). Doing community geography (CG) can be a complicated process; it generally involves a driver group of stakeholders and uses a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods and various participatory research approaches (Shannon et al., 2020 ). In this paper, we detangle the complexity of doing a CG project and provide a fundamental guide for implementing such a project from an academic researcher’s perspective. Footnote 1 This paper is a part of a larger writing project, including separate pieces focused on the theoretical background and development of a framework around Community Geography (CG) (Shannon et al., 2020 ) and the pedagogy around teaching CG in the classroom (Rees et al., 2020 ).

This writing project grew out of recent efforts to define CG as a form of research praxis and situate it within the larger field of geography. CG draws from pragmatist traditions (i.e., democratic knowledge production coupled with action) in engaged research that is grounded in community engagement and public relevance (Dewey, 2016 ; Harney et al., 2016 ; Wills & Lake, 2020 ) and from the geographic theorizations of space and place (Shannon et al., 2020 ). In addition, it is informed by research in Black and feminist geographies that critically examines the positionality of academic geographers and seeks out epistemological stances traditionally marginalized in academic discourse (Eaves, 2017 ; Haraway, 1988 ; Pavlovskaya & St. Martin, 2007 ). These origins reflect a focus of CG to produce knowledge that is action-focused and centered on public engagement.

The first paper in this writing project (Shannon et al., 2020 ) provides an extensive review of the background and origins of CG. Shannon et al. ( 2020 ) also detangles the theoretical background for CG and offers five characteristics of CG: (1) a focus on place and place-based concerns; (2) diverse positionalities (3) committed and reciprocal community partnerships; (4) flexible epistemologies and methods; and (5) the use of open research practices and public scholarship. At the same time, Shannon et al. ( 2020 ) note limitations to public research traditions that inform CG. Most notably, this includes the problematic elements of the land-grant mission, such as its concentration at historically white universities (Goldstein et al., 2019 ), as well as the tension between forms of engagement that enhance universities’ reputations and emphasize their expertise and those that amplify traditionally excluded voices outside of academia.

The impetus for this paper, in particular, comes from the quick emergence of CG as a space where academics look to increase public engagement in their work. Funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), increasingly expect funded project teams to engage the public and local communities in their research. Footnote 2 CG offers a methodological and theoretical framework for projects led by researchers who may not have community engagement experience or community connections. CG also may help cross-disciplinary research teams clarify the contributions a geographical perspective may make on the research and the community. This paper aims to provide researchers interested in CG with an overview of the various stakeholders, outcomes, and methods involved in doing CG.

The five characteristics presented in Shannon et al. ( 2020 ) served as the framework for this practical guide. Our guide offers some common aspects of CG projects and centers on three key principles for implementing CG: (1) Who, (2) Why, and (3) How. (1) “Who” describes who is involved in CG, including researchers, academic institutions, and community and non-academic partnerships. (2) “Why” describes the justifications and benefits of taking this approach for these critical stakeholders. (3) “How” delves into implementing a CG project from project design and methods to sharing outcomes and project evaluation. Our examples are not exhaustive nor prescriptive; instead, they serve as starting points to guide researchers interested in doing CG.

As mentioned above, a focus on the place, community partners, and diverse positionalities present in a community are part of the five characteristics of CG projects identified by Shannon et al. ( 2020 ). Partnerships can take many forms but are characterized by shared power between the partners. For instance, projects may grow out of a community’s research priorities or a merging of the researcher’s and the community’s research priorities (Robinson & Hawthorne, 2017 ; Shannon et al., 2020 ). There is also shared control of the research process and collective ownership over the data and products (Robinson et al., 2017 ).

As CG is rooted in longer traditions of public outreach in American higher education (Shannon et al., 2020 ), many current case studies of CG are between an educational institution (i.e., a university) and one or more community groups or non-profits. While in this paper, many of our examples are from university/community partnerships, CG is not confined to this type of relationship. Projects may also involve government agencies, multiple academic institutions, religious institutions, and even for-profits (Robinson et al., 2017 ). CG researchers call for increased attention to matters of diversity for the approach, both in terms of participants and setting (see Reflections and Future Directions of Shannon et al., 2020 ). As such, as CG develops and expands, other configurations of partnerships may become more common. However, the following section speaks to the present moment of CG by discussing the individuals and groups most commonly involved: researchers/research institutions and community members/community groups. This section outlines the typical roles and experiences of each side of these partnerships and describes three main stakeholders and their relationships in CG projects; these include academic researchers, academic institutions, and community and non-academic partners.

Academic researchers and academic institutions

In most cases, CG includes researchers at institutions of higher education. These are typically faculty members, research staff, or graduate students interested in incorporating CG into their courses and/or their research (for more on pedagogy and CG, see Rees et al., ( 2020 )). Academic researchers engaging in CG often do so because they prioritize pragmatic work, and their research interests are tied to local community interests and are enhanced by community partnerships (Robinson et al., 2017 ). Research areas such as, but not limited to, food insecurity, public health, social justice, environmental justice, housing, transportation, and urban planning are common topics for CG work (Robinson et al., 2017 ). Academic researchers may engage in CG individually, through a course or student research project (such as a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) project funded by the NSF), or through a formal CG program at their institution (Hawthorne & Jarrett, 2018 ).

Academic researchers involved in CG often face the challenge of proving to their institution that their work “counts” for promotion and tenure, especially in research institutions that value peer-reviewed publication and research funding (Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions 2007 cited in Robinson & Hawthorne, 2018 ). Many CG projects result in community-facing “deliverables” that are not peer-reviewed academic publications. Even the time that researchers invest in CG to develop relationships can be considered a quantifiable outcome. Some institutions hire faculty with explicit expectations for community-engaged research, such as Syracuse University and the University of Georgia (UGA) (Robinson & Hawthorne, 2018 ). At Syracuse University, community members play a role in advising and evaluating the work done by the researcher. At UGA, the CG position includes a service component missing in other faculty appointments.

CG researchers often rely on institutional support from their academic institutions. This may include monetary support for community-engaged research by sponsoring formal CG programs and centers, faculty positions (like those mentioned above), student research assistantships, or administrative assistance with organizing connections to community organizations. These supports may also parallel the university’s mission and, in turn, leverages the university’s assets with a broader community and provide technological and resources that the community may not otherwise be privy to (Robinson et al., 2017 ).

Formal CG programs at universities are generally in the United States (thus, we will focus our discussion on these institutions) and reflect the public engagement focus of the land grant university model (see the Public Serving University in Shannon et al., 2020 ). Many land grant institutions have cooperative extension offices that initially connected local farmers to agricultural research at these universities and expanded to connect the local community to various applied research initiatives at universities (Goldstein et al., 2019 ). There are many critiques of the land grant model; critics cite land-grant and extension offices as unidirectional, inequitable, and colonialist (10.7 million acres of Indigenous land into college endowments for land grant institutions (High Country News, 2020 )). Despite these critiques, this early model of public engagement at universities has influenced how CG programs at universities are formed and operated (Shannon et al., 2020 ).

CG programs exist at various institutions in the US, from urban and rural based universities and private universities and large public schools. At Chicago State University (CSU), a federally recognized Predominately Black Institution (PBI), for example, the Neighborhood Assistance Center (NAC) ( ) works with organizations on Chicago’s South Side to develop projects that are community-driven but utilize the expertise of CSU’s Geography program and other social sciences. At other academic institutions, researchers have created virtual and physical spaces that serve a similar purpose: Syracuse Community Geography (, Citizen Science GIS at the University of Central Florida (UCF) (, the Columbus Community Geography Center ( ) at Columbus State University (Georgia), and the Community Mapping Lab at the University of Georgia (UGA) ( However, it should be noted that CSU is also an example of one of the perils of working within university settings. In financial crises or even while administrations change, programs like CG centers can be targets of budget cuts. While the NAC continues to exist, it has gone from having a university-funded director and administrator to being currently unfunded.

Community and other non-academic partners

Many of the non-academic partners in CS programs are non-profit and grassroots community groups. Projects may also involve government agencies, religious institutions, and even for-profits organizations (Robinson et al., 2017 ). Generally, these partners are providing some kind of service to underserved communities (Robinson et al., 2017 ). The authors of this paper have personally worked with non-profit community groups such as food banks, social justice organizations, environmental organizations, and public housing and utility assistance programs. Our discussion of non-academic partners in this paper focuses on non-profit community groups because these organizations are the most commonly cited partners for CG projects. We also focus on the groups as a whole rather than specific individuals in the community because, generally, academic researchers are working with community members through a partnership with a community group.

The needs of these community groups and their reasons for partnering with an academic institution vary. These various needs of the community groups will dictate the nature of the relationship with an academic institution and the group’s role in the partnership. Some groups are looking for simple map products of their local area they serve and do not have the resources to create such maps (Robinson et al., 2017 ). Other groups seek more collaborative partnerships with universities working toward researching a particular issue or developing an ongoing coalition to address systemic problems in the community.

The resources available to these groups also vary widely. Community organizations may lack the resources or capacity to provide robust support to a CG project. Others, however, may be able to offer have physical space, local expertise, and trusting relationships that can all significantly contribute to a project's success. Community groups could also support a CG project financially through providing support for a formal CG program of center or supporting a student worker or intern to work on a CG project. For example, the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience initiative at Arizona State University is funded mainly by its primary community partner, the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

Relationships between non-academic partners and academic researchers

The various needs of the community partners also dictate the role that the academic researcher and institution will have in the partnership. It is essential to clarify the nature of the relationships and expectations from all stakeholders. Researchers and community partners most identify shared interests and co-develop plans to study and address these interests, regardless of how small or simple a project may seem. In other cases, community organizations may lack the resources or capacity to provide such robust support. Yet partnering groups may have physical space, local expertise, and trusting relationships that can all significantly contribute to a project’s success.

The initiative called Stabilizing Lives provides an example of the varied roles that partners play in a CG partnership. This initiative involves a partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and researchers at the University of Georgia. Staff at the food bank were aware of persistent levels of food insecurity nationally and within their service area. The food bank staff identified five local food pantries with both capacity and interest in piloting new programming models and an interest in working with clients to collaboratively identify important issues. The food bank had an existing relationship with one of the UGA researchers from a previous research project. Through multiple conversations, UGA faculty and food bank staff developed a mixed-methods, participatory research project that would bring staff, volunteers, and clients together to discuss critical issues shaping the “food worlds” of pantry clients. This partnership was codified in a research plan that articulated the responsibilities and expectations of each partner. The project has resulted in two academic publications (Kurtz et al., 2019 ; Shannon et al., 2019 ), and the food bank has also created leadership training for clients due to the results of this research. The food bank provided significant support for this project, including staff time, financial resources, and physical space.

Both university and non-academic groups want to be diligent to avoid establishing partnerships that promote performative or superficial modes of engagement. Since collaborative and participatory methods have become more popular during the past three decades, these methods have sometimes been taken up in exploitative ways (McTaggart, 1991 ). This exploitation functions in multiple registrars: crowd-harvesting (Breen et al., 2015 ) and mainstreaming (Elwood, 2006 ) are two examples. Crowd-harvesting frames participants as sources of data production or extraction, not collaborators or co-producers. Therefore, it is more easily identifiable as a form of engagement that is not intended to address the participants’ needs.

Meanwhile, mainstreaming is more challenging to identify as it often takes place in settings that, at first glance, appear to be serving community needs. However, a closer examination reveals that rather than challenging ingrained power structures, mainstreamed metrics of participation reify such power structures. The foundation of CG requires that all those who come to the work do so through reflexive and intersectional approaches that, ultimately, challenge traditional conceptualizations of knowledge production and center traditionally excluded perspectives (Shannon et al., 2020 ). As such, CG provides a framework to critically examine the intentions of the “who” before or throughout the duration of the partnership, providing grounds to resist establishing partnerships or discontinuing established partnerships that do not meet the commitments of community geography.

Mutual understanding is a beneficial outcome for all stakeholders of a CG program. Since much of this work is done in local communities, it takes faculty, staff, and students out of the walls of the “ivory tower.” It places them in neighborhood centers, public parks, places of worship, etc., as they work to understand and build relationships with their community partners (Hacker, 2013 ; Robinson et al., 2017 ). For community members and local agencies, these partnerships provide an opportunity to learn research methods and relevant research done outside their local context. The following section provides an overview of the benefits of CG for the critical stakeholders described in the “Who” section above.

Benefits for academic researchers

CG allows researchers and faculty to engage in teaching and research that inherently considers notions of productive outcomes and reciprocity. Additionally, they can incorporate local knowledge and spatial reasoning in their teaching and research. Wrapped up in these more systemic answers to the question of “why” engage in CG, the approach pushes geographers to consider a wide range of approaches for creative problem-solving, capacity building, and accessible data sharing/communication (, 2014 ). Practically, a researcher involved in CG can easily demonstrate intellectual merit and broader impacts for their projects, which often provides support in grant applications (Robinson & Hawthorne, 2018 ).

Benefits for university students

As discussed in Rees et al. ( 2020 ) and Hawthorne et al. ( 2014 ), CG in the classroom is typically framed as a service-learning course where students play an integral role in formulating and carrying out research relevant to community partners. This type of engagement allows students meaningful opportunities to produce work with “real-world” impacts (Hawthorne et al., 2014 ; Jeavons, 1995 ; Yoder, 2016 ). CG also asks students to consider how scholarship can be used to support social change (as determined by the community), questions of in/exclusion in the production of research, and how knowledge production is influenced by multiple axes of difference (race, gender, class, culture). Additionally, the process of collaborative research allows students to develop professional skill sets, such as verbal and written communication, negotiation of time frames and expectations, and production of research materials that uphold professional standards (Hawthorne et al., 2014 ). Students in the NSF REU Site in Atlanta, Georgia, were asked what they liked best about the community geography REU; students mentioned: “people, the research and fieldwork, scholarly freedom, and satisfaction of community partners” (Hawthorne & Jarrett, 2018 :5).

The Community GIS and Citizen Science REU at UCF is another example of a student CG research program. Students across multiple disciplines utilize geospatial technology research skills while collaborating with community partners in Belize using GIS, participatory sketch mapping, fieldwork, community-based uses of drones, and spatial storytelling with interviews and informal conversations to understand community concerns and future visions. US students work with University of Belize students and community partners in Hopkins Village and along the Belize barrier reef in the program. These community partners include the village council, village library, small business owners, tour guides, and local Red Cross representatives. The students from both UCF and the University of Belize work with the community partners to complete action-oriented research while developing open data tools.

Benefits for academic institutions

CG presents benefits at the departmental, disciplinary, and institutional levels as well to the individual researchers and students. In 32 Ideas to Enhance Diversity in Your Geography Department or Program (Solis & NG, 2010 ), the American Association of Geographers demonstrates the importance of increasing the range and depth of perspectives within the discipline. Two of the 32 ideas included are “offering service-learning courses and projects” and “forming strategic partnerships with community organizations” at the department level, which are both central tenets of CG. More specifically, CG can support programs and the discipline by recruiting students and faculty from underrepresented backgrounds, establishing avenues for student employment, and publicizing departmental projects.

CG projects can support institutional missions; they can contribute to a university’s educational mission by creating opportunities for skill development and meaningful community engagement for students and researchers (Robinson et al., 2017 ). Institutions across the nation are embracing what the American Association of Colleges and Universities calls high impact practices (HIPs). HIPs are reported to be incredibly supportive of students from diverse backgrounds and focus on active learning. CG engages with three of those ten HIPs, including collaborative projects, undergraduate research, and community-based learning. Additionally, an institution that supports the scholarship, research, and teaching of community geographers is likely to have a competitive application to be considered for the Elective Community Engagement Classification offered by the Carnegie Foundation.

Benefits for non-academic partners

Non-academic partners may benefit from CG partnerships by leveraging the expertise of academic researchers to support decision-making and strategic planning academic resources. These partners may also benefit by leveraging academic resources and tools to address community concerns and use students and faculty to assist in research projects of community interest that otherwise would be difficult or too expensive to complete. CG gives local residents and community groups ownership and power over data, analysis, and research products (Hacker, 2013 ). This redistribution of power can provide voice and collaborative control of project goals to underrepresented and under-resourced communities (Arnstein, 1969 ). Non-academic partners may also choose to partner with universities to build power by forming connections to the university or gaining respect from government bodies and other organizations with pre-existing alliances with the university. Another beneficial outcome may include increased community cohesion (Ramasubramanian, 2010 ). Ultimately, a community or non-academic partners’ beneficial outcomes from a CG project should be determined by the community groups themselves and explicitly discussed at the project’s initiation with the academic research and other partners.

Focusing on one of the more tangible benefits for a community, we want to highlight how these partners may leverage the expertise of researchers, specifically in terms of data collection, analysis, and interpretation (Strand et al., 2003 ). Many organizations lack resources for formal evaluation (Hawthorne et al., 2014 ). Research collaborations can provide data demonstrating program effectiveness for funders or local residents and suggest areas where new programs may be needed for local agencies and non-profits.

A prime example of leveraging the expertise of researchers is the University of Central Florida (UCF) Citizen Science GIS program and its NSF-funded REU project in Hopkins, Belize. Results of the work are shared in a variety of formats, including printed paper maps, web maps through the newly created Hopkins Village Open Data Mapping Site, story maps, social media posts, and drone imagery flown by Hopkins Uncut (a large village tourism and cultural, social media site). As another example, in the UGA food bank study, The Stabilizing Lives Initiative, researchers from the University of Georgia and Georgia State University supported the Atlanta Community Food Bank by helping to design and evaluate the Food First Model.

Implementing a project relies on identifying who will be involved and why they want to be involved. These two principles of CG influence how the project will be conducted; including the project design, methods and research approach, and sharing of outcomes and project evaluation. In this section, we describe three essential elements of implementing a CG project, (1) project design: is the project initiated by the community partners or the academics, who is leading, and how are the partnerships being managed? (2) methods and research approach: how will the work be performed? (3) sharing outcomes: open research and project evaluation.

Project design

Who is involved in a CG project and why they are involved directly influences the project design and how it is initiated. There are many examples of project design, including two key ends of the spectrum, along with variations in between these spectrums: (a) more grassroots (the community partner initiates a project and approaches the researcher or the research team for assistance) or (b) more top-down where the researcher or research team asks the community for assistance to address specific research questions. Various frameworks exist to describe this spectrum of projects (including Shirk, 2012 and Hakaly, 2012). As an example, we will highlight the framework presented in Shirk et al. ( 2012 ). This framework offers a model of modes of engagement, including (1) contractual projects, where communities ask professional researchers to conduct specific research and report on the results; (2) contributory projects, which are generally designed by researchers and for which members of the public primarily contribute data; (3) collaborative projects, which are typically designed by researchers and for which members of the community contribute data, but also help to refine project design, analyze data, and/or disseminate findings; (4) co-created projects, which are designed by researchers and members of the public working together and for which at least some of the community participants are actively involved in most or all aspects of the research process; and (5) collegial contributions, where non-credentialed individuals conduct research independently with varying degrees of expected recognition by institutionalized science and professionals. CG builds upon Shirk et al.’s model by adding one additional mode of engagement where a community initiates the project and approaches a researcher with their own goals, outputs, and outcomes in mind.

Practicalities of project design and initiation: external funding

Another element of initiating a project is funding. Fortunately, as agencies like NSF increasingly expect “broader impacts” of research to connect with and benefit broader society, there have been more funding opportunities for community-engaged research. The NSF, for example, has funded two REU Sites explicitly focused on CG. Funded in 2011, an REU Site led by Timothy Hawthorne and Katherine Hankins at Georgia State University (GSU) focused on CG approaches to exploring urban greenspace, neighborhood gentrification, environmental contaminants, and food justice issues in Atlanta, GA neighborhoods. In 2016, the Belize REU site mentioned above, led by Timothy Hawthorne at UCF and Christy Visaggi at GSU, was funded and has been renewed in 2020 for three more years with Hawthorne and Hannah Torres at George Mason University, along with an additional Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) component to acknowledge K-12 interests in community geography. Recently, NSF also funded a conference grant led by Jerry Shannon at UGA and additional CG collaborators to support the nation’s first workshop of community geographers (January 2019) in Atlanta at GSU. In some cases, community partners may also play a key role in securing funding. At UGA, a project on affordable housing in rural Georgia relies on support from the state Department of Community Affairs as communities analyze data on local housing conditions and assess the match with available state and federal programs.

Practicalities project design and initiation: formal partnership agreements

Agreements between CG partners may include a formal memorandum of understanding (MOU), Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, and/or an ethics statement (IRB approval is discussed in more detail in Sect.  4.2.5 ). The type of agreement is determined by the expected duration and complexity of the partnership. As an example, CG centers handle short-term partnerships in a variety of ways. At Chicago State, a small project such as a single map might be completed without a formal agreement or request. On the other hand, Syracuse Community Geography has an online form to request assistance and a board that helps decide which projects are adopted and employs a more formal process of developing agreements with community partners. An ethics statement may be a required piece of a formal agreement between partners. These statements should consider the whole life of a project even after the research is conducted. Ethics statements with diverse partners can promote trust, accountability, mutual respect, and fairness; these values are essential in collaborative work.

Research approaches and methods

CG includes a diversity of methods and research approaches used for research and the implementation of programs. Shannon et al. ( 2020 ) point to this diversity in methodology and research approach as a key characteristic of CG. Robinson et al. ( 2017 ) and Hawthorne et al. ( 2014 ) also point to the variety of CG methods and the flexibility of these methods to fit the research questions and goals of a project. This section provides an overview of common research methodologies and approaches commonly used in CG programs and references to papers and other resources that can provide more in-depth details and backgrounds on these methods.

Public participation in geographic information systems (PPGIS) and participatory GIS (PGIS) first emerged as research methodologies in the late 1990s (Pickles, 1995 ; Schuurman, 2000 ; Sieber, 2006 ; Weiner et al., 2002 ). Elwood and Ghose ( 2001 ) define it generally as “grassroots community involvement in knowledge production through GIS analysis and in the application of knowledge produced” (p. 19). PPGIS and PGIS are broadly similar and sometimes combined, but some have noted that PPGIS is more policy-focused and common in the global north. At the same time, PGIS is often used in the global south and focused on representing indigenous knowledges (Brown & Kyttä, 2014 ).

In practice, research in PPGIS has focused on both the research process and on developing methods for public participation. Ghose’s ( 2007 ) study of the use of GIS by neighborhood groups in Milwaukee, for example, finds that some groups made use of GIS to gain political traction but also that, while flexible, the new networks created by these groups remained uneven and hierarchical. Empirically, PPGIS has relied on multiple tools to solicit community participation and input, including sketch mapping (Boschmann & Cubbon, 2014 ; Cinderby, 2010 ; Pearsall et al., 2015 ) tools for digital data collection (Brovelli et al., 2016 ; Verplanke et al., 2016 ) and online visualization tools (Hall et al., 2010 ; Shannon & Walker, 2018 ).

PPGIS is a common methodology within CG (Robinson et al., 2017 ) due to its methodological focus on cooperative research and community empowerment. For many non-academic communities, PPGIS provides tangible results with immediate relevance: new data or maps used for advocacy, publicity, or funding applications (Boll-Bosse & Hankins, 2018 ; Case & Hawthorne, 2013 ). For most authors of this article, mapping is one of the primary tasks community partners are interested in when discussing potential collaborations. It can provide a pathway into other mixed-methods research.

VGI/citizen science

Data and STEM-centric participatory research include Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) and citizen science programs. VGI is an umbrella term that captures a spectrum of data produced by the public. This can range from passive to active production of geographic data by the public (Haklay, 2013 ). For instance, geo-tagged tweets and the concept of citizens-as-sensors is passive VGI collection. On the other end of the spectrum, a citizen science project involving volunteers in data collection is active participation. The term VGI was coined in 2007 by Michael Goodchild, who describes VGI as the engagement of private citizens to create geographical information (Goodchild, 2007 ).

Citizen science is the act of public volunteers participating in a scientific research project, usually through data collection, but in some cases, project development or data analysis, etc. (Haklay, 2013 ). These projects exist across disciplines, including ecology, environmental sciences, earth science, health, astronomy, and geography (Bonney et al., 2014 ; Silvertown, 2009 ). When these programs are collecting or analyzing spatial data, these data can be considered VGI. Citizen science programs often include volunteers and scientific outcomes; volunteer outcomes include some benefits to the volunteers or local community in the study area; this may be a positive learning experience. Scientific outcomes may consist of data, data analysis, or something that contributes to the research being conducted in the project (Wiggins et al., 2018 ). The Citizen Science GIS group at the University of Central Florida, led by Timothy Hawthorne, positions itself in the realm of citizen science because they collect life and physical science data along with social science data in Belize, Florida, and the US Pacific Coast with community partners and agencies.

Participatory Action Research (PAR) and Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) are participatory research approaches that influence many CG research projects and collaborations. Both developed as responses to the traditional research model that seeks to separate researchers from research subjects and often results in research focusing on the extraction of information rather than assisting communities in need. PAR is an action-based framework that originated primarily within the social sciences and was initially promoted by Freire ( 2000 ). In Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s, Freire used PAR type approaches to help oppressed people participate in knowledge production and social transformation. He encouraged poor and deprived communities to examine and analyze the structural reasons for their oppression (Baum et al., 2006 : Freire, 2000 ; Kindon et al., 2007 ). PAR involves a deep engagement between community activists and researchers towards a goal of co-producing research findings that are relevant and actionable to both parties (Kindon & Elwood, 2009 ). Ideally, PAR leads to a series of actions and reflections where researchers and community activists establish relationships, set project roles, research questions, complete the research analysis, and carry out actions resulting from the projects. It has been utilized in geography projects involving subjects from street youth in Colombia (Ritterbusch, 2012 ) to an environmental study of British watersheds (Whitman et al., 2015 ). It can also be used as a framework for service-learning projects in a classroom setting (Pain et al., 2013 ).

In practice, PAR is challenging to fulfill, as researchers may often set the original research focus, or community partners may not have time to participate in each step. However, even approaching these goals can significantly enhance the usefulness of the outcomes to the community (Klocker, 2012 ). Mason ( 2015 ) and Ritterbusch ( 2012 ) suggest that an “ethics of care” be used in PAR collaborations, focusing on the development of caring connections and friendships between researchers, community activists, and research subjects, rather than the “ethics of justice” that is a basis of most human subject protection systems.

Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) stem from the Health Sciences and has been led by Barbara Israel and colleagues at the Detroit Urban Research Center, a community-based research center affiliated with the University of Michigan, and (along with similar centers in New York and Seattle) supported by the Centers for Disease Control (Israel et al., 2006 ). Like PAR, CBPR is not a defined methodology but a set of steps meant to ensure community participation in research. These steps include community participation in developing research questions, completing research and analysis, and writing papers, reports, and grant proposals. Geographers working in medical geography have utilized CPBR methods, often within the context of community-based GIS work on medical or public health projects (Block & Kouba, 2006 ). Koster et al. ( 2012 ) and Castleden et al. ( 2012 ) both utilize CBPR methods for non-medical geography projects involving indigenous peoples in Canada.

Mixing methods and approaches

The focus on flexible epistemologies in CG research results in projects that often take a mixed-methods (qualitative and quantitative methods) approach; this can include multi-stage projects, where interviews with community members suggest frameworks for GIS-based analysis, or explicitly mixed-methods techniques such as sketch mapping (Boschmann & Cubbon, 2014 ) and Q sorts (Hawthorne et al., 2008 ; Sneegas, 2019 ). Knigge and Cope ( 2006 ) present’ grounded visualization’, a particularly significant mixed-methods framework for combining traditional GIS-based spatial data and multimedia formats of qualitative data such as interviews, images, sketches, and audio and video files and analyze these various forms of data through an iterative and reflective qualitative analysis based on the grounded theory. Grounded visualization integrates geographic visualization with ethnographic research to draw out interpretative meanings and theorize socio-spatial processes and politics in the community.

At UGA, one community-based project with a local biking organization used sketch mapping to discuss the safest and most dangerous routes in the city. Working from a blank sheet of paper, individuals drew their daily routes and used highlighters to mark their perceived levels of safety. The resulting maps were later digitized, but the transcribed conversation about these maps was just as valuable in highlighting key issues affecting bike safety. Similarly, in collaboration with the Atlanta food bank, researchers used photographs as a focal point for both individual interviews and concept mapping. The former were coded using qualitative analysis software to identify key obstacles faced by food pantry clients, while the latter used clustering analysis to group photos with common themes (Kurtz et al., 2019 ).

Practicalities of methodologies and research approaches: institutional review board considerations

If human subjects research is included in the project, the research protocol would need to be reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the lead researcher’s institution or a third-party review board. As has been pointed out by Tamariz et al. ( 2015 ) and others, community-based projects often have difficulty with the IRB approval process. IRB boards are often unfamiliar with community-based research. IRB policies also view research as being completed or led by an academic or medical researcher and the community as the subject. IRB’s tend to have difficulty with cases in which the community organizations are actually part of the research team, helping create measures and collect and analyze data.

An alternative to a university-based IRB is a Community IRB or Community Research Review Board (Carroll-Scott, 2020 ). In the US, these have been set up as non-profit entities in many US cities and are community-controlled IRB boards that specifically focus on community-based research. Some replace traditional IRB’s while others provide an alternate research ethics determination or work to protect the community, in addition to individual rights in conjunction with university IRB’s.

Sharing outcomes: open research and project evaluation

Open research and its benefits.

Open research is a key characteristic of CG and often a key research outcome for both the academics and the community. CG often borrows from ongoing work toward open science practices and open data initiatives favoring open source technologies (Shannon & Walker, 2018 ; Sieber & Johnson, 2015 ). Many governmental agencies have created online data portals using platforms such as Socrata or Esri’s ArcGIS Hub (Johnson & Sieber, 2013 ; Sieber & Johnson, 2015 ). These portals intend to promote public transparency and enable “civic hacking” by residents and community organizations (Perng & Kitchin, 2018 ). In addition to these resources, progressive social change using open data resources relies on intentional and intensive engagement with key actors (Brandusescu et al., 2016 ). For community geographers, the task is not merely to make data public or create technically sophisticated dashboards for exploratory analysis. Instead, the goal is to assist socially marginalized groups as they make use of, add to, or critique open data, recognizing this as one aspect of broader community organizing efforts. Simultaneously, recognizing that open data are not inherently accessible, CG advocates for using online communication or arts-based approaches to communicating research methods and results with community partners (Derickson & Routledge, 2015 ).

Research in CG often focuses on locally specific issues. Still, the methodological approaches and research tools used in this work can have broader applicability. Given the ready availability of website building tools for hosting research materials, the underlying principles of open science are also applicable to mixed-methods community-based research (Singleton et al., 2016 ). By providing publicly available resources detailing their methodology, community geographers can support the reuse and adaptation of their research. Online repositories such as SocArXiv ( ) and Github provide platforms for public sharing of research materials and, when possible, research data. When possible, using free and/or open-source tools also makes replication of research more possible in communities without the financial resources for proprietary software licenses.

Project evaluation

Given the many interlocking groups and priorities within a CG project, project evaluation is a critical tool for achieving successful outcomes and sharing and reflecting on these outcomes. Evaluations help determine if the project as a whole and the partners included are producing desired outcomes and support the project partners in considering how to improve a project (Davidson, 2005 ). Evaluation can be completed through an internal team and short surveys or contracting with an outside evaluator to perform formative, summative, or developmental evaluation (Block et al., 2018 ; Hawthorne & Jarrett, 2018 ). There are many resources available on project evaluation, such as Michael Quinn Patton’s Developmental Evaluation ( 2010 ), Russ-Eft and Preskill Evaluation in Organizations ( 2009 ), and the many other resources available online through the American Evaluation Association, as well as the Citizen Science Association’s Research and Evaluation Working Group.

Additional considerations when doing community geography

Researchers and academic institutions who decide to participate in a CG project must keep in mind that the community partners they work with are, in fact, true partners in the project. There are shared outcomes for all the individuals and groups involved in the program; research and academic focused outcomes are only one of many benefits from a CG project. Forming these relationships takes time, and unfortunately, some projects do not continue or work out, funding gets cut, or researchers change positions or institutions.

CG projects can be useful to both the community members and organizations and the academic students and researchers involved despite these issues. In this paper, we presented three overarching principles of doing CG (1) who, (2) why, and (3) how; all these are essential concepts to consider when developing, implementing, and sustaining a CG project. The examples given here are not exhaustive as community geography continues to grow as a subfield. Yet, they serve as guiding examples for those pursuing community-focused, participatory research.

This paper was written as a basic guide to introducing academic researchers to CG. We hope that more researchers engage in CG and more synergies with other research approaches occur through this paper. We also hope this paper and the others in this writing project contribute to CG being more legitimately developed and recognized as a fruitful educational and research program at academic institutions. Additionally, for the benefit of community groups and non-academic partners engaging in CG with academics and academic institutions, we anticipate that this paper will lead to additional papers and resources to be developed with other CG stakeholders in mind, such as a similar practical guide to community groups engaging in community geography.

We focus on the academic researcher based on our experiences as academic researchers. We acknowledge the need to produce a guide for community partners and non-academics as well.

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Heather Fischer

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to write a great community service essay.

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College Admissions , Extracurriculars


Are you applying to a college or a scholarship that requires a community service essay? Do you know how to write an essay that will impress readers and clearly show the impact your work had on yourself and others?

Read on to learn step-by-step instructions for writing a great community service essay that will help you stand out and be memorable.

What Is a Community Service Essay? Why Do You Need One?

A community service essay is an essay that describes the volunteer work you did and the impact it had on you and your community. Community service essays can vary widely depending on specific requirements listed in the application, but, in general, they describe the work you did, why you found the work important, and how it benefited people around you.

Community service essays are typically needed for two reasons:

#1: To Apply to College

  • Some colleges require students to write community service essays as part of their application or to be eligible for certain scholarships.
  • You may also choose to highlight your community service work in your personal statement.

#2: To Apply for Scholarships

  • Some scholarships are specifically awarded to students with exceptional community service experiences, and many use community service essays to help choose scholarship recipients.
  • Green Mountain College offers one of the most famous of these scholarships. Their "Make a Difference Scholarship" offers full tuition, room, and board to students who have demonstrated a significant, positive impact through their community service

Getting Started With Your Essay

In the following sections, I'll go over each step of how to plan and write your essay. I'll also include sample excerpts for you to look through so you can get a better idea of what readers are looking for when they review your essay.

Step 1: Know the Essay Requirements

Before your start writing a single word, you should be familiar with the essay prompt. Each college or scholarship will have different requirements for their essay, so make sure you read these carefully and understand them.

Specific things to pay attention to include:

  • Length requirement
  • Application deadline
  • The main purpose or focus of the essay
  • If the essay should follow a specific structure

Below are three real community service essay prompts. Read through them and notice how much they vary in terms of length, detail, and what information the writer should include.

From the Equitable Excellence Scholarship:

"Describe your outstanding achievement in depth and provide the specific planning, training, goals, and steps taken to make the accomplishment successful. Include details about your role and highlight leadership you provided. Your essay must be a minimum of 350 words but not more than 600 words."

From the Laura W. Bush Traveling Scholarship:

"Essay (up to 500 words, double spaced) explaining your interest in being considered for the award and how your proposed project reflects or is related to both UNESCO's mandate and U.S. interests in promoting peace by sharing advances in education, science, culture, and communications."

From the LULAC National Scholarship Fund:

"Please type or print an essay of 300 words (maximum) on how your academic studies will contribute to your personal & professional goals. In addition, please discuss any community service or extracurricular activities you have been involved in that relate to your goals."


Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas

Even after you understand what the essay should be about, it can still be difficult to begin writing. Answer the following questions to help brainstorm essay ideas. You may be able to incorporate your answers into your essay.

  • What community service activity that you've participated in has meant the most to you?
  • What is your favorite memory from performing community service?
  • Why did you decide to begin community service?
  • What made you decide to volunteer where you did?
  • How has your community service changed you?
  • How has your community service helped others?
  • How has your community service affected your plans for the future?

You don't need to answer all the questions, but if you find you have a lot of ideas for one of two of them, those may be things you want to include in your essay.

Writing Your Essay

How you structure your essay will depend on the requirements of the scholarship or school you are applying to. You may give an overview of all the work you did as a volunteer, or highlight a particularly memorable experience. You may focus on your personal growth or how your community benefited.

Regardless of the specific structure requested, follow the guidelines below to make sure your community service essay is memorable and clearly shows the impact of your work.

Samples of mediocre and excellent essays are included below to give you a better idea of how you should draft your own essay.

Step 1: Hook Your Reader In

You want the person reading your essay to be interested, so your first sentence should hook them in and entice them to read more. A good way to do this is to start in the middle of the action. Your first sentence could describe you helping build a house, releasing a rescued animal back to the wild, watching a student you tutored read a book on their own, or something else that quickly gets the reader interested. This will help set your essay apart and make it more memorable.

Compare these two opening sentences:

"I have volunteered at the Wishbone Pet Shelter for three years."

"The moment I saw the starving, mud-splattered puppy brought into the shelter with its tail between its legs, I knew I'd do whatever I could to save it."

The first sentence is a very general, bland statement. The majority of community service essays probably begin a lot like it, but it gives the reader little information and does nothing to draw them in. On the other hand, the second sentence begins immediately with action and helps persuade the reader to keep reading so they can learn what happened to the dog.

Step 2: Discuss the Work You Did

Once you've hooked your reader in with your first sentence, tell them about your community service experiences. State where you work, when you began working, how much time you've spent there, and what your main duties include. This will help the reader quickly put the rest of the essay in context and understand the basics of your community service work.


Not including basic details about your community service could leave your reader confused.

Step 3: Include Specific Details

It's the details of your community service that make your experience unique and memorable, so go into the specifics of what you did.

For example, don't just say you volunteered at a nursing home; talk about reading Mrs. Johnson her favorite book, watching Mr. Scott win at bingo, and seeing the residents play games with their grandchildren at the family day you organized. Try to include specific activities, moments, and people in your essay. Having details like these let the readers really understand what work you did and how it differs from other volunteer experiences.

Compare these two passages:

"For my volunteer work, I tutored children at a local elementary school. I helped them improve their math skills and become more confident students."

"As a volunteer at York Elementary School, I worked one-on-one with second and third graders who struggled with their math skills, particularly addition, subtraction, and fractions. As part of my work, I would create practice problems and quizzes and try to connect math to the students' interests. One of my favorite memories was when Sara, a student I had been working with for several weeks, told me that she enjoyed the math problems I had created about a girl buying and selling horses so much that she asked to help me create math problems for other students."

The first passage only gives basic information about the work done by the volunteer; there is very little detail included, and no evidence is given to support her claims. How did she help students improve their math skills? How did she know they were becoming more confident?

The second passage is much more detailed. It recounts a specific story and explains more fully what kind of work the volunteer did, as well as a specific instance of a student becoming more confident with her math skills. Providing more detail in your essay helps support your claims as well as make your essay more memorable and unique.

Step 4: Show Your Personality

It would be very hard to get a scholarship or place at a school if none of your readers felt like they knew much about you after finishing your essay, so make sure that your essay shows your personality. The way to do this is to state your personal strengths, then provide examples to support your claims. Take some time to think about which parts of your personality you would like your essay to highlight, then write about specific examples to show this.

  • If you want to show that you're a motivated leader, describe a time when you organized an event or supervised other volunteers.
  • If you want to show your teamwork skills, write about a time you helped a group of people work together better.
  • If you want to show that you're a compassionate animal lover, write about taking care of neglected shelter animals and helping each of them find homes.

Step 5: State What You Accomplished

After you have described your community service and given specific examples of your work, you want to begin to wrap your essay up by stating your accomplishments. What was the impact of your community service? Did you build a house for a family to move into? Help students improve their reading skills? Clean up a local park? Make sure the impact of your work is clear; don't be worried about bragging here.

If you can include specific numbers, that will also strengthen your essay. Saying "I delivered meals to 24 home-bound senior citizens" is a stronger example than just saying "I delivered meals to lots of senior citizens."

Also be sure to explain why your work matters. Why is what you did important? Did it provide more parks for kids to play in? Help students get better grades? Give people medical care who would otherwise not have gotten it? This is an important part of your essay, so make sure to go into enough detail that your readers will know exactly what you accomplished and how it helped your community.

"My biggest accomplishment during my community service was helping to organize a family event at the retirement home. The children and grandchildren of many residents attended, and they all enjoyed playing games and watching movies together."

"The community service accomplishment that I'm most proud of is the work I did to help organize the First Annual Family Fun Day at the retirement home. My job was to design and organize fun activities that senior citizens and their younger relatives could enjoy. The event lasted eight hours and included ten different games, two performances, and a movie screening with popcorn. Almost 200 residents and family members attended throughout the day. This event was important because it provided an opportunity for senior citizens to connect with their family members in a way they aren't often able to. It also made the retirement home seem more fun and enjoyable to children, and we have seen an increase in the number of kids coming to visit their grandparents since the event."

The second passage is stronger for a variety of reasons. First, it goes into much more detail about the work the volunteer did. The first passage only states that she helped "organize a family event." That really doesn't tell readers much about her work or what her responsibilities were. The second passage is much clearer; her job was to "design and organize fun activities."

The second passage also explains the event in more depth. A family day can be many things; remember that your readers are likely not familiar with what you're talking about, so details help them get a clearer picture.

Lastly, the second passage makes the importance of the event clear: it helped residents connect with younger family members, and it helped retirement homes seem less intimidating to children, so now some residents see their grand kids more often.

Step 6: Discuss What You Learned

One of the final things to include in your essay should be the impact that your community service had on you. You can discuss skills you learned, such as carpentry, public speaking, animal care, or another skill.

You can also talk about how you changed personally. Are you more patient now? More understanding of others? Do you have a better idea of the type of career you want? Go into depth about this, but be honest. Don't say your community service changed your life if it didn't because trite statements won't impress readers.

In order to support your statements, provide more examples. If you say you're more patient now, how do you know this? Do you get less frustrated while playing with your younger siblings? Are you more willing to help group partners who are struggling with their part of the work? You've probably noticed by now that including specific examples and details is one of the best ways to create a strong and believable essay .

"As a result of my community service, I learned a lot about building houses and became a more mature person."

"As a result of my community service, I gained hands-on experience in construction. I learned how to read blueprints, use a hammer and nails, and begin constructing the foundation of a two-bedroom house. Working on the house could be challenging at times, but it taught me to appreciate the value of hard work and be more willing to pitch in when I see someone needs help. My dad has just started building a shed in our backyard, and I offered to help him with it because I know from my community service how much work it is. I also appreciate my own house more, and I know how lucky I am to have a roof over my head."

The second passage is more impressive and memorable because it describes the skills the writer learned in more detail and recounts a specific story that supports her claim that her community service changed her and made her more helpful.

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Step 7: Finish Strong

Just as you started your essay in a way that would grab readers' attention, you want to finish your essay on a strong note as well. A good way to end your essay is to state again the impact your work had on you, your community, or both. Reiterate how you changed as a result of your community service, why you found the work important, or how it helped others.

Compare these two concluding statements:

"In conclusion, I learned a lot from my community service at my local museum, and I hope to keep volunteering and learning more about history."

"To conclude, volunteering at my city's American History Museum has been a great experience. By leading tours and participating in special events, I became better at public speaking and am now more comfortable starting conversations with people. In return, I was able to get more community members interested in history and our local museum. My interest in history has deepened, and I look forward to studying the subject in college and hopefully continuing my volunteer work at my university's own museum."

The second passage takes each point made in the first passage and expands upon it. In a few sentences, the second passage is able to clearly convey what work the volunteer did, how she changed, and how her volunteer work benefited her community.

The author of the second passage also ends her essay discussing her future and how she'd like to continue her community service, which is a good way to wrap things up because it shows your readers that you are committed to community service for the long-term.

What's Next?

Are you applying to a community service scholarship or thinking about it? We have a complete list of all the community service scholarships available to help get your search started!

Do you need a community service letter as well? We have a step-by-step guide that will tell you how to get a great reference letter from your community service supervisor.

Thinking about doing community service abroad? Before you sign up, read our guide on some of the hazards of international volunteer trips and how to know if it's the right choice for you.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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Home — Essay Samples — Sociology — Community — What Does Community Mean to You: A Personal Reflection


What Does Community Mean to You: a Personal Reflection

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Published: Sep 7, 2023

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My personal definition of community, the unifying thread: connection, geographic community, interest-based community, cultural community, social network community.

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geographical community essay

The Geographic Setting of the Battle of the Bulge: Key Locations and Strategic Importance

This essay about the Battle of the Bulge explores the significant World War II conflict from December 16, 1944, to January 25, 1945, in the Ardennes. It highlights the strategic importance of key locations like Bastogne and St. Vith, the challenging conditions of the Ardennes forest, and the role of the Meuse River. The text also examines how the geographical features and severe winter weather impacted the tactics and outcomes of the battle, ultimately leading to an Allied victory against the German offensive.

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Nestled amidst the undulating terrain and dense forests of the Ardennes lies the stage for one of World War II’s most pivotal clashes: the Battle of the Bulge. From December 16, 1944, to January 25, 1945, this battleground bore witness to a desperate German offensive aimed at halting the relentless advance of the Allied forces towards Germany. To fully grasp the significance of this conflict, one must delve into the unique geographic setting that shaped its key locations and strategic importance.

At the heart of the Ardennes stands Bastogne, a picturesque Belgian town destined for a momentous role in history.

Positioned at critical crossroads of major highways, Bastogne’s strategic value was unparalleled. Its capture could have provided the Germans with a vital logistical hub and potentially fractured the Allied front lines. Conversely, its defense was paramount for the Allies, ensuring the integrity of their supply routes and denying the Germans a breakthrough point.

Not far from Bastogne lies St. Vith, another linchpin in the Ardennes theater. This small town, nestled amidst rolling hills and winding roads, served as a vital logistical artery for the Allied forces. Its capture would have dealt a severe blow to Allied resupply efforts and weakened their defensive posture. Thus, both sides recognized the importance of securing or seizing St. Vith during the battle.

The Ardennes forest itself emerged as a formidable adversary, with its dense foliage and rugged terrain posing significant challenges to military operations. Thick forests limited visibility and hindered the movement of large armored formations, favoring the defender and complicating offensive maneuvers. Moreover, the harsh winter weather, with its biting cold, snow, and fog, further exacerbated the difficulties faced by troops on both sides.

Spanning the Ardennes region is the Meuse River, a natural barrier that assumed strategic significance during the battle. For the Germans, crossing the Meuse represented a gateway to the heart of Allied territory, a feat that could potentially alter the course of the war. Conversely, the Allies recognized the river’s importance in maintaining their defensive line and preventing a German breakthrough.

Central to the Battle of the Bulge is the titular “bulge,” a salient thrust deep into Allied territory by the advancing German forces. Stretching approximately 50 miles wide and 70 miles deep, this bulge posed a grave threat to the Allied position. The Germans aimed to exploit this geographical feature by driving a wedge between the British and American forces, with the ultimate objective of capturing the vital port city of Antwerp and severing Allied supply lines.

Throughout the Ardennes, numerous towns and villages became battlegrounds, their names etched into the annals of history. Places like Malmedy, Houffalize, and La Roche-en-Ardenne witnessed fierce fighting as control shifted back and forth between opposing forces. Each engagement, though small in scale, contributed to the larger narrative of the battle.

In conclusion, the Battle of the Bulge unfolded within a unique geographic setting that shaped its key locations and strategic importance. From the pivotal towns of Bastogne and St. Vith to the challenging terrain of the Ardennes forest and the strategic significance of the Meuse River, every aspect of the landscape influenced the course of the conflict. Ultimately, it was the resilience and determination of the Allied forces, coupled with their ability to adapt to the harsh conditions, that thwarted the German offensive and secured victory in one of the most consequential battles of World War II.


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The Geographic Setting of the Battle of the Bulge: Key Locations and Strategic Importance. (2024, May 21). Retrieved from

"The Geographic Setting of the Battle of the Bulge: Key Locations and Strategic Importance." , 21 May 2024, (2024). The Geographic Setting of the Battle of the Bulge: Key Locations and Strategic Importance . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 21 May. 2024]

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"The Geographic Setting of the Battle of the Bulge: Key Locations and Strategic Importance," , 21-May-2024. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 21-May-2024] (2024). The Geographic Setting of the Battle of the Bulge: Key Locations and Strategic Importance . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 21-May-2024]

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The Shenandoah County School Board’s Terrible History Lesson


O n May 10, 2024, 161 years to the day after General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s last breath fighting for the Confederate insurrection intended to continue enslavement of human beings in America, the Shenandoah County School Board voted 5-1 to restore his name on a high school in rural Virginia.

More than 50 concerned community members, students, and parents, including one of the first African Americans to integrate Stonewall Jackson High School in 1963, and hundreds of their supporters, continued to advocate a new reckoning of the county’s heritage of enslavement, segregation, and racial injustice. They affirmed the names a community committee selected in 2021 renaming the school as Mountain View High and another school named after Confederate generals Turner Ashby and Robert E. Lee as Honey Run Elementary.

But the school board heard none of it. Instead, the board sided with those idolizing the faith and loyalty of “heroes” like Jackson, condemning pandemic-related processes that did not take into account the voices of “we the people,” and complaining about “woke outsiders.” At the end of the board meeting, the board had delivered a disgraceful new chapter in our community’s history and a terrible lesson for the children they are sworn to educate.

Historians will debate the consequences of the board’s vote and perhaps whether the nation’s current political mood has rekindled racial tensions. But the school board members and their embittered supporters made it clear that the shadows of our segregated past still loom large.

For context, we should look at 2020, particularly the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of video that emblazoned the truth of racial injustice in America. After George Floyd’s murder by police in May of that year, national, state, and local leaders across the nation took up resolutions against racism, including Shenandoah County’s Board of Supervisors and the county School Board.

At around the same time in our mountain-cradled county, another incident reminded us of America’s lingering racial unrest: an encounter between a white mob and a black pastor in Edinburg, Va. On June 1, 2020, Pastor McCray approached a couple illegally dumping a refrigerator on his property, asking them to leave. They left, returned with three more people and began “attacking him physically, saying ‘they don’t give a darn’ about ‘my black life and the Black Lives Matter stuff,’ and telling him they would ‘kill’ him,” according to Associated Press reports. McCray put distance between himself and the mob by brandishing a gun that he was legally licensed to carry. When the police arrived, they arrested the Black man with the gun.

The Shenandoah County Sheriff later apologized for the incident, but it reinforces the need for formal resolutions against racism and leaders willing to make difficult decisions for a more inclusive community. The Shenandoah County School Board at the time agreed. They chose action, encouraged by then-Department of Education secretary Atif Qarni and then-Governor Ralph Northam, both of whom supported statewide removal of Confederate leaders’ names of public schools.

The 2020 school board, tying in as the next step to its June “Resolution condemning racism and affirming the division’s commitment to an inclusive school environment for all,” retired the names of Confederate leaders, and developed a process for community and student input into choosing more unifying public school names. On September 10, 2020, the then school board reaffirmed the foregoing motion, as well as moving forward with renaming the schools on southern campus. Community committees met during the next three months, with new names chosen at the January 14, 2021 meeting, after seven months of public input.

By 2024, recently elected school board members focused their arguments for restoration on the former board’s “secret” process during the COVID “plan-demic,” stating that community input was not taken into account at the time. Two years before, three current school board members ran on a campaign to restore the school’s Confederate leader names, an attempt that ended at the June 9, 2022 school board meeting with a 3-3 stalemate. The current board consists of three more new school board members, elected in the fall of 2023. Like many school boards around the nation, ours has committed to reversing civil rights often under the lost-cause banner of Confederate pride.

The memory of Stonewall Jackson High School as a whites-only public institution until its integration in 1963 is not a distant echo of history but an agonizing experience for many Black residents of Shenandoah County. These individuals are not just statistics in history books; they are our neighbors, friends, and family—and they were intentionally harmed in Shenandoah County as the Civil Rights movement gained momentum in the 1950s.

Read More: Confederate Monuments and Other Disputed Memorials Have Come Down in Cities Across America. What Should Take Their Place?

And now again in 2024. Dozens of citizens, alum, parents, and current students of the schools addressed the board, offering poignant testimony about lived experiences with institutionalized discrimination or in support of others who had. Approximately two-thirds of the speakers opposed back-naming the schools. For them, returning to Confederate leader names makes the damage linger.

Aliyah Ogle, a student who represented her school in three sports this year and would be attending the renamed high school next year, said it best: “I'm a black student and if the name is restored, I would have to represent a man that fought for my ancestors to be slaves. That makes me feel like I'm disrespecting my ancestors and going against what my family and I believe, which is that we should all be treated equally, and that slavery was a cruel and awful thing.”

Most of the board members could not have cared less about the county’s 252 year history. They were more concerned for judging the 2020 school board’s actions and recognizing the Confederate heritage of the county. Their brand of leadership consisted of telling the people they represent that we all have problems of one kind or another; it’s time to move on. “War is hell,” said Dennis Barlow, chairman of the Shenandoah County School Board. They were joined by two dozen pro-Confederacy speakers, claiming there is no evident racism in Shenandoah County, and never has been.

Board member Tom Streett used his decision to discuss pro-slavery General Jackson. “When you read about this man — who he was, what he stood for, his character, his loyalty, his leadership, how Godly a man he was — those standards that he had were much higher than any leadership of the school system in 2020,” Streett said.

Streett, however, neglected to mention that even Jackson’s descendants have weighed in on this legacy issue. For the past seven years, the general’s great-great grandsons, William Jackson Christian and Warren Edmund Christian, have said they support removing Confederate statues and other monuments—including in Shenandoah County this week—as “part of a larger project of actively mending the racial disparities that hundreds of years of white supremacy have wrought.” They added that they were “ashamed to benefit from white supremacy while our black family and friends suffer.”

Yet Shenandoah County’s school board and its grievance agenda does nothing to provide historical context, advance dialogue, or heal the feelings of well-meaning citizens. Using the same policy the 2021 school board used to name Mountain View and Honey Run, the 2024 board defiantly focused on undoing the decision and giving voice to the people they wanted to hear. The decision unfairly places our children as pawns on a rhetorical battlefield, keeping the board’s focus on vengeance and political control—not due process or heritage. But it’s more dangerous than just talk and hard feelings: The county remains on the radar of the Southern Poverty Law Center , which tracks white supremacists, including ongoing activity by the Patriot Front. To address this reality, we need better, sensible leadership from our school board. But for now, we must live with a stark reminder that elections have consequences.

Looking ahead, the many good people of our county will strive to ensure that our complete history, good and bad, remains available to students and the public. We must find a way to truly honor our whole heritage without insisting that students salute pro-slavery traitors or the treatment of their ancestors as subhuman property for almost 400 years.

If the U.S. Department of Defense can rename military bases once emblazoned with Confederate leaders’ names, then our public schools can do the same. After all, these are the spaces where the first lessons of civic duties are learned. History is complicated, no doubt, but there’s no better place to examine complex issues than in a good school. Other nations and communities reckon with difficult pasts. In Germany, for example, students still learn about Adolf Hitler, but they are not forced to wear sports jerseys and school-pride t-shirts that glorify symbols or names associated with murderous war crimes.

Our fight for what’s right in Shenandoah County is not over. We will continue to oppose historical injustices and help all constituencies in our community learn from the lessons of our past. As it has throughout our nation’s history, the work of decent people striving for a better, more united America will go on. We hope the school board here can find a way to join us along the way.

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Steenrod 2nd-Grader Wins $500 for SMART-529 Account in Essay Contest

Since she was 3 years old Eliana Pentino has dreamed of being a veterinarian. On Monday, her essay on those dreams won her an award that will help her achieve them.

Pentino, a second-grader at Steenrod Elementary, was named a winner in the West Virginia SMART529 “When I Grow Up” essay contest, sponsored by the West Virginia Treasury Department. As a winner, Pentino received $500 toward her SMART529 account. She also is eligible for a sweepstakes among all the state’s essay winners for another $4,500 in that account.

“I didn’t expect (to win),” Pentino said. “I thought my brother was actually going to win because he had this amazing (essay), too. But I ended up winning and it was a dream come true.”

Pentino wrote about her hopes of becoming a veterinarian in the style of the “Junie B. Jones” series of books, injecting some humor into the mix. She has wanted to be a veterinarian ever since she helped her dog Orzo get over a sore paw.

“I saw my dog limping on time, and I said to my mom, ‘Why is Orzo limping?'” Pentino said. “And she said, ‘I don’t know.’ So I took a paper towel and I started wrapping it around his paw and put a bandaid on it. It just kind of made me want to be a vet.”

Steenrod Principal Michelle Dietrich said Pentino was the third SMART529 essay winner in the last four years from Steenrod. This year, Dietrich made it a point for the entire school to participate in the essay contest. And it wasn’t just essays that were part of the fun, especially in the younger grades.

“In kindergarten first and second, they had some different people come in, they had parents come in and talk about their jobs,” she said. “They had a career week around school to spark some of the kids’ thoughts into maybe something they didn’t even know they were interested in when they grew up.”

Dietrich said the school also gets $500, and she lets the grade of the winning student choose how it’s spent. The second graders have talked about getting a class pet, but other ideas include new playground equipment.

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A Level Edexcel Geography 2024 Prediction Paper 2 and Mark Scheme / ALL TOPICS

A Level Edexcel Geography 2024 Prediction Paper 2 and Mark Scheme / ALL TOPICS

Subject: Geography

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geographical community essay

I have now analysed all Edexcel Paper 2 past papers (specimen through to 2023) and pinpointed areas of the spec that have either not come up before or not been focused on in recent years.

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    Footnotes Jump to essay-1 U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 7 (No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.The Treasury is a term that describes a place where public revenue is deposited and kept and from which payments are ...

  28. Lobnya Map

    Discover the hamlets Dobrogostów in Opole Voivodeship, Poland and Wiseburg in Baltimore County, United States . Lobnya is a town in Moscow Oblast, Russia, located 30 kilometres north west of Moscow. Lobnya has about 84,200 residents. Mapcarta, the open map.