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Supplemental essay tips

LindagafLindagaf 9487 replies507 threads Senior Member
Here are some tips for making supplemental essays easier:

For “Why Us” essays:
Spend time on their website. Go to pages that are not obvious. Always look at the college Mission Statement. Try to fit a few of those buzzwords in your essay (more importantly, illustrate those buzzwords within the essay.) Find classes of interest specific to your intended major. A professor whose work interests you. Particular clubs or community groups you’d like to be involved with. Special programs that are unique to that school. These essays are about gauging fit, showing how you will be active on campus, and, often, showing genuine interest. Use every word wisely because these are often extremely short.

The more competitive the college, the more you need to show that you understand what the college is looking for. Spending ten minutes on the website is probably not going to suffice, so dig deeper.

There is a goldmine of stuff to bring into your essay under the Research tab, or Community, or Career Center, or Civic Engagement, or Academics. Start clicking around all the tabs on the home page, and dig deeper into the website. Look at stuff that might not immediately seem obvious. Example: I just now randomly typed in an Ivy college, clicked on community, clicked on arts and culture, clicked on events, and saw a cool “master class” on how to write for tv shows. I plan on majoring in media studies and/or creative writing, so maybe I could work that class into my essay because it aligns with my interests.

Your own experiences can be brought into these essays. Did you do Science Research at school, for example? Maybe you researched salmon migration and you want to major in environmental science. Find a way to show how your research might align with the work of a professor in the environmental science department, or how a cluster of courses on offer is related to what you did and is relevant to what you intend to study. Perhaps your poetry was published, or you received an award for a poem you wrote. You could relate that the the Modern Poets of the 2000’s course and discuss how your poetry will improve by taking a course like that. These are just examples, of course.


For Community essays:
Another common supplemental essay topic might be along the lines of “tell us about a community you’re involved with and what your role in that community is. What have you learned from that community?” Many students can use this question to elaborate on a club they are very involved with, or the neighborhood they live in, or their cultural affiliations, or their volunteer work, or even a job.

These essays serve to reveal more about you and how your involvement in a community manifests itself. Maybe they can see you doing something similar on campus, and get more insight into your personality. It can be helpful to use some of the Mission Statement buzzwords in these essays.


For Involvement essays:
Similar to the why us or community essays might be the “tell us how you’ll be involved in Super Duper College life if you are accepted.” Know something about the clubs on offer, volunteer opportunities, the athletics culture (games, participation, etc..), live performances, lecture series, special programs, etc... You may well see that there is a fair bit of overlap with prompts, or that different colleges have similar prompts.


Warnings:
If an AO can swap out the name of their college for another, your essay is not specific enough. And again, the more selective the college is, the more this matters.

I can’t stress how important it is to answer the prompt. If the supplemental questions ask you to explain how you’re going to be involved on campus, don’t instead say “Super Duper College is my top choice and I’d be honored to attend.” Firstly, those are wasted words, and you can’t afford to waste when you only have 100-250 words to play with. Secondly, your essay should be able to show your enthusiasm without you having to state the obvious.


Saving time:
Yes, you can reuse essays and it can save you a ton of time. My students do this often. Just be sure you adjust them to fit the prompt and word count.



“Optional or Recommended” essays:
Supplemental essays are often not really “optional,” even if the college says they are. If you think they are not worth the hassle, consider who you are, where you live, and the selectivity of the college you are applying to. Maybe you don’t need to write them, but in my experience, it’s always in your best interest to do so.


In a nutshell, these essays are meant to help AO’s decide if they can see you on campus. Give them a reason to say yes. Feel free to add your tips.
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Replies to: Supplemental essay tips

  • MAmom111MAmom111 185 replies11 threads Junior Member
    Just wanted to say thank you. These are awesome tips!
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9487 replies507 threads Senior Member
    Remember also: Word count matters! You MUST stay within word count.
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  • VaNcBorderVaNcBorder 201 replies17 threads Junior Member
    Amazing tips- thank you @Lindagaf ! I have one graduated from college and one a sophomore in college but have bookmarked this for my sophomore in high school. It seems like the process with her is far away, but in actuality it is not!
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 4581 replies18 threads Senior Member
    @Lindagaf.. Amen! Make this a sticky.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9487 replies507 threads Senior Member
    @knowstuff , it already is:-)
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 4581 replies18 threads Senior Member
    Lol.... Would like to add not only mission statement but also the school moto in some cases. Some are strong on volunteering, some on leadership.. Probably a good idea to align with those per college applying to. I usually say the essay should be personal, unique and interesting. I think what you outlined helps the student to accomplish that.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34779 replies392 threads Senior Member
    edited October 30
    A word of caution. There is no one formula and adcoms know the mission, motto, and what profs teach in what depts.

    For a tippy top, the Why Us is less about "fit" and more about the effort you made to actually know Why X? Not a recitation, not their status, not what words their marketing dept puts out, but a more effective understanding, a show that you "get it."

    Don't leave them thinking you're applying to ten colleges, ranked them by prestige, and you just sat yourself down and looked at the mission statements, who teaches in the dept you want, and...really don't know.

    And the supp essays can be a Why Us, as well. If you do know the college, you should know which answers work better. But lots of kids just take the outside view.
    edited October 30
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9487 replies507 threads Senior Member
    edited October 30
    “The more competitive the college, the more you need to show that you understand what the college is looking for. Spending ten minutes on the website is probably not going to suffice, so dig deeper.”

    Yes, exactly why I said that.

    This post is a general “how to”, but for the most selective colleges, you need to “get it”, as @lookingforward says.
    edited October 30
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9487 replies507 threads Senior Member
    To shed more light @lookingforward 's point, courtesy of @MYOS1634 :

    "You need to show you understand their values and match them to something you've done or regularly do. Think of it as a way to convince someone you like to date you. If all you do is say "You're awesome" "you're my dream person"... why would they go out with *you*? I mean, I'm sure they'd be flattered, but you're not giving them any reason to think *you* are awesome AND a great match for them..."

    Especially if you are applying to tippy tops, your supplements need to show, not just tell.
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  • riceandbeans2002riceandbeans2002 2 replies2 threads New Member
    I wrote a supplemental essay about having an existential crisis, but solving it. Basically I had one in middle school, but I overcame it by deciding life doesn’t need a universal meaning. I tak about how I decided my meaning is to help others, specifically by involving myself in the global health initiative by working for Doctors Without Borders and eventually the WHO/a similar organization. I connect this to a story of my grandfather, whose sister died of dysentery because of a lack of Access to medical care. The essay prompt was about picking a quote and taking about how it applies to an experience that changed the way you approached life.
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  • RIPJiraiyaRIPJiraiya 1 replies0 threads New Member
    Yuh
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