We all dread the process of completing your college application. However, most items are pretty straightforward, like submitting your standardized test scores and GPA calculations. Yet, one essential element that many run through is the supplemental essay.
The supplemental essay allows you to showcase your individuality and passions. They are the perfect opportunity to shine through and appeal to the admission committee. Hence, this guide will teach you how to craft a great supplemental essay for college.
What are Supplemental Essays?
Supplemental essays are an integral part of every application process. This allows applicants to showcase their personality, experiences, and fit. In other words, it is a chance for you to explain why and how you are the perfect fit for the college of your choice.
However, do not mistake a supplemental essay for the Common Application or the personal statement. Unlike these two options, a supplemental one is more specific to individual institutions and often targets unique aspects of the school’s culture, values, and academic programs.
Here is the main distinction between the personal essay, supplemental essay, and the Common App:
- Common App: Used by various colleges, allowing a student to fill out a single application form to submit to multiple schools. It demands general information about the applicant, and often doesn’t ask for something specific. Moreover, it allows students to submit a personal essay, which is integrated as part of the application.
- Personal statement: The personal statement is a written essay that allows you to show your personality, experiences, and aspirations. Unlike the Common App, the personal statement is a chance to tell your unique story, hence it doesn’t focus on general information. Typically, a school will offer you a prompt for your personal statement.
- Supplemental essay: These are additional essays that complement both the Common App and the personal statement. The prompt you will have will vary widely from one school to another. Moreover, the purpose of this essay is to help admission officers understand why you are the perfect fit for their school.
Every supplemental essay will be tailored toward the college you are choosing. Hence, they all vary in subjects and topics. Some of the subjects that might will be further discussed in the section below.
Types of College Supplemental Essays
To understand how to write a good college essay, you need to understand the different types of supplemental essays out there. Each type addresses another aspect of your personality, interest, or preparedness. The types of college supplemental essays discussed below are based on the ones mentioned by Crimson Education:
1. Why us? Why you? This type of essay usually demands you to address both sides of the coin. Hence, you might have to discuss why you chose that particular college. However, you will also be expected to demonstrate how it aligns with your passions and values.
2. Academic interest. If you already know which major you want to pursue, this is your time to shine. Through this essay, you can demonstrate exactly why and how you plan on studying for your field. However, you still have a shot if you haven’t decided on a major! Simply discuss your academic interests in general.
3. Extracurricular activities. The questions you will face will invite you to discuss a list of activities you have partook in and why they form a fundamental part of who you are. Hence, you use this chance to demonstrate your specific interests and experiences and how they shaped your character.
4. Community involvement. This differs from the above mentioned extracurricular activities. The main difference is that you will be expected to address what community means to you and how you plan to be part of the society in the college.
5. Another Common App essay. This is where you will be presented with a prompt similar to the one you filled in the Common App. Hence, they vary in subject, as they can address various topics. Therefore, you might be expected to talk about someone who inspired you or an experience that changed your worldview.
6. Short prompts. You might find a small, brief description that must be filled in. For example, you might be asked about your favorite object, who you see as a role model, or what class you would be teaching.
7. Unusual prompts. The most fun yet bizarre prompts you might find yourself with are these unusual ones. You might be asked weird questions, such as how to design a class, what you do during free time, and what excites you about education. This is your chance to be creative and go deep in your descriptions.
How to Write a Supplemental Essay for College Applications?
So, do you want to learn how to write supplemental essays? This section will break down the steps of the process. However, remember that your exact thought process will differ according to the type of supplemental essay you must write. Regardless, here is a breakdown of specific tips that will help you write excellent supplemental essays:
1. Read and understand the prompt: Read the prompt and understand what the college asks. Identify the topic, length required, and specific instructions. After you read it thoroughly, consider crafting an outline to help you align your ideas with the end goal.
2. Research the college: Before you commence your writing journey, learn about the college itself. That includes finding things beyond the academic programs, which include culture, values, and opportunities. The more you learn about the school, the stronger your essay will be.
3. Show genuine interest: Do not skimp on your descriptions. Admission committees want students who show genuine interest in their programs and campus. For instance, talk about the activities and initiatives that the school offers. Aim to focus on other aspects aside from academics.
4. Tell a story: You can use anecdotes and narrative to engage your readers and make it much more enjoyable and compelling. For example, imagine you were asked to write about your favorite book. You could tell a story about how “To Kill a Mockingbird” opened your eyes to social justice issues, which inspired you to assist in the community.
5. Stay focused: Do not deviate from the question at hand. Stay focused on the main idea and avoid going off-topic, even if you get too excited. For instance, if the prompt asks you about your career goals, do not attempt to veer into unrelated topics like your hobbies or activities.
6. Be specific: You should provide real-life examples that support any of your stories or claims. Go into the nitty gritty of it all, and discuss in detail how you help raise money for a fundraiser, showed initiative, or made tangible impact.
7. Avoid repetition: You do not have enough space to repeat yourself constantly. Hence, use this chance to show different aspects of yourself. For instance, if you mentioned your loved for science in your personal essay, there is no need to mention it again.
8. Seek feedback: Ask your teacher or counselor to review your essay before sending it in. You can even share an experience where a teacher’s feedback on your draft helped you refine your thoughts and ideas.
9. Avoid cliches and generic statements: Do not use cliches when writing, as the admission committee has probably already read that sentence a thousand times. Don’t say things like, “I want to make the world a better place,” which is a very common cliché. Express them in a more unique manner, such as, “My dream is to combat food insecurity in marginalized communities.”
10. Respect the word limit: Please do not go over the word limit, as that shows a lack of commitment and self-control. The word limit you can expect ranges anywhere from 50 words to 650. For example, Standford has a policy where you need to write at least 100 words and at most 250.
3 Tips for Writing Supplemental Essay for Specific Colleges
In this section, we will discuss supplemental essay examples and prompts from different colleges. This will provide you with the assistance you need by understanding what individual colleges might require.
1. Harvard University
The supplemental essay for Harvard University will provide you with the option of submitting an additional written description. There is a list of items you can write about, such as an unusual event, travel experiences, or an intellectual experience.
Since you will have a wide range of options, use this as a chance to share some unique aspects of yourself, your background, or your achievements. Focus on the quality, not the quantity of the words. Moreover, ensure that your response is concise and impactful.
2. Stanford University
Stanford asks about three items. The first is about your excitement about learning. The second revolves around something you want your future roommate to know about you. Third is a description of your life experiences.
Explain why the topic is significant to your life for each prompt and how it can influence your actions and decisions. When you explain each prompt, address it with concrete examples and personal anecdotes to make it more personal and compelling.
3. Yale University
Yale has a range of prompts they might ask you. One example that pops out is, “What about Yale that has led you to apply?” Well, this requires a comprehensive answer, but you will have a limit of 125 words or fewer.
Hence, in such a scenario, you can first show how enthusiastic you are to be part of the college. Then, be Yale-specific. Therefore, talk about its campus, programs, or research opportunities. Then, find a personal connection, whether by visiting the campus or connecting with a Yale student.
These are colleges with supplemental essays. We have also dived into how to address each one and its prompts.
Dos and Don’ts of Writing Supplemental Essays
If you want to write the best supplemental essays for college, then follow this list of things to do and other items of things to avoid:
- Do extensive research on the college and its programs.
- Do show through your answer, and don’t simply tell. Use specific examples and evidence to support your points.
- Do edit and proofread before you send anything in. Also, refer to someone more experienced so they can give you an honest opinion on your performance.
- Do be authentic by being yourself while writing. Focus on what makes you unique by reflecting on your values and aspirations.
- Don’t procrastinate and leave things till the last minute. Give yourself ample time to brainstorm and edit your responses.
- Don’t reiterate your resume, as the supplemental essay is often an opportunity for you to speak about things that have not been asked anywhere else in the application.
- Don’t be overly formal, as that might sound more robotic. Hence, aim for well-structured sentences that sound natural and conversational.
- Don’t plagiarize or use pre-written essays, as most colleges will be able to detect such results. Also, give credit whenever it is due, especially if you quote or paraphrase.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Write Great Supplemental Essays for College?
If you want to learn how to write a good supplemental essay, we have already covered everything you would need to know in this guide. We discussed everything from the essay and what it entails to the dos and don’ts of writing it.
Moreover, we dived into the details of supplemental essay examples of different colleges. All this information will help you achieve the best version of an essay you can create. Through this guide, you will craft a compelling, personal, and crafty response that resonates with the admission committee.