Starting Supplemental Essays

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How to Write Stand-Out Supplements

Supplemental essays on the Common Application are a big part of your applicant profile. They help the admissions office learn more about you, demonstrate your interest, and they give you the opportunity to really stand out in the admissions process.

We’ve already covered the common “Why this College?” essay, but that’s not the only supplemental essay that you may come across. While no two supplements are the same, there are a few tactics you can apply to every essay to make sure it’s stellar.

Here are some tips on how to write a stand-out supplement:

Tailor your essays

We always say “treat every application like it’s your top-choice school.” This means putting equal care into each essay and tailoring them to the school and course of study to which you’re applying, not just copying and pasting the same generic essay into each supplement. Admissions officers can tell from you’re writing if you’re really interested in attending or not, so take your time to really put some effort into all of your essays, no matter how simple or short they may be.

Use specific details

Part of tailoring your essay is using school-specific details and examples in your writing. Just like in the“Why this College?” essay, if the prompt asks you to address something about the school, use your research and notes from a campus visit to include specific details. Talk about the specific classes and clubs that interest you, the professors you would like to study with, and the aspects of the school’s history, traditions, and campus that draw you to it.

Get Creative

The rise of the supplemental essay has prompted schools to think outside of the box and release quirky prompts in an effort to urge students to think creatively, too! Odd essay topics and quick-take responses that require only a sentence, or even just a one-word response, are meant to challenge students and give admissions officers insight into your personality.

For example, USC asks “What’s the greatest invention of all time?” Don’t just put down the first thing that comes to mind and move on. Really think about what influences you in your day-to-day life and what has had an impact on your interests and passions. An answer like “the Internet” is going to be common and bland, so get creative!

Write in Your Own Voice

Remember, college admissions officers want to get to know you, not who you think they want you to be. Write in your own voice! It’s good to get feedback from teachers and counselors, but be sure to incorporate their edits in a way that still stays true to your voice and personality. Avoid using lofty language and convoluted sentence structure in an effort to sound more sophisticated. Be yourself!

What other strategies have you used to put together stellar supplemental essays? Tell us in the comments below!

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