A few days ago, colleges released their supplements through the Common Application. While the personal statement looms large over the application process, supplemental essays are just as—if not more—important. Here’s what you need to know.
Add schools to your “My Colleges” section. It’s important to do this early. While colleges can’t see your application until it’s submitted, they are privy to two important pieces of information:
This is the only question you should skip until the last minute. Which brings us to…
Do NOT jump immediately to the essays/writing section. Sometimes, colleges hide essays in other sections of the supplement. (An essay on your extracurriculars, for example, might be buried in the “Activities” section.) More importantly, some essay prompts won’t appear until you answer other questions. (For example: you might have to fill out the “Academics” section to trigger an essay prompt about your intended major.)
“Optional” (almost) never means optional. Treat optional essays as required—with only a few exceptions: You can skip an essay only if it clearly doesn’t apply to you. Examples:
Strategize (and self-plagiarize). Take stock of every essay you’ll need to write. Find the overlaps. It’s rarely possible to completely repurpose one school’s essay for another’s, but that doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel each time.
Be specific. It’s essential to modify essays—even when the prompts are identical. If two colleges require 300-words about your academic interests, the bulk of each essay—about 200 words—can mirror the other’s. But the remaining 100 should relate those interests to the school’s specific pedagogy, opportunities, and departments.
Remember, supplemental essays are your best chance to prove to a school that you’re a good fit. Admissions committees should be able to imagine you on campus. Do your research, but don’t just paraphrase the school’s website or mission statement—embody it. Show colleges that you understand their pedagogy by relating specific features to your own interests, experiences, and goals.
And, as always, let us know how we can help.