How to Write a Good College Supplemental Essay
Article written and editted by Brendan Lo
The Common Application - one of the most key parts of applying to college. Students are always focused on perfecting their Common Application, but just as important is making sure one has a good supplemental essay. Supplemental essays give applicants the opportunity to showcase why they are a good candidate for the school, and what makes them stand out from other applicants. Supplemental essays vary from school to school and are tailored specifically to each school.
“Students are always focused on perfecting their Common Application, but focusing on a good supplemental essay is important too”
However, because these essays are where you can talk about each school specifically, many schools often end up asking variations of the same questions. We’re going to focus on some tips for one of the most common supplemental questions colleges like to ask: “Why this school?”
Here is an example of a variation of the “Why this school?” question previously asked by Cornell University:
Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at Cornell University. How would that curriculum support your interests?
1. Balance what the school can do for you and what you can do for the school - What mark can you make in the community during your 4 years?
Colleges want to see that you’re not only a good fit for their school, but also that you bring value. Describe how the school can help you develop your interests and reach your goals. Tailor the essay to your strengths. This is where it will help you to weave in your extracurricular activities or any personal accomplishments into your essay. You don’t want to just list your accomplishments and what you participated in, but rather show how with each extracurricular, you took a next step in learning from and contributing to the community.
“Colleges want to see that you’re not only a good fit for their school, but also that you bring value.”
2. Cite opportunities that are specific to your school– not generic courses or characteristics that could apply to any other school.
Colleges want to see that you’re interested in their school– show that you’ve done research on their schools. Find specific courses, programs, or even professors that align with your interests and show that connection. You can even connect these courses or programs to your past experiences, and show how they’d further your education.
“Find specific courses, programs, or even professors that align with your interests and show that connection.”
3. Admissions officers don’t want hear the same accomplishments or stories– use this as an opportunity to show another aspect of yourself
Think of the Common Application and supplemental essays as a package, where each part of the package reveals a different perspective of you as an applicant. You want to refrain from repeating information that has already been stated in your Common Application in your supplemental essays. You have much more than you think to talk about– show yourself off! Let the admissions officers know everything about you and why each aspect makes you a unique candidate.
While we’ve just looked at one of the many common supplemental essay questions that colleges love to ask, some colleges may only ask one. Other colleges may even ask more about how you’ve been a leader or how you’ve contributed to your community, etc.
The supplemental essays are an important part of your college application, don’t forget that you’re evaluated on your application as a whole. Don’t get discouraged by a college rejection! Who knows– you might end up at a college that fits you better than expected. Everything happens for a reason. If you need consultation about your application, book a one-on-one session with us or check out our blogs for more guides!