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One of the best parts of the college experience is meeting new people, especially the people you’ll be living with once you arrive on campus. For most of you, this will be the first time you’ll be living apart from your family and with complete strangers. Your future roommate, or roommates, will be the people you share your first year experience with – your first orientation week, your first midterms, finals, and everything in between. Colleges know that, and some want to know what your relationship with your future roommate would be like.

In fact, one of the most well-known supplemental essays is the one released by Stanford every year. Here’s the prompt:

Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help you roommate-and us- get to know you better. 

At first glance, this supplemental essay seems relatively “easy” compared to the ones that ask you to detail your greatest accomplishments or obstacles. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this is still an essay that will be read by college admissions officers, and must be written with a thoughtful and genuine approach.  Here’s how to approach writing the roommate supplemental essays.

Share unique aspects of your personality that aren’t highlighted in other essays

Although this essay won’t literally be read by the school’s Housing department, it is still a crucial component of your application. Colleges and admissions officers are looking for applicants who can positively contribute to their campus communities.  This prompt provides a space for applicants to reveal unique aspects of their personality and upbringing that may not have been mentioned in previous essays. In addition, seeing how you would interact with another member, or members, of the community shows admissions officers how you’d fit in on campus.

This is the space where you can share your idiosyncrasies and quirks that make you, you. For instance, your personal statement and resume may list out all the amazing accomplishments and achievements you’ve acquired throughout high school, but do they state your favorite midnight snacks and how they keep you going through midterms and finals? Do you listen to Britney Spears during your morning meditation, or write Wikipedia articles in the shower?

What makes these essays successful is not listing out the student’s unique characteristics or traits, but how applicants aim to reconcile their uniqueness with the people they meet on campus. You may be inclined to share everything that is unique to you–your music taste, your favorite foods, your hobbies – but remember, this prompt wants to learn more about you, and what presence you’ll bring to your campus. You can begin brainstorming characteristics you’d like to share with your future roommate, and then draft a note like you would to your own friends. The key to approaching this prompt is by being authentic and genuine in your tone and your writing, which leads to our second point.

Stray away from cliches and trite statements

These prompts typically allow for a maximum of 250 words, which means that there’s not much space to list out everything you may want to share with your future roommate. Every word matters! One of the factors to consider when writing this essay is to stray away from cliches and overused statements. Here are some phrases to avoid:

  • “I’m a people person”
  • “I love meeting new people”
  • “I can’t wait to meet you!”
  • “We’re going to have a great time”
  • “I’m so excited to be moving in”

These phrases take up space on your essay, and don’t reveal who you are as a person and potential member of the campus community. Remember, the roommate prompts want you to share who you are and how you can add to the school, not how excited you are to be moving to your dorms or that you’re really good at making new friends.

Overall, don’t be afraid to approach this prompt with creativity. Show your unique personality, which means sharing your quirks and idiosyncrasies as well as avoiding generic phrases that a thousand other students might include in their essay. Good luck writing!

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