Start the year off right: 94% of our students were accepted to their top choice schools over the last five years!

How to Write Every Type of Supplemental Essay

Most colleges and universities will ask you to submit, at minimum, one extra essay in addition to the 650 word personal essay. Here's how to make the best impression when applying to your dream school.

What are supplements?

Most colleges and universities will ask you to submit, at minimum, one extra essay in addition to the 650 word personal essay. While your grades and test scores lie at the foundation of your college applications, supplements are a key part of the writing “package” that college admissions officers review to decide whether to admit you to their school. Supplemental questions require a range of answers, some as short as 30 words, others, multiple full length essays of up to 1,000 words.

School-Specific Guides and Examples

We’ve put together guides for all the top schools! Our school-specific supplement guides go in-depth on how to answer every top school’s supplemental essay question(s), complete with examples!

Why are supplements important?

Your personal statement and supplemental essays are your opportunity to tell your story and let admissions officers hear your voice. Admissions officers rely upon essays to get a sense of your personal characteristics, unique qualities, and your potential to thrive as a student on their campus.

Colleges are looking for students who are outstanding academic performers. That being said, in the holistic review process, they are also looking for evidence of:

N

intellectual curiosity

N

drive to improve one’s community

N

determination and resilience

N

school fit / how you are a particularly good match for a school’s specific culture

The goal of the supplement is to answer one question: “Why are you an especially good match for our school, and not better off at a similar one?” The best way you can improve your odds of admission is to showcase your unique qualities and make a case for why you belong at the colleges you’re applying to through your supplements.

KEY TIP

On the other hand, a weak supplement can inadvertently convey disinterest in a school, a lack of care or time invested into the application, and overall is a missed opportunity to help you stand out from other applicants.

Where can I find each colleges’ supplements?

If you are not sure where to find prompts for your colleges’ supplements, check colleges’ official admissions websites and the Common App. You’ll typically find prompts for supplements hiding in different nooks and crannies of the Common App, usually under “Writing Supplement” but sometimes under “Questions→ Writing” or “Questions → Activities.” Supplements often take time, research, and multiple drafts– they matter greatly, so as always, start early and seek as much help and as many resources as you need!

Below, you’ll find guides for how to write each school’s specific supplements! Before you jump into the writing process, however, read through our strategic advice for writing winning supplemental essays.

The 5 Main Types of Supplemental Essays

Although it may seem that colleges require an overwhelming amount of writing, bear in mind that most of the supplements you will have to write can be categorized into common categories. This means that you can use the very similar answers to answer similar questions asked by different schools. Strategically recycling your writing will help make your application process much more efficient!

The main types of supplemental questions that come up again and again are:

N

“Why do you want to attend [X] school?”

N

“Why are you pursuing [X] major?”

N

“How have you overcome challenges or adversity?”

N

“Tell us about your….intellectual interests, most meaningful extracurricular activity or community you belong to, background and/or identity…etc.”

While you should make sure to tailor your essays very carefully to each school’s prompt and offerings (if your “why school” essay is too interchangeable, for example, it runs the risk of being generic or superficial), reusing the basic structures and stories of your common supplements is a smart strategy.

N

"Out-of-the-box"

Other supplements may be much more “out-of-the-box”, such as UChicago’s famous Extended Essay prompts, or other schools’ unique questions about inspirational figures, lists of your best-loved books and media, your favorite snacks, and other esoteric topics. Some of these may be harder to recycle, but surveying all of the prompts for your supplements in advance of drafting and looking for patterns may even reveal recurring unusual prompts–for instance, both Yale University and the University of Virginia ask you to create and explain a hypothetical college course that you could teach.

KEY TIP

Your interests will change, but the values of a university are unchanging. If you’re serious about that school, you should know those values. Log on to that university’s website and look through as much material as you can – their mission statement, the college’s leadership, their history, student publications, even their YouTube channel. Talk to as many current students from that school as possible; visit the school and talk to students around campus if you can. While there’s no need to quote their mission statement in your supplements, your writing should be informed by the same kind of mindset and values that you and the university share.

If you are looking for even more guidance on how to respond to common supplemental questions or are seeking out the right strategy for a particular school’s supplement, Command Education offers several resources. Check out our article on “How to Write College Supplements” and read our school-specific supplement guides below to learn how to convince your dream school you’re the right fit for them!

Share

Consultations

Command Education’s experts take the guesswork out of the college admissions process.

How to Create a Balanced College List

How to Create a Balanced College List

Learn to balance a college list effectively with this guide. Discover safety, reach, and match schools through clear examples, and get advice to develop your customized balanced college list.
A Quick Guide to Merit Scholarships

A Quick Guide to Merit Scholarships

Been a standout student in high school? You might be a great candidate for a merit scholarship! Here’s a guide that covers the main types of merit scholarships, how to qualify and apply, and how ...