This week I will be giving a special hour-long lesson to my Application Nation - Class of 2020 group on supplemental essays. The questions have already begun to roll in from the members.
Is it better to write about the college or the program you are applying to? Should you mention an activity if it directly relates to your intended major? How important are supplemental essays anyway?
This tends to be one of the hardest aspects of the college application process. I often hear students say that they just figured out how to write a personal essay, and now they are expected to try their hand at a completely different type of writing. That is correct. Supplemental essays have a different feel to them.
If you are beginning to wonder how much time to devote and soul searching you will need to do to write these essays, here are some tips to help you through this next stage of the process:
1. Most of the more selective colleges will require at least one additional essay.
READ MORE: 5 Tips for Writing College-Specific Essays
2. Supplemental essays are usually found on a college's supplement.
3. Speaking of announcements, most colleges have not yet publicly shared their 2019-2020 supplemental essays.
4. Most of us won't find out about the new prompts until August 1st when the Common Application and the Coalition Application are updated.
5. While you wait to hear about the new prompts, glance over the old college supplement prompts on the Common Application and the Coalition Application.
6. Call the individual admissions offices for the colleges on your list and ask if the prompts will stay the same or change.
7. The most popular supplemental essay prompt is a "Why Us?" question.
8. Avoid using themes mentioned during the tour/information session and well-known traditions.
9. Try to avoid a dangling reference.
10. Many colleges will have a prompt asking the student to write about an extracurricular or job-related experience.
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Understanding the demands of these supplemental essays can help a student figure out how many and which colleges to include on their final list. Sometimes a student can recycle ideas or even sentences on multiple supplemental essays. But each essay written needs to have its own feel and it must honor the ethos of that college or university. If not, the admissions officer can sometimes pick up on the fact that the essay was originally written for another college.