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10 Secrets to Get Your Supplemental Essays Right!

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Nov 5, 2015 5:29:00 PM


Most students spend too much time on their personal statements and not enough time on their supplemental essays for individual colleges. They turn to their supplements late in the game--just a couple days before they are due--producing poorly researched, poorly written essays when they are speaking to individual colleges. Don’t make this mistake!

Plan Ahead!

Take the time to research, plan and write thoughtful, intentional responses to each of the supplemental questions for each of the colleges on your list using these 10 proven steps:

1. Remember: supplement essays are for a specific college. 

If a college adds a supplemental essay, they want to know something else about you, something relevant to their college community.

2. Research: 

Before you can answer any supplement  essay prompt thoughtfully (before you add a college to your list, really), you need to research that specific college. Talk to current students. Checkout their website, social media and recent news. Take a virtual tour, or a real tour if you can get there.

3. What type of supplement? 

The first thing to ask yourself is “What type of supplement is this?” At Story2 we have broken down supplement essays into 8 different types: Defining Moment, Community, Influence, Issue, Activity, Why this College, Why this Major, and Scholarships. There’s lots more info about each on our website.

4. What are they asking for? 

Unlike the personal statement--which is about you--supplemental essays are usually asking for something specific about how you relate to that college. Take the time to figure out what the question is asking for. Confused? Story2 Coaches can explain what the college is looking for and help you write authentic essays.

5. Build a bridge: 

Each supplemental essay is an opportunity to make a palpable connection (a bridge) between something you’ve done in the past and something you want to do in the future--either in college or after college. This is a key move for all supplements, using each essay to add specifics to the overall story you’re telling to that college.  

6. Use each essay to reveal a different part of your character: 

Using the same story in multiple essays is a mistake. Reflect on what’s most important for colleges to know about you, adding something new with each essay.

7. Keep it short + tight: 

You don’t have to use the whole word limit in your supplements. Often shorter is better, so long as you tell a story about yourself and use that story to answer the specific question that supplement is asking.

8. Use details, dialogue and description to bring supplements to life: 

Use your storytelling tools to expand the essay from something many people could write to something that reveals your unique perspective.

9. Focus out: 

Often supplements ask you to take a position--e.g. “What matters to you and why?” or “You have your community’s undivided attention. What would you tell them?” Be careful! Do not use your essay as a platform to proclaim the validity of your beliefs against someone else’s. It’s better to draw the reader into your world, showing how your positions were formed and what actions you take based on your commitments.

10. Create reasons to believe: 

A great essay gives a college a reason to believe in you by providing a glimpse into your world--where you’ve come from, what you routinely do, what you can be counted on to do for others in a college community.

Topics:college admission