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Supplemental Essays for College Essays 101: Defining Moments

by Story2 Guest Author, on Oct 14, 2015 11:51:45 AM

The supplemental essays are an essential part of your application. They may feel like additional work, but the supplements are a great opportunity to express your commitment to a college and show that you match the personality and character that they’re looking for.

Every college has their own supplement questions, and most of them fall into one of eight categories: Defining Moments, Community, Issues, Influences, Why this College, Why This Major, Activities, and Scholarships.

 The Defining Moments category is the most important. Certain prompts will clearly ask you to write about a Defining Moment, but there are also more creative prompts like the University of Chicago’s “Where’s Waldo?” to which you can respond by writing about a Defining Moment. In fact, even a supplemental essay that falls into one of the other categories can often be answered successfully by describing a relevant, Defining Moment.

Start by thinking about the moments that have shaped you in a positive way. You’ll know you’ve picked a good moment if you enjoy the process of writing about it! If you’re only writing about something because you think it’s what the college wants to see, that probably won’t result in a meaningful essay.

Here are 3 tips to write a great Defining Moment essay that will tell your story and show your interest in a specific college:

  1. Don’t repeat another essay: Make sure that each essay you send to a college reveals something different about you.  If you’re going to use the same experience for multiple essays, then come at it from a different angle.  

  1. Connect with the college: Write about a moment that is important to you, and then find the overlap between that moment and the values of the college. Maybe you volunteered to coach a youth sports league, and you helped a player through a tough incident at home. How could you connect this to the college’s commitment to community service? What relevant activities would you do when admitted?

  1. Include specific details--about you and the college: Read your essay as if you’re on an admissions committee. Could it be about lots of students? Could it be about many colleges? If the answer to either question is “yes,” then you have more work to do! Colleges want to see what makes you unique, and they want to know that you’ve done your research about them too. Use specific details to take your essay from “nice to have” to “this is someone we want to be part of our community.”

Want more help? Our founder, Carol Barash, PhD, recently wrote 10 tips to writing supplemental essays. You can also find information about the supplemental essays on our resources page.

Jacob graduated from Tufts University in 2012 with a major in History and a minor in Communications and Media Studies. A lifelong storyteller, Jacob acted throughout his youth and performed improv and standup comedy in high school and college. Prior to joining Story2, Jacob spent two years working in the entertainment industry, where he worked for a Nickelodeon show and a YouTube channel.

Topics:college admission

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