Supplemental College Essays: Why, Who, What, and How

college admission college essay college planning supplemental essays Jun 10, 2024

3 Key Takeaways

  • Understand the importance and purpose of supplemental college essays in the admissions process.
  • Learn who the audience is and how to make your essays resonate with them.
  • Get practical tips on making your essays personal, persuasive, and precise.

When it comes to college admissions, the supplemental essay is a vital piece of the puzzle. These essays offer a unique opportunity to highlight aspects of your profile that go beyond your academic records and test scores. But how do you approach these essays effectively? Let's break down the why, who, what, and how of supplemental college essays to help you stand out in the crowded admissions landscape.

Why Are Supplemental Essays Important?

Supplemental essays serve a critical purpose: they complete the picture of who you are as an applicant. While your Common App essay, transcripts, and letters of recommendation provide a broad view, supplemental essays dive deeper into specific aspects of your personality, interests, and fit for a particular college.

As I always remind my students, “The goal of the supplemental essays is truly to complete the picture that admissions is going to have about you from your stats, from your transcript, and from your Common App essay.” These essays allow you to demonstrate your unique experiences, motivations, and how you align with the college’s values and offerings.

Who Are You Writing For?

Understanding your audience is crucial. Typically, your essays will be read by young admissions officers in their twenties who spend no more than eight minutes per application. They often skim the first and last sentences of your essays, so it’s vital to hook them from the start and leave a lasting impression.

What Should Your Essays Include?

To craft compelling supplemental essays, they need to be personal, persuasive, and precise. Here’s how:

  1. Personal: Make sure the essay is about you. Share your unique experiences and why they matter. “It needs to be about you. It needs to convince your reader that you have evidence to back up your statements, which means examples,” I often emphasize to my clients.

  2. Persuasive: Provide evidence to back up your claims. Whenever you introduce an idea, follow it up with specific examples that illustrate your point.

  3. Precise: Be meticulous with your language and examples. Each sentence should add something new and relevant, ensuring that your essay is both concise and impactful.

How to Write Your Supplemental Essays

The mechanics of writing supplemental essays involve thorough research and thoughtful drafting. Here’s a step-by-step approach:

1. Start with Research

For essays that require research, such as “Why our college?” or “Why this major?”, spend time exploring the college’s website, blogs, and social media. Take detailed notes on the aspects that resonate with you, whether it’s specific courses, professors, or extracurricular opportunities.

2. Structure Your Essay

Begin with a strong hook to grab the reader’s attention. Since admissions officers might only read the first and last sentences, make sure these parts are compelling. Follow this with well-organized paragraphs that build your argument or narrative, each supported by specific examples.

3. Revise for Precision

Precision often comes in on the second or third draft. Review your essay to eliminate any repetitive or unnecessary information. Each sentence should be clear and contribute to your overall message.

Ethical Considerations

With the rise of AI tools like ChatGPT, it’s important to adhere to your high school’s code of ethics and the policies of the colleges you’re applying to. While these tools can help generate content quickly, they cannot replace your unique voice and experiences. As I often say, “These tools…can generate content quickly. But what they can't do is tell your story, include your experiences, and why they matter to you.”

Final Thoughts

Crafting supplemental college essays is an art that requires careful thought, research, and revision. By understanding the purpose of these essays, knowing your audience, and focusing on making your essays personal, persuasive, and precise, you can create compelling narratives that enhance your application and increase your chances of admission.


Video Transcription

Anjali Maazel

Anjali Maazel

Founder and CEO of Anja Education Consultants

At Anja Education Consultants, we pride ourselves on the exceptional expertise of our Founder and CEO, Anjali Maazel. With over 15 years of experience as an alumna interviewer for Princeton University, our team, led by Anjali, brings a wealth of knowledge in college admissions. Our interdisciplinary approach, which melds arts, international education, and public relations, allows us to provide unparalleled guidance in college planning. The cornerstone of our success is the proprietary Talent Development 3D Process™, a unique strategy that has achieved a remarkable 100% success rate in securing admissions for our clients to at least one of their top three preferred schools. As a respected Ted Talk speaker and a sought-after authority in college admissions, we are frequently invited by high schools across the globe to share our insights and strategies, empowering students to reach their full potential in the competitive world of college admissions.
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