How to Write a Supplemental Essay

Supplemental essays play a crucial role in the college application process. Let’s explore their significance, types, and purposes:

Importance of Supplemental Essays:

  • Not Optional: The term “supplemental” does not mean optional; these essays are essential.
  • Nuanced Portrait: While your personal statement provides an overview, supplemental essays delve into details, creating a more nuanced portrait of you as an applicant.
  • Specificity: These essays allow you to address specific criteria, such as identity, background, experiences, or community impact.
  • Holistic Picture: Admissions committees use supplementals to form a holistic view of your candidacy.

Types of Supplemental Essays:

  1. “Why Us” Essay: Explain why you’re a good fit for a specific school.
  2. Extracurricular Essay: Discuss an extracurricular activity in-depth.
  3. Design a Class/Major: Propose a course or major you’d like to create.
  4. Diversity-in-Community Essay: Share how you contribute to diversity on campus.

How long should the supplemental essay be?

Supplemental essays vary in length depending on the college and the specific prompt. However, as a general guideline:

  • Common App Personal Statement: The main personal statement (Common App essay) has a maximum length of 650 words.
  • Supplemental Essays: These essays are typically shorter. They can range from 100 to 400 words, although occasionally some may be longer.

Check the specific requirements for each college you’re applying to, as they may have different expectations for supplemental essay lengths!

Supplemental essay structure

When writing a supplemental essay, follow these steps and consider the common types of prompts:

Thoroughly Research the College or University:

  • Delve deep into the institution you’re applying to.
  • Understand its programs, culture, and unique offerings.

Understand the Prompt:

  • Carefully read and comprehend the supplemental essay prompt.
  • Ensure you address the specific question asked.

Brainstorm Ideas:

  • Reflect on your experiences, interests, and values.
  • Consider what makes you unique and how it aligns with the college.

Craft a Strong Thesis Statement:

  • Clearly state the main point of your essay.
  • This thesis will guide your writing.

Tell a Compelling Story:

  • Use vivid language and anecdotes.
  • Engage the reader from the beginning.

Provide Specific Examples:

  • Back up your claims with concrete details.
  • Show how you’ve engaged with the college’s offerings.

Edit and Revise:

  • Review your essay for clarity, coherence, and conciseness.
  • Cut unnecessary words and refine sentences.

Proofread Carefully:

  • Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
  • Ensure your essay is polished and error-free.

How to make an essay memorable and impactful?

Crafting a memorable and impactful essay involves several key strategies. Here are some tips to help you create an essay that resonates with your readers:

Understand What a Personal Essay Is:

  • A personal essay is a short work of autobiographical nonfiction characterized by intimacy and a conversational manner.
  • It’s not just a retelling of events; it should convey universal truths and insights.

Find a Compelling Topic:

  • Choose a topic that deeply resonates with you.
  • Relate your experiences to broader themes or lessons.

Start with a Strong Hook:

  • Grab your reader’s attention from the beginning.
  • Use an intriguing anecdote, a thought-provoking question, or a vivid description.

Create an Outline:

  • Organize your thoughts and structure your essay.
  • Plan the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

Narrow Your Focus:

  • Avoid covering too much ground. Focus on a specific aspect of your topic.
  • Depth is more impactful than breadth.

Show, Don’t Tell:

  • Use descriptive language and sensory details.
  • Instead of stating facts, paint a vivid picture for your readers.

Craft a Thought-Provoking Conclusion:

  • Summarize your key points.
  • Leave the reader with something to ponder or a call to action.

Your essay should leave a lasting impression and connect with your audience on a personal level.

Can you give me an example of a strong supplemental essay?

Let’s take a look at a sample supplemental essay that effectively addresses the prompt.  This example is for Oberlin


Sample Supplemental Essay for Oberlin College: Why This College?

I visited 18 colleges over the past year, yet Oberlin is the one place that most spoke to my interests. Early in my college search, I learned that I prefer a liberal arts college to a larger university. The collaboration between the faculty and undergraduate students, the sense of community, and the flexible, interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum are all important to me. Also, my high school experience was greatly enriched by the diversity of the student body, and I am impressed by Oberlin’s rich history and its current efforts connected to inclusiveness and equality. To say the least, I’d be proud to say I attended the first coeducational college in the country.

After my campus tour, I took some extra time to visit the Adam Joseph Lewis Center. It’s an amazing space, and the students I chatted with spoke highly of their professors. I became truly interested in issues of sustainability during my volunteer work in the Hudson River Valley, and everything I’ve learned about Oberlin makes it seem the ideal place for me to continue exploring and building upon those interests.

I am also impressed by Oberlin’s Creativity and Leadership Project. I’ve been a bit of an entrepreneur ever since second grade when I made a dollar producing and performing The Runaway Bunny for my extended family. I’m drawn to a program that supports the move from classroom learning to creative hands-on, real-world applications.

Finally, as the rest of my application clearly demonstrates, music is an important part of my life. I’ve been playing the trumpet since fourth grade, and I hope to continue performing and developing my skills throughout college.

What better place than Oberlin to do so? With more performances than days in the year and a large group of talented musicians in the Conservatory of Music, Oberlin is an ideal place for exploring my love of both music and the environment.

Your supplemental essays provide an opportunity to showcase your unique interests and how they align with the college’s offerings. Tailor your responses to each school, emphasizing what makes you a great fit!

Supplemental essay topics

How to choose a topic for a supplemental essay?

Choosing a topic for your supplemental essay is crucial. Here are some guidelines to help you select an effective topic:

  • Focus on You: Your topic should be centered around your experiences and unique qualities. Avoid generic or clichéd themes.
  • Differentiation: Choose a topic that sets you apart from other applicants. Share something that isn’t covered in your personal statement.
  • Specificity and Originality: Opt for a specific and original angle. Avoid topics that many students could write about.
  • Positive Reflection: Ensure your topic reflects positively on your character and behavior.

Here are some supplemental essay topics that you might encounter during the college application process:

“Why Us” Essay:

  • Explain why you’re interested in a specific college or university.
  • Discuss how their programs, campus culture, or unique opportunities align with your goals.
  • Highlight specific aspects of the institution that resonate with you.

Community Essay:

  • Reflect on your role in various communities (family, school, neighborhood, etc.).
  • Discuss how these experiences have shaped your values, perspectives, and identity.
  • Consider how you’ll contribute to the college community.

Intellectual Curiosity Essay:

  • Share what excites your intellectual curiosity.
  • Discuss a topic, subject, or area of study that captivates you.
  • Explain why this interest matters to you.

Extracurricular Activity Essay:

  • Dive into an extracurricular activity you’re passionate about.
  • Describe your involvement, impact, and personal growth.
  • Show how this activity complements your academic journey.

Roommate Essay (specific to some colleges):

  • Imagine writing a letter to your future college roommate.
  • Share fun facts, quirks, or aspects of your personality.
  • Be genuine and create a connection.

Unusual Circumstances Essay:

  • Describe any unique challenges or circumstances you’ve faced.
  • Explain how you’ve overcome adversity or turned challenges into opportunities.

Travel, Living, or Working Experiences Essay:

  • Reflect on experiences related to travel, living in different places, or working in diverse communities.
  • Discuss how these experiences have shaped your perspective and personal growth.

Your supplemental essays provide additional insights into who you are as an applicant. Take the time to brainstorm and find a topic that resonates with you.

Each college may have its own unique prompts, so always check the specific requirements for the schools you’re applying to.

What if you are not a strong writer?

If you’re not a strong writer, don’t worry! Here are some tips to improve your writing skills:

Practice Regularly:

  • Writing is like any other skill; it improves with practice.
  • Set aside time each day to write. Start with short paragraphs or journal entries.

Read Widely:

  • Exposure to different writing styles and genres enhances your own writing.
  • Read books, articles, essays, and poetry.

Learn Grammar and Style Rules:

  • Brush up on grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
  • Understand the rules, but also know when to break them for creative expression.

Seek Feedback:

  • Share your writing with others and ask for constructive feedback.
  • Join writing groups or workshops.

Edit Ruthlessly:

  • First drafts are rarely perfect. Edit your work multiple times.
  • Cut unnecessary words and refine your sentences.

Expand Your Vocabulary:

  • Use a thesaurus to discover new words.
  • Be precise in your language.

Read Aloud:

  • Reading your work aloud helps you catch awkward phrasing and errors.
  • It also helps you find your unique voice.

Hire a professional essay writer online

Crafting compelling supplemental essays is essential for your college applications. These essays allow you to showcase your fit for specific colleges. Consider meeting with experienced essay writers at They can provide personalized writing help and answer your questions.

Supplemental essays are an opportunity to highlight your uniqueness and demonstrate why you belong at a particular college. Writing is a journey, and improvement comes with persistence and dedication. Keep writing, and you’ll see progress!