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How To Write Supplemental Essays

June 1, 2019


Successful supplemental essays (the “Why Us” essays) connect your interests and passions to the unique offerings of individual colleges. They generally have a word count between 200-350 words – but beware – these little essays pack a mighty punch.


Don't wait until you're up against the clock to write them. Every college has classes, programs and activities that are unique to them, and it takes time to research and make assessments about your potential fit.


What vision do you have for your college experience? The colleges on your list need to sync up with your vision. Think about how you will make a positive contribution on each campus.


Here’s an exercise that can energize your writing –


Imagine you’re pitching the college to a friend. And like a traditional elevator pitch, it should be succinct and persuasive. There are so many areas you can explore, including academic focus, research, professors, study abroad programs, clubs, activities, culture and campus vibe. In 30 seconds, tell your friend why you’re excited to attend each school. 


Imagine the day-to-day possibilities. Think about the opportunities you plan to pursue on campus. Provide some context for your choices.


Still not sure what to write? Then there’s a good chance you’re thinking too generally. Do more research, and learn the nitty-gritty details about each college:


o    Tour campuses when you can, and take notes. Those notes will help you             remember relevant information for supplemental essays. Record key                 details that resonate with you.


o    Research online. Browse college websites and go on virtual tours. Read            mission statements and pay attention to their core values.


o    Attend information sessions at your high school. Introduce yourself to              visiting college reps, and ask questions about specific majors, minors, and        campus activities. Soak up every inch of their brochures.


o    Learn all about classes and professors that interest you. Look up the                  names and descriptions of classes they teach, and research any books or          online media presentations associated with their work.


o    Reach out to current students on social media. Ask them about a typical            day, academically and socially. Find out if they offer campus sleep-overs.


o    Check in with the college career center to learn about services regarding           internships and careers. How do students spend their summers?


Don’t just list what you’d like do there – mesh your interests with their offerings in a meaningful way.


At first, it may feel uncomfortable to sketch out your potential college experience in short essays. After all, you’re still a teenager, and your life is ahead of you.


Remember, you’re not signing away your right to change your mind. You’re just making choices based on the best information you have at this moment in time.





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