In a recent Forbes Magazine article, our counseling colleague Brennan Barnard interviewed four admission deans from top colleges about what they’re looking to see in students’ essays – specifically their supplemental essays. Brennan is well known in the college counseling community, so it wasn’t hard for him to pick up the phone and get comments from high-level admission experts from Northwestern, University of Vermont, Harvey Mudd, Vanderbilt and the University of Chicago.
Since I find the non-stop popup ads in Forbes really annoying, I’ll summarize their advice for you here. When it comes to writing supplemental essays – the additional essays many colleges ask beyond your personal statement essay, keep these things in mind:
- Draft different responses for each supplemental essay. They may have overlapping themes but they are each asking you to address the topic a bit differently. If you cut and paste the same response for each supplemental essay, it may appear as if you don’t really care about each individual college, and that will help them not care so much about you.
- Be original and engaging! Don’t rehash your resume or activities list, or say the same things you’ve already said in your personal statement.
- Use the questions to demonstrate different qualities about yourself. Colleges are especially interested in seeing how you’ve persevered through a difficult situation, or overcome an obstacle. If there are multiple supplements, make sure you’re showing a different quality about yourself in each – don’t overlap your points or your stories.
- We always like to say SHOW, DON’T TELL! Share a situation from your life with the reader that will SHOW them your personal qualities, instead of telling them you possess them.
- Be yourself! Write thoughtfully and let your passion shine through.
Your essays are really your “One Shot” to show colleges who you are and how you’ve impacted those around you, up to this point in your life. They will draw their own conclusions about how you might impact THEIR campus community and make decisions about whether or not to invite you to join them based on those conclusions. Grab ahold of that “One Shot” and put all of your effort into your essays.
Btw if you’re a HamFanatic (like we are), we have more college admission advice based on the fabulous Broadway musical, here.
And we have lots more advice about your college essays here.
As always – if you decide you need some guidance as you decide where to apply and whether applying to a religiously affiliated college is right for you, please reach out to us! We’re here to support you through the testing maze and all stages of your college admission journey!