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    Supplemental Essays: How Important Are They?

    By Cece Gilmore

    Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: August 28th, 2023
    Supplemental Essays: How Important Are They?

    Supplemental essays can be the difference between an acceptance to your dream school or a rejection. These essays allow you to “speak” to the admissions readers like nothing else. After you read our article, you will be motivated to send in your very best supplemental essays for each and every college that requires them. Let’s get started! 

    Purpose of supplemental essays

    The purpose of supplemental essays is to provide alternative opportunities for applicants to reveal details about themselves that have not been mentioned in their application. Supplemental essay prompts often ask “why” the applicant decided to apply to a particular school. This is one way to let schools know that you are truly interested and that it is the right fit for you. 

    How important are supplemental essays? 

    Supplemental essays are very important because they can tip the scales in your favor!  First, consider that every college and university has some kind of admissions requirements. Usually, they decide whether to accept, or not to accept, an applicant based on all of some combination of the following factors: 

    Typically, universities weigh these factors according to their own formulas to help determine whether or not to accept an applicant. It is completely up to the particular university to determine which factor should carry the most weight. Some schools put considerable weight on supplemental essays in order to get a more holistic sense of “who” an applicant is. 

    Students are more than GPAs and SATs

    Factors such as GPA or SAT scores do not always give admissions officers a good sense of who you are as an applicant. Therefore, supplemental essays provide another means for the admissions officer to get to know you and your interests. 

    In fact, many colleges have begun to include more fun and creative supplemental essay questions. They do this to get to know their applicants on a more personal and less superficial level. Therefore, it is in your best interest to take supplemental essays seriously and try your best to impress the university you are applying for. 

    How to do well on a supplemental essay

    Writing a good supplemental essay can be the key to admission to a school you really want to attend. Follow the tips and guidelines below and be sure that you are putting your best foot forward!

    Do your research!

    Supplemental essay prompts usually have something to do with the educational institutions you are applying to. Therefore, it is critical that you complete some focused research prior to answering any supplemental essay. 

    Research includes looking on the school website and social media channels to find out specific details about the: 

    • Campus
    • Location
    • Clubs
    • Organizations
    • Traditions
    • Courses
    • Professors

    Once you have completed adequate research, use this research to your advantage. You should name drop specific details when applicable. These might include mentioning a particular professor or class in your response to demonstrate how much you connect with the school.

    Most likely, this will give you a leg up against other applicants who give generic answers. The school will take note that you truly want to attend their institution based upon your knowledge for their niche opportunities. 

    Check for silly mistakes

    It can be so easy to go auto-pilot when responding to supplemental essay prompts.This might sound like a given, but  it is important that you check over your work thoroughly before submitting it to a college or university. You can easily check for mistakes by reading your essay out loud or asking a trusted family member or friend to read your essay. 

    Do not repeat yourself

    It is so important that you are not repeating yourself, either within the supplemental essay or within your application as a whole. For example, if your Common App essay details your relationship with playing soccer, do not write about soccer for a supplemental essay!

    Being mindful of being repetitive  ensures that you can show the most well-rounded version of yourself while highlighting  every aspect of your personality and interests. Colleges do not want to read about the same thing over and over! Rather, they want to get a good sense of who their future students might be. 

    Follow the word count

    Most supplemental essays typically have a word count for applicants to follow. Staying within the prescribed word limit ensures that there are no issues with your application. If you go over the word count, there is a chance that a school will stop reading your essay or not even read it in the first place. If your essay is too long, try to take out transition words and look for places where a sentence is not necessary. 

    Related: How to write 250 and 500 word essays

    Be authentic

    Being authentic is the absolute most important tip to follow when writing supplemental essays. Schools want to get a sense of who their applicants are, in fact, that is the main reason for supplemental essays! Being true to yourself and your story allows you to highlight personal strengths and quirks. In addition, if you are not sincere with information on your supplemental essays, it can be quite detrimental to your chances of acceptance. 

    Related: How to write about yourself

    What should a good supplemental essay reveal about you? 

    A good supplemental essay should touch on the following points: 

    • Provide more information about you
    • Demonstrate your interests and expertise
    • Show what you will bring to the campus environment
    • Set yourself apart from other applicants

    Common supplemental essay prompts

    “Why us?” essay

    The most common supplemental essay prompt you will come across is the “Why us?” Universities want to know why they are a good fit for the applicant. Therefore, it is important that you select universities that are the right match for you to begin with. You can find this out by doing adequate research on the school to find out the specific programs and aspects that most align with your interests. 

    “Why this major?” essay

    Sometimes, applicants are asked to declare a major or apply for a specific college within a university. Some supplemental essay prompts ask applicants to describe their interests and future goals when it comes to their intended field of study. 

    The community impact essay

    This prompt asks you to describe how a community or experience has impacted you or how you have impacted your community. Ultimately, this supplemental essay is an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to make a positive impact on your community. 

    Also see: How to respond to the Common App essay prompts

    Final thoughts

    We hope that you now understand why supplemental essays are so important! They are often the part of your application that allow you to elaborate on what makes you you! Ultimately, you want to show the best side of yourself to all schools you apply to. By writing fantastic supplemental essays, you are putting your best self forward. 
    A good supplemental essay can be the difference between an acceptance or a rejection letter from your dream college. Therefore, wow them with your very best writing and authenticity!

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