How to Write a Strong Supplemental College Essay

You’ve chosen your list of colleges you’re applying to and now it’s time to actually apply to them. The nerves may be setting in but this is such an exciting moment as a high school senior. Now that you’re looking at the Common App, you see that your college has a supplemental essay section. There are many parts to the college admissions process but the supplemental essay portion may not be something you’re familiar with. Don’t worry, this guide will show you how to write a good supplemental college essay. 

What is a Supplemental College Essay?

A supplemental college essay is a separate essay from your admissions essay that some colleges use during the admissions process. A supplemental essay is not always required to write, but we suggest writing one if the option is there. It’s an essay that shows more of who you are personally according to prompts rather than focusing on your academics, so it’s different from the main personal statement that colleges use. The admissions committee has already seen your initial admissions essay and your academic transcript, so it’s important to show who you are outside of that. 

How to Write a Good Supplemental Essay for College

1. Follow the Prompt 

Following the prompt may seem like a given, but it’s easy to stray away from what the prompt says. Especially if the word count is higher, you may start to go off-script and write about something unrelated to the prompt. Following the prompt to a tee will show the admissions counselors that you can follow directions and ensure you write a solid essay.  

2. Write Something New

The admissions committee has already seen your entire academic transcript and admissions essay, they don’t need to see it again. Write about something personal and unrelated to the other parts of your application. This will show your uniqueness to the committee and make you stand out to them. They have thousands of students applying to their school with great grades and good admissions essays, so they need to see something else. 

3. Finish Early 

Don’t wait until the last minute to start writing your supplemental college essay. Rushing to finish your essay before the deadline doesn’t promote your best work. When you’re rushed, you don’t have time to think about what you want to write most and you’ll settle for something less. Finishing early allows you to go back and read your essay a few more times with fresh eyes to ensure it’s exactly what you want to submit to the college admissions committee. 

4. Cut Out Words

Filler words and passive language takes power away from your essay so we suggest cutting them out. The words am, are, is, was, were, be, being, and been can be cut out or fixed a majority of the time to create stronger language in your essays. Search your essay for these words and see how you can fix the wording of the sentences they are used in. 

5. Write School-Specific Essays

A lot of future college students will recycle their supplemental essays, but to make yours stand out, you need to incorporate the specific school’s values. A quick internet search will show you the mission statement and core values that each of your prospective schools has. Use this in your essay to give the admissions committee a vision of you being part of their campus life and student body. 

What are the Common App Essay Prompts?

If your college uses the Common Application (which it most likely does), you’ll see each supplemental essay question on their website! Most colleges use the Common App personal statement for their college applicants so it’s super convenient for you and them during the college application process. When you know what the prompts are in advance, you can better prepare and think about a compelling essay. These are the 7 supplemental essay prompts from Common App.

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Get Writing

Writing a strong supplemental essay is important for your college admissions process. The admissions officers use this essay to differentiate you from other candidates and see how you would fit on their college campus. Follow our college supplemental essay tips to get into the school of your dreams!

If you’re still looking for a college that fits what you need, use College Raptor’s college match tool. It’s personalized to what you want and need from your college campus. The results will give you a college list that adheres to your academic and career needs. Once you’ve picked your colleges, use our scholarship search tool to get FREE money to go to college!