Supplemental College Essay Tips  

When writing your college admissions essay, you may have the option to write a supplemental college essay. It can be confusing, especially if you’ve never seen the college application process before. If you have not heard about a supplemental college essay before and don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered!

College student typing on a laptop.

What is a supplemental college essay?

At its most basic, it’s an additional writing piece you can choose to write (or may be required to write) during your college admissions process. It is different from a traditional essay and the Common App essay prompts, but also provides the freedom to write more about yourself! It’s very similar to a personal statement and has specific prompts.

When colleges have tens of thousands of students applying each year, it’s hard to see how each one will fit in at their campus. A student can look good on paper with all the right educational and extracurricular credentials, but are they the right fit for that college? Supplemental essays allow the admissions committee to look further than the academic achievements of students and see each individual for who they are with this important writing piece.

8 Supplemental College Essay Tips  

1. Know Which Colleges Require a Supplemental Essay 

Not every college requires a supplemental essay for the admissions process and each one may have different supplemental essay prompts. Do we suggest you write one if they give you the option? Yes! Supplemental essays are the perfect way to show your personality to the admissions office and even talk about your possible academic interests. Make a list of the schools you want to attend and see if they require a supplemental essay so you can get a head start. It’s good to have a clear start when beginning your college admissions process. 

2. Be Yourself 

This may sound cliche, but you should be yourself in your essay. Showing off your personality is what will attract the attention of the Office of Undergraduate Admission and make them want you for their campus life. You don’t want to exaggerate too much about yourself or try to be someone you are not. You may end up finding you aren’t the right fit for the school if you do this. 

3. Say Something New

The college admissions counselors have seen your high school transcripts, academic records, ACT and SAT scores and other redeeming qualities from your initial application. The supplemental essay is not the place to talk about your academic achievement again. It’s a place to say something new and unique to you that will make you stand out from other students, especially since they’re giving creative prompts and something different from the Common App essay prompts. Don’t repeat things you’ve already said before. Be intentional with your words and essay answers and you’ll be sure to win the admissions committees over.

4. Read Directions Carefully 

Following prompts is key to getting through the competitive admissions process and crucial before you start your writing process. It is also the most important thing when writing your piece. You can write a beautiful essay but if it doesn’t follow the prompt then it shows you don’t follow directions well. Read the supplemental essay prompt carefully before writing it to ensure you have the topic down. Pro tip: do not go over the word count!

5. Be School-Specific

Add some pizzazz to your essay by incorporating the college’s core values and other specific things into your writing. Give the readers a vision of you attending an academic program and walking around their campus. School-specific essays are especially helpful because they can see you in their student body while reading your unique college essay. Take some time to do some research on the schools to ensure you have the right details and match them with your academic and intellectual interests. This is especially important if you recycle your essays – change the details before submitting them. 

6. Start Early

There are so many things on your mind as a high school senior. One way to get ahead and ensure you’re not stressed during your last year of high school is to start early. Once the applications open, take a few hours a week to start working on them so you’re not rushed later on and can build strong college essays over a few months. Admissions officers can tell when a college admission essay has been rushed because they have been reading these writing pieces for years. Don’t let procrastination be the reason you don’t get into your dream school. 

7. Talk About the Future

Share your aspirations with your readers. Talk about the inspirations that have led you to where you are today and how they’re part of where you’re going. Students can also talk about a meaningful extracurricular activity that isn’t mentioned anywhere else on the application or Common App essay prompts. Admissions officers like to see what you have in store for your future, beyond school. You can talk about a career or accomplishment you want to achieve after graduating. And about how attending that school will help you achieve it. Showing the admissions committee that you’re an excellent fit with their current institution will make them want you even more. We suggest writing a program-specific essay if this is the route you are going to take and showing some intellectual curiosity about the programs available there. 

8. Edit and Re-Edit 

You should already be going over your college application essays for grammatical and spelling errors. We suggest going back and cutting out unnecessary words and phrases that may take the attention of the main point of your essay. If you’re on a word count limit, you want to be as intentional as possible and eliminate filler words. You can also have your family and mentors read over your application to ensure it’s strong and has no errors. 


Writing a standout college essay increases your chances of getting into the schools of your choice. Whether that is the University of Southern California or Princeton University. The Common Application essay section and supplemental sections are important for showing off writing skills. Having two supplemental responses can increase the chances of getting preferred admission! Even if they are optional, it’s worth taking the time to write the essays to show the committee that you care about going to their school. 

If you need help finding the right college, use our college search tool and you’ll find the perfect match based on your interests, major, state, scores, academic goals, and more! And with our scholarship match tool, you can find free money to pay for your college!

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