Ugh, I Have to Write Another Essay?

When students begin a deep dive into college applications and discover the “supplemental essay,” their first reaction might be, “Great … another essay!”
Let me share some insight that might help you see it differently:

Each college admission counselor approaches application reading differently. Some of us start at the beginning, work our way through to the end, and then revisit select pieces of the application. Others seek out specific portions of the application to read first and develop a narrative by jumping from section to section in a particular but non-linear order.

When I open an application the first thing I read is the supplemental essay.

Often the “Why School X?” portion of an application, the supplemental essay invites students to highlight their research, their interests, their values. What students choose to say and how they say it helps admission readers like me envision them living and learning in this campus community. Equally, it helps me better assess how well the student’s needs and goals are matched with campus resources and opportunities.

Application readers want students to take advantage of the space provided in the application to express who they are and why the institution is a great fit. Give these readers the best possible insight by avoiding some common pitfalls in the supplemental essay:

When you copy and paste from another essay, we can tell. Talk about the school you are applying to in detail. Do meaningful research before you sit down to write and carefully select some particulars that speak to you.

Brevity (not the good kind)
Brevity can be a virtue; it can be authoritative and wonderful. But writing a simplistic single sentence that shows zero intentionality or thought will get a quick page turn from your reader. Expand your ideas a little bit more, even in a short response.

Incorrect information
Are you applying to a college but call it a university? Do you talk about the college being in a city that it isn’t in? As you write the supplemental essay, as simple as it may sound, make sure you’re getting the basic information about the school correct. 

There is a lot that goes into creating a successful application. When I read applications, I look for a story that is consistently told in all its pieces and parts. The supplemental essay, when done correctly, can be a crucial piece of that story. Use it wisely!

Sam Prince ’14
Regional Admissions Counselor, Pacific Northwest
Bard College