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How Hard Can it be to Write 100-400 Words?
By, Liz Waltzman, Write Ahead College, LLC

The surprise and disappointment of finding out, that just when you thought you were done writing your college essay, there’s more. On the Common Application it is impossible to predict which schools require one or more supplemental essays (supplements) until you add a school to your list and see what they require.  Even that poses some challenges as there is little uniformity to how the questions are listed. You need to look carefully under college questions and writing requirements. Even still, supplements sometimes do not appear until you have answered other questions related to majors and academic interests. There is no rhyme or reason as to which types of schools do or do not have their own writing requirements. For example a small, private liberal arts school such as Middlebury College does not have any supplements, while a large, public institution such as the University of Delaware has five, albeit short ones.


In order to write an effective supplement, your essays, no matter the question, must show thought and authenticity. Any hint of a generic, boilerplate answer that may lead an admissions officer to think that you could have written the essay for just about any school, will reflect badly on your genuine interest. For prompts related to why you would like to attend a school, or how the school will help you achieve your academic goals, be specific and thoughtful by using details you learned when you visited the campus, or researched on the school’s website. If you attended a class, or had a meaningful interaction, include that.  If there is something specific about an academic program including courses, philosophy, or faculty, mention that.


For prompts that ask you to speak to topics such as diversity and inclusion, reflect on your own personal experiences, and spend time delving into how these are reflected throughout the campus. Again, use any details you saw, heard, or felt during a visit or that you have been able to glean from the school’s website. No matter the question, a healthy combination of reflection and research will help to make your supplements specific and genuine.