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Tips for Writing an Impactful US Supplemental University Essay

6 Min Read
November 07, 2022

Application season is fast approaching and as you hurry to polish your grades and extracurricular activities, you might leave one very important portion of the application to the last minute: the essay. Or may we even say essays? Yes, some colleges not only require one essay, but two, and perhaps even three! These additional essays are known as supplemental essays and they're often shorter than your main one. Though for most universities there is, what one may consider, a “main essay” such as the infamous Common App essay, supplemental essays should not be regarded as less important. The supplemental essay is often specific to a single university and allows the admissions officer to take a closer look at your resume, background, goals, and if you are the type of person that best fits their university.   Today we're going to give you some tips on how to tackle some of the most common supplemental essay prompts.   Why ____ University? Show. Your. Research. The university will not be impressed if you simply use the ranking of the university as a reason for your application. By researching and mentioning specific features of the university, you will show that you are genuinely interested in the university and have invested your time into really learning about what the university can offer you as well as what you can offer in return. Ask yourselves these questions:

  1. What specific courses in the major (or in a related field) will help me achieve my educational and career goals?
    1. For example, you want a career in journalism. Courses that may excite you include “how to approach discourse in the media”, “communication 101”, “media history” (how have news been covered in the past), and perhaps even a language class (you may argue that this may be important if you were to report on news in various communities which use a foreign language). The main thing is, look up courses related to your major and show how they are could be used to obtain your goals.
  2. What facilities does the university provide that I cannot access elsewhere?
    1. This depends on the major you are trying to apply for. A university hospital would be useful for students wishing to enter the medical field by providing a space for hands-on training, while a state-of-the-art football stadium would be great for students wishing to pursue a career in sports. This will show the university that you will maximize your opportunities outside the traditional classroom.
  3. What opportunities does the university offer that is unique and beneficial for my goals?
    1. This ranges from study abroad opportunities to “Co-Op” programs. Remember, be specific. What specific countries would you like to visit? And for what reason? This should mostly relate to how it will enrich you academically as opposed to regarding it as a fun “vacation”. Specificity also relates to the Cooperative Education or “Co-Op” method and internship programs where you will gain hands-on experience in your field. What are some major companies that the university has partnered with before that you would love to intern in? What do you hope to get from the possible mentorship program the university offers? Remember, not all universities may have these opportunities so do your research.
  4. What values does the university have that I embody as well?
    1. Look at the university's motto. This is often either one line or multiple. If they are multiple, you can pick a few and talk about how you agree and aim to contribute to them.
  5. Why do you like the city or location of your university? What does it have to offer you?
    1. This is not as important as talking about the programs offered by the university, but it adds to the enthusiasm. For example, your university is located in a large city. You can talk about the art museums, bowling alleys, theaters, Broadway shows, music scene, etc. Conversely, you may be going to a smaller or more rural city. You may say that you are excited to be part of a friendly small community, go to festivals or fairs, or enjoy the serenity of your environment. This portion should be roughly around 1-2 sentences and should not be the focus of the essay.

These questions are meant to jumpstart your brainstorming process so do not be alarmed if not all the questions would apply to you. Additionally, closing remarks of your essay should show how excited you are to join the university's community and that you will make full use of the opportunities given both by the university and its environment.   Why did you choose ____ major? Here you must show your enthusiasm for your major. Your reasons should not be superficial such as choosing the major solely for the potential of its financial securities or saying that it simply sounds “fun”. Make your essay dynamic. Talk about topics concerning the past of your intended field, its present, and its role in the future. A great way to begin is to think of a problem that, with the help of your major, you would want to help solve. Ensure that this problem is both specific and, perhaps, even personal. For example, you're an aspiring medical student who has an aunt who suffers from Alzheimer's. Your high school experience has been marked with several papers on the topic. However, you feel that your resources were limited, and you would like to continue your research at the university. This is a great reason to choose your major. You should also ask yourself why the major is the right fit for you and why are you attracted to it. Extracurricular activities, everyday experiences, and fascination in the field generally should be testament to your interest in the subject.   Extracurricular Activity Questions The university will often ask you to go in depth with one of your extracurriculars you have mentioned before. What's important to note is that the extracurricular activity you choose should show roughly these four things:

  1. Passion
  2. Commitment
  3. Leadership
  4. Impact to community

And you should discuss all these aspects in your essay. In the beginning of the essay, state clearly your role and how from that role, you were able to gain important academic and life skills from it. This includes learning to be communicative, a team player, analytic, organized, among others. After this, you would also add how you would like to expand or continue this activity in college as well as in your future endeavors.   Quirky Essay Topics (Write about Anything) The freedom of this prompt can either make or break the writer. This essay should show your uniqueness so don't shy away from the unconventional. To give you an example of how “strange” these essays could be, one girl wrote her essay on her dimples being so deep that they could fit multiple skittles! Write about anything that plays to your strength. If you are a funny person, write something funny. If you are a serious person, write something serious yet impactful. Don't be afraid to take risks!   College essays should not be something taxing. It should be fun and an exploration to also get to know yourself better. One thing you should remember though is that you shouldn't need to overwork your essay. You should know when to hold back and when to push harder. Sometimes you can knock it out of the park the first time, and sometimes you need more work. Both are very normal when writing. You should always get outside opinions and be open to criticism. However, in the end, this is your essay, and this is your story. Tell it the best way you can.