Regardless of the question, colleges are using supplemental essays to discover if you are a match for their school.
Here are some sample supplemental questions from past application seasons:
- How did you first learn about Macalester? (Macalester College, 200 words)
- As part of Gonzaga’s Presidential Speaker Series, the University brings to campus individuals whose scholarly research and commitment to social justice inspire students to action. Who would you choose to speak at Gonzaga and why? ( Gonzaga University, 300 words)
- There is a Quaker saying: “Let your life speak.” Describe the environment in which you were raised – your family, home, neighborhood, or community – and how it influenced the person you are today. (Tufts University, 250 words)
- Students receive narrative evaluations at Hampshire instead of letter or number grades. At the end of each course, students also complete a self-evaluation reflecting on their goals and class performance. Write a self-evaluation of a favorite class or other learning activity in high school. What were your goals? Where did you succeed? What do you wish had gone differently?(Hampshire College, 300 words)
- “How’d you get caught?” (University of Chicago, no word limit)
If you simply wanted to reverse engineer a school’s values from the prompts, you’d surely come away with some pretty good theories. I highly suggest you do this kind of intellectual activity when you encounter supplemental questions.
But I invite you to go a few steps farther. In fact, I want you to reach outside of your own brain and start trying to understand this particular school by getting to know the college on a deeper level. If deciding to apply to this university can be considered a first date, think of this activity as exploring the odds of starting a relationship.
In addition to asking your date a list of questions on subsequent outings, you might also gather information by talking to their friends or family. Maybe you’d even research them through social media. And it’s this very mindset I want you to use as you further explore your prospective colleges.
But if there’s any way this school is a contender for where you want to spend your undergraduate years, make sure you investigate the following attributes, all found on the college’s website.
Supplemental Essay Checklist
Write your supplemental essays to help you understand yourself and how a college matches your own wishes, dreams, and desires. Not only will you write a better answer, you’ll receive a return on your investment long before you hear about acceptances.