Breaking Down The Supplementals
We have reached the "Do's"! Honestly, as I write this article I'm learning too, so come on and take these notes with me.
October 20, 2020
Tips on Writing Your Essay(s)
(Source: CollegeEssayGuy, nationally-recognized college essay expert and admissions prep author)
Sometimes, the supplemental essays can be worth more than your personal statement. Neither you nor I will ever know when that is the case, so we have to make sure our supplementals are as amazing as possible regardless. Just to be prepared.
Before We Begin: Super Topics
A huge help for my stressed babies who are working on several supplementals for several+ colleges: choose a “Super Topic”. It’ll help you save a ton of time, as it’s an activity you’ve spent a lot of time doing. This means:
- It shows several sides of you
- Works for several essay topics
So let’s say you have to answer a community service essay, an essay on an intellectual idea that’s important to you, an an extracurricular activity essay. BOOM, three essays done, just like that. It’s not a crime, this is strategy!
Now back to our regularly-scheduled programming.
The “Why Us?” Essay
This is where you tell the school why y’alls relationship would be mutually beneficial. CollegeEssayGuy suggests thinking of this as “a third date.”
If you’re out on a date and the person looks at you and asks “Why are you interested in me?”, you’re not just going to say “because you’re sexy and it makes me look better.” That’s awful, and if you do this I hope they throw their drink on you. Trifling.
You’re going to tell that person about specific qualities that capture your heart. Similarly, you need to explain this to colleges.
Specific courses, opportunities, and even professors are the things you should be discussing here. And don’t forget to connect all of it back to you, because you are a little important here. Just a bit.
As this will be a 50/50 relationship, your essay should have a 50/50 focus: 50% you, and 50% the school. Don’t try to do 20/80, or 80/20, etc., it just never works as well.
The 150-Word Extracurricular Essay
CEG gives multiple ways to approach this essay:
a) The Fire Hose Approach: Spouting out tons of information. In this case it would be your accomplishments, and what your role was in each of them.
b) Creative High Flyer with Nothing to Prove: This is a good approach for students whose grades and test scores are just beautiful, so they don’t want to blend in with many students. In this case, they’ll focus on one moment, one quality, and underline that.
c) (CEG’s fav) Uncommon Connections Approach: Once you’ve picked your activity, brainstorm all the clichés people could come up with. Then, dump them. Think about 3/4 things you could speak on that would be different from what everyone else is going to say, and go from there.
The Community Service Essay
In CEG’s exact words: “Write your community service essay like Elon Musk pitches the Powerwall.”
If you take a quick minute to google “Elon Musk Powerwall Andy Raskin,” Raskin analyzes this pitch and points out five qualities included in this pitch that should be included in all pitches.
- Identify the problem you’re trying to solve (with the community service project you were doing)
- Identify why now (why was this an important problem that needed to be solved?)
- Describe your vision for the future (if we lived in a world where this problem was solved, how would it look?)
- Describe what you did on the project (obviously important since it’s your college application)
- Describe the impact of your project
The Short Answer Question “Essay”
This can be something as simple as: “What’s your favorite food?” and you have 2-15 words to answer it. Easy enough, right? NO.
Unless you have less than five words, this is a TRICK.
Do NOT just answer the question.
They want to see how you work with the small amount of space given, so try your best to attach a small story to it. I love my mom’s ribs, so if I have like 13 words max, I’d say something like “Saturday evenings eating my mom’s grilled ribs on the patio.”
Give that small little bit of context that gives your essay an extra sparkle.
Even if it’s a two-word answer: “Mom’s ribs.” This is sweet, and still answers the question.
The “Why *insert major here*?” Essay
If you don’t know what major you’re interested in yet, don’t fret! Pick a couple areas you’re interested in, and elaborate on what about them is interesting.
How’d your interest begin? What do you hope to do with it in the future? They won’t hold you to this answer, it’s okay. Don’t be afraid to not know something.
For those who do know, a great way to execute this essay is by creating a mini-movie. Recall some of the most important memories that brought you to your chosen major, and relay them in the submission box.
CEG includes an example on his blog from a boy who was interested in Electrical Engineering. He tied this interest to his childhood in Mexico, where his father’s restaurant security system was unable to protect them from robbers. It was this, and his cousin who taught him about Autonomous systems, that inspired him to pursue this career.
Now of course he worded it much better than me, but you get the point I hope.
The Describe/Define “Diversity” Essay
This also may appear in the form of the question, “Talk about a time when you interacted with someone who was different from you.”
Avoid the common mistake of describing a person you only met one time. If possible, discuss an unlikely relationship that has persisted over time.
Broaden your horizon of what “diversity” looks like: age, political beliefs, home location, cultural background, and the list goes on. This way, you’re much more likely to realize a friendship you have is less normal than you thought.
The “Create-Your-Own Class” Essay
CEG recommends taking a syllabus that already exists at the school, and using it as a template.
It’d be good to include a persuasive course description, required reading, hypothetical locations and times. And, though it may seem odd, CEG says to use a colon. Not only does it give room for a long title, but you can create a mix between fun:academic or vice versa.
If I wanted to do a class on unicorns, since I’ve become attached to my imaginary Unicorn University, I could include it on the syllabus for my class: “Myths and Legends: The Possibility of the Impossible”
(UC Schools) Personal Insight Questions
It’s very important that you ensure your answers connect back to the 14 Points of Comprehensive Review.
These are a quick google away, and are the 14 things these schools look for when evaluating your application. Don’t add any sparkle to these, be as straightforward as possible because you don’t have the room to do the most. CEG recommends bullet-pointing the content, and then writing the personal insight questions.