Finishing your personal statement is a time for celebration. We love seeing the smiles on your faces when you are pleased with what you’ve written and have a sense of accomplishment… But the next step in the process can feel a little like a late-night info-mercial: “But wait…there’s more!” Colleges often include what’s called supplemental essays in their application to obtain a deeper understanding of applicants and their interest in the college. The essay prompts are designed to reflect the school’s institutional priorities and often mirror what’s happening in our society.
Here are some trends we’re seeing in supplemental essay topics and suggestions for how to tackle them:
The ”Why Us?” Essays
Colleges want to know what it is about their school that specifically appeals to you. You’ll want to demonstrate an understanding, and an alignment, with the school’s mission and values – and how they will help you to pursue your own dreams.
Example from Tulane University: Please briefly describe why you are interested in attending Tulane University.
There is no right answer here; instead, schools want you to have some fun and use these questions as an opportunity to share something different about yourself that might not be reflected in other parts of the application.
Example from Elon University: You are a superhero. What are your powers? Be imaginative. What would you do with the powers you choose?
Example from Wake Forest University: Give us your Top Ten list.
Policy or Issue Essays
This essay type is popping up more as colleges and universities want to hear what social issues matter most to you and the type of involvement you intend to have to address them.
Example from Brown University: Brown’s culture fosters a community in which students challenge the ideas of others and have their ideas challenged in return, promoting a deeper and clearer understanding of the complex issues confronting society. This active engagement in dialogue is as present outside the classroom as it is in academic spaces. Tell us about a time you were challenged by a perspective that differed from your own. How did you respond? (200-250 words)
Diversity and Inclusion (DEI) Essays
A commitment to diversity and inclusion has become the mission of many schools throughout the country, so colleges seek to gauge what makes you different or how you value inclusivity on a personal level. This also helps them envision your role within the school community.
Example from Lehigh University: What would you want to be different in your own country or community to further principles of equality, equity, or social justice? (300-word limit)
Example from University of Richmond: Please share one idea for actions or policies that you think would begin to address an issue of racial or social injustice.
This is a great place to articulate why a specific activity is important to you – especially if it’s one you plan to pursue in college. Showcase an activity that may not have been fully developed in your personal statement.
Example from Penn State: Please tell us something about yourself, your experiences, or activities that you believe would reflect positively on your ability to succeed at Penn State.