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Writing Supplemental Essays for the Common Application 🖋

Applying to colleges is indeed a very stressful time. The most crucial elements in your application process include your grades, test scores, and courses. There is also a supplemental essay that you need to write. Aside from this required essay, many colleges also require supplemental essays. 

So, what really are supplemental essays? They are essays apart from the main ones that help the examiner get to know more about you. Supplemental essays are a great way to give away information about yourself to the examiner. They help you stand out from the crowd, and they also help you demonstrate your areas of interest. While supplemental essays aren’t always a requirement, they are one of the best ways to tell the examiner about your thoughts and how you are different from the others around you. 

Most students often worry about how to write supplemental essays. It can indeed seem to be a daunting task. You want to remain relevant, but at the same time, you want to give away as much information about yourself as possible. If you also have a question about how to write supplemental essays, then continue reading to get to know tips that can help! ⚡️ 

Writing Supplemental Essays for the Common Application

Tips for Writing Supplemental Essay 

  • Answer the Question 

The first and most important thing you need to do is to read the prompt and understand what they are asking you. It is only when you fully well understand what they are asking you can you remain relevant and answer the questions correctly. Some students often try to use the same essay that they write for another college, but that isn’t always the best idea. Remember that the examiner is very smart and knows more about students than you think he does. So you should write a separate essay for different prompts. Be sure to answer the question that is being asked. 

  • Start With an Outline 

One of the most important things when writing an essay, whether it be a critical thinking essay or any other, is to start with an outline. An outline helps you brainstorm and have everything in perspective before you begin. It helps you channel your thoughts in the right direction and plan your essay well before you start writing. Experts advise that you brainstorm the personal qualities or skills that you want to highlight before you begin working. Once you are done with that, you can convey the right message in your college supplemental essay. 

  • Don’t Repeat Yourself 

When writing a university supplemental essay, you need to make sure that you don’t repeat yourself. That can annoy the examiner and make them feel like you are just trying to meet the word count. That is in fact, the worst thing you can do. Remember that getting to write a college supplemental essay is one of your chances to get to tell the examiner about yourself. Make use of the number of words that you have very wisely, and begin to write accordingly. 

  • Narrow Your Focus 

The biggest mistake that students make when writing a university supplemental essay is that they tend to work on a very broad topic. Choose a prompt that is much narrowed down. That can help you focus on one thing and help talk about it in the best way possible. Be very specific about what you say, and make sure you are sure about what you are saying. If you say something that is too far-fetched, examiners can easily catch you. They have ample experience in this field and can instantly tell if a student is making something up. 

  • Maintain Your Voice 

Many students ask for editing help once done. That is not a bad idea. It can help you further make your article one that stands out. But remember that you should sound like yourself. Too much input from someone else can be detrimental. The examiner can instantly tell that you have had someone to help you, which surely doesn’t give a good impression. Remember that this is a great way for the examiner to get to know you. So you need to make sure that it sounds like you. 

Step By Step Process 

If you are concerned about how to write supplemental essays, here is a step-by-step process that can guide you throughout, and also some tips to avoid mistakes in the common app

This video will also help find out some tips on how to avoid mistakes:


The introduction is the trickiest part of the supplemental essay. This is the part where you have to grab the reader’s attention. Not just that, but you have to say something that makes them want to continue reading. It needs to be written well so that the reader would want to continue with it. This is the part where you give an opening statement about your essay, telling the readers all they need to know about you to become interested in what will come next. 


Next, you need to brainstorm about all that you will be writing. Here, you need to know that you don’t have extra words to keep going on and on. So you must plan accordingly and write information that is very relevant. Bear in mind the essay prompt and write in accordance with that. Make sure you write in a very clear way and tell the reader all about you. You can either work around an anecdote or a personal experience that makes things much simpler for the reader to understand. On the internet, you will find several supplemental essay examples. These examples will help you understand how you need to frame your argument and why that is helpful for you. 

Here is a supplemental essay example that is very intriguing and helps capture the attention of the reader:

The essay prompt read: “Given your interests, values, and goals, explain why Oberlin College will help you grow (as a student and a person) during your undergraduate years.”

“I visited 18 colleges over the past year, yet Oberlin is the one place that most spoke to my interests. Early in my college search, I learned that I prefer a liberal arts college to a larger university. The collaboration between the faculty and undergraduate students, the sense of community, and the flexible, interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum are all important to me.”

We can see how this example illustrates ideally how we need to capture the attention of the readers. 

As part of the main body of the essay, you must also highlight your extracurriculars. Also, you may read how to write a Successful Common App Activities List.  That is something very important. It tells the examiner all that interests you besides your education. 

Tips for Writing Supplemental Essays for the Common Application


When you write your conclusion, you need to summarize what you write in the supplemental essay without repeating it. The idea is to leave the reader impressed with what you have to say. By the end, the examiner should be convinced that you are a great fit and are going to be doing really well with them. 

When you write your essay, there should be an emerging theme that comes out of that. There should be something in the supplemental essay that speaks about who you really are. If you plan on highlighting one specific part of your personality, for example, you need to ensure that you work around that theme only. 

Having said that, not all universities require supplemental essays.

Here is a list of some of the world’s popular universities that require supplemental essays:

  • American University
  • Amherst College
  • Babson College
  • Barnard College
  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • Bowdoin College
  • Brandeis University
  • Brown University
  • Bucknell University
  • Caltech
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • University of Chicago
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Colgate University
  • University of Colorado – Boulder
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Duke University
  • Emory University
  • Florida A&M University
  • Fordham University
  • The George Washington University
  • University of Georgia
  • Georgetown University
  • Georgia Tech
  • Harvard University
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Haverford College
  • Howard University
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Lehigh University
  • University of Michigan
  • MIT
  • UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Northwestern University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • NYU
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Penn State University
  • Pepperdine University
  • Pomona College
  • Princeton University
  • Purdue University
  • Reed College
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rice University
  • University of Richmond
  • University of Rochester
  • Santa Clara University
  • University of Southern California (USC)
  • Spelman College
  • Stanford University
  • SUNY Stony Brook University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Syracuse University
  • Texas A&M University
  • Tufts University
  • Tulane University
  • Tuskegee University
  • University of Texas – Austin
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Vassar College
  • Villanova University
  • University of Virginia (UVA)
  • Wake Forest University
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Wellesley College
  • William and Mary
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Yale University

Final Thoughts 

Now that your question of how to write supplemental essays is solved, you can be at ease about it, knowing that you will surely give your best to it. Read an article on rolling admission that also includes useful tips. Make sure to read several supplemental essay examples. These examples can help you understand how to frame your argument and how to get your point across in the best way possible. Understand that the examiner will go through thousands of these essays and you might use common app writing help to get your reference. For you to stand out, your essay must be written exceptionally well. Only then will you be able to shine through the several hundreds of people who are applying. 

Vitalii Anufriiev

Vitalii Anufriiev is a CEO and Co-founder at Writing Metier. Sharing EdTech facts and tips will inspire you to learn and do more.

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