Supplemental Essay Writing Tips From the Pros 


Supplemental essays are required by most of the major universities. They are usually standardized at 650 words in length and have a choice of topic. Universities use these essays to assess a number of different things about the applicant. 

Therefore, the supplemental essay is of the utmost importance. It is often the deciding factor for candidate selection. This is because the black and white picture that GPAs and lists provide only allows admission staff to narrow down candidates so well. It’s hard to differentiate ten students with 4.0 averages and identical extra-curricular activities. Writing is the kind of unique expression that allows admissions to get an idea of who the student is and the abilities they possess. 

Don’t Reinvent The Wheel

There is a wealth of experience and advice about how to write a stellar essay. Applicants don’t need to start from scratch. You can find a comprehensive guide at Transizion that many students use. Have a look around the web and find some sites that lay out the basic format and writing process.

Before getting started, it helps to get a good idea of the format of a supplemental essay used for college applications. Most universities accept the Common App format of applications. The Common App is a packet of forms, student information, and supplemental items used to apply at universities. One of the supplemental items is the essay. It’s best to write your supplemental essay in this format regardless of where you apply.

The essay length is typically always 650 words but the topic selection choices vary from year to year. There are seven to choose from each year. It’s best to look up the current topics before getting started. 

Topics are usually about various life experiences. Here are a few examples:

  • Write about something that is so meaningful in your life that you can hardly contain it
  • A time you faced a serious challenge and what you learned about life
  • Discuss a time you challenged an old idea. What got you thinking that way
  • Consider a major problem and a solution
  • Describe a moment of change and growth. What sparked it and what was the result?
  • Talk about a topic that completely commands your attention. Something pursued so passionately that you lose track of time
  • Open topic. Choose a topic of your choice

There are a lot of topic choices that should get your creative juices flowing. But don’t get carried away with your first idea.

Consider Your Topic Carefully

Take your time and consider the topic carefully. You might see the topics and immediately know which one is for you. Or at least that’s how you feel at first. But don’t decide immediately. Give it some time to rest and review the topics a few more times before settling in.

In fact, if you really want to do your best, you should intentionally try to work with a few of the different topic prompts before settling. People are often surprised at the creativity they can muster when writing on a topic they previously felt was unsuitable. 

For that reason, it’s a good idea to develop a few topics before choosing the final one. Developing the topic is the basic process of determining a major idea for the topic and outlining it. Even if that’s just a title and some subheadings. It will at least give you an idea of what you’ve got to say about it.

Just because a topic is interesting to you, doesn’t mean it will impress the admissions staff. That doesn’t mean you should write to their likings, it’s impossible to know what impresses them personally anyway. For example, it may be best to avoid talking about your passion for hybridized taxidermy. Brainstorming a few topics will ensure you can produce something that is representative of your ability and life experience.

Tips For A Masterful Essay

In addition to the things mentioned above, there are a few other things to consider when writing your essay. 

Make sure you read some examples of great supplemental essays. But don’t read so many that you lose your unique style and embellishments. And that’s an app killer.

Uniqueness is essential. Imagine your job is reading hundreds of application essays each semester. Each one of them is tightly controlled to discuss only pre-approved and acceptable ideas. It’s enough to make a person go mad. Produce something new and real. It should be about a real experience. Dive into the dirt and rawness of real-life to make it relatable and exciting. 

Start off with a hook. Something narrative always works well. If you want to talk about the time you caught a monster catfish, you could start off with something like “As I sat there looking wearily into the unfathomable depths” to endow your story with some engaging language.

Make sure you brainstorm, plan, and proof your documents as well to produce the highest quality essay you can make. Good luck!


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