Deadlines are weeks, if not days away, and we know that many of you are rushing to complete those other essays- those supplemental essays that seem to get in the way of you clicking “submit.” To help you, here are some mistakes we often see students make. Hopefully, knowing these ahead of time will save some revision time, and better yet, help you write high quality supplements that will wow admissions officers.
Mistake 1: Drop in Writing Quality
You’ve probably put a lot of effort into your Common Application essay. However, want to know what makes an admissions officer really nervous? When they read a flawless college essay followed by a sloppy or underdeveloped supplement. This makes them wonder how much help you may have had with your first essay, or whether you are taking their application seriously. Approach the 150-200 word count as a challenge to be the most concise, persuasive, and committed applicant you can be!
Mistake 2: Talking about Superficial Stuff in the ‘Why Us’ Essay
In fairness to colleges, if you’ve done your research, you SHOULD have a compelling answer to this question. However, answers that praise the architecture, the dorms, the weather, the location are all generally considered to be superficial. So are emotional pleas like “This is my dream college” or “I can picture myself here.” What they really want to know (and sometimes we wish they’d just say) is
- Why are you a match for us?
- How will you use what we offer?
- How well do you know our school?
For a complete breakdown on how to do this, see my other blog post on the “Why Us?” Prompt.
Mistake #3: Taking Short-Cuts When Recycling Essays
Schools know each other’s prompts. So for example, if you write about (the infamous) spiders for University of Virginia, they’re going to know that you really wrote that for University of Richmond. Also, prompts are long. So for example, if you’re asked to write about a piece of literature, one prompt might ask how it inspires you, another might ask how it reveals a shift in perspective. These are subtleties are sometimes buried 2-3 sentences into the prompt, but paying attention to what exactly the prompt is asking will signal to the schools that you’ve taken their application seriously.
Mistake #4: Not Choosing to Write the Optional Essay
Really, just do it. If you don’t have the time or the answer, you’re likely applying to too many schools or this school might not be the right fit.
Mistake #5: Missing an Opportunity to Showcase Yourself
While you want to respect the prompt, make sure that if you have a supplemental essay, you’re using it to showcase some aspect of yourself that feels essential to your application. Don’t confuse the levity of a prompt with the opportunity it might give to share insights into your candidacy. You can write about training your puppy or tripping over a hurdle in your race, but do so with clear purpose in mind. Also, while they have your grades and your resume, they don’t necessarily have the backstory. If there’s an extra-curricular involvement or academic experience that’s been essential to you, look for opportunities to bring these in. It’s not about boasting, but making sure that if something needs to be said, you say it!
We know the supplements take time, but they are an opportunity to showcase your voice, your interests, and your readiness for a college in a way that’s not often apparent in the rest of the Common Application. Remember, Admitster’s essay review and college advising services can help you develop a strategy, review your writing, and give you the honest advice you need to help you stand out among the applicant pool. Click here to submit your essay, and receive feedback in less than 48 hours. Or, sign up for a free advising consultation!