Writing Supplements: What to do When Colleges Require Additional Essays

by | Oct 16, 2019 | Essay Writing

We all know that most colleges require an essay as part of the college application process.  It helps the college get to know an applicant on a more personal level, and provides an opportunity for the applicant to demonstrate their writing skills to colleges. It’s a win-win.  

However, more and more colleges are requiring “supplemental essays” as part of their individual application process.  For example, many colleges require a main essay as part of the Common Application, but additionally, colleges can require one, two, or several more essays in the college-specific portion of the Common Application.  It is not uncommon these days for a student to have 8-10 essays to write in addition to their “main” essay.  And, last year, I had a student (with a very balanced list of 8 schools) have 18 additional essays to write!  

So, let’s talk more about those supplemental essays:  why colleges require them, what they are looking for, and how students can tackle them (without losing steam!).  

Why Do Colleges Require Supplemental Essays?

College admission offices are inundated with applications, and admission counselors strive to tell one applicant apart from another.  There are MANY applicants with the same GPA, similar transcript, equally impressive resume, and glowing recommendations.  But they want to know what the applicants are really like, beyond what is on the paper, and an essay is a really good way for students to stand out. 

What Are Colleges Looking For?

First and foremost, colleges want to make sure an applicant is a good writer.  If the essay is poorly written, it’s a huge red flag.  So, assuming the student has taken his or her time to write a properly constructed essay (and had it edited by a counselor or teacher), next thing is that colleges are looking for the student to answer the question.  College admission counselors give careful consideration to the questions they ask in their applications, and they expect students to answer them.  Beyond that, colleges are looking for hints of the applicant’s personality and signs that he or she will be an asset to their school.

How can I Keep Track of all the Extra Essays I Have to Write?

Each supplemental essay will have a word-count limit or requirement that you must adhere to. And, of course, they are due when the application is due.  So we recommend using a chart or list of some kind to keep track of them.  One thing I’ve seen students do is write the question on the top of a blank Google Doc, along with name of the school and word limit, and do that for each essay.  You may have 6 pages, with a question on the top of each, but it will also provide you with room to jot down notes or write your essay.  Some students open a new blank Doc, title it “Extra Essays” and put them all in there. Every student will have his or her own way of doing it, but staying organized is essential.

Note:  One very common question colleges ask is what we endearingly refer to as the “Why Us Essay”.  A college may ask “What made you want to apply to our school?”  Or, “Why are you a good match for our college?”  We have this great blog post specifically to help with that! 

Campus Bound Counselors and Essay Specialists can help students with any part of the writing process. From brainstorming, to editing, we are there to help. Contact us today if you need help with your essays, or any other part of the college search and application process.

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