Supplemental essay writing

Remarkable tips to write a great supplemental essay

You have filled the form, updated your grades, uploaded the recommendation letters, and now the final task (that most students find intimidating) is left – writing the supplemental essays.

Yes, it can get troublesome if you don't have a regular practice of writing college essays. But, brilliantly written supplemental essays give you the opportunity to showcase your creative side and tell your story in a unique way to the admission officers.

What are supplemental essays?

Before we learn how to write a good supplemental essay, it is essential to understand the meaning of it. Some notable colleges and universities include their school-specific pieces commonly known as supplemental essays.

The primary motive of writing an amazing supplemental essay is to give you the freedom to demonstrate your interests and ideologies and showcase your uniqueness. Different institutions include different types of supplemental essay prompts. However, all serve a common purpose. Here’s what supplemental essays do:

  • Help the committee understand what drives you to take admission in a particular institution
  • Push you to brainstorm and create a unique piece of work highlighting your story and what you want to achieve from studying at the university
  • Allow the admission committee to evaluate your suitability in their college and what role you can play in making a fruitful contribution in your campus life

Writing Harvard or Stanford supplemental essays, or any other prestigious colleges’ supplement essays will become much easier if you learn the fundamental writing hacks and nail them. Read the following college supplemental essay writing examples to understand the format and the style of writing.

How to write supplemental essays: Before getting started

When you are applying for multiple institutions, you are practically juggling between different admission processes and various priorities. The first step of learning how to write compelling college supplemental essays is planning.

So, plan your work and read the following writing tips for drafting fantastic supplemental essays with ease and confidence like one does for personal essay writing.

  1. Know your audience:

Before going about the task of supplemental essay writing, you must research. Every university is different and has different traditions, culture and expectation from its students. You must make a sharp point on why you are the right choice for that institution.

  1. Create a good portfolio of all your achievements

When it comes to the higher education system in the States, you must provide a full picture of yourself and all your achievements in your supplemental essays. You need to explore the different aspects of your life and academic success.

  1. Don’t exceed the count

Most essays range from 150 to 500 words which means you must write concisely. The standard form and structure vary depending on the word count.

  1. Understand the types of supplementary essays

Each type of supplemental essays assesses a different aspect of a student’s potential contribution to a particular institution. Each theme is unique, and you must check each university’s requirements carefully for different essay topics.

Understanding the common types of supplemental essays for colleges

Let’s now take a look at the common types of supplemental essay for colleges and understand the writing guidelines:

  • “Why this school” Essays:

Most students lack specificity when it comes to writing a "Why Us" essay. Here, you need to discuss the qualities and programs of the institution. Don't just mention names from a list. Instead, write why it is essential to you.


What aspects of the college's program, community or campus environment attract your interest? (150 words or less) (Dartmouth University)

The question gives you a chance to talk about the university’s heritage and why its history and culture play a crucial role in fulfilling a student’s aspirations. Avoid stating generic reasons and focus on a specific aspect which has triggered a desire in your heart to be a part of this historical institution. Make it authentic, personal, and well-structured.

  • Discuss your extracurricular activities or work experience essays

For elaborating on extracurricular activity essays, consider questions like:

  • What encouraged you to take part in this extracurricular activity?
  • What's your role in the activity and why do you do it?
  • How have you benefited from the activity over time?

You can pursue endless angles to answer these questions. But you must keep your short and precise. So, state what has motivated you to participate and highlight your growth. Don't restate what has been said already. Share new information with your experience.


Describe one of the work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you. (150 words)(Princeton University)

Provide insight into your skills and achievements and try to demonstrate your leadership or mentoring quality. Also, write about your entrepreneurial drive, your interest in community activities, and time management skills.

  • ‘Why this major’ essays: 

These questions give you an ample opportunity to discuss why you have chosen this subject as a major. However, remember:

  • Strictly avoid stating the money-making factor. If you want to pursue business administration, don't say that you dream of becoming a wealthy investment banker. Instead, mention how this major will help you achieve your dream of becoming a successful investment banker.
  • Don't fake interest in impressing the committee. If you are undecided about the subject, clearly state a valid reason and mention how you are planning to make up your mind on the intended major.


Why are you drawn to pursuing the major you have selected? How will Cornell University help you achieve your academic goals? (500 words or less) (Cornell University)

This question is somewhat similar to a "why this institution" essay question. You must associate the major with your academic goals and talk about your long-term goals and prospects. Since the question includes "interests and related experiences", make sure you pack it well with lots of information.

  • “Discuss the community you belong from” essays

The main focus of these questions centers around the community you belong from and emphasize the impacts it has had on you as a person.

However, don't discriminate other communities. If you wish to speak about the challenges, mention how you have confronted and overcame those obstacles and how it has changed you as a person.


"We at Duke University value the diversity of our students for making our community stronger. Share your perspective and help us understand you better with relation to the community you belong to and cultural background." (250 words maximum)(Duke University)

Prompts like this are fundamentally about how a community has helped you become the person you are and how you can contribute to the university community. The question encourages a student to think about his/her background and showcase the roles of family and community.

Supplementary essay writing: Crucial points to remember

  • Always read your questions carefully. Sometimes it appears to be about your academics, but it also gives a hint to discuss extracurricular activities.
  • Don’t rule out the idea of being quirky. The more you make the piece unique, the higher are your chances of being selected by the admission officers.
  • Be sure to provide answers for every aspect of your supplementary essay prompt within the mentioned word limit.
  • Write effective starting and ending lines to hook their attention and remember you. Be as imaginative and open as possible.
  • Make sure that your essays are devoid of even the tiniest of grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Avoid discussing controversial subjects. Everyone is entitled to have a viewpoint. So, never discriminate in any way.
  • Don't write clichés. If you are choosing to write on a popular topic, put your thought in it and showcase your creativity.
  • Lastly, double-check your copy before mailing. Save the file before downloading a PDF copy to ensure the format is intact.

5 Supplemental essay topics from top American institutions

  1. Why are you interested in taking admission in the Artificial Intelligence Program at the University of Pennsylvania? (University of Pennsylvania)
  2. Discuss a time when you made a meaningful contribution. Describe the challenges you faced, how you overcame them and the rewards of your kind act. (University of Michigan)
  3. At Yale, most newcomers share suites with four to six students. What do you hope to do to enhance your suitemates' experience? What do you wish they will add to yours? (Yale University)
  4. Art evokes a sense of wonder. Is there a particular book, song, poem, or quote which has inspired you? (Boston College)
  5. A significant number of students prefer to take a gap year. If given a choice, what would you do and why? (Harvard University)

Need supplemental essay writing & proofreading assistance?

When it comes to making it to a prestigious educational institution, you need to fulfill every parameter of a proper college application. can offer you the perfect help to enhance your supplemental essay writing skills including essay editor for error free essays.

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For more information on how can help you master supplemental essay writing, book a free demo and learn more about our theoretical tools including referencing tools and resources.

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