CollegeAdvisor Masterclass: Supplemental Essays 101

Join as Shannon Kennedy presents CollegeAdvisor Masterclass: Supplemental Essays 101, a 60-minute webinar and Q&A. Shannon will give the inside scoop on how to approach, write, and edit your supplemental essays to stand out in the college admissions process.

Date 07/07/2022
Duration 1:01:39

Webinar Transcription

2022-07-07 CollegeAdvisor Masterclass/Supplemental Essays 101

Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisors Masterclass on Supplemental Essays 101. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation then answer your questions in live Q&A on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start sending your questions in the Q&A tab.

Now let’s meet our panelists. Hi, everyone. I’m really excited to be here tonight to talk to you about supplemental essays. Um, it’s definitely an important part of the process. So we got some great information to share. My name is Shannon Kennedy. Um, I’m a former admissions officer on the team at

Um, I advise students, uh, through this process and I have been for about seven years, um, prior to that, you know, um, worked in admissions so having the background, um, experience of reading a lot of these supplemental essays over the years, um, and working a lot with a lot of students through the process, um, I look forward to sharing some of that knowledge that I’ve gained over the years with you tonight.

Great. And real quick, we’re just gonna do a quick poll. So what grade are you going into this fall? So eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th, or other, and other can be if you’re a transfer student or taking a gap year and if you’re a parent on the call, you can select the grade that your student is going into. And while we wait for that, Shannon, can you tell us a bit about how important supplemental essays are to the overall application?

Sure. Yeah, this is definitely something I wanted to stress tonight and I’m glad we’re getting to it right away. Um, that supplemental essays can really be one of the most important parts of the application. If the college is asking those questions, it’s specific to them and they really, you know, um, value those answers and responses.

Um, a lot of times students don’t prioritize them or don’t leave themselves enough time to deal with these supplemental essays. And it can really, uh, reflect poorly if you don’t give it the time that it needs to to really, um, give a good response. So, um, I think they’re often underestimated and they are really important in this process.

Definitely. And we’ll be excited to tell you everything about supplements, um, so that you can be prepared. Uh, so it’s looking like we have 1% ninth graders, 3%, 10th graders, 23% 11th graders and 73%, uh, 12th graders making up the majority. 

Fantastic. I know it’s that weird summertime where people aren’t sure what grade they’re in sometimes. So maybe there’s a little bit of misreporting there too. Um, so if you are, um, finished with 11th grade, yes. You are a 12th grader. Um, it sounds like most people are in that situation. So you are ready probably to dive into these supplements soon. So this is gonna be really useful I hope for you.

Yes. And you can control the slides. Okay, great. Well, let’s jump in, um, just with the little definitions for starters. So, uh, what is the supplemental essay? Well, first kind of what is it not? So it is not that main personal statement. Um, that’s not what we’re talking about tonight. The, the personal statement, um, on the Common Application is that long 650 word essay that will go to all of the colleges that you’re applying to with very few exceptions.

Um, so this supplemental essays work in conjunction with that. So everyone will receive that main essay. The supplementals are, um, your opportunity to go beyond what you say in that main essay and add additional information, context, things that are specific to the individual colleges and often equally, or potentially more important than that main essay since it is individualized to the college, uh, that you’re applying to.

Um, so with those definitions out of the way, you know, the purpose is really, um, oftentimes to gauge your fit for the individual school or program. And we’ll get into that in a little bit more detail with looking at the different types of essays and how, um, you would address those different things in them.

Um, but really to get a little bit deeper into your achievements and how they align with, um, your interest in the school, um, they may be very major specific, may cover, um, more aspects of your personality than what you could cover in the main essay. Um, and again, really show your specific desire for that institution or program.

So as far as if they are required, um, usually the application is going to be, um, pretty clear about whether it’s required or not. Um, you’ll see a little as red asterisk, um, on the application for the things that are absolutely required. So that’s how you’ll be able to tell, um, some of them will be optional, but honestly, if the space is there for the supplemental essay, um, we’re always gonna highly recommend that you do it and you pretty much take that as a requirement.

Um, if they’re giving you the opportunity to expand, um, on some of your qualities to give, you know, more reasons why you would be a good fit or, um, Standing candidate then, uh, you should take that opportunity to offer more information and more reasons for the admissions officer, um, to want to admit you to, to know more about you.

Um, so whenever you see recommended, um, in a supplemental essay, uh, you should really take that as, um, required and plan to submit that and take, take full advantage of that opportunity. You should use it to your advantage and not view it like, um, optional, if that makes sense. So highly recommend doing any optional essays, um, with very few exceptions, I usually I can think of an exception to everything.

I can’t even think of an exception right now of why you would not wanna take that opportunity, um, to use this space, to say something more about yourself. Um, so we are gonna get a little bit deeper into each type of question that we have here, and this is certainly not comprehensive, but this covers a majority of the different types of questions that you can expect to see on supplemental essays, um, far and away.

The why school essay is gonna be the most common. The one that, um, you’re almost guaranteed to run into on your application. Um, not everybody will find a lot of supplemental essays in their applications, depending on what types of institutions that you’re applying to. Uh, but I would expect most students to have, uh, some school essays somewhere in their process.

So that’s typically the most common one we see, um, extracurricular essay, um, is pretty frequently encountered as well. Um, Another one would be the community essay talking about, um, your contributions and which we’ll dive into. Some colleges have their own kind of very unique prompts and we’ll show a couple examples of those, uh, some that are, um, a little bit off the wall and take a little bit more time to, uh, digest and respond to, um, challenge.

So thinking about, you know, like overcoming a challenge or something that you’ve dealt with personally, and, and how you responded to that, uh, comes up quite a bit. Also could come up in the main personal statement is that as an option there too. Um, and then some colleges have extremely short questions, um, which will again, talk a little bit more about in depth.

So we’re gonna cover each one of these in a little bit deeper detail here in a moment. Um, so before we kind of dive into that detail, just to kinda orient you a little bit to the timeline of all of this, you know, when should you start working on these, um, for all of you that are rising seniors, you probably have, um, already some ideas or.

Potentially some drafts in process. I bet there are a few of you out there who are considering your, uh, personal statement done already. um, congratulations, if that’s you. Um, but uh, most of you are probably, you know, working through that and, um, considering that as the priority, which is, uh, certainly, um, a good move, a good thing to be working on right now to, to kinda get that out of the way first is it’s gonna go to all your institutions.

Um, but a common mistake is to spend too much time on that and not move on to the supplemental essays. Um, so you do want to, you know, again, make sure you’re leaving yourself enough time to, um, tackle all of these essays. And so, uh, you need to know kind of what’s ahead of you to know how much time you’re gonna need to get to these. 

So this can be challenging to figure out like how many supplemental essays you’re going to have, um, and to plan out that time to budget it out, um, because, uh, it can be a little bit difficult to know, um, where to find them and to get access to them. Um, so. The essays, uh, will be on the common application, uh, when it’s released.

But sometimes you will find them sooner on the college’s website or on a blog or in an email from the college to you, uh, to get an idea. Um, some essays, um, you don’t uncover until you actually get into that application and start answering questions. And depending on how you answer certain questions, what you’re applying for, what scholarships you ask to be considered for, you may pop up additional supplements.

So, um, I, I wanna stress that, uh, you should definitely be working on your personal statement and getting that in place, but when the common application does release, prioritizing answering those kind of dropdown questions for your colleges right away, so that you can uncover and see all of the supplemental essays that you will have, um, should be a priority as well.

So, um, you may to kind of answer the, when question, you may be able to start working on this sooner. If the college is, you know, release it in some way on their website or, um, In a blog that, you know, you can find before the common app releases, otherwise you’re gonna find them within the common app, um, at the beginning of August.

And you wanna uncover them early kind of chart out, um, a plan for getting through all of them, um, in time for your application deadlines. So definitely don’t waste time, um, uncovering all those essays. Once you have the opportunity.

So poll . Yeah. Yes. So, uh, real quick, another poll. So where are you in the application process? Haven started I’m researching schools. I’m working on my essays. I’m getting my application materials together, or if you’re really lucky, I’m almost done. And while we wait for those, uh, Shannon, can you tell us, um, a bit about what made for a strong supplemental essay when you were in admissions?

Like what did that look like? What did it say? Yeah, great question. Um, and I’m really curious to see where everyone is in the process. I’m looking forward to getting these results. Um, as far as what makes a really strong supplemental essay, we’re gonna talk about this more as we go along, is that specificity that, um, personal, um, touch to it that you’ve really, um, Invested the, the research that is necessary to make it specific to the university that you’re applying to.

So we’re gonna talk a little bit about how to do that. Um, as we go on, definitely. And it’s looking like we have 17%, haven’t started 46% are researching schools. 26% are working on their essays. 10% are getting their application materials together. And 1% the lucky you are almost done wow. Okay. All right.

So we have a lot of work ahead of us so we are ready to understand, um, these essays and how to approach them. Um, so yeah, like I was, uh, kind of alluding to the why school essay, I think can really be one of the most important questions, um, where you can really express that enthusiasm, that interest in that institution and show that you really wanna be there.

And, um, also reveal a little bit about yourself and what your interests are. Um, many of the why school essays will give you the opportunity to talk about your academic interests also, but occasionally, uh, you will find it broken up, um, into a why school kind of generally, and then a why major. Um, so that can sometimes be a little bit challenging for students to, um, divide that up and, uh, kinda keep it separate. 

Um, so you wanna think about that, um, from the, the general perspective for the why school essay and then the really specific, detailed, um, information in the major essay, they, you don’t wanna just repeat the same thing.

Um, I’ve certainly seen students, you know, running out of time and kind of have a lot of duplicate information in those two essays. Um, so you really wanna, you know, take your time, differentiate them, um, and understand if you’re gonna have those, um, additional why major essays, again, this is where, um, you need to do all the checkbox questions and say which major you’re applying to to know if that why major essay is gonna pop up after you answer the question about what major you’re applying to.

Um, so. Uh, again, the specificity really thinking about, um, your answer and digging into it. Uh, if you can read your essay and it could apply anywhere, um, then there’s a problem and you really wanna add more to it. So, um, working, you know, at Northwestern, uh, we could say, you know, the most common answer to this, why school essay was something like it’s a beautiful campus near a major city with excellent academics, which is.

Um, applicable to plenty of other institutions. It’s a little bit specific, but we could put another name of an institution in there and, um, it would still apply. And so that, that is definitely, uh, one of the main tests for this, um, specific question. If it could apply to somewhere else, then it needs, um, more work.

Um, so you want to look into specific classes at that institution that you could take within that major professors that you’re excited to work with, um, specific perhaps research programs or other types of like support programs or things that you could get involved in, um, clubs and organizations that you might want to join.

Um, just the general vibe and traditions that you would participate in. Um, The geography and how it relates to the things that you want to do. Like for example, studying in New York fashion, because there are all these specific opportunities for that, that you could only have there. Um, so you wanna really, uh, get into the details here.

Um, and. um, get specific. Um, another big mistake that people make when they’re not being specific is, uh, you know, like find and replaced and just switching out the name of the institution and using the same essay for multiple places. Um, you can have the same sort of format for each place, um, to make your work a little bit easier, but, um, Simply just changing the name of the institution out, uh, is certainly a way to set yourself up for a mistake.

Um, and I’ve certainly, uh, been on the receiving end of applications where the wrong name of the institution is in the Y school essay, um, which doesn’t, you know, automatically get you denied, but is certainly not a good look. when, um, that application reviewer is reading your application. So we really want to, um, avoid that at all costs and using, uh, find and replace.

Um, you know, isn’t always foolproof, uh, off a lot of times people would change the name of the institution, but then forget to change, you know, if they mentioned the mascot or the location or something else in there. Um, so it would, it. Was sometimes pretty obvious . So when, when someone was like reusing this or recycling it, um, especially in this particular case, when it needs to be specific to the institution, So that one’s, uh, certainly one of the most important, um, the extracurricular essay comes up a little less frequently, but certainly comes up and is your opportunity to expand on one of your activities to give a little bit more detail, uh, about typically your most important, uh, to you activity.

The one maybe that you’ve achieved the most in or spent the most time on. Um, so certainly if that’s optional, it’s a great, um, opportunity to elaborate since you only get a. Small amount of characters on the common app to describe your activities here in the extracurricular activity essay, you might be able to add a little anecdote to it, you know, paint a little bit more of a picture of you in that activity and your role.

Um, so certainly, uh, take that, um, chance to, you know, bring that to life and to, um, demonstrate your enthusiasm and passion and, um, just engagement if you have leadership roles in it, um, explaining those a little bit more, kind of really kind of painting a better picture of what that activity is than that you can fit in that small amount in the common application.

So certainly, um, use that opportunity. Um, the community type essay comes up quite a bit as well. Um, perhaps even more these days than the extracurricular activity essay. Um, and you’ll find the community essay, um, often has something to do with diversity. Um, and I think most community essays are really trying to, um, also communicate to the applicant that the diversity and community is important to the institution.

So it’s kind of sending a signal as well as, um, prompting your response and, uh, at the heart of it is really, um, are you gonna come and be a person who’s open and in willing to engage with. All types of people open to new ideas, wanting to learn from others, wanting to collaborate. Um, so that’s the kind of message that you’re really trying to get across here.

Um, and when you look at the word community, um, you need to, you know, think about it from, um, All sorts of communities. It doesn’t necessarily just mean, you know, your town, um, community can be your friend group. It could be your sports team. It could be a lot of different things. So you wanna, you know, think about, um, your role in different types of communities that you’re a member in and, um, choose one where you can really show how you, um, participate, engage, support others, or open to ideas.

I think that’s really, you know what you’re trying to demonstrate here that you’re gonna come and be, um, a good community member at the college where they’re trying to, um, create a group of students that are gonna. Learn from each other, um, make each other better, um, expose each other to new ideas and different experiences and backgrounds, um, from their own.

So, um, you can think large about community think, um, about all the different communities that you’re a member of and look to communicate your, you know, openness and willingness to be, um, a participant in that collegial environment. Um, so. Next up, um, the idiosyncratic essay. Um, so these can be real stumps.

And, um, the University of Chicago is the most notorious, um, example of this, right? Every year they come up with, uh, series of bizarre questions. Um, many of which are, um, provided by app, uh, students at University of Chicago. Um, and, uh, really are looking for that, you know, quirky, creative thought process. Um, so if you get a quirky creative question, um, University of Chicago, certainly isn’t the only example.

Um, they’re just the, the most, uh, Most quirky, I guess, example, I’m sure there are others out there, but wherever you get it from, um, I think these types of questions are really looking for that creativity that out of the box thinking, um, these can really take, um, some thought to, to get to, um, a response on, so you really can’t underestimate these, um, and the University of Chicago, one in particular, uh, is a longer one.

Um, and they have a longer why uh, essay as well, um, in the past years. So, um, it, it definitely adds, uh, quite a bit of time, uh, to your process, to work on these types of essays. So don’t underestimate, um, how much time it will take. Um, and think outside the box takes definitely some brainstorming some time, um, to work through those.

There’ll be hopefully a minimal occurrence on your list though. Um, the challenge as say, um, you know, could be more frequent and could be, uh, what you, um, could approach on your main essay also as, um, that is an option on the common application. Um, it actually comes up quite a bit in the university of California application as well.

Um, discussing a challenge. Um, so again, kind of like the community, um, you know, you, sometimes students get caught up in thinking specific about, um, the definition of community, uh, that can also happen with challenge. Again, you can think, um, outside the box, as far as challenge goes, because I know, uh, you know, for some students who’ve been fortunate to have, you know, just a pretty.

Study existence without, you know, major challenges. Um, it doesn’t have to be a major challenge. It, it could be, you know, something more, um, specific and personal to you. Uh, but, um, We’re really looking to focus on what you’ve learned from it, how you’ve overcome it, how you’ve grown from it. And I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes that students can make with this type of essay is to get a little too negative, to spend so much time describing what the challenge is.

They don’t have enough space or spend enough of their words describing what they learned from it, what they overcame, um, how their. Better now. So that’s, I guess my main, um, recommendation here is to really, after you write this out, just look at highlight, how many words are you spending on the challenge and how many words are you spending on the lesson?

The, the, what you’re getting out of it, how you’re overcoming it and make sure that that is the significantly greater part of the essay, what you are learning, um, versus what, um, you’re using to describe the challenge, uh, because in most of these essays, um, the second part of the question is the more important part.

What did you learn from it? How did you overcome it? Um, what do you contribute to the community? What do you wanna do with, um, Your major at this college. So the, the second make sure you’re always answering the full question and especially the second part, um, that goes for all of these. Um, so I. Moving on, um, short answers, um, are another possible thing that you’ll see out there.

Um, especially on the highly selective applications. Uh, we’ll see, quite a lot of these shorter responses. Um, sometimes they can only be a few words sometimes they’re, you know, about a sentence long. Um, and so, uh, it seems like, oh, there’s just these short questions. I’ll just do them later at the end. It won’t take long

In fact, uh, some of these short answers can be the most difficult, even harder than the outside of the box. Idiosyncratic question, uh, because you know, you’ve got 20 words to say like what your theme song is and why, and there are. Millions of songs to choose from. So where do you begin if you don’t have, you know, a specific, um, song in mind?

Um, it can be pretty difficult to think about, um, something like that. And so, um, I definitely see students, uh, get stuck every year on, on figuring out some of these short answers and really trying to maximize what they say, um, in just a few words. Um, and again, you don’t wanna underestimate it because, um, you can really put out more of your personality.

Um, in these short questions, they’re typically a little bit more informal. You can have a little bit more fun with them. Um, so really. It’s a great opportunity. The, these are most of the times required on the kinds of applications, um, that they appear on. Um, so you’re really gonna be able to show that personality and, um, some different sides of yourself.

Um, the Yale course, one appear has it been appearing for quite a while? Um, that appears on some other applications as well. Um, Stanford has the roommate, um, letter to your roommate question, uh, which is one of these shorter ones. Um, so all of these, you know, can really show a lot of personality and original thinking.

Um, you can display some of your other academic interests and kind of tell that full picture. Um, so it really, um, is a fun insight into your personality, although they can be hard. I usually really enjoy, um, working on these with students. Um, I. I don’t know how much the students enjoy working on them, cuz I do think they are challenging.

Um, but I, uh, always, um, love, you know, like how it comes together and how it can show so much, uh, personality in a few amount of words and it can be, um, this is again kind of weird to say too, but fun to really try to make every single one of those words count. Um, it’s certainly, um, an interesting editing challenge to, um, maximize that.

Um, and you know, say what you wanna say. So, um, with effort you can really say a lot in these short answers and in paint, a really fun picture of yourself.

Um, Just wanted to point out that there could also be a space for additional information, um, that you can use on the common application, um, and on other applications as well. Um, so this is a place where if there is something that just is not, um, communicated anywhere else in your application, um, but is relevant to, um, admissions offices, uh, to know about you.

Um, you could consider putting that in the additional information. Um, so if you had a dip in your grades, um, if you change schools, there’ll be a, a space actually that will pop up about changing schools that you’ll be able to fill in. Um, but if you needed more words that could fit in the additional information, if there was any illness that you encountered, um, something specific that, um, Impacted your grades or your participation in activities, anything like that?

Um, you could add that into your additional information. Um, there is also a separate place, uh, to talk about COVID or there, there has been in the last few years. Um, we will know when the common. Finally releases, uh, if there’s any change to that or how it’s gonna look this year, but in the last few years, there has been a space, um, to elaborate on that, if anything that you’ve been involved in has been specifically impacted or interrupted, um, because of COVID and you want to explain that?

I mean, at this point, we all pretty much know, you know, what most of us have gone through, but if your experience is beyond sort of the typical, uh, impact that, uh, most high school students have felt, then you can definitely utilize that space to give a little bit more detail there. Um, so you could potentially have the, um, you know, additional essay, if you change schools, if you had some other, you know, great interruption or something you wanted to explain, and if you had a significant impact from COVID, so all of those.

You know, could be possible spaces to use, um, on the common application, in addition to the main personal statement, uh, and those would, uh, be optional except for if you have changed schools, then you would need to, um, write something in there about the change in trajectory. Uh, I don’t think that one pops up as optional.

Um, so mostly optional, um, to use those additional spaces. And again, you should just use them. If you have something, um, important to communicate there.

So, uh, I already touched on this a little bit, but just wanted to highlight again, cuz it’s definitely a question, right? Can you reuse essays? Um, so some of them do tend to be similar. So like I was saying, you know, the community essay, you might see that in slightly different forms on different applications.

Um, if you, you know, really plot out all your essays from the beginning, a good strategy is to look at all the community prompts and try to keep them all in mind when you’re drafting that. First one, depending on your prioritization of your applications and when they’re due, if you can tackle the longest one first and then continually cut that down for the other applications, um, that will help make your work a little bit easier.

Um, so for something like that, you can probably, um, reuse a little bit. Um, but for those school specific ones, um, you really do wanna make them specific as I was describing. So the, those are prob there’s probably gonna be a lot of new material in each one of those, maybe with, um, a similar format, but it’s still gonna take a good bit of research and work to make those individual, um, you can, um, so there will be some times when you can reuse things or kind of tweak or make things fit into other prompts, but sometimes you’re gonna have to, you know, write new things from scratch.

Um, The good news is kind of, once you start, you’re gonna start building up a bunch of writing, um, so that you will have more and more to draw from as you get further and further in your process. So hopefully, but the further that you get to the end, the less new writing you’ll have to do, because you’ll have kind of this big bank, um, that you’ve been building up in the beginning of, um, Pieces about your activities and your communities and, um, important stories and challenges that you’ll be able to kind of fit in, um, where they need to be, um, as you go along and encounter different prompts.

Um, so definitely encourage you to, um, save all of those, you know, like different drafts, those ideas that you maybe drum up in the beginning. Um, when you’re thinking about your personal statement choices, um, and start creating, um, just a place where you’re keeping all of those drafts, um, so that you can always be, you know, looking back and finding pieces of what you have already done to adapt, um, for future essays.

Um, if you are one of our younger students, um, here tonight, then, um, you know, there, there’s gonna be time maybe to start journaling free writing, just, uh, Check out some of these prompts, um, and write down some ideas. Um, so, uh, as you’re going through your junior year, you can, um, you know, just start, uh, drumming up ideas and keeping track and, and thinking about things.

Um, definitely, uh, it’s a great activity to journal. Um, if you can find a little bit of time, like five minutes a day, just to write down some thoughts and things you’re thinking about that day, um, and begin, uh, just creating some ideas that might turn into an essay, um, when it’s time. So building up that bank can start, you know, at any point, if you are, are here tonight, you’re thinking about these, uh, pro processes that you’re gonna have in the future.

So, uh, definitely encourage you to. You know, write, write down some ideas and kind of get in that mindset. Um, if you are one of our younger students, um, getting a head start. Um, so just to kind of summarize some of the advice before we turn it over to questions, um, research, um, and being specific is certainly the key in the why college essay, which is one of the more important supplemental essays, because it’s specific to that institution.

Um, it’s your opportunity to show your excitement and your enthusiasm. So you really wanna show that you have thought about what you’re gonna do when you’re there, what you’re gonna participate in, how you’re gonna use those academic resources, what you’re going to bring to that classroom or to, you know, that activity that you’re gonna be involved in, um, and making it, you know, really specific to the institution.

Um, it’s gonna take some time to do that research, draft it to rework it, tweak it. Um, so do leave yourself enough time to get to these supplemental questions. Uh, it can be just as important as the main essay or in some cases, you know, more important because it’s specific to that institution. Um, you want to, um, really be genuine and.

Do the research and think about why you’re interested in that institution. Um, I’ve, I’ve also seen students kind of change their mind about applying to a particular institution, uh, in this process, because as they’re doing the research to write this answer about why they wanna attend there, they can’t find the reasons to put.

Um, and so at that point, like if it’s not gonna be genuine, if you can’t really get excited about writing that response, um, then maybe it. Maybe you learn that it’s not the right institution for you to apply to. And that’s okay. So as you’re going through this process of the supplemental essays, um, hopefully you’re gonna learn more, um, about those institutions and get excited or not about them.

Um, and you may end up tweaking your list as a result of working through this supplemental essay process, um, to prepare for those Y college essays, uh, definitely taking notes as you’re visiting and doing your research. And, um, looking into institutions, uh, can really help by always encourage students to write down.

For example, like the name of. Tour guide when they’re on a tour, what their major was and where they were from. And, um, everybody that they spoke to on campus, the names of the buildings that they went into, um, and really, uh, some descriptions, you know, like of what you felt of what you saw, um, when you were there.

Um, because the more research that you do kind of the harder it is to differentiate and things start blending together. So taking notes, um, and, uh, doing your visits, um, with these supplemental essays in mind, um, could be helpful. Um, and of course there are a lot of virtual opportunities to connect, um, and see the campus too.

Um, so you can always kind of catch up on that, um, if you’re not able to do an in person visit. So, um, going through some of those would definitely be helpful in writing those specific, uh, why college essays. So, I guess, you know, it, my final thoughts are leave plenty of time for these essays. Make sure you go through the applications and uncover all of the prompts that you’re gonna have.

You don’t wanna have any late game surprises. Uh, you know, a couple days before the applications are due. Suddenly you realize you’ve got this other thing to write. You wanna. Plan, give yourself enough time and give yourself enough time to do that specific research to really make these, um, personal and specific to the institution that you’re applying to and it will pay off.

So I hope that, um, helps, uh, kind of set the stage for the supplemental questions that you may encounter. Um, we do have tons of guides and examples and blogs, um, on our site for specific colleges. So if you do search, um, on, um, you should be able to find some more specific advice. And we also have webinars, um, about specific colleges as well.

Um, so we have lots of, lots of more specific information, but this should give you a pretty good, um, context of, of most of the different types of questions that you might see on your applications. Definitely. And so that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar. I hope you found this information helpful and remember that you can download the side from the link in the handouts tab and this webinar is being recorded so that you’ll be able to view it again later on our.

site at or at Uh, and again, with the blog too, um, there are spec those specific, um, supplemental essay guides, and there should be some more coming, um, this fall as they get released. Okay. So now moving on the Q&A, I’ll read your questions. You submitted in the Q&A tab and read them aloud before, um, and read them aloud.

So our panelists can give you an answer as a heads up, if your Q&A tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just make sure that you join the webinar through the custom links sent to your email and not from the webinar landing page. Also known as the website or else you won’t get all the features of big markers.

So just make sure you join through that. Customly now getting started. Uh, okay. So what you mentioned, how time consuming the essays can be, especially if you have multiple, uh, what are some tips for managing time? Uh, the time it takes, um, when writing the supplements, as well as the other parts of the application, Yeah, good question.

Um, I really think, you know, prioritization is key and thinking about meeting some early deadlines, like setting yourself, uh, if you’re not applying in early action, setting yourself some early deadlines and working your applications in batches, like I’m gonna take these three applications, work on them, get them done, then move on to the next.

Um, so, uh, I like to encourage students to look at all the essays that they’re gonna have to do, kinda get that big picture idea, but then to really just focus on a few schools at a time and go down the list in priority. Um, so you kinda have to, you know, make yourself do the research and then make yourself a, a planner of attack, um, to get them done.

Definitely. Uh, I did add some notes in the public chat. Uh, I don’t think it gets saved on the webinar. So, um, if you wanted those, you can copy and paste them, uh, going on to the next question, uh, this is a bit more technical . So how do I find, um, how do I find the specific essays that schools are asking?

Like where do I find that on the application? Okay, good. So for most colleges, uh, you’re probably gonna be using the common application primarily. So there is the application tab. Right. And, um, that’s gonna have the main, uh, 650 word personal statement. Um, then you’ll need to add your individual colleges to your list, right.

Then they’ll start appearing on the left hand side where you can click on them and see their different questions. Um, sometimes it’ll be really clear. There will be a writing section there that you will see and you can click on. Um, but other times it’ll just be inside of their questions. And maybe after you answer that you wanna major in engineering, then a question will pop up that says, why do you wanna major in engineering?

Um, so which is why I’m stressing that it’s really important to. Answer the school questions. So you can see any essays that might pop up. Um, I do wanna say don’t start answering those questions yet because, um, what, what we are in right now is last year’s version of the common application. So you can absolutely create your common app account.

You can fill out some of the basic info. You can add colleges to your list, but the common app will, uh, refresh reboot at the end of July. And then the new questions for next year will appear. So if colleges are making any changes to their questions, That will update at the end of July. Um, so we’re weeks away, uh, from that.

Um, but it’ll be coming soon. Um, but you can add them now and you can kind of get a look and see what it looks like and what the questions were last year. But if you fill anything in, in the college section now it’ll probably be erased. Um, when that refresh does take place, so you don’t wanna type any essays or anything in the common application, you wanna be working on everything in outside documents and paste it in there later.

Um, but you can certainly create your account, get familiar with it and see where those essays are going to appear at. Um, And, uh, like I was saying, some colleges may, um, release their questions sooner and let you know what those questions are going to be. So sometimes you can find it on their website or in a blog or in an email that you get from the college.

Um, so you can kind of do some investigating to maybe find some of those supplemental prompts out before August 1st. Um, if you’re lucky and get a little bit more of a head start on them. Mm-hmm yeah. And for underclassmen, uh, you don’t need to. Necessarily start your essays right now because it, again, it will be different.

Um, by the time you get to it, some things that kind of stay the same or the personal statement, those tend to have the same exact prompts. Um, whereas the supplements for each individual schools may or may not change. Um, so you will just have to kind of wait until it opens, but you can do a practice, um, application on the common app.

Um, there’s like a whole section for it. Uh, if you just want to get a feel for how, uh, it works, uh, going on to the next question, how do you make a supplemental essay, uh, stand out, does getting more specific with your research correlate to a better essay? Like what does specific mean? I guess like, some people think are like wondering what that means.

Yeah. So, um, it usually gets into naming like a. You know, a specific major and why you personally are interested in that major or specific classes, why you want to work with those professors, um, naming places you imagine yourself being on campus, just really bringing to life what you’re going to do, um, on that campus at academically and outside of class.

Um, so it’s, it’s a lot of research about particular classes, majors, um, groups that you are gonna name and, um, discuss your kind of fit with, um, And we have lots of examples, um, on our website of what works and doesn’t work in those. So I’d definitely encourage you to, to take a look at those. And then I think once you see some examples, it would make a little bit more sense.

Um, but it does need to be like specific to both the college and you, um, so it’s not only just you describing to the college, you know, what is great about that college? Cuz they already know. They already probably think they’re great. if they, you know, are reading the application. Um, but it’s also about like why that’s a fit for you and why, um, you think it’s gonna help you get where you want to go.

So it’s personal to the college and to you. Yes. And kind of going off of that, another student is asking, how does the admission officer know if I showed my strong commitment to the school? I applied through reading my why school. Yeah. Um, again, it’s just in those specific details. Um, you may also choose to mention, you know, that you visited there, that you have friends there, um, that you have family, or, you know, some of the other connections you may have, um, depending on the length of the essay, like how much room you have, um, those things could come in as well.

Some colleges do track demonstrated interests and care about your, um, your visits and your other communications or other ways you’ve interacted with the institution. Um, so in some cases it might make sense to mention those things as well. Um, in the essay, um, again, like the name of the tour guide that you had and, you know, what, how, how you felt when you, when you were on campus.

Um, to emphasize your interest. Uh, so that’s a possibility, um, too, but otherwise it’s, if you’ve not visited, it’s gonna be mainly, you know, through that, um, specific research, um, those details about the academics and activities, um, things that you’ll be a part of. Yes. And I think we had another webinar where it was like a live demonstration of writing the supplements.

I can’t remember if that was, but there will probably be one in the future, but for a quick example, for like me applying to Cornell, uh, in. Instead of just saying like, oh, the college of human ecology has a great, um, public health program. I’d say something like, oh, um, the public health program offers, uh, pride scholars research opportunity.

But rather than just saying like what the school has, you also wanna say, like what you would do with it? So like, I’d say, oh, through the pride scholars program at Cornell, I would be able to do research in XYZ that I’m interested in. This is how I’d use it in the future, if you wanna add a little extra.

Um, so that’s kind of like how to make it specific about the school, but then also connecting it back to why that’s interesting to you cuz a school can have a great program, but if you’re not actually gonna use it then yeah. So going on the next question, um, does name dropping like professors or things like that actually help in a supplement and is it necessary.

Yeah. Um, so again, it does help to show that you’ve done that research. Um, so just kind of like saying, I’m gonna take X class with X professor, um, is maybe not enough, but going a little bit more specifically, like Mackenzie was saying in her example of what you’re gonna do with that, or why it’s important, why you’re so excited to engage with that professor, um, is, uh, taking it that step further.

So it shouldn’t read just like a list of professors and classes that you wanna take, but really explain like why that’s exciting for you, what you’re gonna take from it, what you’re gonna do with it. Um, so it’s more than just name dropping, but really getting into those details of how you’re going to, um, really engage with that.

And, um, for those in the room who are already working with us, we know that the admissions process can be overwhelming for parents and students, a like, especially writing things like the essays and the supplements, and really trying to research schools to figure out what to say. Uh, so we highly recommend signing up for CollegeAdvisor with our team of over 300 former admissions officers and our admissions experts who can help you navigate it all in one-on-one advising sessions.

Uh, through these sessions, you can really start brainstorming ideas, they’ll help you, um, figure out what schools you’re interested in, what programs they offer, and they can really help refine and edit, um, your essays to make sure that it’s really showing that you want to go to these schools so that it can stand out the best way that you can.

Uh, our, uh, admissions, uh, our, our clients had, um, three times the admissions rate of getting into Harvard and 4.4 times the national rate at Stanford. Um, So it’s a very, um, useful program. You can really, uh, help with getting those strong applications to get into these top schools. So, um, sign up for a, a free consultation by going to and setting up your free account.

And then through the we website, um, you can find where to actually, uh, set up the consultation by calling the number that shows up on the screen. There, you can find out more about our different packages and plans and what all other resources we offer such as our essay review team, the financial aid review team, uh, and many other, uh, features along with our free webinars and our free blogs.

So definitely go to to find out more about that now back to the Q&A, uh, okay. So going on the next question, uh, is the essay application process similar when applying to community college, are there specific prompts or just general popular ones? Yeah for community college, um, it’s there usually are gonna be fewer or maybe no essays, um, as their aim is really to serve everybody, um, who wants to participate.

So it’s usually not, you know, a lot of extra steps that you have to take, um, to apply there. So I wouldn’t expect too many supplemental essays, um, for a community college, usually you’re meeting, um, certain just academic requirements. Um, and certainly, you know, I don’t wanna scare you too much. There, there are gonna be some applications that you have where you are not gonna have supplemental essays.

Um, so that, um, that is definitely a possibility as well, um, with other types of institutions. Um, but really like at the highly selective level is where we see a greater amount of supplemental essays and where they can be quite important. Mm-hmm , uh, kind of going off of that. How many supplemental essays are there generally?

Yeah. Good question. Um, so again, those highly selective institutions, um, are gonna have the, the larger amount of supplemental essays. Um, usually, you know, two or three, as well as a number of those short questions is pretty typical. Um, surprisingly, you know, out of the Ivy’s, Harvard has some of the fewest supplemental questions.

They do give some options like you would automatically think, like they probably have the most, um, but not. So, um, some of the other institutions have more, um, Uh, Stanford has quite a few of those short questions. Um, so a lot of that, that high tier has, you know, the most, um, U Chicago probably has the longest ones and, you know, uh, the largest, you know, amount of words that you’re probably gonna produce for supplemental, um, essays.

Uh, but like I said, some of those short ones can take just as much time. Um, and then as you go down in selectivity, you’re probably gonna see a little bit less and less. Um, a lot of institutions will have just the why college and why major. Um, so that’s probably what you’ll see the most of. Um, I think it’s hard to get through an application process without having at least one of those, um, essays to write, um, So it really depends on your list, how many you can expect, but sort of like generally the more selective the institutions kind of the more supplemental essays, uh, you can expect in the total mm-hmm and some schools may even change the number of supplements that they have.

So like, um, Howard university, when I applied, uh, only had one supplement, just the why um, school question, and then last year’s admission cycle they had four where two were optional and two were required. So definitely check those out. If somebody you know applied and they had less, they may have changed it. Um, kind of going off of that question are students at a disadvantage, if they do not submit optional supplemental essays,

So, yeah. Going back to the advice, uh, early in the presentation, um, you should really take advantage of that opportunity to add, um, some additional information about yourself. Uh, so I think, um, if it’s usually not gonna be held, uh, against you, that you didn’t submit it, but you’re wasting an opportunity to say something more about yourself.

So, uh, I think you should absolutely take advantage of that space and use the opportunity to add something about yourself. That’s not somewhere else. Um, so I would strongly encourage, you know, doing those optional essays, um, when they appear mm-hmm and as a webinar is coming to a close, is there any final advice you’d like to give.

Um, I guess, you know, my final advice is to do those drop down questions early. So you reveal everything that you have in front of you make a plan, um, break it down. So you’re not overwhelmed. Um, and look for examples and resources on our site. There’s a lot of additional information out there to help you, um, and take advantage of the opportunity to, um, expand on your personal statements.

Um, don’t pass up those opportunities to really add to your personality. Um, so supplemental essays can be just as important as the main essay and sometimes more important don’t, um, leave them, um, with a little, you know, amount of effort and time really take your time with them. Set yourself up to be successful. Give yourself the time you need to do the research and answer them well.

Mm-hmm so that is the end of the webinar. Um, we hope you had a great time learning about supplemental essays and thank you to our wonderful, um, presenter up. Shannon, uh, here’s the rest of our July series, where we’ll be going over different parts of the application, how to really build your college list.

We’ll have some, um, panels on different schools and some more AO webinars. So do check those out. If you are learning, trying to learn more about the application process or just wanna know how to really make your application stand out. We also recommend joining CollegeAdvisor, if you have not already. So you can get your own advisor who can, um, walk you through step by step and really go over the parts that you’re, uh, concerned about, or really, um, just trying to get done.

So do check those out again also, um, if your question wasn’t answered in this webinar, check out our other webinars at and type in the keyword so that, um, you can find webinars specific to what you’re looking for. So again, thank you everyone for coming out tonight and goodnight.

Thanks McKenzie.