Editing Your Supplemental Essays

Join CollegeAdvisor admissions expert and essay review team member Anna Vande Velde to learn more about the crucial task of editing your supplemental essays, an essential step in crafting a compelling college application. Here’s what you can expect:

Key Learnings:

  • Crafting Impactful Introductions: Learn techniques to grab the reader’s attention right from the start.
  • Concise and Effective Expression: Discover how to convey your thoughts with clarity and precision, making every word count.
  • Showcasing Your Unique Voice: Understand the importance of authenticity and strategies to let your personality shine through your writing.
  • Navigating Common Pitfalls: Identify and avoid common mistakes that can detract from the strength of your essay.
  • Feedback and Revision Strategies: Gain insights into the art of receiving constructive feedback and utilizing it to enhance your essays.
  • Aligning with College Values: Learn how to tailor your essays to align with the values and culture of each specific college.
  • Timeline Management: Receive tips on managing your time effectively to ensure a polished and refined final submission.

This webinar is not just about editing; it’s about elevating your essays to make a lasting impression on college admissions committees. Don’t miss this opportunity to sharpen your writing skills and boost the impact of your college applications. Register now for a session that could make all the difference in your college admissions journey!

Date 12/13/2023
Duration 50:44

Webinar Transcription

2023-12-13 – Editing Your

Supplemental Essays

Lonnie: Hello everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor.com webinar, “Editing

Your Supplemental Essays.” To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we

will first begin with a presentation and then we’ll have the opportunity to answer

your questions in a live Q&A. If you’re interested, please feel free to download

the handouts.

You can find that in the handout tab by clicking on download. All right. So with

that, let’s go ahead and introduce our panelists for our webinar today.

Anna: Hi, everyone. My name is Anna Vande Velde. I’ve been with

CollegeAdvisor, um, for about two years now. Um, I guess a little over two

years. Time flies. I’m loving my work here.

Um, I studied psychology at Carnegie Mellon, thought I was going to be a

clinical psychologist, but ended up in law school where I finished up at Harvard

in 2021. Uh, so I’ve been working as a non profit attorney since then, in addition

to my work with CollegeAdvisor. As part, in addition to the advising I do with

individual students here, I am also a captain on our essay review team, which I


Uh, and it means that essays are a big passion of mine, so I’m very excited to be

here tonight, or whatever time it is, wherever you are in the world, to talk about

editing your supplemental essays. Thanks!

Lonnie: Great, great. Well, we are definitely eager to begin talking about

editing your supplemental essays.

But before we do so, we would like to get a sense of what grade you are in. So

we just launched our poll. If you can let us know, it gives us the opportunity to

find ways to speak directly to our audience. And Anna, I would imagine as an

attorney, Like, are you doing a lot of editing of, like, writing material?

Anna: Yes, there is a surprising amount of overlap in lawyering and applying to

colleges, uh, which all of my students here in this field, both are just about

telling stories. And definitely involves writing and editing.Lonnie: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So you are very experienced and I

know that our audience have, are going to get some great information from you.

So with that, I’m going to share where we are with our audience and their grade

level. So we have 71 percent of our audience that are in the 11th grade.

Followed by that, we have 14 percent 10th grade and 14 percent other. Um, so

with that, I’ll turn it over to you to begin discussing what are supplemental


Anna: Awesome. Thank you so much. So to start us off basic question, what are

supplemental essays, depending on where you are on the process, especially if

you’re 10th grade or younger. You might not know. That’s okay. Um, that’s why

we’re here tonight. So, you have probably heard about the personal statement.

We have separate webinars about that.

Uh, but briefly, that is It’s usually a 650 word essay somewhere around that

length, um, addressing a broad prompt. And that essay goes to every college

you apply to. Pretty much. There are some exceptions. In addition to that, some

colleges may either require or make optional, additional or supplemental essays.

See ya! I’ve never seen one that wasn’t shorter than the 650 word personal

statement, so anywhere from 50 words at the shortest, um, up to 450. On

average, I’d say they’re around 250 words. They are specific for each college. So

if you’re writing a supplemental essay, it’s going just to the college that’s asking

you for it.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t hang onto that material. It’s not to say you

might not be able to reuse and recycle it for other supplementals, but the

supplemental essays you write for Harvard or Columbia or whatever are going

just to that college. They, the questions. Um, some really common ones are why

this college, why Yale, why the University of Pennsylvania, wherever it is.

Um, you might be asking more about extracurricular experiences, your

background, valuing diversity. We’ll get into more of these in a bit. Um, but

those, they can really be about anything.

The purpose of supplemental essays is really just. To allow you to convey more

information and to answer more questions. Uh, so like with every part of your

application, it’s another opportunity for the readers to get to know you better. It

also can be, depending on the questions and how they’re framed, It might be a

really good place to show that you have done your research on the specificprogram or the specific college you’re applying to, which really conveys your

interest and your passion for going there.

In general, I promise you we have so many former admissions officers working

with us. They all say, and I believe them, please believe this, admissions officers

are doing a holistic review. So there’s not one thing that’s going to make or

break your application. It’s all important and they’re, they’re going to consider

everything put together.

Uh, so don’t put all of your emphasis on one essay or one SAT score or anything

like that. They’re going to look at the whole application holistically. And what

they’re really looking for is a unique voice. They want to hear you and who you

are. Anything you can do to show introspection, growth, things you’ve learned.

Those are going to be great things to get in your essays. Think about, as I said at

the beginning, telling the story of who you are, where you’ve been, and where

you want to go. At the end of the day, they’re really looking just for students.

who they think would be a good addition to their college. They’re looking for

students who they want to meet and who they want to welcome into their


Lonnie: Okay, so with that, we’re going to take a short pause so we can do our

second poll. And so we would like to know Where are you in the college

application process? So believe it or not, the college application process does

not begin once you become a high school senior. You’re in the 12th grade, so we

would love to hear from you all on where you are at.

So let us know, perhaps you haven’t started, or maybe you’re working on doing

your research for your schools. Um, maybe you’ve started to work on some type

of essay, um, maybe it’s a scholarship essay. Um, or let us know, so let us know

where you are. Okay, great. Here are the responses. So we have 67 percent of

our audience are researching schools, um, followed by that.

We have about an even split between those who haven’t started and those who

are working on their essays. Um, and I know that this, uh, webinar is definitely

going to support them as they continue to work on their essay. So with that, and

I’ll turn it back over to you.

Anna: Thank you so much. Um, because it seems like a lot of you are right now

in the process of getting started.Of, uh, creating your college list. I’m just gonna say this now, as you’re doing

that, you know, I’m picturing you have some spreadsheet or some lists of

colleges that are making it onto your, like your final list. If you don’t have it,

just add a column to that spreadsheet about supplemental essays. Do they have


Yes or no? How many? It’ll just save you a bit of research down the road.

Okay. So, speaking of what grade you’re in, I put in here the timeline that

CollegeAdvisor suggests students follow for writing their essays. And like

everything, it’s a guideline. So if you feel like you are behind this for whatever

reason, please don’t panic. Everything’s going to be okay. Um, but I think based

on all the grades you submitted, I don’t think that’s going to be the case for

anyone here.

Uh, but what we recommend is. sort of spring of your junior year, start

brainstorming your personal statement. Again, we have other webinars about

that. Um, so then during your junior summer, you can draft and workshop that

personal statement. And then when you get into end of summer of junior year,

right before you start your senior year, that’s when we advise is a great time to

start focusing on these supplemental essays, because that gives you senior fall.

To just work on finalizing everything, getting all the pieces together, um, getting

feedback from folks on your essays. It will save you a lot of stress. Senior fall,

if you’re able to even roughly follow this timeline.

So how do admissions essays differ from high school essays, which you’re more

used to writing? First and foremost, you are the main subject. The general

grammatical and structural rules that you’ve learned, Potentially more than in

your high school essays, based on what I see students submit. Storytelling is

really, really important.

I’m going to get into what I mean by that. Um, but I think that’s, that’s a big

difference from high school essays. So, what I mean by storytelling, um, what I

mean by storytelling is put the reader in a position in your shoes and help them

see how you have experienced whatever thing you are describing. So if it is a

supplemental essay about an extracurricular experience you’ve had, instead of,

you know, describing sort of high level what the club is and listing your

accomplishments, I would really advise you to think about one moment, one or

two moments, in the extracurricular that were really meaningful to you and

show us why.So put us in your shoes, show us what was happening and what you

experienced, how you thought about it. That’s what I mean by storytelling. It’s

always going to be better to show versus tell whenever you can. So to do just

that, instead of just telling you to show versus tell, I’m going to show you an


You could write in your essay, sharing my writing with others has always scared

me. You’re telling your reader that’s true. You could alternatively show them

what that experience is like specifically for you. So I had a student write

something like this. My second grade hands shook as I approached Mrs.

Sanchez’s desk with a handwritten essay. So the idea that sharing your writing

with others is scary and has scared you since you were pretty young. That’s

coming through in this story. But you’re helping me, the student’s helping me

see it from their second grade perspective. It’s more convincing, it’s more

engaging, and it’s more unique.

Because this student is the only student who had that exact experience with their

hand shaking as they were walking up to Mrs. Sanchez’s desk.

So, knowing what I’ve said about storytelling and showing versus telling, How

do you start? I cannot stress this enough. Just coming to this webinar is a good

start because hopefully what it’s doing is it’s getting your creative juices flowing

and now you’re starting to think about it. So when you’re out living your life,

experiencing the world, uh, if you have a moment that.

It’s really meaningful, that you realize you’re learning a lot from, write it down.

Oh, your future self will thank you. Write it down. You don’t have to have it

figured out, like how I could turn this into an essay. Maybe you never will, but

just write it down. So it’s there. And when you sit down really seriously to start,

uh, writing your essays.

You have a list of moments that have been really meaningful to you. Similarly,

uh, if there’s a person who’s been really meaningful, write that down. Any idea

you have that you think, hmm, maybe this would be an interesting thing to write

about, jot it down. As you’re doing that, I encourage you to also start thinking

about what your personal narrative is going to be.

Um, at CollegeAdvisor, we often call this a candidate profile. So if you think

about it, admissions readers at colleges get maybe five to twelve minutes, um,

On their first read through of any application, they are very skilled, they’re goodreaders, and they are good BS detectors. So, that said, they’re fantastic at their

job, and they’re not going to remember.

Every detail they can’t, the human brain doesn’t work that way. So what you

want to do is from the beginning, decide high level. What do I want them to

remember about me after they’ve read a hundred applications? This day, when I

say high level, I mean things like, I am passionate. I am an advocate for others

and I’m really dedicated.

High level like that. Uh, be thinking about that also as you’re thinking about

your essays and how your supplementals are going to really add to your

personal statement and your overall application.

Some supplemental essay tips. Every word counts. That’s true in your personal

statement as well. Like I said, the supplementals are important. Typically

shorter, sometimes very short. So every word counts, and every word should be

about you. Every point you’re making should be helping the reader learn

something more about you.

So, and something new. So you want to avoid repeating your personal

statement, you want to avoid repeating things that they could get from your

activities section. Also, something I see a lot is if you are spending a lot of your

word count describing an extracurricular like the club or the organization itself,

you’re doing yourself a disservice because you’re, that’s not telling them more

about you.

So, there are, of course, some clubs where what they’re about is not clear from

their name, or maybe it’s a really niche sort of club, and you might need to

include some sort of description, but keep that as short as possible. I promise

you, if it’s a debate club, if it’s glee, theater, things like that, you don’t need to


They’re gonna know what those are. Focus instead on your experience. In those

clubs. This is a place like I mentioned earlier to go deeper on your brand. So

once, but I think I called it candidate profile in the last slide. Um, once you’ve

identified those traits, those 1 to 3 high level things you want.

the readers to remember about you at the end. Um, Think about which ones you

want to highlight more. Maybe there’s a trait that your personal statement really

focuses on, but there’s another one that’s really important to bring that in the

supplemental essays. It’s also a good place to make specific references to the

college, because like I said, these essays are going only to one university each.So we thought we’d walk through a couple of the most common supplemental

essay topics, um, and give some specific tips on those. So a very common

supplemental question is Why do you want to go to our school? I get a lot of

students who struggle with this. And to be honest, every time they ask me, the

first thing I do is chuckle a little bit and then say, Why do you want to go here?

Why did you put it on your list? There’s a reason for that, and the reason, I’m

telling you, is more than it’s prestigious. If that’s your first answer, that’s okay,

but why is the prestige important to you? Is it because you think it’s going to

open doors? Doors to what? And why do you want those doors open?

So, do that reflection first. So that when you’re writing, it’s clear it’s coming

from a genuine, honest place. Cause like I said earlier, admissions readers are

good at detecting if you’re not being genuine. So once you’ve done that and you

know, like genuinely why you want to go there, I also suggest in this essay,

especially you include specific references.

to things at that college. So professors you want to work with, name them. Um,

labs you want to research in, put the lab name in there. Or if there’s a specific

class you want to take, put that in there. Make sure you’re telling us why for

each of them, but put those names in there because it shows you have done your


Same thing with clubs or student events. A good rule for any of your essays and

especially this one. is if you can copy and paste your description of the school,

like say you can copy and paste your why Harvard answer into your why

Columbia essay, you’re not specific enough. Uh, so make sure you’re really

talking about the school and what it is about it that draws you there

for short responses. Um, especially those less than 250 words, really focus on

what the prompt is asking. So, um, make sure you’re, you’re tailoring your

response to the question. And don’t worry about the word count at first. I know

that might sound counterintuitive. Um, but I think when students write thinking

about the word limit, the tendency for anyone is to stifle creativity and stifle


I’m telling you, I think it’s a lot easier to go back and cut back on word count

than it is to, to get the story or the content out there. That’s also a really good

time to ask others for help. So let’s say you’re just, it’s 250 words, you’re at 350.

That’s a good time to ask teachers, advisors, family, friends, whoever, to read it

and give you feedback on where they think you could cut back on word count.They can’t write it for you, but they can help with that. So don’t worry about

word count at first. If you’re going back and you’re looking for places to trim, a

pet peeve of mine, something I point out all the time, is be on the lookout for

passive language. So instead of saying, I was able to You could just say, I did,


And I was able to achieve, you could just say I achieved. Um, or the example I

have here is I was running to the beach. You could instead say, I ran to the

beach. Or running to the beach, I saw my friends, da da da da da. It might feel

like a small point, but if you have a lot of sentences that are using passive

language, it can actually make a huge difference on word count.

without taking out any substance.

Tips for those supplemental questions that focus on an extracurricular. Again,

the framing of the questions vary, so pay attention to the framing. But it’s really

important to focus on the things that you cannot Capture in the activity section

itself, which, um, if you’re not familiar in the activity section, you list, you

know, the, the clubs activities you’ve been a part of in those descriptions, you’re

limited to 150 characters.

So it’s really short. What you really can’t convey there is meaningfulness,

personal growth, and you can’t tell a story there. So that’s what you want to do

in your supplemental essay about an extracurricular activity. Take a see on what

you have done. Which is what you can capture in the activity section and focus

on what you have learned.

I also think it’s a really good place to connect to your college interests and your

career interests. And it does not need to be straightforward. So, for example,

maybe you Maybe you have a really meaningful moment in cooking class or a

cooking club. Um, and it makes you realize that you really like deductive


So you want to be a math major. That connection is not clear on its face like

cooking club and math, but if you can tell the story and it’s genuine, um, that’s a

great connection to make. So whatever extracurricular you’re writing about,

you’re choosing something that’s meaningful to you. So there’s gotta be a way it


To what you want to do. in the future because why else would it be meaningful

to you?Um, I wasn’t sure how to categorize these, but tips for a strong community

essay by these, I think we’re thinking essays about, you know, your background

and how, how it’s been important to you, how it shaped you, and maybe how

you’re going to bring that to the university. So remember if they’re asking about

your background, your community.

They’re really still wanting to learn about you. Um, so absolutely share about

your background, but as you’re doing it, frame it from a place of your, like you,

what did you learn from growing up in that community? How has it impacted

you? How have you added to it? Learn from it. Put us in your shoes.

Some of my final tips, essays, I think for a lot of students are one of the most

stressful parts of the application. This one’s not even on there, but one, just start

writing and then you can always go back and edit and get feedback. When

you’re in the midst of writing,

I think we’ve probably all reached a point where when we’re editing something

we’ve written, all of a sudden, oh my gosh, this doesn’t even make any sense

anymore. I don’t even know what I’m saying. If you’re reaching that point, Take

a step away, go for a walk, take a nap, come back the next day with fresher


It’ll make more sense then. And as you read through it, ask yourself, can I

identify what my themes are? What is this adding to my application considering

everything else I have in here? This, I know, is somewhat of an awkward,

vulnerable thing to do, uh, but I promise it’s helpful. You don’t have to do it in

front of anyone.

You can go into your room, close the door, read it out loud. Does it sound like

you? Because if it doesn’t, if you don’t talk like that, and it just, it doesn’t sound

like it’s you even coming up with this, then you’re not capturing your voice, um,

and reading it out loud will point out those spots to you where you’re not doing


Again, I think it is a very vulnerable thing to do to share your writing with

others, and it is, So helpful. Good writing is rewriting, uh, which often works

best when you’re getting feedback. So whoever’s in your support circle could be

your CollegeAdvisor, maybe educators you trust, family, friends, whoever.

Make sure you’re asking At least someone else for feedback and don’t be afraid

to ask them for specific feedback. If there’s something you’re worried about inyour essay, ask them, Hey, can you read this? What do you like? What theme do

you think I’m trying to convey here about myself? Does this sound like me?

The people in your life who know and love you are going to be good people to

answer that question because they know your voice. And then I did already say,

let’s just start writing and good writing is rewriting. So plan ahead. So you have

time to do that. You have time to get that feedback. So you’re not stressing

yourself out at the last second before the deadlines.

Lonnie: Okay. Thank you, Anna, for sharing this really great presentation on

how to. Um, edit your supplemental essay. So with that audience, we are going

to move into our live questions and answers. And so you can now begin writing

your questions out in the Q&A tab. If you notice that the Q&A tab isn’t working,

um, try logging out and then logging back in through the custom link that was

sent in your email.

Okay. So with that, we’re going to go ahead and jump into our first question.

Um, and so this question is, are supplemental essays as important as the

personal statement in college admissions?

Anna: Yeah, great question. Um, you might remember that I said at the

beginning admissions officers are taking a holistic view, so they’re not going to

weigh your personal statement stronger than your supplemental or vice versa.

It’s all important and it’s really important that they, that all essays sound like

you. So if your personal statement is really, really, you’ve got a lot of feedback

on it, you’ve really edited it, it’s nice and crisp. And you write your

supplementals the day before. I’m not judging, I think I did that. But it wasn’t


Um, and you haven’t done the same level of editing. and the voice sounds a little

different, they might have a question about that. So they’re all important. They

all need to capture your voice. They’re not going to weigh one more than the


Lonnie: Okay. Um, and I know you mentioned about capturing, you know, your

voice, but like, how do I make my responses unique?

Anna: Yeah, that is, that’s, that’s the million dollar question. Um, and it’s why

for me, I focus so much on the importance of putting a reader in your shoes.

Because no one else has been in your shoes. No one else has experienced the

moment you’re talking about the way you have. So if you’re, the more visceralyou can get, and the more you’re focusing on what was running through your

mind, what was running through your body, it’s going to have to be unique

because that’s your unique experience.

No one else has had it. Okay,

Lonnie: so our next question is, should I, you know, work with my parents to

help with editing my essays? What recommendations do you have?

Anna: Yeah, parents are a great option. Anyone who you trust, uh, who I mean

really, that’s it. Anyone who you trust, I think you should feel free to share your

essay with. I also think, and I tell all of my students this, if I You know, make an

inline suggestion or a comment and your reaction is no, that does not sound like


I don’t like that edit. Okay, thank you. At the end of the day, these are your

essays. So I think I would err towards more feedback, like get, have as many

people read it as you Can and trust and want to, um, without stressing you or

them out, uh, and then take their feedback genuinely. But no, at the end of the

day, the final decision is yours.


Lonnie: right, so our next question is, what are details that make an admission

officer? Pay more attention to an essay.

Anna: I, I would one, if I was be talking to that student, I would ask ’em what

they mean by details. Um, I don’t think it’s like a list of accomplishments or it’s

a certain thing that you’ve done.

Um, I think if they read the first couple sentences. And their thought is, wow, I

really want to know more. I’m interested. That, that’s going to capture their

attention. Um, so I don’t know if I’m answering the question because I don’t

know what the student meant by details. And please submit a follow up question

if I didn’t.

Um, but really just what’s going to make them curious to learn more about you.

Lonnie: Um, so I’ve heard that some essays are optional. Um, what is your

opinion on optional essays? Will they give me a better chance of being

admitted?Anna: Yeah, I think it really depends on what the essay is. So, I’m pretty sure

this year, I think maybe they’ve said they’re doing it next year too, I’d have to


Um, During the pandemic, the Common App, um, which if you don’t know

about that, I think we have other webinars about it, um, added an optional space

where students could write about how the pandemic impacted them. Uh, and I

believe now there’s just an optional space for anything. If you have information

that you think is crucial for them to know about you, that for whatever reason

you could not fit anywhere else in your application, use that optional space, that

open ended optional space.

Don’t fill it with things already in your application, because I’m telling you

admissions readers are smart, they’re going to know what you’re doing there.

Um, If it’s a specific question, like it’s not, it’s not just free for all open space

and it’s optional and it’s, you know, something about like, why do you want to

go to school or tell us more about your career goals?

Definitely, if it’s one of your top schools, I would be answering that

supplemental essay, uh, because it’s showing. That’s actually one of your top

schools, because you’re putting the time into it. Um, so if it’s just like, here’s

space to tell us anything else you think we might need to know, use it if there’s

genuinely more info they need.

If it’s a specific question, um, like why this school, whatever, and it’s a school

you really care about, I think, I think you should seriously consider. Writing that


Lonnie: so with that, we are going to take a short pause. Please encourage you

to answer to place your questions in a Q and a task so we can answer them. So,

with that, I want to share more with you all about the work that we do with

CollegeAdvisor dot com. For those in the room who aren’t already working with

us, we know how overwhelming the process can be, especially for competitive

applicants like yourself.

Our team of over 300 admission officers, um, and admission experts. Our team

of over 300 former admission officer and admission experts are ready to help

you and your family navigate it all in one on one advising sessions. A one on

one advising session is a great opportunity for you to work with, um, an

individual to support you with thinking about your supplemental essays, how to

craft them, how to strengthen them, how to ensure that your, unique and

authentic voice is really shining through.So take the next step in your college admission journey by signing up for a free

consultation using the QR code on the screen. During the consultation, a

member of our team will review your current extracurricular list. discuss how it

lines up with your college goals, and help you find opportunities for growth and


After scanning the QR code, you’ll be able to select a date and time for a phone

conversation with a member of our team. Okay. So with that, we’re going to

jump back into our live questions and answers. And I will read the next

question. Okay, so it reads, Thanks for tonight, um, thank you for, um, tonight,

um, for sharing information.

Um, how far in advance should we start preparing for essays?

Anna: Yeah, great question. And, Lani, is it okay if I go back to the slide I had

about this?

Lonnie: Just

Anna: in case I’m a visual person, so the person asking this is as well. Um, as

I’m scrolling back, I’ll say it’s never too early to start thinking about them. Um,

so that’s what I was talking about earlier, where if you have an idea for

something that you think you could write about down the road, write it down.

An app on your phone, a notebook, wherever works best for you, write it down.

Um, In terms of starting to write, a lot of what you’re going to write about are

things that have happened to you in high school, so you probably want to start

writing them as a freshman. Uh, we suggest that you start brainstorming your

personal statement in the spring of your junior year.

So, you know, after the holidays, maybe on spring break, start brainstorming

your personal statement. Then at the beginning of junior summer, you can write

that personal statement, you can draft it, and then at the end of junior summer,

you can get feedback on it, really finalize your personal statement, and then

start with the supplementals.

That gives you, you know, from the end of junior summer all the way to end of

first senior semester to get everything polished and put together. That’s the

timeline we recommend. If you have a more specific question about timing,

please just submit another question.

Lonnie: Great. Thank you for referencing the timeline again.Um, and as we are, um, as you’re getting back to that slide. I’ll read the next

question. I think this is back to the clarifying question that was asked. So let me

go back to the original question. Let’s see if I can find it. So the question is read.

What are what are details that make an admission officer pay more attention to

an essay?

Um, and the clarifying point was what topic should 1 clear steer clear of.

Anna: Okay, thank you for clarifying. I appreciate that. I personally don’t think

there are many topics that are completely off limits. Um, I did read an essay

once about, uh, it was a student who went through a romantic breakup and it, it

really impacted them.

And readers, application readers are from all sorts of backgrounds. all sorts of

generations. Um, and I think that the truth of the matter is that adults don’t take

romantic relationships in high school very seriously, probably because almost

none of us are still with the people we were with in high school.

Um, I’m not. So that’s one area where I would maybe stay clear of. Um, besides

that, for me, there are no topics that are off limits. We just want to be thoughtful

about how you frame it. So I have heard from admissions officers. They read a

lot of essays that start, it was the bottom of the ninth, base is loaded, da

Lonnie: da da.

Anna: Um, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write about baseball or an

athletic experience that was important to you, but if I can copy and paste your

intro into any other baseball player’s intro, it’s not unique and it’s not specific

enough. So instead of saying bottom of the ninth, base is loaded.

Consider starting with what was running through your mind. What were you

thinking about? What, what were you feeling? Um, did it, were you having the

out of body experience like that, that level of you and only you had that

experience. That’s the level of detail you want. If you’re talking about a topic,

because we get this question sometimes too, that is a difficult topic.

Maybe it’s politics, or religion, or things that people have deeply passionate

views about. Those aren’t off limits either. And framing is important. So you

want to want your essay to read like you’re trying to evangelize someone. And if

your religion is really important to you, tell us about your experience with it.So what do you believe and why has it been so important to you? How is it

helping you? How do you think it’s going to help you going forward? That sort

of framing.

Lonnie: Great, great, great. Um, so our next question reads, um, should I, we

know that often that there’s similarities in the questions that different colleges

may ask.

And I know you went through the common type of questions that are asked.

Um, should I write a brand new essay for colleges that are asking similar


Anna: Good question. If the question is about you. Let’s say it’s an

extracurricular experience. I think you should absolutely re reuse, recycle what

you’ve written about your experience in that extracurricular activity.

You might need to reframe it, so make sure again you’re reading the prompt

fully. Um, I think it was the UC schools this year, they had a prompt asking

about an extracurricular activity, it was a supplemental essay. And at the end of

a long question, they threw in there, how did this extracurricular experience

impact your academics?

And I read so many responses, it didn’t address academics at all. So make sure

you’re reading the full prompt, reframe the material if you need to make sure

you’re answering it, but yeah, reuse, recycle material when you can, when you

should not do it is when it’s specific to that college. So you probably don’t want

to go to Harvard and Columbia for the same reason.

And I’m telling you, if you are copying and pasting the. Why this college?

They’re gonna know. They work there. They know what’s great about where

they work. They know why students want to come there. So if you’re just saying

the same sort of like high level, oh it’s a prestigious university and it’s got a

diverse student body and da da da they’re gonna know that you’re not being

maybe you’re being genuine but you’re not, you’re not conveying A genuine

desire to go there because you’re not shown you’ve done your research.

Lonnie: That’s very insightful. Great, great. Um, and our next question is, um,

what have been just some maybe common pitfalls? Um, are things that you’ve

noticed as you’ve worked with students this year, um, and how they may have

been approaching their supplemental essays? Any, anything you want to share

with our audience?Anna: Yes, I, um, thank you for this question because I, it prompted something

I wanted to say tonight because it just happened today. And we had an essay

submitted that we were like, Oh, that sounds a little different. And we checked

online and it was generated by AI. We are living in a new world. I’m not here to

debate the pros and cons of AI.

When it comes to writing and I’m telling you it is so not advisable to use AI to

write your application essays. If you do that, you are selling yourself short and

you are losing the opportunity to convey who you are and your unique voice.

And there’s a chance they’re going to catch it. I don’t know that universities have

policies on this yet, but if I had to guess, if they think your essay is written by

AI, I don’t think they’re going to put your application in the yes box.

So that’s one thing we’ve seen, um, as a bit of a trend this year. Please don’t do

that. The other trends are just, you know, go back to the, the final points I had

about, um, make sure if it’s a why, why this college essay that you’re being

specific. If it’s an extracurricular essay, make sure, please don’t describe what

Glee Club is.

We know that, again, that selling, it’s losing an opportunity to tell the reader

more about you. So those are some of the trends I’ve been seeing.

Lonnie: Yes, absolutely. And I’ll, I’ll just add on to, um, from some of the work

I’ve done, um, this year is, you know, making sure that you are, um, coming

from an authentic place, you know, when you are giving your responses, um,

oftentimes we feel like we have to generate, um, A response to kind of meet a

college and mission and missions, uh, mission, uh, mission officers needs.

And we’re like, okay, what would they want us to say? So I’m going to say that.

And if that’s not genuinely your story, some that can come out in your writing.

You know, and so definitely, um, just make sure that your responses are

authentic. Those are the things that you get excited about as well. Oftentimes,

sometimes students are digging for this response and it’s like, it’s right there,

you know, in front of you.

But they’re just thinking of like, well, what would the admission officer want

me to say? And they want you to say what is authentic to you. Um, and so,

would you agree, Anna?

Anna: That was so well said, Lonnie. We all do it in all sorts of ways, but the

more you can get out of your own head, the better, and just answer

authentically.And that comes through in your word choices also. So I, I read an essay, I think

yesterday, that used the word ma li f lu us. I think I have a decent vocabulary. I

had to Google it.

Lonnie: Yes.

Anna: Um, and I left a comment in that essay saying, because I didn’t know the

student, I left a comment saying, if you don’t talk like this, please change this


Yeah. And especially because they weren’t talking like that the rest of the essay,

so it, it really stood out. Um, SAT words are amazing for the SAT, or your

essays. Right? How you talk and how your voice sounds. is, I promise you,

they’re not looking for really like, fluffy, fancy vocab. If anything, their eyes are

going to glaze over.

Lonnie: Yes, yes, absolutely. I agree with you on that point too. Um, because,

you know, as a reader, like, you kind of can get lost in the, in the word choice.

And you start wondering, wait. If I have to google this and then you kind of

start googling and then you start to miss the main point of the essay and

admission officers don’t take that long, you know, to read over your your


So, yes, write your essays how you speak. Um, um, and try not to use big

elaborate words that you know you don’t genuinely use, you know. In your

normal daily life. So awesome. Well, with that, I think that was our final

question. So thank you, Anna, so much for this information and great jobs just

for our audience who was engaged in getting that early start on starting to think

about what your supplemental essays could look like and just what that process

generally is.

Um, and with that, we do have a couple of more webinars that we are hosting

for this month and, um, those webinars are going to be geared towards and the

one on next week is around college visits. And so I know Anna shared a little bit

about. You know, working on your college list. Part of also developing your

college list is getting that, um, going on to campuses and starting to look and

see what does this campus feel like for you.

So please join us in next week’s webinar. And with that, everyone, thank you so

much for your time and attention. Have a great night.

Anna: Thanks, everyone.Lonnie: Bye.