Supplemental Essays 201
Join CollegeAdvisor.com as Aya Waller-Bey presents Supplemental Essays 201, a 60-minute webinar and Q&A that expands on our previous webinar, “CollegeAdvisor Masterclass: Supplemental Essays 101.” Aya will give the inside scoop on how to approach, write, and edit your supplemental essays to stand out in the college admissions process. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-09-21 – Supplemental Essays 201
Hello everyone. My name is Lonnie Webb, and I will be your moderator for this evening. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar Supplemental Essays 201. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in the live Q&A on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab.
Now let’s meet our panel. Hi, good evening, everyone. Or afternoon, based on your location. I’m Aya Waller-Bey. I’m a former admissions officer for Georgetown University. Um, with several years of admissions officer experience, as well as admissions consulting. I work here with CollegeAdvisor while simultaneously earning my PhD in sociology at the University of Michigan, where I, interestingly enough, study college admissions essays.
So I’m very happy to be here with you all. Nice. Thank you. So before we get into talking about the supplemental essays, we wanna get a sense of what grade you are in. So let us know. I have started the poll. I see the answers are coming in.
Give me one more second. Okay. Okay. So 53% of our attendees are in the 12th grade, about 24%, 11th grade, 18%, 10th grade, and then 6% other. So I’ll turn it back over to you to talk about supplemental essays. Awesome. So, yeah, so we are widely, we kind of talk about the college personal statement and the college personal essay.
Um, but this conversation, we really wanna focus on the supplemental essays. Now it’s important to realize that supplemental essays are not required by all institutions. And I would even argue to say, increasingly supplemental essays are, um, leaving the college admissions process for a lot of institutions.
But again, tonight, we’re gonna talk about what the essay is, the purpose and what you can do to prepare yourself to deliver a really strong essay. So what are supplemental essays? So these are essays that invite students to write about a diverse topics, and they’re often very school specific prompts. So unlike the personal statement, supplemental essays are required by only some colleges and universities, and they’re used to highlight fit, right?
So why are you a good fit? Insert institution. Now essay should tell the college something that they don’t really know about you. So they should give deeper insight about how you think and how you approach problems. Right? There will be so many opportunities in the application, whether it’s extracurricular activities, um, your personal statement, letters, or recommendation to present components of yourself, but you want the supplemental.
Add to the conversation. Essays are usually also shorter than the personal statement. So the personal statement in the common app, I believe is 600 or 650 words. Supplemental essays tend to be shorter. They can be as short as 20 words. They can be 500 words, but they tend to be on the shorter side for the schools that require them.
So that is what they are now. What is the purpose? And we talked a little bit about this already, but these essays highlight why a student might be a good fit for a university based on their academic, social, and postgraduate interest. So something to emphasize or that they. They, they often emphasize as the why.
So like, why do you want to go to Georgetown University, which is my Alma mater. Um, they might also ask a really out of the box question and give you an opportunity to demonstrate your creativity and your personality. They also are really trying to kind of. Discern your ability to write clearly and concisely.
As I mentioned earlier, these essays tend to be brief or much shorter than a college personal statement. Therefore, you might have to explain your why in a hundred words or less, which for a lot of students tend to be a very difficult, uh, thing to do.
As I mentioned earlier, um, you know, in thinking about if the supplemental essay is require, you know, not all universities require supplemental essays. Um, however, if a school lists a supplemental essay, prompt on the application as optional, you must, you, you, you probably should respond to it. So when they provide it as optional, that is a prompted, generally respond to that essay.
Um, I think the difference. Or particular circumstances. If it’s asking you to explain if there was a medical edition or something along those lines that may barge you for participating, or may, you know, impact your grades. Those are specific essays that are asking you to explain certain circumstances. If those do not apply to your life, don’t make up something.
But if it is a supplemental essay, um, and is listed as optional, I would encourage you to, to write that essay.
So what kinds of questions are asked again? These questions really vary widely and they often correspond to the culture and the quirks of various colleges and universities. Right. So I mentioned earlier, you might get the why school essay. So why do you want to attend Bucknell University? Right. So it’s asking you specifically about an institution or its institution.
You might get an extracurricular essay that asks you to explain why you are involved in a particular extracurricular, which one in your list of 10, really speak to who you are. You have the community essay, which kind of talks about how you will kind of fit into or contribute to a particular community that can be your community.
That is your school or the community to which you already belong. You also have the idiosyncratic essay where really is asking you to be quirky and interesting and creative. Usually those are very short, um, essays. That kind of give you a really interesting question. If you were a wisdom tooth, what would you say?
And we’ll talk a little bit more about that later. You also have the challenge essay. Those essays are often asking you to talk about things you’ve overcome things you’ve learned, um, obstacles you’ve endure. So, and that’s a very specific essay. And we’ll talk about that later because that one gets a little interesting, um, in how students think of challenges, how they define challenges and what challenges mean to particular students.
And then finally, they’re the short answer essays. Again, those are the very 10 words. Tell me what’s your favorite book and why? So again, there are a variety of supplemental essays for you to choose ’em. Every school has their own type of essay. Again, they’re, they’re really interesting to respond to because they, they all ask for different things.
So we’ll talk more in depth about what that means and what that looks like for a student writing them. So when should I start working on my essays? So there are several things you need to consider. So. You want to first review application components. So, as I mentioned earlier, not all schools require them and those are including the selective, um, institutions as well.
So you want to verify that your school actually requires the essay? Of course, before you decide to dive in that can easily be done just by visiting the website of the school that you were hoping to apply. So then you wanna confirm application deadline. So when is the application due? Are you applying early action, early decision, early decision, two regular decision that also impacts when you should start the essay, then I will always encourage students to focus first on that personal statement.
Again, that personal statement is the essay that you will submit. Schools on your list. One essay will go through all of those schools and it’s really, it’s like really great exercise to kind of get those uses flowing, get through the creative and the writing process, understand how iterative the writing process is.
So really starting with that person’s statement can really help you have a strong foundation. So I always encourage my students to get the comment app, personal statement, essay done. Then you wanna check the common application portal on August 1st. So that’s usually when prompts are updated and released some schools, they keep the same prompts every year.
However, some schools might take out, uh, essay prompts. Some schools may no longer offer supplemental essays. So you want to verify that it is, you know, after August 1st that the school you are applying to, that you have the most updated prompt for that specific application cycle. So that is when you should start really kind of honing in.
Um, those supplemental essays. I do wanna keep in mind that when you are going through the admissions process, you want to always be thinking why, right? Why are you interested in Columbia University? Right. Knowing why, and thinking through why. And as you go through your various college tours, you conduct your own research online.
You also want to be thinking through the why and taking notes as that will help you prepare for supplemental essays as they come in about. Okay, thank you, Aya. You’re sharing some good information. I can’t wait to hear more details. Um, but before we do so we wanna pause for a poll so that we can get a sense of where you are in the college application process.
Um, so let us know, perhaps you haven’t started, um, maybe you’re researching your schools. Working on your essays. I can imagine many are working on the essays. This is the time, um, or you’re getting your application material get, or you are almost done. Let us know. Okay. I see the responses coming in. So we have 35% of our attendees are currently researching schools, 33% working on the essays.
I’m sure I is excited about . Uh, 21% is getting their application material together, followed by that we have 8% almost done. Congratulations to those who are almost done. That’s a great milestone. And then 5% haven’t started. I’ll turn it back over. Awesome. So tips for crafting a strong why essay. So, as I mentioned earlier, there are various types of essays that are often found in supplemental prompts.
Um, the first and I, I think it’s one of the more common essays is the why. So again, Why Georgetown, why, um, you know, Columbia university. So two things that you first wanna prioritize. And this is advice that I received when I was applying to graduate school, which again, a slightly different process, but I think this is relevant.
You wanna consider people and you wanna consider place. So one thing I encourage students to think about for the why essay is to think about the faculty, the teachers, the courses, um, the being conducted the overseas programs or study abroad programs or any unit or department on campus that may align with your interests.
So I have an example here, so. It says, you know, given my interest in criminal justice reform, so a major right, or a, a, a personal interest, I look forward to joining professor justice, law and society course and legal community service program inside local prisons. So this student has already specified an area of interest.
They’ve identified a faculty member, they identified a course and they, they identified a program that is being led by. Particular professor. Right. And what is great about this is it’s very specific to the institution. So that white essay is so easy to talk about, you know, I wanna be in a city, right. But there’s hundreds and hundreds of universities that are located in cities.
So how do you make sure that you are being specific enough to really demonstrate you’ve done your research and homework? Considerate place. So, right. I just talked about location, but you know, is a school located in an area or community with school specific connections or relationships. So again, outside, beyond wanting to be in a rural area or wanting to be in an urban center, Think about specifically similar relationships that university has because of its location.
So for an example, Penn state’s partnership with farmers in rural Pennsylvania will enable me to engage in research on farming techniques, right? So it’s not only that Penn is just located in a rural area. They also have a specific relationship with farmers that speaks to the student’s interest in farming.
Right now, these are examples that I cured. So Penn state may not have a relationship with rural farmers, but just, just to get an idea of what that could look. You also want to talk about, you know, understanding the ethos and the values of the campus program and community. Right? So where I went for an undergrad at Georgetown university, we pride ourselves on being men and women for others.
Right? So if that resonates with you, you wanna talk about that and how that aligns with your own values, right? You wanna demonstrate that you’ve researched the school extensively and not just relying on expectation reputation. So just hearing that a school is very competitive and you two are a very competitive student.
You that that’s not good enough in a why essay, you want to be more specific. And also you just wanna show that you’ve thought substantially about how you would fit on that campus. So if it’s a campus where students are very socially engaged and particularly as it relates to the environment, You wanna talk about how, how that aligns with who you are in your own interest and how you two will participate and contribute to a campus based on your own, um, experience or desire to participate in environmental friendly, uh, conversation.
So again, you want to show an alignment there. So again, tips for craft and strong. Why school essay, again, areas to research academics, including major. Faculty programs and community based learning opportunities. You also wanna talk about the school location and geographic environment as the example that I provided traditions and values and also extracurricular activities, including sports and service related experiences that align with your interests.
So maybe currently you are, um, you participate in, you know, equestrian, right? You enjoy riding horses. So you wanna contribute to that or participate or join a campus community where that’s available to you, where you can continue to curate and nurture your love for riding horses. So you will wanna talk about this.
You know, this school is one of the few in this region that has this questioning team, and I really wanna contribute and participate cuz I have a love for. And I’ve been riding since the age of eight. Right? So again, making those links and connections. So the second type of essay again is the extracurricular essay.
So, you know, an example of a prompt is please briefly explain on, you know, one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. And again, it’s important to highlight work experiences, because that is also some I encourage students to write about or to think about when you’re also creating that extracurricular list that working or being in working 10 or 20 hours a week.
If that limits your ability to participate inside your school community. That’s something we wanna know as an admissions officers that doesn’t make you look bad. That doesn’t mean you are less competitive. It means you’ve worked and have a job. And often those essays in my personal opinion are often very insightful.
They’re usually very creative and interesting, and I often. Walk away wanting to learn more about the student and that experience. So again, you wanna illustrate why and how you’ve devoted time to a specific activity. You wanna demonstrate the impact you’ve made participating in the. And I cannot emphasize that enough.
It’s not enough just to say you were on mock trial or debate and just leave it there. You want to talk about why and the impact you’ve made, what you learned about yourself, what you learned about others, and if relevant, explain how you will continue to participate in that activity while on campus, that that’s not relevant for every, um, Uh, experience, but when relevant you wanna talk about if you are on the mock trial team and you really wanna continue that on college, because you aspire to be a lawyer, you can discuss that, mention that, right.
Universities want to see that you did not just simply page a resume with a whole bunch of activities to look competitive, or to look like a leader. They want to know that there was genuine interest there, and this is a great place to show. Also, I always tell students, you know, sometimes there are 10, you know, you can only do on the common app, 10 extracurricular activities, including work as theist and internships.
So sometimes this gives you an opportunity to write about an experience where you feel like it didn’t get enough shine on the application. This is a great opportunity to do that, to make sure it shines. So moving along, there’s the community essay. So an example is how would you add to the diversity of the school?
Right? So this is asking you about how you will contribute to the community. Um, now one thing I want you all to remember is that diversity is divide in a variety of ways. So while students can discuss racial and ethnic diversity, There’s an opportunity to talk about all types of diversity. So geographic, socioeconomic, ideological, et cetera, right?
Experiences or identities that you believe you bring to a campus community. So here is a really great place where you can really get creative and talk about these various experiences. Maybe you lived abroad for most of your life. I mean, you know, despite being, you know, say you were a citizen in United States, but you lived abroad for most of your life because of a parent’s job.
You can talk about that. You know, perhaps you are in a community where your ideological beliefs is a minority, uh, and you feel. You want to be able to contribute a perspective that you couldn’t do in your, you know, lived environment or experience. You could talk about that, but also perhaps it, you know, being a certain identity or racial identity, um, is important to who you are and that you’ve learned certain skills learn certain things.
By being a part of this community. And you want to talk about that or contribute that to the campus, uh, community. Talk about that. So again, you wanna discuss how your lived experiences and identities inform the person you are and the type of student classmate and roommate you will be. And I mentioned roommate because I think sometimes we miss that.
In the United States and I, I, I got my Master’s in England and having a roommate, there was very strange to them. They didn’t understand why strangers lived with one another, which I understand now as an adult, but you also, we also sometimes forget that we will be paired with a roommate and sometimes three people or four people depending on the campus community.
So you also wanna talk a little bit about how would you contribute to that, you know, campus community as well? So ensuring you, you were telling us what you bring to the table and why your presence will make the university community a better place. Right? So again, how have your life experiences your various identities?
How will you bring that to the campus? How you, how will you contribute? How would you add to the diversity of lived experience? Diversity of thought, diversity of culture. How will you act to that and make it a more well rounded, thoughtful, healthy campus community. So something to think about. So moving forward, right?
So you have the idiosyncratic essay, right? And those are those very kind of out of the box, quirky essays. So for an example, here we have, what advice would a wisdom tooth have? And this is from the university of Chicago. Now you’re probably staring like what on earth? Well, one thing I encourage them to do is just embrace it, lean into the creativity of this particular topic, be original, but share something that may be unknown to universities that you know about yourself.
So. One thing, you know, approaching this topic is okay. First, what is a wisdom tooth? Right. And do you wanna take it literally, right? Or do you wanna take it, you know, fit it figuratively, right. Do you wanna be, use it as a metaphor or create an analogy? So you just really want to kind of think through, like, how does, how does this resonate with you?
And then just answer the question. Don’t overthink it. Just answer the question. So there’s a host of essays like this, that universities are now again, U Chicago is notorious for these types of questions, but they just wanna learn how you think. How you approach these type of questions and, and how creative you can, you can be.
So I just, again, be original answer the question, don’t overthink it. Um, and just really kinda show how you think, how you approach these types of questions, you know, what is your thought process? Um, so yeah, so those are also essays that you might encounter, um, when you’re writing, uh, supplemental. So we have the strong or, or the, the challenge essay.
Um, so example, and this is a very popular essay prompt. What is a challenge you face and how did you overcome it now? The supplemental, uh, or, sorry, the comment app also has a question that sounds similar to this. So again, if you’ve written about that already in your personal statement, you know, you wanna use the supplemental essay to add again, to the death of the application, into the conversation.
So there’s no need to kind of repeat things that you’ve already said, but in this case, you know, one thing I encourage students to first be honest, I think that’s critical. You don’t want to create, um, an experience that you did not live. And then secondly, you wanna define a challenge in your own words.
And, and I often have students. Who, um, feel like they come from really privileged backgrounds that they have identities that they don’t feel are particularly marginalized and they’ve lived very comfortable lives and they really struggle with understanding how do they make sense of what’s a challenge.
They, you know, and one thing I always tell people, we all, regardless of our identities and backgrounds have experienced a challenge. we all had to overcome something. Um, so you want to, you know, present what does a challenge look like in your life? Okay. Uh, and you wanna reflect on this experience and where you’ve had personal growth.
So how have you grown, what have you learned about yourself, about the world, about others? You know, talk, talk a little bit about that internal turmoil that, that. And again, you wanna detail what you learned about self and detail, what you learned about others. That’s incredibly important. It’s not enough to say you just, you know, you lost something or you lost someone or you had a hard time, but in your 250 words again, supplemental essays tend to be shorter.
You want to be able to talk about what you’ve learned and what you’ve overcome, uh, and, and what you’ve, how you’ve grown. That’s critical. There needs to be an arc. Um, when you talk about challenges, you’ve faced, you really want to make sure you not only describe the challenge, but also prioritize discussing how you overcame it, what lessons will learned, um, for, for self.
So you wanna be introspective in this essay, and then we have the short answer essay. A short essay, prompt, you know, example is what is your favorite song, Booker artist, you know, and these essays. I mean, I, I should have add the word lemon here, but that could be 25 words. It could be 10. So again, be specific and concise cuz you don’t have a lot of room, show your personality, but show how you approach questions in how you think.
So, I mean, what is your favorite song? If your favorite song is, you know, I don’t know a hairy style song. Just say it, you know, you don’t have to overthink it again. You really wanna be honest in these questions, you know, they’re not looking for the quirkiest song in the world. They, they’re not asking you to go into the pits and find like the most niche.
Song, you know that that’s okay. You want to be honest and just answer the question, win in doubt, answer the question. So again, these are really short, so just, just answer it again and, and make sure it’s true to you and true to self and reflect your genuine interest. So you don’t wanna make something up to seem cooler or more interesting.
You are, you are enough in the way that you are. So I just wanna emphasize. So another essay and, and this is an important one. I, I kind of referenced this earlier is that additional information essay, which is a different kind of supplement. It’s not the traditional supplement as to describe above an example of this is please use the space.
If you have additional information materials or writing samples, you would like to us to consider. And oftentimes. Opportunity to discuss unforeseen circumstances or challenges that admissions officers should know when reviewing your application. So you can include opportunities to talk about dips and grades or school changes.
So, you know, what, if you could have got moved in the, in the middle of the school year, um, which had a, you know, negative of impact on your, your performance, you may have had limited access to resources. So maybe you had to commute, you know, You know, three hours and one direction to get to and from school.
So that is something you can talk about time out of the classroom because of medical, um, death of a loved one relocation, et cetera. So something that, you know, preventing you from being in a classroom as much as you would like to. And then also remember there is a. COVID impact essay that, you know, universities, um, use.
So that’s slightly different. COVID is a very specific experience and essay. But for the other examples, you know, this is an opportunity to kind of talk about that. I would discourage students from using that space to say, I got a B plus in this AP calculus. And it was because the teacher didn’t like me.
That is not the place for that. We’re thinking about, um, you know, circumstances, um, that would have a, a serious, like, you know, critically and seriously, it kind of impacted your experience as a student. Um, and those are opportunities to kind, this is an opportunity to talk about those things, because perhaps there aren’t other places and application to do so.
So can I reuse essays? So the supplemental essay should correspond with specific institutions. Again, they ask specific questions and now if your essay is too vague, they won’t demonstrate that you’ve done your homework or know why you are applying. However, supplemental essays tend to be similar, so you can certainly utilize some copy and pay.
So if a, if a, if there is a certain say you’re applying to multiple schools in. Area or city. So like DC and you’re applying to American university, George Washington university, as well as Georgetown university, you can talk about, you know, DC being home to the, you know, not the nation’s capital, the, the internship opportunities on the hill.
Um, the presence of fortune 500 companies. There are, there are certainly overlap there. So you can, you know, copy and paste. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every single time you write. remember colleges, won’t read your applications to other schools, but you should not reuse the essays for programs within the same school.
So, you know, if you submit an essay to one institution, a supplemental essay to one institution, other schools won’t read it. Right. Um, but again, if you’re applying to multiple programs, if that is allowed or permissible, you, you want to, you know, diversify because those people at that same school could all be reading together or there could be a committee that they’re a part of.
So that’s something to think. and then, you know, you wanna think about antidotes in specific moments that could easily lend themselves to a variety of prompts. So, you know, some students, again, especially that the extracurricular act essay, I mean, if you’re gonna write about an extracurricular activity, I there’s opportunities for you to reuse that essay in other places, right?
You wouldn’t want to name the school and keep the school name in that, but there is an opportunity if you, if you really love lacrosse, however, you really love basketball, uh, and you wanna join, uh, and talk about why basketball has really kind of helped you develop leadership and character, bill cetera, and you wanna join a basketball team, you know, not perhaps not, you know, You know, division one, but like, you know, some of the other opportunities, intramural, et cetera, of course, there, you can kind of use some of that material, right.
Again, you don’t have to start over, you can pick and pull to form a cohesive essay to a variety of schools. So, so my final advice as we kind of near time for, for Q&A, I just really want you all to think about, you know, the research. Research and component of this process, you know, you want to be able to talk about specific, um, kind of areas and qualities of universities when you are writing the supplemental essays.
So again, researching and writing in specifics is key to answering any of these prompts. So again, that why essay in particular is very critical that you’ve demonstrate you’ve done your homework. And again, You won’t have been a student, um, at these universities. So these are, you know, speculations, your dreams, your aspirations.
So these are aspirational responses, but again, do your homework. You wanna keep a log of school details or informations that align with your interests. Um, so again, when you go on the website and you see that they have a study abroad program in Barcelona, um, Spain, and that’s a place you’ve always wanted to visit, you’ve always wanted to study Spanish and, and Spain.
You’re currently in AP Spanish at your high school, you want to major in or minor in, in Spanish. Um, while in college, you know, keep a look that they have that program. So you can, you know, talk about it or mention it when you’re talking about the why, uh, you know, why that institution, so, you know, Stay organized and, you know, keep a spreadsheet or Google doctor do help.
I would say encourage students, especially in this day and age to follow schools on social media. So, you know, schools usually, or increasingly rather have student takeovers where students share their experiences on university social media platforms. So it could be on TikTok or Instagram or even Snapchat still.
Um, and those are a great way to kind of hear students share honest opinions about their lived experiences at these various institutions. They also might speak about different cultural experiences. Different traditions that you can learn more about. So maybe they name drop something you hadn’t heard of at your school of choice.
And then you can do your little, your research and start to dig. This is not on here, but I also encourage students to really think about, um, you know, going to the website and, and seeing the types of students that are at that school. Um, you might even be able to reach out to some students. I know we do this a lot in the graduate process, cause our names are email addresses are often listed on our various department websites.
But’s a great way to get an honest opinion about students. Um, finally, you, again, you really want to be honest. Honesty is huge. You do not wanna misrepresent your lived experiences. You do not wanna tell a story that is not your own, and you don’t want to pool from someone else’s materials. You want to answer these questions on your own.
Um, of course you can get additional support, have someone proof free, but you, you know, want to be honest. And again, proofreading is key. I always encourage students to use the read aloud feature on Microsoft word, to capture correctly, spell words, use use in the wrong way. So that’s always a great way to kind of hear your, your essays back, cuz by the time you’re writing them, you are gonna be so enthralled.
So we immerse in these essays that sometimes it’s gonna be hard for you to take a step back to, to really see, you know, where there might be some mishaps. So again, use that feature. Use your friends, your family, and parent, um, to support you as you finish your supplemental.
Okay, thank you. That now concludes the presentation portion of our webinar. We are now going to jump into the Q&A. I am gonna read the questions you submitted in the Q&A tab. Pace them into the public chat so that you can see them and then read them out loud before our panelist gives you an answer as a heads up, if your Q&A tab, isn’t letting you submit questions.
Just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not the webinar landing page. Okay. So moving to our first question, what is. This is not related to essays, but you did talk about this. I, at the beginning of your presentation, what is the difference between EA early action, early decision?
Regular decision, which do you recommend for different circumstances? So maybe you wanna share a little bit about what those, um, areas mean. Okay. So early action policies are admissions policies that let you apply to a university early. So usually November 1st, um, and get a decision early, usually in December, um, that do not require you to.
Actually commit to the institution. So early action policies, uh, are similar to early decision. Again, you apply early, you get your decision earlier, but they’re not binding decisions. So that is early action. And some early action institutions will, if you, if you’re not admitted, they might defer you. So that means they’ll then move your application to a regular decision applicant pool, or they might deny.
Early decision are binding early emission policies where you submit. And usually you’re only allowed to submit one early decision application. And that means if you get into set institution, you are binded to attend the institution. Now there are circumstances, usually financial ones where if you are not able to meet the financial requirement of the institution, or there’s not a competitive financial, um, package, you can work with the institution, um, to try to kind of maneuver out the policy.
But those decisions are usually binding. Students tend to apply early decision because at some universities, not all, but some. Early decision, acceptance rates are higher and that’s because universities know with those policies, they’ll have higher yield, right? Because you are bound. If you do get accepted and then reg regular decisions, which they, they, those occur, uh, regular decision application deadlines coming in December, January, February, et cetera.
And that’s when you’re just applying with. Usually the largest application share. Um, you are submitting your application during the regular cycle. You usually won’t hear back until March and some schools of April, and then you all, you will have to make a decision for all the schools by, um, May 1st. So those are the different, um, again, regular and early action.
We’re not bound by those decisions. Those are non binding decisions. Early decision policies are binding and you are usually only able to submit one early decision application, um, during a application cycle. So those are the differences. Thank you. Our next question reads, how important are these essays as weighted portions of the evaluation?
Given the emphasis on GPA and SATs. So that’s a great question. So one thing I, I want to, um, kind of emphasize that like a lot of universities and I’m, and I’m speaking specifically, you know, the top, I guess, 75, um, really lean into the holistic emissions process. So that means that they are not only considering some of the more quantitative aspects of the application and that is the SAT and the GPA or ACT they are increasingly looking at, you know, uh, how do you.
Them make up a class. So that can include background experiences, background identities, extracurricular leadership, teacher, res personal essays, et cetera, or, and also interviews. So I will say that, you know, increasingly schools are adopting testing optional and testing blind policies. The UC system has a testing blind policy.
Now. So other components or qualitative components of our application are becoming increasingly important. Uh, the GPA is still in my professional opinion, and I think most of my colleagues will agree the, the great, the great point now, which particularly the high school transcript is still the most important part of the application process.
However, The supplemental essays are really able to help universities to kind of make critical decisions about who to add to their class. Right. So what type of diverse experiences you’re talking about, um, what your creative approach to thinking? So it helps to round out a class. I, I, I, my goal and my hope is that we actually begin to think about.
The GPA and the test score show is just one small part of a student’s ability and, and universities, particularly the, the, the, you know, top 75, if you will really use these essays to kind of think through how to make sure they have a diverse, um, student body, right. Because GPAs and test scores. The top schools in the country are denying students with perfect SAT scores and 4.0 is every application cycle.
So that is not enough to get into, you know, an institution, some of our Ivy league or highly selective institutions. So the supplemental essays, if a school asks for you to write or submit for them, they are, I. okay. Thank you. And this one is kind of talking a little bit about the weight as well. Um, do supplemental essays weigh more than the personal essay or are they evaluated equally?
Well, I can’t say for certain because different schools have their own policies and they have different, um, Different considerations. Again, again, the most important thing is the high school transcript. That will always be number one in my own research. I interview admissions officers from across the country and they all say the same thing that the transcript is number one.
Um, as far as like how the weight, I think they’re just, they’re similar. They are, there are essays that talk that give more death. They are essays that add, uh, more personality. Their essays were a student. Which is, there are not a lot of opportunities for students to do this, to talk directly to the admissions office and two admissions officers.
Right? So they are, I would say they’re equally important to each other. So these are essays. If you are required to write a supplemental essay, or if it’s optional, you want to put your best foot forward, because if they require them, they will read them. Good advice. Good advice. Um, does taking advanced classes such.
AP or IB help make our essay stand out more. I think I’m not sure where de is, but I know for AP and IB courses, any rigorous advanced course at honors course will make your essay stand out because hopefully you, you would have gathered stronger writing skills, right? You would’ve been trained more. So I think that will make your.
Kind of stronger in that regard, but not inherently. So, so I think with any, you know, more sophisticated training should contribute to a more sophist essay, right? A student with more resources should, you know, should right. Produce a higher quality essay, but that it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the case.
And as an admissions officer, I’m not looking to say like this student took AP English literature, therefore their essay is better. That’s not an inherent comparison. Um, So, I, I wouldn’t say those, that automatically means that you’ll have a better essay or that schools will see your essay as better. Okay.
And the clarification D even, uh, dual enrollment. Oh, dual enrollment. Oh, okay. Yeah. Right. So again, similar, I have a similar, um, kind of response, dual enrollment, IB, AP. Um, that doesn’t mean that schools, we evaluate your essay as automatically stronger, right? I mean, I think it’s great that you’ll take those courses and hopefully that means you’ll produce a stronger and more sophist sophisticated essay, but is not necessarily mean that, that, that is the.
Great, our next attendee ask, how do we avoid cliches? You avoid them by not writing about them. So, um, so one example, um, I know we talked about extracurricular, right? Supplemental essays. Um, and I, I did one of the webinars for personal statements and. I don’t know how to discourage people enough to, um, to not write about sports, um, and particularly losing a game.
Um, usually my colleagues will say, we read so many sport essays about overcoming. So I tore my ACL. We lost, we were about to lose the championship game and then I won and then where I didn’t get on the sports team the first year, then I trained in condition over the summer. And then I got on the next year.
We’ve heard every iteration of a sport loss that you can think of. So I always encourage students to kind of think a little bit more creatively. Um, I will say, you know, again, if it asks you for your favorite, you know, book and why, and you have a hundred words and your favorite book is, you know, kind of the Harry Potter series, because it shows the ability to overcome, you know, You know, life circumstances then so be it.
Right? So there’s only so much you can do. I, I really, I don’t want students to try to event experiences or try to misrepresent or make up things. Um, you want to, again, the most important thing is to be honest and authentic, but what in doubt do not write about overcoming a sports loss that I’m telling you.
We have read them. We, that we see them and it makes us sad because we’ve seen every iteration. You can actually imagine. That’s that’s really great advice to share. Um, our next question is on a scale one to 10, how personal would you suggest we get for the essays? Is there any way to practice writing them before applications?
Yeah, I’ll start with the second, uh, question first. So yes, I mean, you could, you can Google Common App personal statement topics, or go to whatever school of your choice and, and, and look at their website. Now you can go to Dartmouth’s website right now and look at their common, uh, I’m sorry, their, the supplemental essay prompts and just start writing, um, you know, one thing.
Just seeing the types of questions that they offer. I, I had a few that were actually pulled directly. Like I had the U Chicago U Chicago essay. If you were a wisdom tooth or something like that. Just, you know, start, start thinking about it, you know, so the, the essay prompts usually are already on the website.
Um, so just start thinking about experiences you can lean into. Um, I think that’s a great exercise and I think I that’s something I would encourage more students to do. Like they’re already there. Just try it out also just kind of brainstorming vignettes. Right? So brainstorming kind of short responses about life experiences.
I mean, sometimes there’s questions, like describe your morning routine. You know, so do you get up and then you brush your teeth or do you go, you know, so just, just start kind of practicing, writing short vignettes about, you know, experiences that you incur, that you, um, experience. Now the first question, that’s a challenging one.
So how personal should you get now? The supplemental essay is different, right? It’s not a personal statement in the same way that the college personal statement is. Um, I always encourage students to think about. Would would they like something that they share in that, in a personal statement or whatever they share personally, would they like someone else reading it?
Would they like someone else talking about it? Would they like that information being used by the university for, you know, website or programming, et cetera. If the answer is no, I would discourage them from sharing it. I think so often we talk about what goes into writing an essay, but we don’t talk about the other side of the, the personal statement.
Um, I encourage students, um, to think about, um, how to be honest without, um, offending. The admissions officer. So I, I think sometimes, um, we, we don’t know, again, who’s on the other side reading. So like political essays, sometimes you don’t wanna offend someone, um, that you don’t know about talking about, you know, um, saying things disparaging about a group of people, right?
So I always want, you know, a personal statement, you can be personal, but I want you to think. Who might read that essay and really ask yourself, why are you sharing this particular experience? What do you want me to learn about you from this experience? What would you like for me to know about you from this specific experience?
What do you hope for me to, to gain? Or how is this adding to your application? If it does not add anything, if it’s not a, a consistent story, if it’s not really telling me anything, except the struggle or trauma you’ve been through, I would discourage you from writing. So I think I just want you to think deeply about who might read this essay.
How will this essay be connected to you once you are admitted as a student, um, will this, do you think this will set off red flags? Um, At one point in time, I used to tell students to really think twice about writing about mental health. Um, because at one point it was really stigmatized. I think universities over the years have done an incredible job of recognizing that mental health is a really important issue and that students from all backgrounds are experiencing it.
Um, and they have beefed up their resources to support those students. So that is less taboo, but there are some is topics that are taboo and I just really want students to think, um, Carefully about what they choose to disclose and how that could, uh, affect them once they are admitted, but also the type of people who might be reading that essay and sharing that essay amongst each other, in the various submissions offices that they, uh, submit their essays to.
Okay. Um, next question is if a supplemental essay has no word limit, especially a community essay, a why school essay and a challenge essay, approximately how much should you write? I wouldn’t go over 500 words. Yeah, I agree. That’s good advice. Mm-hmm um, how important is having research experience when applying to a research university?
I mean, so that one, I don’t think it’s important. I mean, research in a sense of you’ve researched as a school research, in a sense of, you probably have written a research paper at school, but not in the research, in the traditional sense of like, I am a researcher as a PhD candidate and I’ve. Working on empirical peer reviewed articles.
You do not need that experience. When you’re applying to a research research school. Even if you want to conduct research with a professor, you, you will be fine. That is not, that will not break your application. Um, and often, especially for those, you know, universities recognize that everyone has access to the same resource.
I didn’t mention this earlier, but I was a first generation college student, so I didn’t have access to certain resources that some of my peers had and, um, universities have that context, admission officers have that context. So I would not worry about not having research experience, even if you are applying to your research, um, university, which a lot of universities.
okay. Next question. Um, a supplemental question that asks you to share a funny story about yourself. Mm-hmm how would you approach this question? I would share a funny story about myself, you know, so approaching it is, you know, asking like, okay, what do you consider funny? Right? Cause not, we don’t all have the same sense of humor.
So this is a great opportunity to like, show what you consider funny. Right? So, you know, funny essays. They are, they can, they can go in a lot of different directions. Again, not everyone has the same sense of humor. So not everyone considers the same funny, same things funny, but this is an opportunity for you to do so.
So, you know, however you, I don’t know, you know, anything about this, the person who asked that question, but I would like, think about like, Hmm, what do I consider funny? Like what is, what is funny to me? And then I would write, I would, I would just answer the question. I mean, again, I think essays.
Supplemental essays. And I would say college interviews, these are application opponent components where admissions officers are really looking for opportunities to omit you. So unless you say something so egregious or offensive, or, you know, discriminatory or prejudice, then you know, these are supposed to add to the application, not take away.
So I wouldn’t overthink it. Just think about what you consider funny and then, and just. I think you got it. yeah. Yep, exactly. You defined the funny . Um, next question is how should we format supplemental essays in terms of how should the introduction, body paragraphs and, and conclusion look like? It depends on how much space you have.
If it says what’s your favorite book, just, you know, hitting curriculum. This is your favorite book. Um, again, you wanna prioritize answering the question. So again, if it’s, um, if it’s a 250 word, you know, community essay, so what, how do you, how would you bring diversity to Carnegie me university, um, and 250 words, you, you can use a similar kind of essay format where you say, you know, you know, diversity for, to me means this, this is what I contribute, and this is why I wanna go to.
You know, Carnegie Mellon university. So it really, I mean, it’s based on the word limit, you know, some of these supplemental essays, I assure you, you are gonna run outta space, so you won’t have enough time to rehash the topic. You just wanna answer the question. So when in doubt, just dive in, you don’t have to say this.
I, uh, you know, I wanna go to Georgetown because of this, you know, you could just say Georgetown has these characters, this aligns with me. So you really wanna just kind of answer the question because you won’t have a lot of space, so you could just be very direct. Yep. I was gonna say emphasis on being direct.
Yeah. Um, so this is kind of going back to the, the, the humor, uh, does having humor in your personal statement, give you an advantage. No.
no. I mean, and, and you mentioned personal statement, personal statements are so personal that they just vary widely. You won’t be, you won’t get a bonus point for being, I mean, if, if it’s like, oh my God, that was so funny. I might remember that essay more, right? Yes. But I can also say, oh my God, the essay was so compelling.
And I might also remember that essay. So it, you know, being funny, it might be memorable if it, if the officer really thinks it’s funny, but I, I wouldn’t say that particular style or prose is better or not better than another type of essay style. Mm-hmm . Okay. So a few of our attendees asked this question and you did touch on it a little bit in your presentation.
What personal statement topics would you recommend that a student avoids personal statement? Mm-hmm so, um, I will say kind of political ideology, um, and thinking about. And that one’s tough because I mean, you might can say, I wanna go into government or law because you know, certain administrations have done these things.
Therefore I want to contribute this. That’s fine, but like directly, um, insulting a particular kind of political kind of. You know, partisan, you know, group, um, because you don’t know the, the political identities of the person who’s reading it. So be careful about that. Um, sexual assault, sexual trauma, um, I, I think those are really difficult essays for everyone involved to read into to write those.
So I always tell students to think carefully about that. Um, Sports essays? No, just don’t write about the sports essays also. Um, mission trips. So one thing to think about this, and this happens a great deal where students who have, um, because of, um, you know, I’ve gone abroad, you know, to, to countries and, you know, Students about certain religions and et cetera, those can really come off as saviorism.
They can come off as, um, uh, like kind of trauma porn, the, um, voyeuristic, you know, you just wanna be careful about how you position yourself in relationship to others. You know, a essay that says I saw how poor people are and how poor people live in, you know, in this country. Um, and that made me feel really sad or made me feel re recognize how privileged I am, because those people couldn’t eat food.
And I eat food every day. Like do not write that, that do not those type of saviorism that they seem exploitative. They come off in egregiously privileged. Um, so just be careful about how you frame those. So like that mission. The injury essay again, overcoming an injury that tends to fall in a sports essay.
We see those a lot. Um, the death of a, a, of a grandparent, um, gets popular. And one thing about, um, passing because passing of friends, family members that that’s important to, that’s important to a lot of people. And there are these beautiful moments of, um, reflection and introspection that happen. With those essays.
You just wanna be careful that that essay is about you and not the other person. So you also want to be mindful of like, who story are you telling? Are you telling the story of grandma or are you telling the story of AA? Right? You want to make sure I’m learning about you and not you don’t? I don’t wanna walk away saying like, oh my God, I wanna admit grandma because grandma is so amazing.
Granted, grandma could be amazing, but I wanna make sure this, I wanna walk away wanting to omit you, not grandma. So you wanna focus on that. So those are the topics that I encourage students to kind of think deeply about, um, as they kind of approach, you know, writing or thinking about their personal statement.
Okay. Uh, thank you. I, we’re gonna take a short pause from our, uh, questions. Answer for me to share a little bit about CollegeAdvisor for those in the room who aren’t already working with us, we know how overwhelming the admission process can be, especially for competitive applicants like yourself. Our team of over 300 former admission officers and admission experts are ready to help you and your family navigate it all in one-on-one advising sessions.
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After scanning the QR code, you’ll be able to select a date in a time for a phone conversation with our team member. So the QR code will stay on the screen as we continue with our questions and answers. So moving on to the next question, um, let’s see. Would you suggest writing about an experience that led me to do volunteering volunteer work?
If we are mainly focusing on the experience
writing about experience that led you to do volunteering. I don’t have enough information. Um, just, just hearing that question, I was just say, sure. Um, I I’m working with a student who feels like, I, I think they did something very similar. Um, so sure. Why not? Yeah. I, I don’t have all the details, but I, my natural response is, yeah, that sounds sounds fine.
Okay. Uh, next question. This one might be similar. Uh, I wanted to write about an experience that made me, um, think about a genuine problem. Mm-hmm which later inspired me to start volunteering. However, I have read articles saying we should not talk about our volunteer experience. What should I do? Just to clarify, I won’t be writing only about the voluntary, but we’ll also be focusing on the experience that led to the volunteering.
Yeah, it sounds very, it sounds like the last question. And I mean, I can say I don’t have enough information to say no, actually don’t write about that. I mean, when I hear it just as it was outlined, The person submitted the question. It sounds fine to me, but I, I honestly, I don’t have enough details to have a more informed answer, unfortunately.
Okay. Thank you, Aya. Uh, let’s see. Next question reads, what are some starter questions we can start thinking of before getting to the stage where we start writing the essay or these essay? Yeah. I mean, I think starter questions are, I mean, some of the ones that we kind of present to here, the why essay. So, I mean, you can think about like what you want, why do you wanna go to college?
Where do you see yourself? Like what type of college do you see yourself being a part of what you would like to add to a college community or a college campus? Um, what about your life? Uh, That you find exciting. Uh, what about what you’re already doing that you would like to bring with you to a college campus?
Um, you know, what is your favorite? Like what, what makes you excited? Like what’s your favorite book or your favorite class? Why it’s your favorite class? Why is it your favorite book? Why is it your favorite extracurricular activity? Who is your favorite teacher and why, you know, just kind of thinking through like what’s already happening in your life and just being reflective and introspective about it and just doing small vignettes.
I mean, some of the questions I rattled off, um, I think are just, you know, just thinking about your, why, um, in a various, in various aspects of your life, I think are all great ways to start thinking through, um, what potential supplemental essays could look. Okay. And this will probably be our final question.
Um, what are like the basics to cover in a diversity slash community essay?
So you want to, um, Do a few things. So first you, you wanna research the community like the actual campus community, um, and see how they are that defining diversity. Um, and, and what that means to them. Um, sometimes I I’ve seen essays talk about, um, save a university as a residential college system and they ask, you know, for students, how will they contribute?
And add diversity to the residential college. So you wanna see how they’re defining diversity. You want to talk about how you understand what diversity is and what, again, you wanna focus on what you would bring. To the table. So it could be cultural, it can be ideological experiences. It could be, you know, maybe you’ve lived abroad for a long period of time.
Maybe you traveled every, like maybe you kept moving cuz your parents was in the military. So you moved to different cities and, and, and you learned these particular things. Um, it could be, again, it could be food. It could be, um, certain like expertise that you have. Like maybe, I mean, maybe you. You know, becoming infatuated with cryptocurrency and NFTS, you know, however, like what, what are you bringing to the, to this campus community?
What, what is, how are you adding to the complexity of this campus community? You know, um, maybe you started a club about loving your natural hair in, in high school and you wanted to like incorporate that to. The, you know, the experience, you know, what types of conversations you want to contribute to, or facilitate or add to, or to, or create on that campus.
So you just wanna think about like, again, how you define diversity is important, how the university is defining diversity is important and think about what are you adding to that based on your various values, your culture, your identities, your lived experiences. That’s how I will, would approach that question.
Okay, well, that is now getting us to the end of our webinar. Thank you, Aya for sharing amazing information about supplemental essays. I know that our attendees got a wealth of knowledge from you. Um, and thank you to our attendees for coming out tonight and asking really great questions. Just a heads up.
We do have more webinars, so we have three more webinars. Um, that are happening this month and then October, we will have another fresh list of webinars, all geared towards supporting you through the college application process. So again, everyone have a great night. Thank you, Aya. And that will conclude tonight’s webinar. Bye.