How To Write A Great College Supplement

By: Caroline Koppelman

After the enormous undertaking of your personal statement, supplements may not seem so bad to you. After all, they’re short and ask pretty direct, uncreative questions. Alas, they matter: for schools that accept the common app, for instance, they’re the sole writing assignment that each particular college gets to assign you. And so, a simple question like “Why our college?” can make a big difference in your application.

Although it may seem like an annoying question, colleges really do need to know why you would be a good fit for their particular school. After all, there are thousands of colleges in the world; why are you choosing to apply to this one? We’ve gone through dozens of such supplements and have a clear picture of what colleges like – and don’t like – to hear. Here are five Do’s and Don’ts for the “Why our college?” supplement question. 


  • Show them you did your research. Talk about the ways in which the curriculum supports your academic goals. Find specific activities, programs, classes or organizations that you want to join. If you are interested in Economics and you are applying to Harvard, you should know what makes their Econ department unique and why it is a good fit for you.
  • Answer, “Why Me!” After getting specific, it may be helpful for you to give background information on why you want to be part of these specific clubs, majors, or programs. Why would you fit in at this school?
  • Write about several aspects of your choice. Colleges are multifaceted organizations that offer support on many levels. It’s not just the school’s name, or location, or size, or professors, or student body, or extracurriculars; it’s some combination of the school’s assets that made you apply. There should be a mix of academic, social and geographical reasons for your application.
  • Talk to students at the school and ask as many questions as possible. It may be helpful to ask why they decided to apply, but it will be more helpful to ask what they love about the school and what surprised them. The schools want to see that you are doing your research, and chances are that the current students are not going to tell you about things you can find on the website.
  • Write about the culture. Like your friends, all of these schools have very different personalities. By doing research, reading all of the forums, talking to the current students, and visiting, you will be able to discover the traits that make that school unique. Then, you can tie it back to yourself to show them why you fit in at that school.


  • Copy, paste, and change the name. Trust us, they know.
  • Write about something vague. Likewise, avoid topics that are not unique to the school. The psychology major is not a good enough reason to apply.
  • Talk about the school’s “great reputation” or “collegiate atmosphere.” Do not waste your time with fluff.
  • Write about the learning potential the school will afford you. Yes, a Wharton degree will probably help you get a job. And yes, the big firms will come to campus. Do not write about that. You will seem materialistic at best.
  • Glorify your childhood dreams of attending the school. Being inspired by Elle Woods to apply to Harvard is very charming, but there has to be a more concrete reason for your application.

For some examples of truly original college admission essays, check out oursample admission essays section. If you’re interested in getting one of our Ivy League professionals to review your supplements or your essay, contact us here.