The College of William & Mary is a public school in Williamsburg, Virginia with an enrollment of about 9,000 students. Located in the quaint, colonial Williambsurg (think carriage tours and folks dressed in 17th-century attire), William & Mary is the perfect school for someone looking for a rigorous academic environment coupled with a small-town vibe.
Similar to the Harvard supplement, William and Mary asks you to get personal:
Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh. Think of this optional opportunity as show and tell by proxy and with an attitude. (650 words)
Oh, where to begin. First, forget that they mention the word “optional.” It’s really not optional, and you probably know that. We know it’s hard to write about yourself. We know you’ve been conditioned to rattle off every accomplishment, obstacle, and life-changing experience for scores of other essays. This is not one of those essays.
Tell Us Something We Don’t Know
First things first: figure out what you’ve already talked about in your application. Anything you discussed in-depth in your common application essay, additional info section, or activity supplement should not be mentioned in this essay. They’ve already told you in the prompt that they know all about your “impressive” academic credentials. They want to know what makes you “unique and colorful,” not what makes you a well-rounded student. The core of this essay is that they want to get to know you.
What parts of yourself can you illuminate here that show how delightfully YOU you are? Do you take your coffee with butter and believe it’s the only way humans should consume caffeine? Maybe you’re president of the online Seinfeld fan club. Or perhaps you love to bake British pastries in your spare time. Don’t feel pressured to flex your “I’m an impressive candidate” muscles. They know you’re a good student. Now’s the time to dig a little deeper. Or a little weirder.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Weird
Take this essay seriously, but don’t yourself too seriously. The difference here is that you want to find a way to illustrate your creativity while illuminating something revealing about yourself. Don’t be afraid to go ultra-creative on this. Make a list. Tell a story. Write out your 30-step Korean skincare routine, or how you believe it is a crime against humanity to sit on a bed in street clothes.
Still stumped on what to write about? Try a rapid-fire brainstorm. Write a list of 30 weird things you do. Not sure if they’re “weird” enough? Crowdsource from your friends. If you text them, “what are some weird habits of mine, friends?” chances are, you’ll receive some good material. Think about why your friends would call you. Is it because you’re a confidante? To get a good laugh? To get advice on their love lives? Humanize yourself. At the end of the admission officer’s day, what’s going to stick in their mind about your essay? This is where the specificity comes in.
Make Sure You’re the Star of the Show
It’s easy to accidentally write about other people. Of course, writing an ode to your best friend is tempting, but what does that really say about you as a person? What makes you unique aren’t your accomplishments or the people surrounding you. It’s how you act in your everyday life. It’s the millions of tiny, mundane choices you make throughout your day that characterize your personality and illustrate the way your mind works.
Show the admissions board a slice of your life. There is an audience reading this and they are all humans, and will likely be able to identify with whatever quirks you write about. Essentially, they want to know you on a deeper level. Don’t be afraid to tell them how you think and act and what you obsess about.
While this particular prompt is open, don’t forget you only have 650 words. Try not to be all over the place. Stay focused and elaborate in depth on one topic. If you choose to write about your extensive Essie nail polish collection, then don’t talk about your deep love of Weimaraners as well. Magnify a tiny aspect of your life, and use space you have to deep.
They want to see how you think and want to see you on a deeper level. We’d rather hear about your rare Essie nail polish collection than your extracurricular activities. Specificity is the antithesis of the apathy in this scenario. Show them how you act and think is different from anyone else. It sounds like a tall order, but it’s not! Don’t create depth where there doesn’t need to be. Don’t overthink it.