How to Write the Scripps College Supplement

Scripps College is a small all-women’s liberal arts school in Claremont, CA. It’s a part of the Claremont Colleges, which include Pomona, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, and Pitzer. Like the West Coast equivalent of the Five and Tri-College Consortium. Scripps’ supplement has two parts—we’ve broken down how to approach it all. Read on:

1.     Why have you chosen to apply to Scripps College? (200 words)

This is just a “Why X School?” prompt which should be a breeze to complete, but make sure not to fall into the trappings of a bad Why X School response. Because it’s so little space, you need to make sure that your answer is focused, compelling, and well-researched but not too broad. It should discuss your interests and how you will pursue them specifically at Scripps. Your answer should explain why you want to deepen and expand your interests at Scripps. You illustrate this by doing thorough research on Scripps but only mentioned 2-3 specific items. When you do a great deal of research, your handle on the language about the school becomes less robotic and routine and more comfortable and illustrative of your understanding of the school as a whole. Not just its academic offerings, but its culture, too. Immerse yourself. Ask questions on your tour, ask questions of current students—really explore.

2.     Choose one of the following (150-300 words):

Before we delve into each of these prompts, we want to preface this by saying that for all of these, these are your elevator pitches: short answers filled to the brim with crucial information and passion.

(1) You have the funding for your own start-up or organization. What will you launch and why?

If you choose this prompt, you have to understand that this is not the time to go into details of your start-up or organization. It’s the time to discuss the TL;DR versions of the what, how, and why:

  1. The headline, aka: what it is.
  2. A brief background, aka: how you got here
  3. 3 short points about why it’s important, aka: why they should care.

Because this explanation is so short, it should have a quick, emotional appeal. You get people to pay attention when you draw them in by their heart. It’s a visceral reaction. Make it pop. You don’t need to be entrepreneurial to tackle this prompt—you just need a problem. We all have experienced those.

The hardest part, you may think, is thinking of a business idea. In fact, let’s reframe this as the easiest part because all really you need to do is think about one small problem that you want to solve. Emphasis on small—this is not the time to pitch your nonprofit that’s going to solve world hunger.

The problem that you choose to tackle will result in either a product or a service that alleviates it. Whatever you choose, it should a) give some core insight into who you are, how you tackle problems, and what you care about, and b) be in a niche corner of a niche market. Think smaller than you ever thought possible. For example: buying tampons. It’s an annoying task. The NYC-based start-up Lola solved this by creating a business where women can enroll in a subscription service to get any quantity of tampons delivered to them every 1-2 months so they’re never scrambling. And over and above that, the tampons are 100% cotton. They’re a product women need that solves an annoying problem they face monthly. It’s simple. It solves a small problem. They’re incredibly successful. So, to sum up:

1.     Headline: Lola: Tampons delivered to you.

2.     Background: Buying tampons is an annoying task. Now, with a subscription-based service, you never have to think about it again. And they’re natural.

3.     Importance: there is a huge market for the product, nothing like this exists, and the current products can cause major illnesses.

There are so many problems to choose from—just choose one that relates directly to you and your interests. There needs to be continuity in your application, so don’t choose something completely out of left field that you’ve never expressed an interest in. As mentioned above, because we’re thinking small here, don’t write about the nonprofit you’re starting. It’s not the time to delve into how you plan to solve a huge social issue. Create a solution to an actual, tangible problem that is relatable—don’t create “awareness.” That’s not measurable. Also, a lot of applicants will probably think that a selfless non-profit is the way to go here. You’ll stand out. Trust us.

(2) Tell us about a memorable conversation you have had this year.

This is a great question. Again, you need to think small for this. Whatever conversation you highlight, it should illuminate a part of your personality that your admissions reader wouldn’t normally know reading your application. They might find this out if they, for example, joined you on your daily walk to school with your best friend, or sat at the table with your family friends who you have dinner with every Thursday. The conversation should be a story that is relatable, animated, and has a climax at the middle.

We highly suggest to our students that they get creative with the structure. There should of course be dialogue throughout the story—after all, that is what the question is asking about. We warn against the overuse of “he said” and “she said,” because it reads as repetitive and bland.

Keep in mind that a woman will most likely be reading this, so appealing to that sensibility is always a good idea. More than that, it should reflect a universal lived experience that will leave your admissions reader smiling and nodding, thinking, “Yes--they get it.” It should illustrate depth without suggesting a wisdom beyond your years. You should feel free to explore a time when you made a mistake and had a conversation that resulted in a dissolving of ignorance on a topic. Alternatively, you could share a conversation or interaction where you finally felt heard and recognized the power of your own voice. These are just a couple of ideas. Let us know if you need help brainstorming.

(3) You have just been invited to give a TED talk. What will you talk about and why did you select that topic?

This prompt is challenging, and we’re going to have to say it again: think small. The key with this answer, if you choose this prompt, is to make sure that your answer is dripping wet with humility. There is no more important quality, in our opinion, than knowing what you don’t know (well, that, and someone who never misses a deadline).

When you think about what you would give a TED talk, think about the TED talks that you’ve listened to. Hint: if you’re planning on answering this and you’ve never watched or listened to a TED talk (even though you’ve told people you have)...go do that. Stat. Here are a few of our favorites. Familiarize yourself with the medium.

Your TED talk should focus on a lesson that you learned—a small lesson that came as a result of an interaction or central moving moment that has greatly affected your perspective. If you can’t think of anything of note after a couple of minutes, then this prompt might not be for you. We always suggest to our students that they should talk about what they know—you know what it’s like to be a 15, 16, or 17-year-old girl or boy living in this world. Don’t minimize that. There is so much there. There should be a very personal and clear WHY to this talk. Why are you, of all people, speaking about this? If you think you’re qualified, you probably are, but make sure that it doesn’t come across as unrelatable or unbelievable. This isn’t the time to reveal a huge secret or to tackle the broad issue of gender inequality. Narrow, focus, and keep it local. Restraint is a valued skill, as is communication. You can display your talent for both of those things with this prompt.

Feel free to reach out to us if you need any help or advice with this supplement. We’re happy to offer an opinion, act as a sounding board, or just quickly proofread your essay. Email or call us.