How to Write the Mount Holyoke Supplement

Mount Holyoke is an all-women’s liberal arts college in South Hadley, MA. With about 2,100 undergraduates, Mount Holyoke is small and has a significant focus on research. If you apply to Mount Holyoke, we encourage you to visit and do a lot of research on the school. As for their supplement, here’s how to approach it:

1. Tell us why you are interested in attending Mount Holyoke College. (250-400 words)

This is Mount Holyoke asking you, “Why Us?” It requires some research, and you should put in the time to do it, rather than just offhandedly mentioning a few things that you’re interested in. Do some digging into the academic offerings and extracurricular choices, and try to get a sense of the community and culture. You can do this by visiting the school, looking at their website, and talking to current students.

First, choose something of academic interest to you and explain why it’s interesting to you. It shouldn’t be something completely out of left field, but it should be something that the admissions reader doesn’t already know about you. Expand upon some courses you want to take in addition to a professor or two whose research interests intrigue you. Weave the Mount Holyoke offerings into your own story about your academic pursuits. Those are always the best supplements—the stories about your academic trajectory where the school seems like a seamless transition.

Secondly, you should touch on the community and cultural aspect of Mount Holyoke. This is not the time to dwell on your extracurricular activities—the school already knows how you spend your time. Discuss what you value and what your extracurriculars say about you (without mentioning them/repeating them) and then expand that to talk about the cultural aspects of Mount Holyoke that intrigue you. Now is the time to talk about a particular project on campus that you read about that excited you and made you want to get involved. It’s the time to discuss any traditions that resonate with you in a meaningful way. You want the admissions reader to finish reading this part of your supplement and envision you on campus. Paint a picture for them through storytelling.

2. What is the best mistake you have ever made and why? (250-400 words)

This is one of our favorite questions. The best way to start on this one is with the end—start by deciding on a lesson that you learned and then work backwards. Be sure to fully brief yourself on how to write an essay about failure. Additionally, don’t sweat this question too much. It’s easy to get in your head and feel like you have to tell an incredibly meaningful and deep story, but it doesn’t have to be that serious. It can be a time that you learned a valuable lesson with a small mistake. Key word: YOU. It should be small and personally meaningful. Don’t search for a story that is “objectively” meaningful. You also don’t want to bring the reader down here—we advise all of our students against choosing something incredibly heavy or traumatizing. The reader should never finish your story and feel upset or disturbed, but rather intrigued and impressed with your ability to reflect and grow.

Most of all, just choose something where you actually did mess up or make a mistake, because there’s nothing worse than a humble-brag.

3. Tell us about an idea, initiative or event that resulted in meaningful change in your life and the lives of others. How did this change come about and what lessons did you learn from the process? (250-400 words)

Again, we’d advise you to work backwards. There are a lot of overlapping aspects in questions 2 and 3 so make sure that they are differentiated. This shouldn’t be another piece on failure, but instead a piece on an instance that occurred and initiated a shift in your perspective and outlook on the world. It can be small—in fact, it should be. Address the “why.” Why did this happen? What caused you to rethink your perspective? How are you maintaining this shift? Why is it meaningful? Tell a story that draws the reader in. Perhaps you begin the story in medias res and shock them into paying attention. Your answer should focus less on the lessons that you learned, which question 2 focuses on, and more about what sparked the meaningful shift/change and why it happened in the first place, as well as why it is significant.

Let us know if you need any help at all with this supplement. The questions can be a bit tricky, but we’d be happy to assist you in figuring out which stories to tell and how to tell them.