How To Write the Vassar Supplement

The Vassar College supplement, on first glance, seems relatively easy to tackle and somewhat straight-forward. What we’ve learned from years of advising students on this supplement is that a) it’s a bit more complex than it seems but also b) it’s more work than you think. There are three optional components. We implore you to explore at least two of those three, and not just because many students will overlook them (though that fact will help you). The first two responses are limited to 350 words. We assure you, 350 words is longer than you think. Keep that in mind when brainstorming. Additionally, we encourage students to keep Vassar’s culture and community in mind while they write this. Vassar is a free-spirited, very liberal place with a diverse community. This should be in the back of your mind while you’re writing. Let’s get going.

  1. Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences in the space below. Limit 350 words.

    Like we said above, 350 words is longer than you think. It’s more space to explore, and it’s certainly enough space within which to tell a story (after all, you can tell a story in one sentence). This prompt requires you to bring the admissions reader inside your actions and participation within an extracurricular or work setting through a story. We like to tell our students that it doesn’t necessarily matter which extracurricular activity they choose to tell the story about, because the story is more about the interest or quality that they want to shed light on the most. You choose the topic for this question based on something that you are proud of or an action that you are deeply connected to. So much so that might argue it typifies who you are as a person.

    We had a student who wanted to write about her work helping underprivileged children. While on the surface, this seems like a run-of-the-mill activity, she dug deep. She wrote about a breakthrough moment that she had with one of her students, but not before she engaged in an honest discussion about her challenges with this particular student. It was a very genuine story about how one small event, in the context of the situation, can be a marker for long-term change. This student will be attending Vassar in the fall.

    In the vein of authenticity, we remind you to recall that Vassar has a lot of student activism on campus. Students are passionate and often liberal, albeit privileged. It is necessary to interrogate your instincts with this essay and steer clear from writing about a service trip or a volunteer gig in a soup kitchen. This will highlight your privilege and you won’t be in the room to defend yourself. That’s no good.
  2. How did you learn about Vassar and what aspect of our college do you find appealing? Limit 350 words

    This is an interesting question. We like it for some reasons: the language, and the fact that it’s a “Why X College?” question with a twist. We don’t love it for others—namely, the first part. Let’s talk about that. It’s a hard ask when 95% of students don’t recall how they first actually heard of Vassar. Vassar is just a college that people have been talking about for a long time, because one of the top 15 schools in the nation. That is most likely how you heard about it. If we’re being honest, that part of the question mostly has to do with marketing. 50% of money spent on marketing is wasted, but it’s hard to know which category it’s wasted in, and this question can shed some light on that mystery for the college. We wouldn’t worry too much about this aspect of the question, unless you have a truly interesting story (your parents met at Vassar a year after the school went co-ed and you’ve been coming back for reunions since you were born). Don’t spend too much time on it, because the story here is Vassar’s appeal.

    Now onto the good news—we love that Vassar asked about what “appeals” to you. It’s a wonderful choice of words, and you can do a lot with it. With research. Do your research for a “Why X School?” question—find classes that fascinate you, specify a professor whose brain you want to pick, and some extra-curriculars that sound right up your alley. Talk about what major interests you and some potential minors you might want to explore. Be sure that everything is Vassar-specific. They want to know why you want to study Comparative Literature at Vassar over every other school out there. That said, very rarely do students know exactly what their major is going to be ahead of time, though they might think they do. If this is the case, don’t worry—choose a subject that interests you. Remember: there’s no right or wrong answer for this question. Vassar is interested, more than anything, in how you think, not what you want to study. Go with your gut on this one.

If you wish to provide details of circumstances not reflected in the application, please upload a file here. Similarly, if you wish to upload your resume, include it here.

Let us be clear when we say that this portion is not optional. This is the space to elaborate on any significant events that happened in high school that may have affected your ability to execute at your peak academic or social potential. If you experienced a death or illness in your family, or went through an event that resulted in a grade drop or an inconsistency on your record, by all means tackle that here. If not, though, do not leave this space blank.

Every one of our students has a resume when they are applying to college. If they don’t have one going into the application process, then we help them format and create a resume. It’s important to have a working document that lists all of your academic, extracurricular, and work experiences in an organized format. You can upload that document here for Vassar to see—it will only help you tremendously for them to see all of your accomplishments concisely typed out in a visually appealing format on a page.

Your Space is your opportunity to allow the Committee on Admission to learn something about you that you have not addressed in another section of the application. Your Space is entirely optional. If you choose to include a Your Space submission, be sure it is labeled with your name, high school, and date of birth. Due to the volume of submissions, we will be unable to return your work. Please do not send anything that is irreplaceable.

Again, while this might read as optional, we advise that you use Your Space and fill it with something that shows Vassar a different part of yourself. Perhaps you have a piece of creative writing that you are particularly proud of that you’d like to share. If not, be creative in some other way—this is literally your space to do with what you’d like. You could write a letter to them introducing yourself. You could write a poem about your new dorm room. Don’t overlook this opportunity just because it’s a bit more work. You can make it interesting and even have a bit of fun with it. Consider this your introduction to Vassar.

You are welcome to submit a photograph of yourself to personalize your application.

This isn’t something you see that often with college applications. So we’ll reiterate what we’ve said to our students in the past:

  • Don’t send a selfie.
  • If you do send a photo, make sure it looks polished.
  • It should look professional but don’t get a headshot professionally taken. That’s too extra.
  • Don’t send a photo if it makes you feel weird.

Let us know if you have any questions at all. We know this supplement can be a bit challenging. We’re here to help.