How to Write the Smith College Supplement

Smith College is an all-women’s college in Northampton, MA. It has about 2,500 undergraduates and is a part of the five-college consortium: Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Smith. If you go to school at one of the colleges within the consortium, you can take classes relatively freely throughout all five.

When you’re reading through a college’s supplement, it’s important to take note of what they’re asking. A college’s supplement says a lot about the college and what its values are. Everything that they put out is an indication of who they are as an institution. Stanford’s supplement, for example, has 10+ components, all of varying lengths and themes. That says something. Smith’s supplement, detailed below, is short and to the point. They are sure to make their applicants feel comfortable, not intimidated, and equipped to tackle the task at hand.

  1. We know that colleges ask a lot of hard questions on their applications. This one is not so hard and we promise, there is no hidden agenda – just have fun! We have all heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine.” Recount a time when something really made you laugh. (200 word limit)

This is a truly fun and unique prompt. But don’t be fooled. Even though they say “Just have fun!” this is not a space to let your guard down. It’s still a part of your admissions profile and package, and you should be intentional. Just like your personal statement and other supplements, this should be a story that sheds light on a part of your personality and/or interest that is illuminating. It should draw your admissions reader in and be compelling in a way that not only makes them smile, but causes them to envision you as a positive contribution to the Smith community.

One important part to consider when writing this portion of your application is your audience. Know your audience here. It’s most likely going to be a woman who is older than you, so take that into consideration.

The second part to consider is what you write about. Choose wisely. Whatever the central joke or sticking point of this story is should be less straight-forward and more nuanced. We recommend that our students who apply to Smith not use slapstick comedy as a jumping off point or inspiration center. It should indeed be funny, though. Some topics that we had in mind when we read this were discussing a time when it might have been inappropriate to laugh but you couldn’t help it.

What’s most important here is how you structure this response. Because you have such a small amount of space, it means that you have to get a bit creative while ensuring the following four things:

Set the scene

Bring the reader into the situation—if this took place at the dinner table, make them visualize the situation. If it took place in a classroom, have them feel the tension of 30 people in a room witnessing the event.

Contextualize and introduce

It is crucial to contextualize the moment. Not only should the reader feel like they can visualize the event but they should also understand why this moment is significant and comical. Introduce your secondary character with 1-2 sentences.

Show, don’t tell

Now that you’ve set the scene, introduced your character, and created the perfect set-up for your joke, show, don’t articulate, your reaction. What makes a comedic moment inherently funny is the reaction that it incites. Don’t say that you laughed; make the reader laugh when you did. Show that you reacted in such a way that you were bowled over and speechless.

Be concise

No need to waste words on reflection, such as, “Looking back, I…” or “All in all,” etc. You have 200 words, use them wisely. A word to the wise: you can even be creative with your use of this space. It doesn’t need to be in paragraph format. You can write a scene in a play if you want. Do with that information what you will.

What we don’t recommend doing is referring to a moment in pop culture, i.e. a movie, a comedy special, or a TV show. It’s cliche and doesn’t show that you’re particularly unique. Everyone thinks that SNL/Amy Schumer/Silicon Valley is funny. Think of yourself as a stand-up comedian. Their jokes are relatable, shorter, and often directly inspired by an event that happened to them. They are funny because you understand the context. That feeling is created, and that is your goal. Remember that whatever the joke is, it directly reflects who you are. You are mirrored in the incident, person, or interaction that made you laugh. Humor says a lot about a person.

Now, for the most crucial component—how do you know if it’s actually funny? Reach out to your friends, have them read your essay, and see if they laugh or react in any way. You’re going for a visceral, immediate, feel-good kind of humor. See if your words accomplish that. If not, re-work and try again.

If you need any help or need us to read your essay over to see if it’s actually funny, just let us know. We tend to have a pretty discerning sense about these things.