5 Tips for the Best Supplement Essays 2018

When it comes to stellar supplements, it’s not as easy as just not doing anything on our no-no list. Here are 5 of the ingredients you need to write amazing college supplements.

Know Each School

Research is king. The best supplements are tailored to each school, highlighting the programs you are most interested in and the aspects of the school that make it unique. For example, a large part of the purpose of the “why this school?” prompt, one of the most common questions in supplements, is to see if you know your stuff.

These supplements range in length from 100 words to 650, so you’ll have to scale the amount of detail to fit the size, but the bare minimum checklist is: major, a sample class (and why you think it would benefit you), and extracurriculars.  

However, top “why this school?” supplements typically have a bit more than that. Try to include a professor you’d like to work with, a specific program (like a research or internship program) that you’d like to be involved in, and a mention of a minor if possible.

Even if a supplement doesn’t specifically ask “why us?”, you should still find ways to show that you are invested in the school and truly want to be there.

Tell Stories

The college essay isn’t the only place where storytelling is critical. The best supplements are story-centric. “Show don’t tell” is the mantra of the supplement section, especially since it’s so easy to just answer the question. Your story needs to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. No hamburger essays here.

Write Crossover Content

You don’t want to go into your supplements with the goal of using the same three essays over and over, but the right crossover content is often a sign of a strong supplement. By ‘the right’ content, we mean the story-focused pieces of supplements. If you worked hard on the story behind why you want to major in biology, it makes sense to use that same explanation in a few different supplements. You should not be copying and pasting over entire supplements, but knowing when and where to pull these bits and pieces will save you time, energy, and strengthen your final product.  

Give Yourself Time

Time is the enemy of college application writing. Nearly no matter what, you’ll wish you had a little more time. But, unlike at school, asking for an extension is completely off of the table. You should begin working on your college essay in early September and should be starting on your supplements soon—regardless of whether you’re doing EA/ED or all RD.  

Edit, Edit, Edit

Why do you need so much time? First off, rushed writing is bad writing. You’ll also need time to edit, revise, rethink, and go back. Without planning for that in advance, you end up with supplements that read like rough drafts. The best supplements are products of commitment, hard work, and time.  


If you’re looking for more guidance, we’re pros at stellar supplements.