How to Write the Colgate Supplement 2018-2019

Colgate University is located in Hamilton, NY. It’s a liberal arts school with almost 3,000 undergraduates. It’s getting to be increasingly competitive to get in, which is why it’s important to answer their supplemental questions with care and intention. No worries—we’ve got your back on this one.

 Acceptance rate for Class of 2022: 24.9%

In addition to your personal statement, Colgate requires a supplemental short-answer essay. Please respond, in 250 words or less, to one of the following prompts:  

Before we get into the individual prompts, we need to say a few things on the importance of brevity and depth here. Because the responses are 250 words at the very most, you need to be thinking an inch wide and a mile deep with what you choose to tackle. Choose one very small concept or anecdote and go deep with it. Investigate from as many thoughtful angles as you can but keep the moment that you’re investigating and sharing with Colgate personal and small. Keeping it small is more challenging than investigating a broad concept or thought, but trust us. Keep. It. Small. You’ll thank yourself later and it speaks louder to be able to drive home one concentrated point that it does to pontificate on an all-encompassing notion or idea.

The Mission Statement for Colgate University sets forth 13 Goals for a Colgate Education. One goal for Colgate students is listed as: Be engaged citizens and strive for a just society: embrace the responsibilities to local, national, and global communities; use their influence for the benefit of others. Please describe how you would embrace this goal as a Colgate student.

This question is really asking how you use your privilege to help others. This is also a pretty risky question because it forces you to position yourself in a place of power and explain how you use your understanding of the world to help those who are less fortunate achieve their goals. It’s a lofty statement to make, and we wouldn’t really advise tackling this one unless you have a very clear understanding of how you’re going to tackle it with compassion. By answering either question 1 or 2, you risk coming off as self-congratulatory.

The only way we’d really advise tackling this question is from a very Why Colgate-centered place. If there is something that you feel passionately about that is specifically happening in or around Hamilton, NY, and you feel comfortable and excited to talk about that issue, then by all means go for it. But extending any issue to the reaches of upstate New York is risky and perhaps irrelevant. In other words: be thoughtful about this one if you choose to answer it.

At Colgate, we believe that a diverse community is a strong community. Reflect on an experience that demonstrates your commitment to inclusion and diversity.

As mentioned above, you risk sounding self-congratulatory by answering this question without taking pause on your structure and goals of the answer. The words inclusion and diversity are, in our opinion, not interchangeable. Nor should they be. And if you feel differently, then that’s fine but be careful not to be exclusionary or elitist in your answer. The phrase “your commitment to” is indeed asking about an experience that you had, but it’s also asking how you signal to others (and in this case, a college) that you are “woke.” This isn’t such a hot position to be operating from. It’s not super strong and it’s also not necessarily something to strive for explicitly.

Your understanding of the world, and the fact that our country is structured in such a way that benefits the majority and further limits minority participation, should inform your actions but not necessarily define them. If you’re unclear on the difference, we’d be happy to chat with you about it, but we’d also say steer clear of this question.

We want to get to know you better. What are three words that your best friend would use to describe you and why?  

Well, if you read the blog (and you should!), then you should have already done this (per our advice). So, take a look at that list if you are following along and do have these responses from your friends on-hand. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, please: 1) pause reading this right now, 2) take out your phone, 3) text three friends the following question: “Weird question but could you do me a huge favor and reply by describing me in three adjectives? Thank you!” Write down all of the adjectives that come back to you. It’s a nice little ego-boost (hopefully), but it’s also some insight into how others perceive you. More often than not, there’s a pattern and some overlap in the responses. Pay attention to those.  

Once you’ve selected three adjectives, split this supplement up into three separate paragraphs and tell a short story about each adjective. Not about why you think your friend used this word to describe you, but an actual anecdote that you’ve experienced that exemplifies why they chose that adjective. We want to paint a picture of you in this vast world through the lens of these three words, and the best way to do that is to tell a short little story. Wake these readers up. Trust us, they’re exhausted, and they’d love to be charmed by a quirky little tale about how it’s a tradition for you to make chocolate chip pancakes (with whipped cream) for your little brother on his birthday every year and that’s probably why your friend mentioned “thoughtful.” 

Colgate's core curriculum teaches students empathy, informed debate, and critical thinking. Please tell us what book or piece of literature you believe is important for the entire Colgate Class of 2023 to read. Why?

This is a question that we personally love because, well, we love to read. That said, we know that it’s not the easiest question for everyone so it’s important to think through your answer should you choose this question. This is an opportunity to shed some light on your personality, goals, and interests, but it all has to be done with one singular work. Not easy! Better to think of this question as Colgate using a book as a lens through which to better understand you. That’s not as intimidating but still a challenge. Be sure to review our own personal list of books to never mention in a college essay before you rush to re-purpose an excerpt from your recent essay on symbolism in The Great Gatsby. Don’t do that. If you were to ask us this question, here are some books that we’d contemplate listing:

  • We’re Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

  • Not That Bad by Roxane Gay

  • Evicted by Matthew Desmond

  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

We’re not saying to use any of these. In fact, don’t consider them unless you’ve read them. Rather, observe how this list informs your opinion about us and our personalities. You don’t know us, but do you feel like you know a little something about us now that you understand our favorite books of the last year? That’s what we want the admissions readers to feel about you after they read this short answer that you’ve written about one of your most favorite books.

As always, let us know if you have any questions or if you’re particularly stuck on this one. We’re also happy to help you come up with some topics to write about. That’s why we’re here.