How to Write the Barnard Supplement 2019-2020

Barnard is an all women’s college in New York City. Just over 2,600 undergraduate students attend the school, and the acceptance rate for the class of 2023 was 11.3%. We’re big fans of the school and their supplement, but it’s worth noting that Barnard’s acceptance rate has hugely decreased over the past few years. Five years ago the acceptance rate was 23.8%.

Their supplement, which didn’t change from last year, is below:  

What factors influenced your decision to apply to Barnard College and why do you think the College would be a good match for you? (100-250 words) 

This question is an abbreviated version of the classic “Why Us” prompt. Don’t be fooled by the length, the fact that you only have 250 words to work with actually means that you need to do even more research before you start writing.

There are two things that you need to address in your response: your academic interests (your major) and the extracurricular activities you plan to involve yourself with once you get in.  

In the first paragraph, you’ll be writing about what you plan to major in. If you don’t know what you want to major in, think about the classes you love, the books the read, and your academic areas of interests, and then look at the list of majors and minors offered at Barnard. Barnard wants to admit students that have an academic plan because 1) they are trying to create a well-balanced class and if everyone is undecided they might end up with an entire class of English majors, and 2) when you write about a major, you are telling them that you are going into your freshman year with a plan and will graduate four years later. Barnard is not looking for students that will flounder and change majors a bunch of times, because that could negatively affect their four year graduation rate.

Once you have the list of majors pulled up, find the major that is most closely related to your academic interests. You should keep looking at your list as you scroll through the majors, because that will save you time in the long run. (If you know you don’t like science, you can skip over Biology, Anthropology, Chemistry, Physics, etc.)

Once you’ve settled on a major, let’s say you picked Astronomy, then look at the course catalogue. Read through the entire thing and find upper level classes that you’re interested in taking. It’s important to pick upper level classes because introductory courses tend to be offered at every school, and you’re looking for something that is specific to Barnard. Find 1-2 classes and write about WHY you want to take them.

While you’re still looking into academics, do some research on professors and research opportunities at Barnard. There might be a professor who you want to meet and learn from or a research grant you plan to apply for. It can also be helpful to look at lecture schedules and guest speaker events held on campus. If something really interests you, you can write about it here.

Everything that you write about in the academic section should be related to what you’ve done in high school. Think of it like this: it’s not just that you want to take a class because you think it sounds cool, there should be some coursework that you’ve done well in during high school that makes you a good fit for taking certain classes.

The rest of your supplement should address how you plan to spend your time outside of the classroom. The research process for this paragraph is similar to what you did in the academic portion of the supplement. Look at Barnard’s student clubs and organizations and find something that is an extension of the activities that you did in high school. There’s a lot to choose from, and make sure to find something that isn’t random. Once you get in, you can join any club that you want. But for purposes of this supplement, look for something that you already have some experience in. If you have writing experience, you might look at HerCampus. If you were a math tutor in high school, Math mentors could be a good fit. Write about why you want to join the club, and how what you’ve done in the past makes you an ideal potential member of the organization.  

Make sure you give yourself enough time to find specific offerings that are directly linked to your interests and background. Research is key here. We suggest gathering all of the information and then writing, rewriting, and editing. A supplement this short will require a lot of streamlining and condensing.

Pick one woman in history or fiction to converse with for an hour and explain your choice. What would you talk about? (100-250 words) 

This is a ~fun~ question that gives you an opportunity to show a side of yourself that hasn’t been explored yet. Your goal is to add something new and interesting about yourself, you’re just doing it through the lens of a conversation with another woman. To keep things **fresh**, don’t write about what you wrote about in your common app essay or anything you included in the first prompt.

The two most important things to keep in mind are:

  1. Don’t repeat anything that shows up elsewhere on your application.

  2. Don’t pick someone mainstream. To name just a few, leave Hermione, Anne Frank, and Rosa Parks off of your list. As great as they are, these women have too much historical weight and don’t say much about you and the unique interest or quality you’re trying to showcase.

Let’s discuss what (and who) this leaves us with and a good way to brainstorm.

When working with TKG clients on this question, we start by making a list of interests, hobbies, and passions. Write down everything that comes to mind. Take a look at your list and cross off everything that has already been discussed or shown with the rest of your application. You’ll end up with a list of topics that you’re dying to learn more about, but already know a little bit about.  

This system works because if you start with the person, you’ll 1) just try to pick the most important sounding person you can think of and 2) then be stuck figuring out what to ask them.

Once you pick a final topic, don’t make the most obvious choice. If your passion is cooking, don’t go to the Ina Garten route. If you’re secretly obsessed with flying, you wouldn’t want to pick Amelia Earhart. Research notable people within your field of choice until you find a suitable choice. It’s totally fine if they require an explanation, but don’t eat away at your word count with a lengthy biography on your choice.

The research might take a while. And keep in mind that you can choose a fictional woman, which opens up the doors a lot.

A lot of people get tripped up by (or fail to address) this part of the question: What would you talk about? This is where you get to the “why,” and a sneaky opportunity to humble brag about your knowledge. Think about deeper questions that get to the heart of why you care about this person and shy away from the obvious ones. Remember that it’s a conversation, not an interview. At the end of the day, you want to show Barnard both how you think.


If you’d like to work with someone one-on-one, contact us here.