How to Write the Brandeis Supplement 2019-2020

Brandeis is a medium-sized research university with a focus on the liberal arts less than 10 miles from the heart of Boston. If you’re looking for an excellent education on a close-knit campus with access to a major city, it may be a perfect fit. The medium-sized undergraduate student body (~3,600) is small enough to quickly feel at home. At the same time, having a train station on campus (yes, on campus!) means that the amenities Boston has in spades are never more than 30 minutes away. In addition to a reputation for rigorous academics, Brandeis is known for a strong history of social justice work on campus. From the student takeover of Ford Hall in 1969 to the myriad student clubs focused on furthering social good initiatives, Brandeis expects students to be informed and active global citizens. Last year, the acceptance rate was 31%.

The Brandeis supplement isn’t long, but it does offer choice. There are three prompts, and you have to answer one of them in 250 words or fewer. We’ve broken each of the prompts down below, as well as an additional question that only applies to international students.

Why would you like to attend Brandeis?

This is the most common question on college supplements, but we have yet to get sick of it. Why? Because it gives you the chance to talk about yourself and to show admissions officials that you aren’t just applying to Brandeis on a whim. The key to acing this prompt is to do your research. A successful answer should include: 

  • Your intended major (and undecided isn’t an option)

  • One or two professors you’d like to work with and why

  • One or two classes you’d like to take that are not part of the core curriculum

  • A potential minor and how you feel it will pair with/intertwine with your major

  • An extracurricular

This answer can’t be a list, though. Just like with any other supplement, you need to tell a story. Focus in on what excites you most about Brandeis that is unique to Brandeis (so not the climate or the beauty of the campus). Use that as the lens through which to tell a story. If you visited, it sometimes makes sense to focus the story on your visit. Most of the time, we encourage students to talk about an educational experience that they’ve had in the last two years that you feel meshes with what you intend to achieve at Brandeis. For example, if you are looking to do lab work, you may want to write about an experience you’ve had in a lab and how you hope to continue such experiences while at Brandeis.  

Justice Brandeis said, “Most of the things worth doing in the world have been declared impossible before they were done.” Tell us how you would implement change in society that others might think impossible.

This prompt is alluring, but it also has some danger zones. The risk is buried in one word: “how.” Writing about something that you think should be changed isn’t too tricky. There is a lot we need to change about society to make it more just and equitable. Explaining how that is going to happen is the more delicate part. Answering this question well requires in-depth knowledge of an issue. Without that knowledge, it is easy to sound naïve or to suggest something that has already tried and failed. Because of this, we typically avoid this prompt unless a student indeed does have the deep knowledge that it requires.

If you do want to pick this prompt, look local. Identify a problem in your community that you either experience personally or see others experience regularly. By zooming in on an issue that hits home for you, you are more likely to succeed in offering potential solutions.

What is something you have recently changed your mind about and why?

We love this prompt. People who are intellectually curious and courageous are constantly having to rethink their preconceived notions and shift their opinions — and Brandeis loves intellectually curious students. However, it’s not a good idea to scramble for an answer here just because we love the prompt. If you read this prompt and something pops into your head, awesome. If not, it’s probably not the best prompt for you, and we’d recommend going with #1.  

If you’re committed to it, keep it small. We know that this is something we say all the time, but we say it because it matters. If you go too lofty, you risk sounding self-important. Instead, focus on a specific conversation or another moment when you were challenged to rethink. After illustrating the moment, carry the story through to where you ended up on the issue. In this prompt, illustrating progress and transformation is critical to success.

International students only: Brandeis attracts students from many corners of the world. As an international student at Brandeis, how would you enrich the campus community? (250 words or fewer)

This question is only applicable to international applicants, so if you aren’t one, don’t do it. If you are an international applicant, take this question into account when picking a prompt for the previous one. Namely, don’t pick prompt #1 because you risk too much overlap. This question is focused on your on-campus experience, so writing about your on-campus experience twice closes off an opportunity to present readers with a fully-formed picture of how awesome you are.  

We recommend selecting prompt two or three, both of which allow you to share a piece of your culture or heritage. Then you can use this question to express how you will pursue your passions on campus, enriching the community inside and outside of the classroom.


Applying to college can get stressful. If you need help, let us know.