How to Write the Boston College Supplement 2019-2020

Boston College is a private Jesuit research university in Boston, Massachusetts. Its undergraduate student body of 9,500 is what we would classify as “mid-sized.” It’s definitely not a small school, but if you’re worried about floundering in a large university, there’s no reason to fear. You’re not going to drown in the flood of students moving between classes.

We are often asked what a Jesuit university is and what the Jesuit school experience is like, especially if you are not a Christian. The Jesuits are a group within the Catholic church that see academic learning as central to understanding the world and practicing their faith. In pursuit of this goal, the Jesuit order has founded 28 colleges and universities in the United States alone. Loyola Marymount and College of the Holy Cross are two other well-respected Jesuit schools. Not everyone who goes to a Jesuit university is Christian. Furthermore, most Jesuit schools (including Boston College) do not expect their students to go to practice any religion as part of their educational experience. However, Jesuit universities do expect a lot of their students. Inside the classroom, they strive to inspire scholarship and nurture curiosity. Outside of the classroom, they expect students to engage with social issues and to question the status quo constantly.

If you are wondering whether you would fit in at a Jesuit university, there isn’t an easy yes or no. But there isn’t an easy yes or no for any school. Fit isn’t about just one factor. If Boston College offers the academics, community, and location, you are looking for, if being Jesuit should probably not be a reason to stop considering it as a possible option. The Boston College acceptance rate is 27%.  

The supplement for Boston College for the 2019-2020 college application cycle is the same one that they used last year. However, instead of recycling what we wrote previously, we like to approach the questions with fresh eyes and a new perspective. A lot has happened in 12 months!

Boston College only has one question:

We would like to get a better sense of you. Please respond to one of the following prompts. (400 word limit)*

Below, we’ve broken down each of the prompts. Four hundred words may not sound like a lot, but it’s more than you may think. You’ve just read ~398 words to get to this point in this post. Only two off! Wow! And we’ve said a lot already, which just goes to show that 400 words may be a bit of a sweet spot. It’s easier to tell a story in 400 words than in the typical 250 words given for supplements, but it’s not so long that you have room to ramble.  

Great art evokes a sense of wonder. It nourishes the mind and spirit. Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?

We really like this prompt, but if you decide to go with this one picking the right piece of media is critical to your success.  

We’ve found that students often worry about sounding smart enough or mature enough, so they try to write about something that seems impressive. The vast majority of times, this falls flat on its face, and the supplement doesn’t work because it feels stiff, performative, and fake. They want to know more about you, not the you you think they want to see.  

The next pitfall is picking something that you were assigned in school, or that is frequently assigned in schools even if you weren’t assigned it. For example, you may never have been forced to read Catcher in the Rye, but it is the most stereotypical book assigned in high schools that we can think of — and students constantly want to write about it. Reading it in your free time instead is great, but the reader will assume that it was assigned because it so frequently is.  

There are two more limitations you have to take into account before making your decision. It has to be a form of media listed (song, poem, speech, or novel) and you need to connect to it in a way that will feel authentic when you write about your supposed connection to it. Do not write about a biography. Do not write about a movie or tv show. Do not google “obscure indie film” and try to find a way to organically force it into your life, which is an oxymoronic proposition from the start.

Once you’ve picked a piece of media, you can’t just start writing about how much you love it and how it’s shaped you. You need to tell a story. Maybe tell the story of how you found it, or write about a specific instance in which you’ve interacted with it. Is there a small piece of it that you can zoom in on? When working with students on this supplement, one of our writer’s often thinks about the first line of “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann. The poem starts with the line “Go placidly amid the noise and haste,” and it’s resonated with her since her high school advisor gave her a framed copy of the poem before graduation. She’s someone who has frequently been told that she needs to slow down. Reading the poem for the first time was also the first time she heard what all those people had been saying.  

Now, you can’t write about a graduation present just yet, but her connection to that line is a good example of how to zoom in on a piece of media that is meaningful to you.  

When you choose a college, you will join a new community of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and stories. What is it about your background, your experiences, or your story, that will enrich Boston College’s community?

We love this question, but it can be intimidating because it is quite broad. To counteract this, we like to ask students to list a few traditions in their family or culture. Once we have three or four traditions, we break them into parts. For example, Christmas is a tradition, but it’s made of up components that are unique to each family. Most people who celebrate Christmas will have a tree and presents and a big Christmas meal. But not every family walks to church at 10:45 pm after finishing dinner to attend Midnight Mass and then, after the service, has dessert together. Writing about this tradition wouldn’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) have much to do with religion. Ideally, we would ask the student to focus on the time after Mass, after midnight, when they sit down to tuck into dessert in their dressed-up dining room, and the world around them is quiet.

Why focus on dessert? Well, we’ve found that writing about food traditions and cultural foods is a really good idea. Food brings people together — family, friends, and it even bridges the gaps that exist between you and the readers for your application. They like food, you like food, and you can bond over that.

Boston College strives to provide an undergraduate learning experience emphasizing the liberal arts, quality teaching, personal formation, and engagement of critical issues. If you had the opportunity to create your own college course, what enduring question or contemporary problem would you address and why?

Boston College serves up some great supplement questions, and this one is one of our favorites. We love it because it allows you to be totally quirky and to dive into a passion that otherwise may not appear in your application or, at least, wouldn’t be flushed out well.

Before brainstorming, remember that they provide a framework. Whatever you come up with should fit into the “enduring question” bucket, the “contemporary problem” bucket, or both. Those buckets are big, though, so it’s important to narrow down your options by picking a department that you feel you’d like to teach a course in. Is physics your thing? Or are you more of an anthropology kind of person? Once you have a department, start writing down questions that you would love answers to. Why does time only move in one direction? What will the world look like post-humanity? How do shifting gender roles impact career outcomes for young women? You can go nearly anywhere with it as long as you are specific.  

Once you have a question, create the framework for a course. You need learning objectives, required reading suggestions, and, of course, a name. Remember that colleges have some amazingly quirky classes, so it’s ok to be playful while still answering the prompt.

Jesuit education considers the liberal arts a pathway to intellectual growth and character formation. What beliefs and values inform your decisions and actions today, and how will Boston College assist you in becoming a person who thinks and acts for the common good?

After three prompts that we know you could have a lot of fun with, we don’t love this last one. Unless you are someone who has a very strong belief system and has processed their faith well enough to talk about it without falling into clichés, it’s just too easy to sound cheesy. If this question resonates deeply with you, it may be a good fit. For most students, however, we recommend one of the other three.


Need some help deciding which prompt to pick? Reach out to us here. We set students up for success.