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The deluge has begun. The earliest supplemental essays have started to trickle out and it’s time to bust out your rain slicker and boots… maybe even a canoe if you have one on hand. For the uninitiated, supplemental essays are the school-specific writing assignments that many colleges and universities require in addition to the Common App or Coalition personal statement. They have become increasingly popular in recent years, so it pays to focus the old binoculars and get on the lookout early.
Last year, we worked with students who had to write as many as thirty (30!) of these babies. So, yes, this task may in fact be more time consuming and require more energy than your main personal statement. That’s why we made you a guide. Learn how to make the most of the early-release supplemental essays and how to plan ahead for the regular release.
This is an obvious one. If a school releases its supplement early, you have the opportunity to start working on it before the rest of the supplement storm descends. Sometimes an early release can hint at the complexity of the supplement. The University of Chicago is a prime example, with its notorious “extended essay” questions. These oddball prompts demand relatively long responses that require an above average amount of thought and planning. It’s no surprise, then, that UChicago does its applicant pool the favor of releasing these prompts at the beginning of the summer. Time is a gift, and sometimes it’s also necessary.
Unfortunately, there is no standard release time for supplemental essay questions. The vast majority of prompts typically come out in early August when the Common App goes live, but we can’t predict the future. Some schools may release their supplements with the Coalition in July. Some may wait until September. For this reason, we encourage you to keep up with the schools on your list. Maybe even set a Google alert or a weekly time to check the various school websites. It’s always safer to assume that a school has a supplement than to assume it doesn’t and find yourself with 10 surprise essays to write a week before the deadline.
Different schools take very different approaches to the supplemental essay. UChicago’s quirky prompts may seem off-the-wall and intimidating, but they give you a unique opportunity to showcase your own quirks or sides of your personality that you haven’t been able to reveal elsewhere. UNC and Michigan ask more straightforward questions to gauge your interest in and commitment to their institutions. For the past few years, Stanford and Yale have peppered their applications with short-answer questions that allow you to show your ability to think on your feet. The point is, prompts come in all shapes and sizes, and you can use every single kind to your advantage if you prepare yourself for a wide array of questions.
We at College Essay Advisors, are huge supplemental essay nerds. We love them. We anticipate their release the way some are looking forward to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. So, we’re going to be offering tons of useful advice and updates as new prompts start to come out. Our College Spotlight series will update you on the latest prompts and help you get a jumpstart on your research for various institutions. Our online video series even offers an entire chapter on how best to divide and conquer your supplemental essays. So stay tuned! We’re here to help!