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What is the difference between a personal statement and supplemental essays?

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The Common Application personal statement comprises 650 word (or less) in response to one of five essay prompts. The personal statement is just as it sounds: an essay that reflects something personal about the student’s life, and we use the prompts as a launch point for finding an essay subject that is tailored to each student’s specific interests and style.

Supplemental essays have become increasingly popular over the years, and especially in response to recent changes to the Common Application. These essays are often found in the supplemental portion of a school’s application and must be completed in addition to the personal statement. Supplemental essays range in length and scope on subjects that range from deeper explorations of a student’s collegiate and academic interests like, “Why do you want to attend Boston University?” (250 words) to more amorphous topics like, “What is your favorite book and why?” (Brown University, 450 words). Students who work with CEA are often encouraged to nail down their personal statement topic first, and supplemental essays are then completed in priority order according to submission deadlines.

Pro tip: Ivy League applications often have extensive supplements, as do many other top-tier schools and honors programs.

Category: FAQ - General
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