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For Carleton College, less is more. The longest essay you’re likely to write for this supplement will max out at 150 words. Maybe you’re thinking, “Great, I’ll leave this application until the last minute!” Well, think again, dear applicant! You’ve got to cram as much information about yourself as possible into these mini-masterpieces, and that can be a real challenge. As a general rule, brainstorming and pre-writing are your friends for these little gremlins. Need specifics? Don’t worry. We made you a guide.
The Requirements: 2 essays of 150 words, 1 optional essay of 250 words, and 3 short answers.
Why would Carleton give you 150 words to respond a question that many of us could probably answer with a sentence fragment? It’s so that you can do your favorite thing: tell a story about yourself! The way you discovered Carleton could say a lot about how you connect to the world or how others view you. If one of your family members is an alum, maybe you grew up hearing all about it, which is exactly why you never thought you’d apply – until you realized that you were truly your mother’s child or grandpa’s grandkid or whatever. Perhaps your earth science teacher encouraged you to apply. Or maybe you’re an independent soul who came across it in your own research on liberal arts schools. In this short essay, focus on the key event or conversation that first set you on the path to Carleton. You’ll have plenty of space to explain why you finally decided to apply in your next essay.
See? This classic why essay is your chance to build upon your answer to the prior question and show what you know about the school. How much thought went into your decision to finally apply? Regardless of any long- or short-standing personal connection you may have with the school, we still recommend setting aside at least an hour to do some good old fashioned research. Dig beyond the basic facts and figures to learn about your prospective major(s), uncover classes you want to take, delve into the contents of the school library, or peruse the list of clubs and volunteer opportunities. Given the tight word limit, you’ll want to be succinct, so focus on one key interest (a love of music) or goal (to make clean energy sources more accessible) and describe how a Carleton education will support it. Then just fill in the details with examples from your stellar research!
We wish these tricky short answers actually had a trick! But the best piece of advice we can give you is to trust your gut, speak from the heart, and be specific. If you try to guess at what admissions wants you to say you’ll exhaust yourself — and likely end up with generic, cliché responses. To help yourself loosen up, try a timed freewrite: set a timer for 5 minutes and jot down as many ideas as you can come up with for each sentence. No stopping. No second-guessing. #NoRegrets. Be as concrete as possible, and keep the following tips in mind:
Then you’ll have plenty of options to edit, combine, and remix. As you wordsmith, keep in mind that the character count is slightly longer than that of a tweet, so you should be able to cram two-ish sentences into each answer. But for questions like these, brevity can be powerful, so don’t be compelled to use the entire character limit if you’ve found a creative or striking way to get your point across with less.
This truly optional essay isn’t for everyone, but it’s ideal for applicants who have a little extra explaining to do. Anything from a slip in your grades or scores to a long absence from school is fair game in this section. For some applicants, that could mean recounting the details of some extenuating circumstances (an injury or family emergency). Others may need to explain how getting a D in 10th grade chemistry was a wake-up call, and describe the steps they took to turn their grades around. Whatever your story, focus on your personal growth and triumphs. By featuring this prompt so prominently on the application, admissions is showing you that Carleton values your perspective. Admissions is also giving you a chance to tell your most pressing story upfront so that you can relax on the rest of the application and finish on a high note!