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The Short Answer

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A popular format for supplement questions is short answers. Don’t confuse these with the why, activity, community, or oddball essays. These are an entirely different beast. These little critters provide a different kind of creative challenge for aspiring college-goers. Take this set of short answer questions from the 2014 Yale application:

“What excites you intellectually, really?” (250 Characters)

“Think about a disappointment you have experienced. What was your response?” (250 Characters)

“Suite-style living – four to six students sharing a set of rooms – may be an integral part of your Yale College experience. What would you contribute to the dynamic of your suite?” (250 Characters)

“What do you wish you were better at being or doing?” (250 Characters)

250 characters is not a lot of characters, which means the challenge of answering these questions lies half in generating honest, unique and clever ideas, and the other in being concise. Humorous answers can also have heavy impact here. Our advice to you: brainstorm. Think of as many ideas as you possibly can for each short answer and get them all on the page. When narrowing down your choices, think about representing a range of your personality traits and interests. If you say the overlap of food and science excites you intellectually, don’t say you will bring an immersion circulator into your dorm room to cook ramen for your roommates sous vide (though that would be awesome – please be our roommate). Use that space to elaborate on something totally new that admissions officers might enjoy knowing. Once your general plan for your answers is solidified you will be able to cut and condense your way under the limit.

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