Beyond the Common App
The personal statement that’s part of the Common Application gets a lot of attention from students, parents and counselors. If you started yours in June and are nearly finished, good for you! But those applying to more selective colleges may still have other hurdles ahead of them: supplemental essays. By far the most common is the “Why us?” essay, followed by “Tell us about one of your activities.” Many times additional questions can be all over the map, from “What type of community do you come from?” to “What makes you happy?” to “How do you feel about Wednesday?” (yes, the last one came from the University of Chicago!).
You’ll want to plan out your essays carefully, looking for overlap. For instance, the activities answer could do double duty at another school. The “Why us?” answer is trickier, because the best responses are the most specific. But you should be able to reuse some material, as long as you are extra careful to get the name of the college right!
Because they are supplemental, you may think that these essays are less important than the personal statement. You couldn’t be farther from the truth! The Common App has to be useful for a very wide variety of schools, so the questions must be generic enough for all of them. In the supplements, the college is able to ask whatever that institution really wants to know. So read the question carefully and be sure to answer what they’re asking. No matter what the question, the answer should reveal as much as possible about you, the applicant.
So don’t slack off after finishing the Common App personal statement. And remember, even if the application says these supplemental essays are “optional” – they’re not really optional! Not if you want the best chance of admissions. If you have any concerns about increasing your chances of admission, call me at 847-660-8625, or fill out the “contact me” form at the bottom of the page.