The Ins and Outs of the College Supplemental Essay!

As December rolls around and the days get shorter, you might be spending these chilly evenings (at least it’s cold here in New England...) putting the final touches on your college applications. Maybe (we hope!) you’re even prepping your application to Olin.

If that’s the case, you’ve already seen that we have one required supplemental essay in addition to the Common App Personal Statement.  We also have an optional supplemental essay, but that is simply an opportunity for you to share any further information about yourself that might be missing from your application.    

So, you may be thinking “NO PLEASE, why must I keep writing things for you?!” ….well, we promise it has a purpose. In our holistic review process, we make admission decisions based on how each component of the application contributes to the overall picture of you as a full, well-rounded person that comes to light when we are reading your application A supplemental essay is another vehicle with which you can share information about you- what makes you tick, what you’re passionate about, what matters to you. It builds on and enhances the academic information from your school and the comments that your recommenders make.  In its best sense, it’s another chance for the admission folks to hear directly from you – in your own voice – about things that matter both to you and to the college you’re applying to. 

However, though it’ll help us learn more about you, the supplemental is not another Personal Statement. Where the Personal Statement is general, can basically be about anything, and is “you-centric”; the supplemental essays are meant to show your alignment with the college you’re applying to. Some schools will ask questions that seem “serious” while others may ask questions that seem “silly or funny”- but they’re all usually to gauge how you would fit with the community and whether you share similar values/interests/goals held by the college. 

For example, at Olin, our supplemental essay for this application cycle is:  

“Olin is a community striving to change the world and positively impact people’s lives through engineering education. What change do you hope to be a part of? Why is this particular change important to you? How do you want to use engineering to impact and improve the world?” 

We care deeply about creating a community of students who are empathetic and want to use engineering to impact the world positively; so, for us to confidently build a class with these qualities it helps to ask about it directly! Don’t worry though, you don’t need to have a fully hashed out 12-step plan on how to save the world ready to go...we just want to see that it’s something you are interested in. 

Now on for some quick tips to conquer your supplemental essays! 

  • Don’t underestimate the supplemental essay and its significance! I know after having filled out many applications, writing more essays doesn’t exactly sound like a walk in the park. It may seem tempting to breeze through them and I get it! But take your time and remember that they exist so the college you’re applying to can understand why you are a good fit for them. View it as a chance to show even more of yourself and all the cool things you have to offer! 

  • Focus on being tailored! If a school is asking why you want to attend their institution, make sure to include differentiating information that is specific to the school. The goal is that the supplemental essay for college X won’t sound exactly the same as supplemental essay for college Y. In Olin’s case though (as with many other schools), we aren’t asking why you want to attend Olin. Even if it isn’t a “Why X College” essay though, you’ll still want to think about what’s important to that school and have that in the back of your mind while you craft your answer. 

  • There isn’t one right answer. This is super important to remember. Though we’re asking for more information via the supplemental essay for a reason, we aren’t looking for one secret special answer. There are so many ways to “fit” in a college, and contribute to a campus, that we actually hope we see varied and authentic answers! Having lots of different types of folks with varying backgrounds and unique perspectives is what a healthy and empathetic community is made of. 

  • Proofread it! Then proofread it again! This one goes without saying, make sure to give it some additional look overs before hitting that submit button. Having a proofread essay shows me as the admission officer that you care about this application and put effort into it. 

You got this and we hope to be reading your Olin application soon! 😊  

cat with caption saying don't be nervous you got this