1. Don’t forget to ANSWER THE actual QUESTION. It’s not like the common app personal narrative where you can stray from the question as you like. 

2. Don’t repeat what’s in your personal statement. You can expand on something from your personal statement IF it actually adds info or value while answering the question directly.

3. DO RESEARCH. If the question asks why you want to attend that particular university or why you’re applying to a specific department, your should not be able to swap that answer for another university. This is the biggest problem I see when students are doing supplementals for multiple universities. 

For example, let’s say they ask this question: “Why do you want to attend our fine institution?” You probably need to cover some or most of the following…

  • If you know the field you want to study, discuss how their specific professors (by name) can contribute to your knowledge.
  • If they are known to do groundbreaking research in your field, discuss that. 
  • If they have state-of-the-art facilities for your field, like a chemistry lab, discuss that.
  • If they collaborate with actual businesses, hospitals, etc., in the real world…or if they have great internship programs, discuss that. 
  • Discuss some of the intangibles…the school spirit the university is known for. Something specific about the campus…a statue that means something to you. The students center. The mascot. The campus’s diversity. Anything that shows you’re ready to embrace the entirety of this university’s experience.
  • Discuss what YOU would contribute to the school, department, your peers, roommates. Often this is asked specifically—but if not, it wouldn’t hurt throwing these in somehow, especially if it’s a longer essay.

4. Edit, edit, edit until you have the most terse, most compact answer. Remove unneeded words and phrases. Admissions committees are looking for specific information, not for your grasp flowery adjectives and adverbs. Considering the answers, usually, or low in word or character count, you have to find creativity in sparse language. There is often room for it….but often not in flowery language. 

5. If the school has several supplemental questions, which many do, try to touch on many aspects of your personality. Show that you are a well-rounded person with many interests. Don’t be afraid to answer quirky questions with quirky answers.  

6. Answer the questions honestly. Just as you don’t have to use fancy words in all your responses, you don’t have to exaggerate, embellish, or flat out lie. When it asks about your favorite books…sure, you’re going to include some difficult reads on there (that you’ve actually read). But you can also list or discuss some quirky ones as well. This will show your personality. Of course, as an admissions officer from Brown said, you don’t just want to talk about young adult novels. You can probably leave those off entirely…but your list doesn’t have to be stacked with Tolstoy and Proust. They want to know you are a deep thinker…but you shouldn’t simply stack your list with books you think an Ivy League school would expect.



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