How to Answer Supplemental Essay Questions

by Jennifer Krydynski

Supplemental essay questions are often asked of students in addition to their main essay or personal statement. These questions are relatively short answer questions that give you a chance to highlight anything that may be missing from your overall application. Here are some tips you can use to approach these types of questions.

  1. Organize all your supplemental responses into a Google Doc.
    This is a great way to keep you organized and make sure you are answering everything thoroughly. It also helps with editing when you ask someone to proofread your responses.
  2.  Write all supplements, even if they are optional.
    Responding to these questions, even if they are not required, demonstrates interest in the school and it also gives the person reviewing your application more information that could help support your admission into the college.
  3. Personalize your responses to match what the school is looking for in a student.
    Each school has a section on their website that describes the kind of student they are looking for or the type of experience they hope to offer at their school. Read through this and take notes of the things that appeal to you. Then, when you are responding to the questions, be sure to include personal examples from your experiences that match what the school is seeking or offering.

    For example: Beloit College has a section titled “Our Story,” where they essentially tell you they are looking to develop students that are effective communicators, creative problem solvers, productive collaborators, and intellectually and professional agile thinkers. In their supplemental section, they ask questions where you have the opportunity to highlight these characteristics.

  4. When responding to short answer questions, be concise and get straight to the point.
    These questions typically have a lower word count than your personal statement, so it is important that you answer them directly and be concise. Stick to relaying the facts or examples you want to present and don’t necessarily tell a story like you would in your personal statement.

As with any type of writing, it is important that you proofread! Have someone else look at your responses before you submit them. While this type of writing may be a little more informal, you want to make sure that it is free of errors and that your responses reflect what you are trying to convey. You want your supplements to enhance your application, not detract from it.