30 Days to Freedom

Communicating with the College

Comments Off on Communicating with the College 01 November 2013

You’re almost done! Get rid of any cobwebs of doubt hanging out in the corners of your mind. Burst on the scene and say something new in each of your supplement essays. That’s right: each supplement essay is a chance to add ONE more reason to believe in you and to show your fit for a specific college. You’re almost there…keep going!


Ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing this college doesn’t already know about me?” That’s what you should write about. Yes, yes, you do need to answer the question, but the question is really a vehicle to reveal your character.


Each essay adds another reason to believe in you. Taken together your application and supplement essays tell a story about you. What do colleges need to know about you? Which story do you need to tell them? Remember, it doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, but it needs to be authentic, written from your heart and spirit, not your mind.


If you haven’t already organized all your supplements, here’s how to whip them into shape: take a look at all the supplements you need to write for all the colleges you are applying to. Perhaps there are 4 about community (500, 300, 250 and 200 words), 2 about issues (both 250 words), and several that are one-offs (YOLO, Change of Perspective, and Activity). Write the longest version of each essay first; it’s much easier to shorten than to stretch things out later.

Pull out your CAT chart to capture your ideas, and consider: what connections do you have with this particular college? Which actions and stories reveal those connections? And what will the reader of your essay take away from reading this particular story?














Types of Supplements


The most common supplement questions are about Community, Issues and Influences, so we’re going to focus on those in our last post. First, take time to break down the question and understand exactly what the question is asking for. Then free write to explore which stories you might use to frame your answer.


There are 2 main types of community question:

  • What are the communities that have shaped you (this is about your background and identity);
  • What do you bring to the community (this one is asking who you will be in your campus community).
  • You have many, many stories about the communities you’ve grown up in! Definitely include one of those stories here, and include lots of specific, local details!


A question about issues is asking what are you committed to, and what have you done to make a difference around those things.

  • It helps to remember how you came to be involved in the issue in the first place. Maybe your parents were involved, and then there was a moment you made that issue your own?
  • This question is not asking you for a speech, or to take a position on your issue, but to show a diverse group of people what matters to you and why. So beware of using this question as a soapbox to advocate for your position! Speak softly and show what you’ve done to make a difference instead.
  • “But what if I haven’t really been involved in it yet,” someone always asks at this point. What happens in your own mind does not count. Get out and get involved! Now!


There are 2 very different types of influence question; they both get asked a lot:

  • Describe a person who has influenced you?
  • What books, works of science and art have shaped you?
  • The important thing in the influence essay is to make sure the essay is about you, not just about the person or book that has influenced you.


Remember: no matter what else your supplement essay is about, first and foremost it’s about who you are as a person. What is the most important thing that colleges need to know about you? Whatever that is, tell them!


Congrats on sticking with your essays and ignoring the Common App tech glitches long enough to get your essays done! It’s Halloween so dress up as your favorite fantasy and let the wild rumpus begin!


Still have questions? Let us help! You can email sophie.herron@storytocollege.com, find us on Facebook, or tweet us @storytocollege with hashtag #essayfreedom.


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Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO of Story To College and author of Write Out Loud, has taught over 10,000 students–from first-generation college students to the children of bankers and CEOs–and teachers from around the world how to tell their stories and write essays that win admission and scholarships at their top choice colleges.

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