The College Application Process

April 5, 2023

The college application process: it consumes the lives of applicants and demands countless, grueling hours to accomplish the impossible task of condensing four years of high school and beyond for the review of college admissions officers. One of the most daunting hurdles to overcome for many applicants is the writing portion of the application process involving both the personal statement and supplements. The personal statement which is submitted to most colleges is a single 650-word (maximum) writing piece with almost no boundaries to the scope of topics as long as it unearths a part (or many parts) of your identity to make your application memorable amongst a growing sea of applicants. Supplements on the other hand vary by the institution, where some will require none whatsoever and others require up to eight. Most colleges will have on average one to four supplements ranging in prompts that provide more opportunities to develop your portrait for the admissions officers as a candidate for the institution’s incoming class. Especially if you are applying to many colleges, supplements can accumulate rapidly, posing extra stress to the process. Below are some tips to conquer the writing section of the application process to capture yourself as a memorable addition to the institutions on your list. 

  1. Research the supplements in the context of the specific institution
    • College Essay Guy – This website goes through specific advice and frameworks of the specific supplements of many colleges with examples that can help immensely when starting out.
    • College’s  mission statement – Each institution has its own values and characteristics that impact the lens of admissions officers when reviewing applications. Researching the institution’s website – including its mission statement – can help frame the content of your writing in terms of highlighting specific lessons, goals, and values you hold as a contribution to furthering their legacy. Often the supplements themselves can reveal what attributes the admissions officers are most intrigued by. Taking a unique spin on those specific characteristics can help admissions officers envision you as a valuable contributor to their campus. 
    • College Common Data Set – This includes insight into how much each institution values different sections of the application (interviews, extracurriculars, GPA, class rank, etc.) 
  1. Timeline – Start Early! 
    • Among crafting other parts of your application, the writing section should not be rushed to submit the best possible version. Starting as early as the summer/end of junior year can reduce a lot of the stress accompanied by the process. 
  1. Plan out your supplements – 
    • Many colleges have similar supplements where some are even identical. Having a document with all the supplements of the institutions you are applying to can help you categorize and put into scope how many supplements you will actually need to write from scratch. 
  1. Receive Feedback – 
    • Although some applicants choose to complete the entire writing section on their own, receiving feedback from others can be very helpful, especially for the ideation part. Ms. Cabrera provides incredible advice and other individuals in your life such as close friends/mentors can be great sources. Asking too many people can sometimes be more harmful than helpful. Always remember this arbitrary section doesn’t always have a “right” way in terms of content. 
  1. The “why college” supplement – 
    • This common supplement should encapsulate not only an acute interest in the institution but also why you would be a contributor to the institution. Researching the institution is imperative where the more specific details such as the names of specific professors that are involved in niche interests you share can help you stand out as an applicant. Some options to research are internships, specific classes, research programs, values (ex: interdisciplinary focus), study abroad, student organizations, etc. 
  1. YouTube videos! – 
    • Many former applicants post videos where they read the supplemental essays that helped them achieve acceptance at a specific institution. These videos can be very helpful in terms of gaining insight into the diverse topics and writing styles that applicants use that can help when brainstorming. 
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