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What is a Supplemental Essay?

A supplemental essay is an additional essay, besides the main one, submitted by applicants along with their college application. While the main college essay gives the admissions committee a peek into an applicant’s strengths and achievements, the supplemental essay provides more information on the applicant’s opinions, traits, and beliefs, based on which an application is either selected or rejected. 

Depending on the college or university, applicants may be required to submit one or more supplemental essays apart from the primary college essay

Common Supplemental Essay Topics

Supplemental essay topics are college-specific and therefore vary from one college to another. They are also different from the main college application essay topics

Below are some college supplemental essay example prompts from colleges across the country. 

1. Why Us? 

This is one of the most common questions asked by colleges. The aim of this question is to understand an applicant’s keenness to join a college or university. 

Following are some examples of ‘Why Us’ supplemental essay questions. 


  • Your moment has arrived. Share with us the moments or experiences that have led you to apply to Babson College. (500 words maximum) – Babson College Essay Prompt, 2022–2023.
  • Briefly describe why you are interested in attending SMU and what specific factors have led you to apply. (250-word limit) – Southern Methodist University, 2022–2023.
  • Why are you interested in American University? (150 words) – American University, 2022–2023
  • What is your motivation for pursuing higher education? Why do you believe George Mason University is the right institution for you? (400 word limit) – George Mason University, 2022–2023. 

2. Community Contribution

Colleges often prefer candidates who can add value to their community. If an applicant has already participated in community activities, then sharing such an experience is a good way to earn some brownie points.

Following are some examples of supplemental essay prompts that aim to understand a candidate’s willingness to be a part of a community. 


  • Sarah Lawrence College’s community places strong value in inclusion and diversity. Tell us about what you value in a community and how your perspective, lived experiences, or beliefs might contribute to your College community. (250-500 words) – Sarah Lawrence College, 2022–2023. 
  • As you look to join our community of doers and disruptors, in what ways do you envision using both the curricular flexibility and co-curricular opportunities to invoke change for marginalized groups? (250 words) – University of Rochester, 2022–2023. 
  • Share how you contribute to a community that is important to you. How long have you been involved? What have you learned and how would you like to share that with others at Virginia Tech? (120 words) – Virginia Tech, 2022–2023.
  • The Trinity College community is characterized by engagement, inclusion, and collaborative partnerships. Based on the different communities that you are a member of, how will you engage with and leave an impact on the Trinity College community? (300 words) – The Trinity College, 2021–2022.

3. Subject of Choice

This essay prompt helps admissions committees understand a candidate’s academic background, future goals, and the kind of support they would need from the college to achieve their academic goals. 

Following are some examples of supplemental essay prompts that direct students to elaborate on why they have chosen a particular subject. 


  • Please explain why you wish to study in the academic areas you selected. (150 word limit.) – Rice University, 2022–2023. 
  • Please write in the space provided describing your interest in the subject(s) you wish to study at the University of St Andrews. (400 words) – University of St Andrews, 2021–2022. 
  • Please tell us why you chose the Majors you did? (100 words) – The University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2022–2023.
  • Why do you want to study your chosen major specifically at Georgia Tech? (300 words) – Georgia Tech, 2022–2023. 

4. Non-Scholastic Activities

From being a member of a literary club to working as an apprentice, there are several extracurricular activities that help students develop new skills or hone existing ones. Essay prompts focused on non-scholastic activities intend to help admissions committees learn about an applicant’s skills developed from participating in extracurricular activities. 

Following are some examples of supplemental essay topics that focus on non-scholastic activities. 


  • Briefly (approximately one-half page, single-spaced) discuss the significance to you of the school or summer activity in which you have been most involved. – Harvard, 2022–2023. 
  • Have you participated in or been assisted in your college preparation and search by programs outside of the classroom, such as Educational Talent Search, Take Stock in Children, Upward Bound, Boys and Girls Club, etc.? (250 words) – University of Florida, 2022–2023. 
  • Tell us about a time when you advocated for something you believe in. (200 words) – University of Notre Dame, 2022–2023. 
  • Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (200-400 words) – The Vanderbilt University, 2022–2023. 

5. More About You

One way to tackle this question is to focus on strengths, skills, or interests that haven’t been mentioned in the college application or personal statement. Since the supplemental essay has to be kept short, writing about one or two specific traits or skills would suffice.

Below are some examples of supplemental essay prompts that are aimed at better understanding an applicant. 

  • In what ways are you the right fit for the distinctive educational and campus experience that Worcester Polytechnic Institute offers? (500 words max.) – Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 20212022. 
  • Use this space to share something you’d like the admissions committee to know about you (your interests, your background, your identity or your community) and how it has shaped what you want to get out of your college experience at Hopkins. (300-400 words) – Johns Hopkins University, 20222023. 
  • Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate—and us—get to know you better. (250 words max.) – Stanford University, 20222023. 
  • Tell us about something that is meaningful to you, and why? (250 words max.) – Stanford University, 20222023. 

Things to Remember while Writing Supplemental Essays

Supplemental essays should offer additional insights about an applicant to the admissions committee. Following are some points to consider while writing such an essay.

  • Non-repetitive content: The content of a supplemental essay should be unique. It should not repeat what is already mentioned in the college application or the personal statement
  • Word count limit: Supplemental essays include anywhere from 200 words to 500 words and are hence shorter than the main college admission essay.. It is important to read the essay guidelines and ensure that the supplemental essay does not exceed the word limit. 
  • Unconventional topics: Often, colleges come up with quirky topics to analyze an applicant’s ability to get creative. While attempting unconventional or controversial topics, it’s important to think outside the box to be able to impress the admissions officers. 

Although writing a supplemental essay isn’t always mandatory, admissions officers mostly give preference to applicants who choose to write and submit supplemental essays. These essays, when written well, can help an applicant get their foot in the door to getting an admission into their favorite college.  

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Supplemental essays are secondary essays that applicants are required to write and submit along with their college application.
Supplemental essays are secondary essays that applicants are required to write and submit along with their college application.
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