Are you applying to college soon and wondering how to approach the supplemental essays? In this blog we’re going to go through five of the top mistakes we see students make when filling out their supplemental essays on their college applications.

Supplemental essays can vary widely so these are just general tips that we find are good for most supplemental essays but every supplemental essay is different.

Tip 1 – Don’t Repeat

This is a universal tip for every kind of supplemental essay. One of the biggest mistakes we see students make is, after writing a wonderful common application essay or personal statement, repeating the same ideas (favorite subject, activity, etc.) on your supplemental essays. Though it’s good to have a through line outlining who you are, we don’t want to use the same information on every single type of essay. Make sure you diversify the content that you put in your essays. That might even mean changing what you write in your common application essay about. We even suggest not writing your common app essay about your personal academic passion because often times that question comes up in your supplemental essays. Be aware this might inform how to structure what you write about and where, and that’s good to make sure you that you get everything in. Just because something is most important to you doesn’t mean it has to be in your common app essay, it can be in other places and that’s okay.

Tip 2 – Don’t Just Answer The Question

For most of you, this might seem odd as your first reaction would be just to answer what you are being asked. If you do straightforwardly answer the questions, often times you’re not going to impress colleges the way that you could. If your answers to the supplemental questions look like something you could’ve listed out or used check boxes on, you have not taken advantage of the essay format. Any time you have an essay you have an opportunity and that opportunity is to tell a story and to share who you are and what kind of a person you are. There is a reason colleges let you write his information in essay form and that is to allow for your personal voice and creativity to shine.

Tip 3 – Don’t Tell That… Tell Why

Somewhere in the supplemental questions, these colleges are going to ask you about what you’re passionate about and it’s easy for students to go on about what they love and state activities they’ve done around that. But if you’re just going to tell colleges that you like something, they’re not going to understand why you like it. They’re going to want to know why you as a human being are well suited for that area of interest and what of that interest is most appealing to you. Always go for the “why” and not just the “what”.

Tip 4 – Don’t Be Afraid To Overwrite And Cut

One of the mistakes students make on supplemental essays is that because supplemental essays are supposed shorter, students feel that they cannot fit that much information in the response and underwrite. The better way to approach these essays is to write longer and write what you need to write in order to get a point across and then trim off the sides and go to the point. If you do the wrong approach and shrug your shoulders saying that you don’t have enough space, you’re never going to say something interesting or impactful. Start by figuring out what it is that you want to say, feel comfortable writing over the word limit, and cut out the fluff by focusing on the main points. You can still tell a really good story, you just have to be concise and careful about how you do it and it can be done.

Tip 5 – Don’t Settle For Boring Answers

Often times we find that when students start to write these shorter essays that they are much more complacent to settle for boring answers. What we mean by boring answers is answers that 50 other people could have given. You want to stand out and you want to be interesting. What you’re tying to do is to get the person who’s reading your essay to fight for you at the admissions table. You’re trying to be such an awesome and cool sounding person so that when they sit down among 8-10 other people around a table that they stick up their hand and make the case you. Try to create variety in how you talk about things. Ask yourself how do you entertain as you answer the questions and how you can put your personality on the page so that the supplemental essays can help you get into the schools you that want to attend