Most creative college supplements from 2021-2022 application cycle

Universities across the U.S. rely on supplement essays to differentiate applicants beyond grades and test scores. To stand out as an applicant that will thrive and fit in with campus culture, you will have to illustrate your unique personality through your essays. Distilling your extracurricular accomplishments, intellectual vitality, and defining experiences into a few hundred words is a challenging test of endurance, especially when you’re applying to multiple schools.

The essays are a crucial opportunity to connect with the Admissions Officers by highlighting who you are. In addition to the main Common App essay, some schools have fun yet challenging essay prompts that require creativity and thoughtful planning. These questions are intentionally provocative to encourage students to think outside the box and capture your unique voice. Approach them with sarcasm, seriousness, or through a scholarly lens – whatever sets you apart as a future university community member.

Yale University
What inspires you? (200 characters)

The prompt’s simplicity also gives rise to its complexity. Enthusiasm is infectious, so be honest with your answer even within the limited space.

Stanford University
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)

Although the structure and tone of your essay response will be rather informal, it is an important avenue to showcase how you would be a vibrant and valuable addition as a part of the wider campus community. After all, students contribute to the university beyond academics. Let your personality shine by writing about your everyday life, quirks and all. Strike a balance between describing your day-to-day life and explaining what these little details mean to you.

Brown University
Brown students care deeply about their work and the world around them. Students find contentment, satisfaction, and meaning in daily interactions and major discoveries. Whether big or small, mundane or spectacular, tell us about something that brings you joy. (200-250 words)

Between narrowing down the topic, direction, and message of your response, Brown’s supplement offers a lot of considerations to think about. Start brainstorming by making a list of things that spark joy, then use that as a starting point to explore possible answers that illustrate your personality and values.

Dartmouth College
The Hawaiian word mo’olelo is often translated as “story” but it can also refer to history, legend, genealogy, and tradition. Use one of these translations to introduce yourself. (250-300 words)

Integrating an unfamiliar Hawaiian word or translation may be intimidating, but the heart of this essay focuses on your personal story. Maximize this supplement’s breadth and freedom with a meaningful answer that celebrates yourself and an indication of your values.

University of Southern California
Describe yourself in three words. (3 words)

The challenge behind this prompt is coming up with three adjectives to describe yourself that are authentic, yet not overused by other applicants. 

University of Chicago
What’s so easy about pie? (1-2 pages)

Chicago is especially known for their wacky prompts that encourage applicants to stretch their thinking beyond traditional academic standards. In the spirit of scholarly exploration in the face of intellectual uncertainty, Admissions Officers are looking to understand students’ personalities and how they will navigate unfamiliar situations on campus and their personalities.

Rice University
The Rice Box: In keeping with Rice’s long-standing tradition, please share an image of something that appeals to you. (1 photo)

Like all questions – there is no right answer. From the thousands of photos in your camera roll of food pictures, sunsets, or screenshots, choose an image that distills your personality and application.

Get started on brainstorming and writing! While writing college essays takes a substantial amount of time and effort, it will be worth it once you create an application that deeply reflects on who you truly are.

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Most common majors from Singaporean applicants

Starting your university applications, but not sure what majors or programs to apply for?

That’s only natural. Choosing a major can be a stressful decision that forces one to consider the intersection of passion and practicality. This might involve some reverse engineering: if you have an idea of what you want to do in the future, you can work backwards and use this information to discern what to major in right now.

Drawing on the data we’ve gathered from ten years-worth of university consulting – during which we’ve helped over a thousand students gain admission to the schools of their dreams – we compiled a list of the most common major choices amongst Singaporean applicants:

Business Administration
Business Analytics
Organizational Management
Risk Management
Aerospace Engineering
Biomedical Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Civil Engineering
Computer Science
Electrical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Physical/Life Sciences
Social Sciences
Political Science
International Relations
Mathematical Sciences
Applied Mathematics

Worth noting, first of all, is that whether applying to Singapore or universities abroad, these popular major choices always seem to prevail amongst applicants.

From Applied Mathematics to Aerospace Engineering, STEM subjects make up a majority of the course diversity found above. This makes sense, given Singapore’s quintessential role as a hub for scientific and technological achievement in this ever-advancing world. From a return-on-investment standpoint, such degrees are conventionally considered to be some of the most lucrative. Notable among these is Computer Science – a subject that, just a decade ago, was nowhere near as popular as it is today.

While STEM majors are on the rise, this is not to say that non-STEM courses have become any less sought-after. After all, without a thorough understanding of people and how they organize, science and technology could never have evolved, nor would we know how to translate valuable research findings into effective policy.

Additionally, as interdisciplinary learning continues to gain prevalence in the world of higher education, cross-exploration between the social sciences and humanities has become all the rage, owing to the seamless and never-ending links to be found across their various disciplines. This includes Business and Finance majors, too, who often venture into Political Science, Sociology, Economics, and Psychology to better understand their own subject matter.

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Most common US Universities Singaporean applicants apply to

Although Singapore is known for sending thousands of students to UK universities each year, many recent applicants are increasingly inclined toward the US for the different academic experience it promises – one that prides extracurricular involvement and flexibility in academic exploration. Drawing on the data we’ve gathered from ten years-worth of university consulting – during which we’ve helped over a thousand students gain admission to the schools of their dreams – we compiled a list of the most common US university choices amongst Singaporean applicants. 

Because the process of choosing universities is a very individualized one, you should by no means treat this as an exhaustive list of all your options. There are thousands of other great universities out there, and each comes with specialties and idiosyncrasies worth exploring. Treat this list instead as a reference – a starting point to the application journey on which you will soon embark.

The Ivy League

Brown University Columbia University
Cornell University Dartmouth College
Harvard University Princeton University
University of Pennsylvania Yale University

As expected, the Ivy Leagues frequently feature in students’ university lists. In fact, it’s safe to say that nearly every aspiring US applicant we’ve come across has applied to at least one of these eight household names.

Because each Ivy League boasts their own unique package of strengths,  no particular school has proven to be more sought-after than the rest. In fact, though Harvard, Princeton, and Yale are considered to be the most prestigious of the lot, the other five colleges are still extremely popular amongst applicants, growing closer to the Big Three in competitiveness with each admissions cycle.

Ivy League Adjacents

California Institute of Technology Duke University
Johns Hopkins University Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Northwestern University Stanford University
University of Chicago

The above universities – while not Ivy Leagues in name – are no less competitive. Unofficially known as “Tier 1 universities,” these schools have acceptance rates of below ten percent (and declining). Take MIT, for example. Their admissions statistics alone tell us that the vast majority of their applicants are more than academically qualified – yet their acceptance rate sits at 6.7%.

However, their selectivity comes with good reason, as these schools, like the Ivy Leagues, are world-renowned for their vast resources and cutting-edge research – all of which are made abundantly accessible to those fortunate enough to attend.

Reach vs. Target: A Fine Line

Boston University Carnegie Mellon University
Emory University New York University
Northeastern University Tufts University
University of Southern California

While less competitive than the aforementioned schools, these so-called “Tier 2 universities” still possess acceptance rates of between 10% and 20%. Even for the most qualified of students, these choices would have to be considered as no less than “Hard Targets,” while for others, they are more-than-likely “Reaches.”

Public vs. Private

Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Los Angeles University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
University of Michigan University of Texas, Austin

While all the schools featured so far have been private universities, there is also a significant subset of public universities that most students consider at some point their application journey. From ranking to ranking, the above choices are consistently listed among the top ten public universities in the US, and among the top hundred in the world. Like their private counterparts, most of these institutions are extremely reputable, with extensive offerings and strong research systems. Public universities, however, are typically much larger than private universities and are vastly attended by in-state students, who receive subsidized tuition fees.

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