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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