top of page

What’s Up with Supplementals? 7 Things You Need to Know

For admissions boards, the college essay you write is kind of like your first impression of your best friend. "Whoa, that person seems talented and interesting! What great style!" Supplemental writings are like when you actually get to talk to that awesome person, hear their stories, and find out what makes them so great.

Supplemental writing is an opportunity for you to tell your unique story and reveal a more detailed portrait of who you are and why you’ll be a standout candidate for admission.

At UnCommon Apps, we know the art of the supps, and below you’ll find out tips for writing stellar supplementals.

1. Write with style.

Just like your longer essays, short answer questions are a chance for the admissions committee to get to know you as a person and as a writer. Show off a little and don’t be afraid to sound like yourself.

2. Tell your story.

What makes you UnCommon? No matter how brief the word count you’re given, use those words to tell a story to bring your values and experiences to life.

3. Dive into detail.

Supplemental questions are often about big ideas--leadership, community-building, reasons for choosing your major. Instead of making a generalization, say the most specific idea you can to get to the heart of your point. “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor” could become “my toy stethoscope opened my ears to my future career as a doctor.”

4. Don't repeat ideas.

Because you’re working with 250 words (or less!), read through each sentence to get rid of any ideas that are repetitive. Making these cuts leaves more room for specific details.

5. Get emotional.

Committees can look at your resume to see what you’ve accomplished, but in supplementals, you’ll get a chance to tell them how you felt about your experiences. This is a chance for you to let them see your emotional intelligence in action.

6. Define the terms.

Supplementals often ask about ideas like leadership, community, inclusion, etc. Before you start writing, think about your definition of the idea--in your experience, what does being a leader mean, and what has that looked like in your life? Being specific about what you believe to be true about the big idea shows maturity and depth.

7. Name names.

One of the simplest ways to improve your supplementals is to name the people in your story. This allows readers to imagine the world you’re creating a bit more clearly. “My coach” becomes “Coach Brown,” “my dog” becomes “Loba,” “my algebra teacher” becomes Mrs. Ramirez.”

Need a true supplemental guru (yes, that’s a thing) to help your app get UnCommon? Work with UnCommon Apps writing coaches Sarah and Caitlin in an online workshop or individual coaching session.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page