Supplemental essays are common in applications to selective schools. These school-specific questions are opportunities for students to communicate their interest in individual schools. Often, students focus their efforts on the Common Application Personal Statement, and dash off the supplemental questions’ answers at the last minute. Remember that application readers have come to expect highly polished personal statements. How can you persuade your reader that you work hard across all assignments, that you have thought about their school, and that you are a strong writer when you are composing with less support.
Here is a sampling of supplemental essay questions for nine schools. The tenth school, Washington University, asks for a resume. (University of Pennsylvania also asks for a resume, in addition to a supplemental essay.) Construct your resume seriously because it also presents your writing skills.
1. University of Chicago
2. Columbia University
3. Emory University
4. Johns Hopkins University
5. New York University
6. Northwestern University
7. University of Pennsylvania
8. University of Southern California
9. Tufts University
10. Washington University in St. Louis
University of Chicago
#1Choose one of the seven extended essay options and upload a one- or two- page response.
Orange is the new black, fifty’s the new thirty, comedy is the new rock ‘n’ roll, ____ is the new ____. What’s in, what’s out, and why is it being replaced? —Inspired by Payton Weidenbacher, Class of 2015
“I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for paradoxes.” –Maxine Hong Kingston. What paradoxes do you live with? —Inspired by Danna Shen, Class of 2019
Joan of Arkansas. Queen Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Babe Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mash up a historical figure with a new time period, environment, location, or occupation, and tell us their story. —Inspired by Drew Donaldson, Class of 2016
“Art is either plagiarism or revolution.” –Paul Gauguin. What is your “art”? Is it plagiarism or revolution? —Inspired by Kaitlyn Shen, Class of 2018
Rerhceseras say it’s siltl plisbsoe to raed txet wtih olny the frist and lsat ltteres in palce. This is beaucse the hamun mnid can fnid oderr in dorsdier. Give us your best example of finding order in disorder. (For your reader’s sake, please use full sentences with conventional spelling). —Also inspired by Payton Weidenbacher, Class of 2015. Payton is extra-inspirational this year!
In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose a question of your own. If your prompt is original and thoughtful, then you should have little trouble writing a great essay. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun.
In the spirit of historically adventurous inquiry, to celebrate the University of Chicago’s 125th anniversary, please feel free to select from any of our past essay questions, available at http://pastessays.uchicago.edu.
#2How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago.
#3Share with us a few of your favorite books, poems, authors, films, plays, pieces of music, musicians, performers, paintings, artists, blogs, magazines, or newspapers. Feel free to touch on one, some, or all of the categories listed, or add a category of your own.
#1What single activity listed in the activity section of your Common Application are you most proud of and why? (150 words or less)
#2List the titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or less.)
#3List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or less)
#4List the titles of the print, electronic publications and websites you read regularly. (150 words or less.)
#4List the titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or less.)
#5Please tell us what you find most appealing about Columbia and why. (300 words or less)
Essay Option 1 Last August, Susan Grant, chief nurse executive for Emory Healthcare, said this of Emory’s choice to treat patients with Ebola: "We can either let our actions be guided by misunderstandings, fear and self-interest, or we can lead by knowledge, science and compassion. We can fear, or we can care." Consider her idea of doing what is in the public interest despite potential cost. Please discuss an example in your life or the life of another that's come to your attention. (500 word limit)
Essay Option 2 In the interest of courageous inquiry, what question do you want to help answer and why? (500 word limit)
Johns Hopkins University
#1Johns Hopkins University was founded in 1876 on a spirit of exploration and discovery. As a result, students can pursue a multi-dimensional undergraduate experience both in and outside of the classroom. Given the opportunities at Hopkins, please discuss your current interests (academic, extracurricular, personal passions, summer experiences, etc.) and how you will build upon them here.
New York University
We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. We are particularly interested in knowing what motivated you to apply to NYU and more specifically, why you have applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and/or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please tell us why you are interested in each of the campuses, schools, colleges, or programs to which you have applied. You may be focused or undecided, or simply open to the options within NYU's global network; regardless, we want to understand - Why NYU? (400 word maximum)
#1What are the unique qualities of Northwestern - and of the specific undergraduate school(s) to which you are applying - that make you want to attend the University? In what ways do you hope to take advantage of the qualities you have identified?
University of Pennsylvania
#1How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying. (400-650 words)
#2Upload resume here.
University of Southern California
#1USC students are known to be involved. Briefly describe a non-academic pursuit (such as service to community or family, a club or sport, or work, etc.,) that best illustrates who you are, and why it is important to you. (250 word limit)
#2Describe your academic interests and how you plan to pursue them at USC. Please feel free to address your first- and second-choice major selections (250 word limit).
#3Quick Answer Questions
Describe yourself in three words.
Favorite fictional character:
Greatest invention of all time:
What do you like to do for fun?
Best movie of all time:
Favorite musical performer/band or composer:
#1Which aspects of Tufts’ curriculum or undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short: “Why Tufts?” (Required length is 50-100 words)
#2There is a Quaker saying: “Let your life speak.” Describe the environment in which you were raised—your family, home, neighborhood or community—and how it influenced the person you are today. (Required length is 200-250 words)
#3Answer one of the following questions. Think outside the box: take a risk and go somewhere unexpected. Be serious if the moment calls for it but feel comfortable being playful if that suits you, too. (Your response must be between 200 - 250 words.)
A. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—the first elected female head of state in Africa and winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize—has lived a life of achievement. “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough," she once said. As you apply to college, what are your dreams?
B. What makes you happy?
C. Science and society are filled with rules, theories and laws such as the First Amendment, PV=nRT, Occam’s Razor, and The Law of Diminishing Returns. In baseball, three strikes and you’re out. A green light on a roadway means “go.” Pick any law and explain its significance to you.
D. It’s cool to be smart. Tell us about the subjects or ideas that excite your intellectual curiosity.
E. Nelson Mandela believed that “what counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Describe a way in which you have made or hope to make a difference.
F. Celebrate the role of sports in your life.
Washington University in St. Louis
#1Upload resume here.