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Top 4 most common supplement essay topics

Colleges often require different supplements for their applications. Here are the 4 most common topics.

Top 4 supplement topics:

  1. The “Why us” essay
  2. The “extracurricular” essay
  3. The “My favorite book” essay
  4. The “Intellectual interest” essay


The “Why us” essay


Many schools ask the “Why us” question. Why do you pick school so-and-so? This is a question regarding your “fit” to the school. Whatever you do, don’t talk about the weather and locations because there is probably more than one school under the same weather condition and in close proximity to the school. It is like when your girlfriend asks you “why do you want to be together?”, you say “because you happen to live next door.” This is especially an issue when students are writing about schools in New York or LA. They tend to focus on the Big Apple or the wonderful weather, but forget that there is more than one school in the city. You want your “Why us” answer to be unique to this particular school. If you want to go to NYU, don’t just praise about the city, you can mention something about a certain program or a professor you admire and how you can contribute to the program or research lab. Be specific, you can say something like “I read Prof. so-and-so’s most recent article on XYZ. I am interested in this topic and would love to contribute.” Mention how you can fulfill your goal in this school, how your skills and personality is a perfect fit to the school, and how you can contribute to the school. This question is about FIT not about qualification. The better you fit, the more likely they will want you.

The “extracurricular” essay

You have done so much. Your passion flows through everything your finger touches. This essay is EASY for you. OR you hate doing anything that’s not necessary or your parents don’t make you do. Whichever you are, you need to write an essay about your interest. First, you label what you’ve done into three categorizes: 1) Major achievement, 2) passion project, and 3) my-parents-made-me-do-it. I really really really hope you are not planning to write anything under categorize 3. In an ideal world, your passion project is also a major achievement. If not, you have a decision to make between your major achievement and your passion project. There are some factors you need to consider: 1) have you mentioned it at other places on your application? 2) which one makes a better story?, 3)which one gives you a greater recognition you first need to know. You don’t want to repeat the same story that you’ve written before. You want to write a “cool” story. If you are choosing between first chair in your local orchestra and doing rubik’s cube blindfolded, write rubik’s cube (my personal opinion). In addition, if your rubik’s cube talent lands you 1 million views on youtube whereas no one really knows you as a violinist in your community, write about rubik’s cube. (My parents made me play violin before, so I may or may not be biased against orchestra…)

The “my favorite book” essay


You are not writing a book report. Do not spend more than two sentences summarize the book. Write about how this book influences you. Why you love this book? Why is this book important to you? Any personal connection or meaning to you? Maybe you identify well with a certain character in the book? Maybe there is a quote that is so powerful you can’t forget it. Sure, this question asks you about a book, but what it’s really asking you is the connection between you and the book. This same principle goes to any “favorite whatever” essay. It’s always about you.

The “Intellectual interest” essay

An university, after all, is a place to learn (or party). Admission officers want to know more than just your past; they want to know about your future, namely what’s going to carry you through. Unlike your regular interest, intellectual interest is usually something that directly connects to a subject matter. The event or cause that triggers this interests, however, need not to be in a classroom. You can have an intellectual interest in language because your grandparents speak seven different languages, and they switch between languages according to which child they talk to. You can also have an intellectual interest in fluid dynamics because you are fascinating with how omelet is cooked. Don’t document every single things you’ve done to fulfill your intellectual interest. You should write one real life story that highlights the depth and impact of your interest. Maybe you once try to cook one hundred eggs in one setting, so you can study the process. You then want to connect your interest to the school or your major. How this school is going to support your intellectual interest, how you can contribute to the school with your interest. To recap, you identify your intellectual interest, you share a story, and you close with how you and the school can benefit from each other with your intellectual interest.



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