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How to Write Supplemental Essays for College: 6 Types of Supplemental Essay Prompts

Supplemental essays for college applications are a chance for you to tell colleges more about yourself. They're also a chance for colleges to ask questions that they wouldn't otherwise. There are six types of supplemental essay prompts, and I'll guide you to understand them all.

Writing good supplemental essays for your college applications is an absolute must. More than half (56.4%) of admissions officers in a 2018 poll conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling stated the application essays have a significant or substantial impact in making admission choices.

Knowing the supplemental question types can help you determine what to write and how to structure your answer. This post will go over each type of question, give an example, and suggest ways to approach the answer. Let's get started!

Some Prompts to Cover

1. Why Us?

The "Why Us?" supplemental essays are one of the trickiest and time consuming to write. You must demonstrate why you're applying to that specific school and why you're a good fit. Colleges want to know that you have thought about their school and what it has to offer. You do not need to list all the superficial reasons you like the school such as the beautiful campus, location, and standard courses. Instead, focus on a few specific institutional offerings that appeal to you. The key is to do extensive research on the college and paying special attention to what makes the university unique by leveraging the following:

  • University website: review the school mission statement, admissions requirement, faculty biographies, course catalog, events page, student groups and associations, newsroom, blogs.

  • Current students: finding students at nearby establishments or on campus to interview about their experience, leverage Reddit or Quora to ask questions

  • Social media: my personal favorite is YouTube since many students do long-form content focused on their day in a life at a certain university. You often get unbiased opinions about campus culture. TikTok, Instagram, Facebook could also be great forums to find more information at a college.

For example, if you're interested in the school's research opportunities, you might write about a specific project you're excited to work on. Whatever you choose to write about, make sure you are SPECIFIC as possible and connect it back to your interests.

2. Diversity Statement

Supplemental questions about diversity are designed to help colleges understand how they would contribute to campus life. They ask you to discuss your background, identity, and experiences. Some questions you might be asked include:

  • What has been your experience with diversity?

  • How would you contribute to the diversity of our college?

  • What are your thoughts on diversity?

When approaching this type of question, it is essential to be honest, and reflective. Talk about your experiences with diversity in and out of the classroom. Discuss how you would contribute to the diversity of your college. Be sure to avoid making generalizations about diversity.

For example,

I am a first-generation college student, and I come from a low-income family. I believe that my experience allows me to guide others who are in similar situations. I have been exposed to a variety of cultures and backgrounds living in the Silicon Valley, and found that embracing different groups has contributed to my success in making connections beyond the classroom. I believe that my inclusive mindset would contribute to the diversity of your institution.

3. Why Major?

What has led you to an interest in this major? Describe how this major relates to your future career goals. If you're undecided, describe how attending the institution will contribute to your ambitions.

There are a few ways to approach this question. You can discuss how your interest in the major developed, what you like about the major, and how you see it relating to your future career.

Take an example from a student who is interested in studying history. They might discuss how their interest in history began with a love of stories. They might discuss how they like learning about different cultures and how history can help them understand the present. Finally, they might discuss how they hope to use their knowledge of history in a career as a museum curator or a teacher.

4. Leadership Experience

Share your leadership experience and elaborate on your impact.

This is a common supplemental essay prompt. Colleges are looking for students who are leaders in their communities. They want to see evidence of your leadership skills and experience. One way to approach this prompt is to think about a time when you were in a leadership position. What did you do in that role? What challenges did you face? How did you handle them?

Another way is to think about a time when you saw someone else in a leadership role. What did they do that inspired you? How did they handle a difficult situation? Then discuss how this has impacted you. This can be a good way to show you understand what it takes to be a leader however I recommend sharing YOUR personal experience. Only use this tactic if you absolutely do not have your own story.


I have been a member of my school's varsity soccer team for the past three years. During that time, I served as captain for two years. One of the most important things I have learned about leadership is that it is not about having all the answers. It is about being able to listen to others, consider their ideas, and come to a decision that is best for the group. I have also learned the importance of being open to new ideas and ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

5. Extracurricular

What are your passions outside of the classroom? How have you pursued these interests?

Colleges want to know what you do outside of the classroom. They want to see that you're a well-rounded student who is involved in their community. These supplemental essays usually ask about your involvement in extracurricular activities, leadership roles, and volunteering. Ensure to incorporate the situation, any challenges, how you solved them, results, and your reflections.


Music is at my core. My life has multiple different soundtracks depending on my plans for the day. I have led our nationally ranked marching band to place in multiple competitions by demonstrating dedication and team unity. Music is my therapy, motivation, and savior.

6. Community

What does community mean to you? What community do you come from or identify with?

This type of supplemental essay asks about your definition of community and how you see yourself as a part of one. You can also discuss how you've contributed to your community or how you plan to do so in the future. You are encouraged to discuss your culture for this supplement.


I am the president of Gender-Sexuality Alliance and organised district meetings, workshops, and presentations to help the school administration address concerns we voiced about discrimination. I stand out because I am not a passive person. I follow through and do my best to aid in campaigns to better our community. Persistent and passionate even when I’m out of my depth. I am both willing to ask for help and eager to make a positive change in my LGBTQA+ community.

All these supplemental questions are designed to get to know you better as a person and a student through college applications. You should approach them with that in mind. College applications want to see the real you, so be honest and authentic in your responses. These supplemental essays are also an opportunity to show off your unique personality and interests. So, have fun with these supplemental questions!

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