A Guide — with Links — to the Supplemental College Admission Essays

A photo which illustrates college admissions advisors South Florida at International College Counselors share tips on the college admissions supplemental essays.

Colleges and universities that have supplemental college admission essays release their prompts each summer, usually on or before August 1, which is when the Common Application opens for each new application cycle. And every year, International College Counselors compiles a list of these essay prompts as they become available. Sometimes the prompts are the same as those from the prior year, and other times they are new. As always, families can find the Class of 2024 essay prompts on our Essay Prompt page, which will be updated as the new prompts are released.

What are the supplemental essays?

In addition to the main 250-650 word Common Application essay (aka the Personal Statement) that is used by most colleges, many colleges also require one or more additional essays and/or shorter answer questions specific to their institution. Supplemental college admission essays are typically—though not always—shorter, and they ask students to answer a more specific prompt. 

How do supplemental essays fit into the application?

A student’s main Personal Statement should tell admissions who they are. The supplements add detail and points of interest. 

The supplemental college admission essays help support a student’s story and provide the college with more information. In the main essay, a student tells a story that gives admissions officers an overall picture of the applicant. The supplemental essay answers serve to support that main narrative. In these essays, students have a chance to add personality and provide context. What a student can’t fit into their main essay, they can explore more deeply in the supplements, creating a clearer picture of them as a prospective student.

With some of the prompts, students have a chance to show why they belong at a specific school. For example, a common prompt asks a variation of “Why do you want to attend our school?” The answer should help show how what the college offers matches what the student is looking for—in other words, how the college and student fit together. 

How to answer the supplemental college admission essays: A general overview

For tips, read our blog post, “How to Write Remarkable Extracurricular College Supplemental Essays.” Read this blog for ICC’s tips on how to write the “Why this college essay.” We will be sharing more tips over the summer, so be sure to stay subscribed to our blogs!

Looking for one-on-one college admissions essay help?

Need help finding your story for the Common App essay and/or want support writing your other college admission essays? We offer amazing writing support services and more Common App essay tips through our sister company, Edit the Work.

International College Counselors

No matter where your family is in the college admissions process, International College Counselors can help you with every aspect. Call us at 954-414-9986 to discuss how we can support you and your family!