15 Key Steps to Polish Your Supplemental Essays to Perfection

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

How To Prepare For Grad School

15 Key Steps to Polish Your Supplemental Essays to Perfection

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task of writing supplemental essays, you’re not alone. But don’t worry, there are some steps you can take to make the process easier and more effective. We’ve put together 15 tips to help you polish your supplemental essays and make them really shine. By the end, you should feel confident in your ability to show off your unique qualities and experiences to the admissions committee. Let’s get started!

1. Understanding the Prompt Thoroughly

When writing your college supplemental essays, the first step is to understand the prompt clearly. Take time to read and analyze it carefully. Look for instructions and specific questions within the prompt. Break it down into smaller parts if needed, identify key themes, and highlight keywords.

If you don’t fully comprehend the prompt, you may miss the mark with your essay. So, take your time to understand it before you begin brainstorming and writing. This will help you effectively shape your response to meet the expectations of the college.

2. Brainstorming Unique Personal Experiences or Perspectives

To write a great essay, think about your unique experiences, interests, and values that make you who you are. Consider moments of growth, challenges overcome, or insights gained. Focus on what sets you apart from other applicants, such as a hobby, a volunteer experience, a cultural background, or a personal belief.

Jot down any ideas that come to mind and evaluate each one based on its relevance to the prompt and its potential to showcase your character and personality effectively. Keep it authentic and meaningful to you.

3. Developing a Clear Thesis or Main Idea

When writing a supplemental essay, it’s important to have a clear thesis or main idea. This is the central argument or message that you want to convey to the admissions committee. Think about what you want them to know about you and make sure your thesis is specific and related to the prompt.

Avoid vague or overly broad statements and focus on articulating a unique thesis that reflects your experiences and perspective. Your thesis will guide you through the writing process and ensure coherence and relevance in your essay.

A student writing her essays

4. Organizing Your Thoughts Logically

Organizing your thoughts is crucial to creating a well-written essay. Start by outlining the main points you want to cover, including an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Make sure each paragraph flows logically from one to the next by using transitional phrases and considering the order and connections between ideas.

A well-organized essay is easier for the reader to follow and understand, so take the time to plan before you write to ensure a compelling and coherent final product.

5. Using Concrete Examples and Anecdotes

When writing your supplemental essays, it’s important to use specific examples and stories to support your points. Don’t rely on abstract ideas or general statements. Instead, think of moments that showcase your character, values, or talents and relate them to the main points of your essay.

Provide enough detail to make your essay memorable. Describe the setting, characters, and actions involved, and convey the emotions or insights you experienced. By grounding your essay in real-life examples, you’ll make it more engaging for the reader and stand out to the admissions committee.

6. Showing, Not Telling

In your supplemental essays, it’s important to show, not just tell, the admissions committee about yourself. Rather than simply stating qualities or characteristics, demonstrate them through your actions, experiences, and interactions.

For example, instead of saying “I am a leader,” you could describe a specific instance where you took on a leadership role and the impact it had on those around you. By showing your leadership abilities in action, you provide concrete evidence to support your claims.

Similarly, avoid using vague or overused adjectives to describe yourself. Instead, use descriptive language and specific details to paint a vivid picture of who you are and what you value. This approach not only makes your essay more engaging but also allows the admissions committee to form a deeper understanding of your personality and potential.

7. Being Concise and to the Point

It’s important to be clear and to the point. Admissions officers read a lot of essays, so avoid fluff and filler content. Choose your words carefully and eliminate repetitive phrases. Focus on one main idea or example per paragraph, and keep your sentences clear and straightforward.

By being concise, you’ll make a stronger impression on the admissions committee and stand out among the rest.

8. Using Active Voice and Varied Sentence Structures

When writing your supplemental essays, try to use active voice. It makes your writing clear and powerful. Instead of saying “The decision was made by me,” say “I made the decision.” Also, vary your sentence structures to keep your writing interesting.

Use sentences of different lengths and types, like simple, compound, and complex sentences. This will make your writing flow better and be more enjoyable to read. By doing these things, you can make your supplemental essays better and impress the admissions committee.

9. Editing for Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling Errors

To improve the quality of your supplemental essays, take the time to carefully edit them for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Review your essays word by word, sentence by sentence, and paragraph by paragraph. Look out for common grammatical errors such as subject-verb agreement, verb tense consistency, and proper use of punctuation marks.

Use spelling and grammar checkers to catch obvious errors, but also manually review your essays to ensure accuracy and precision in your writing. Consider reading your essays aloud or asking someone else to proofread them for you. Make any necessary revisions to improve the clarity and coherence of your essays before submitting them.

View of a student writing in an exam sheet.

10. Seeking Feedback from Peers, Teachers, or Mentors

After you’ve checked your supplemental essays for mistakes, it’s a good idea to get feedback from others. Share your essays with people you trust to provide constructive criticism. Ask them to read carefully and offer suggestions for improving your arguments, clarity, and coherence.

Be open to feedback and willing to make revisions. Consider forming a small writing group with peers to exchange essays and provide feedback. Seeking feedback from others will help you gain valuable insights and perspectives, and improve your writing skills.

11. Revising Based on Feedback

After you get feedback from peers, teachers, or mentors on your supplemental essays, it’s time to revise them. Look for areas that need improvement and focus on addressing specific feedback. Rewrite sections, reorganize the structure, or add more detail to strengthen your essays. Be willing to make significant revisions if necessary.

Once you’re done, review your essays one final time to ensure they meet your quality and professionalism standards.

12. Ensuring Your Essay Reflects Your Voice and Personality

Make sure your supplemental essays truly represent you. Admission officers want to know you as an individual, so your essays should reflect your voice and personality. Make sure your essays capture your unique perspective, values, and experiences, and avoid trying to copy someone else’s writing style. Always be true to yourself and let your own voice shine through in your writing.

Honesty and sincerity are crucial when writing supplemental essays. By expressing your genuine personality, you can make a stronger connection with the admissions committee and increase your chances of success in the college admissions process.

Remember to ask yourself if your essays sound like something you would say and make any necessary revisions to align them more closely with your authentic self.

13. Tailoring Each Essay to the Specific College or Program

It’s important to research the institution and customize your essays to show your interest. Learn about the college’s values and culture and think about how they align with your own. Use specific examples from the college such as courses, professors, research opportunities, or extracurricular activities that appeal to you.

Avoid generic statements and show the admissions committee why you’re a good fit for their institution and how you can contribute to their community. By doing this, you will increase your chances of standing out among the other applicants.

Writer typing with retro writing machine. View from above.

14. Double-Checking Word Limits and Formatting Guidelines

Make sure to carefully review the word limits and formatting guidelines provided by the college or program before submitting your supplemental essays. Adhering to these requirements will demonstrate your attention to detail and professionalism. Pay close attention to the word limits for each essay and make sure that your essays fall within the specified range.

If you exceed the word limit, revise your essays to trim any unnecessary content while still preserving the integrity of your message. Additionally, follow any formatting guidelines provided by the college or program, such as requirements for font size, margins, spacing, and file format.

Failure to follow these guidelines can reflect poorly on your application and may even lead to your essays being disqualified. Take the time to double-check these details before submitting your applications to ensure that your supplemental essays are polished to perfection.

15. Proofreading One Last Time Before Submission

Before submitting your supplemental essays, it’s important to proofread them one last time. This will help you catch any errors or inconsistencies and ensure that your essays are polished and ready to impress the admissions committee. Carefully read through each essay and look for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and clarity issues.

Consider reading your essays aloud or asking someone else to proofread them for you. Once you’ve made any necessary revisions, review your essays as a whole to ensure that they effectively convey your message and align with your goals and values. By proofreading one last time, you’ll be confident in submitting your applications and making a positive impression.

How Long Should My Supplemental Essays Be?

Remember that when you write your supplemental essays, you need to follow any specific word or character limits given by the college or program. These limits are set so everyone gets an equal chance to express their thoughts and experiences within a reasonable length.

You might want to write long essays to include all your achievements and experiences, but you should try to be brief and focused on your writing. Try to convey your message effectively within the word or character limit, and make sure your writing is clear and understandable.

Also, keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity for your supplemental essays. Admissions officers appreciate essays that are well-written, thoughtful, and straight to the point. Rather than trying to include as much information as you can, focus on the most relevant and impactful examples to support your arguments and showcase your qualifications.

If you’re having trouble staying within the limit, consider revising your essays to eliminate any unnecessary details or repetitive content. Make sure every word you write contributes meaningfully to your overall message.

Man professional content writer working on web page via laptop computer while sitting in coffee shop during free time.

How Should My Supplemental Essays be Formatted?

When writing your supplemental essays, it’s important to make them look professional and easy to read. Most colleges and universities have specific rules for how your essay should look. This usually includes things like what font size to use, how big the margins should be, and how much space to leave between lines.

Usually, they recommend using 12-point Times New Roman or Arial font, with 1-inch margins and double spacing between lines. You should also submit your essay in a common file format like PDF or Word. Following these rules shows that you care about the details and want to do things the right way.

Also, think about how your essay looks on the page. Use headings and subheadings to help organize your thoughts and make it easy for the reader to follow along. You can use bold or italics to highlight important points but don’t go overboard with fancy fonts or designs. The most important thing is that your essay is easy to read and looks professional, so the admissions committee can focus on what you’re saying and why you’d be a good fit for their school.

How Do I End My Supplemental Essays?

Remember that ending your supplemental essays is just as important as starting them. In order to leave a lasting impression on the reader, you need to recap the main points you made in the essay and show why you are a strong candidate for admission. Don’t introduce new information or arguments in the conclusion; stick to the main message and leave the reader with a clear understanding of your qualifications and aspirations.

To make your essay even more memorable, you can end with a thought-provoking statement or a call to action that encourages the reader to think about your essay’s themes or consider the broader implications of your ideas. Another option is to end with a personal reflection or a forward-looking statement that expresses your excitement for what’s to come. Whatever you choose, aim to end your supplemental essays on a strong and confident note that will impress the admissions committee.

Final Thoughts

Congratulations on polishing your supplemental essays! You’ve made sure they showcase your unique qualities, experiences, and aspirations to the admissions committee. Remember, these essays are an opportunity for you to stand out and show why you’re a strong candidate. You’ve worked hard to craft essays that represent who you are.

Take pride in your work and submit your applications confidently. Double-check your materials, and good luck on your college admissions journey!


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