Why Are Supplemental Questions So Important?
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Why Are Supplemental Questions So Important?

Admission Counselling :
  • Written by UnivAdmitHelp
  • Category: Admission Application
  • Published on 21 Sep 2022

When planning to apply for IVY Leagues and other colleges in the US you have to apply through the Common app. There are common app prompts that are the standard prompts for all the students irrespective of the colleges they are looking to apply to. These prompts are not topics, they are simple questions designed to spark thinking in the students. The prompts are useful as they help students to understand the aspect of their life that colleges are curious to know.

The main Common App essay prompts are common for all the colleges which can be applied through this app. Apart from these prompts, there are Supplemental questions or prompts which are specific to the colleges. Some of the competitive colleges have their own individual prompts which students have to answer irrespective of the common prompts.

Basically, Common App prompts are general questions and they are answered broadly. In this, you will talk about your overall preparedness to deal with the challenges of college life. You will not mention why you are looking for a specific program/ course from a specific college. Whereas in supplemental questions you would like to mention some specific and unique details of the college.

What do you mean by specific and unique?

College Admission Officers want you to go deep in your research about what the college has to offer and various unique aspects which will appeal to you. This doesn’t mean you find the course curriculum of psychology and mention it in your essay. This point is common to all the students, all of them will go through the same curriculum. You need to do your substantiative research and link the unique points with your profile. For example, you have been into animal welfare for the last few years and there is an animal welfare club in the college also. Now, if you mention in your essay that “I would plan to build upon my passion for animal welfare that began in high school and would like to continue by joining the animal welfare club of the college”, that will be a specific and unique link. This also shows your commitment to your interests and passion.

Common Mistake

Often students become careless in writing good supplemental questions due to which they get rejections. You have to give equal priority to the supplemental questions as given to common app prompts.

Ultimately, your goal with this essay should be to sincerely, authentically, and excitedly tell admissions committees what you will get out of going to their school in particular, and what you will contribute to their school as a student there.

There are different kinds of Supplemental Questions like -:

Why us? And Why You

  • Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia.
  • For you, what makes Cornell Engineering special? Why do you want to attend Cornell Engineering?

How to deal with them?

Why us/ Why you are two sides of the same coin. In answering one, you would likely to reverse in the same answer. The best way to deal with them is to create a personal connection with the university or a particular university program.

Academic Related

  • List the titles of the required readings from academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school. (75 words or fewer)
  • Considering the specific undergraduate school, you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania? (300-450 words)

How to deal with them?

In this type of question, apart from focusing on academic grades and competition certificates, detailing is important. For example, if you made a project or written a research paper which is not been published, the minute details will make the whole answer authentic. Bonus points, if you are able to capture the underlying insight and reflect it on your potential academic plan at the university.

Extra-curricular Related

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family.

Briefly elaborate on an activity, organization, work experience, or hobby that has been particularly meaningful to you. (Please respond in about 150 words.)

How to deal with them?

You have to mention in particular not all extra and co-curricular activities or work experience or hobby which are meaningful, and you have spent considerable time in them. Do focus on what is the takeaway from the activity – for example, playing football allowed you to build team skills, or computer programming allowed you to develop your problem-solving ability.

Community Work/ Social Impact

At MIT, we bring people together to better the lives of others. MIT students work to improve their communities in different ways, from tackling the world’s most significant challenges to being good friends. Describe one way in which you have contributed to your community, whether in your family, the classroom, your neighborhood, etc. (200-250 words)

Reflect on a time when you have worked to enhance a community to which you feel connected. Why have these efforts been meaningful to you? You may define community however you like.

How to deal with them?

These questions are answered by mentioning one or a few community services in which you have spent considerable time. Here considerable time means at least 6 months or continuously two- three summer breaks in high school. It is not necessary to spend time with the same organization during the whole time period, the idea is to spend time in some kind of community service. You should not mention many a month or two community services.

Self-Reflection Questions

Tell us about a significant challenge you’ve faced (that you feel comfortable sharing) or something that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation?

Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why.

How to deal with them?

In such essays, it would be helpful to focus on a defining quality of yours and develop the same through extensive detailing. The objective here is two-fold – first, to develop extensive detailing and validation for your profile, and second, to show your uniqueness.

Unusual Questions

  1. Virtually all of Stanford's undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate—and us—get to know you better.
  2. What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?

How to deal with them?

It is often said that you don’t necessarily respond to the prompt. You will tell your story, irrespective of the prompt. And that unique narrative gets repeated across different applications of yours. The best strategy for dealing with such questions is to bring out a specific aspect of your story, which has not been covered so far in your application. Another way is, to be honest, and personal, which typically works best!

Short Questions

  1. What is a new skill you would like to learn in college?
  2. What excites you?
  3. What inspires you?

How to deal with them?

Try to avoid red flags in such questions. You can’t say that watching ‘American Psycho’ is exciting for you. Often if you give the admission committee, a ‘slice-of-life’ example, that should suffice.


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