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Posts by Melissa Baumgart:

How to Write Effective Supplemental Essays

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I recently spoke with a former college admissions officer who mentioned that a lot of applicants fail to give supplemental essays their proper attention. Instead, these students focus all of their energy on the main essay. While it’s obviously important to have a knockout personal statement, overlooking the supplemental essays could be a fatal error in judgment. Every individual piece of your application matters. Here’s how to maximize the positive impact of your college application supplemental essays.


The personal statement isn’t your life story – it’s one story, hopefully with a lot of character and detail, but still – just one story. The supplements allow you to mine from other stories in your life – various skills, interests, or challenges you’ve overcome. Use your quirks, your passions, and your unique life experiences to give your application greater depth. It’s an opportunity to share another side of yourself – something that wouldn’t necessarily be on your resume. Doing so will give the admissions committee a fuller picture of who you are. Your supplemental essays should help illustrate the many facets of your personality, and you’ll leave the impression of a real person instead of just grades on a page.

Writing About Your Strengths Without Sounding Arrogant

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We’re taught to be modest – not to brag or talk too much about ourselves. But when you write your college essay, you’re forced to do the exact opposite, and that shift can make students uncomfortable. It’s hard to strike the right tone in writing or speaking about yourself, especially when you’re discussing something at which you excel. Here are some tips on how to write about your accomplishments without bragging (hint: they’re all about showing rather than telling).

Show what you’ve learned

Talking about your achievements shouldn’t be a list. It should be a discussion. Focus on just one - or a few - accomplishments instead of listing every single one, and then give more details and context to measure your success. What skills have you developed as a result of excelling at an academic subject, a sport, or hobby? What happened the first time you tried, and how is it different now that you’re more experienced? If you naturally excelled from the start, how have you managed to keep challenging yourself and to hold your interest over time? If you didn’t succeed at first, what kept you from giving up?

3 Tips On Writing About Heavy Subjects

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A college essay does not have to be about an important topic – cancer, death, poverty, etc. – basically, the Worst Thing That’s Ever Happened To You Or Anyone Anywhere. It has to be important to you, but not by definition heavy or serious. However, sometimes a major world issue or a personal tragedy is vital to understanding you and your worldview. It’s understandable to want to share that with an admissions committee. If you truly want to write about something serious, here are some tips on how to handle it.

Keep the focus on how YOU relate to the topic at hand

Discuss major issues in the context of you and your life story. It can be difficult to have any sort of meaningful dialogue about such topics as war or racism in approximately 650 words. Narrow your focus down to a specific time or event when your life was personally affected by such an issue. Describe how it made you feel, what your reaction was, and how you have grown as a person as a result of going through the experience. Providing relevant (the key being relevant, not “every sordid”), specific details will be the key to keeping your college essay from feeling generic or superficial. Ultimately, the point of the essay is to give a little insight into an applicant as an individual. Don’t waste the opportunity by pontificating on ending world hunger without relating it back to exactly why it’s a goal of yours and what you plan to do about it.

Why You Must Stick to 650 Words in Your Personal Statement

personal statement act sat chicagoThe Common Application sets a 250-650 word limit for the length of your personal statement. It may feel like it’s impossible to say everything you need to say about yourself in 650 words or less, but complying with this rule is about more than just word counting. It’s a life lesson.

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