How to Write the Bryn Mawr Supplemental Essays 2021-2022

Note: Bryn Mawr’s essay prompts historically do not change very much, if at all. These prompts aren’t yet confirmed for the 2021-2022 cycle, but we expect them to stay the same. Check back in August for any updates!


Bryn Mawr College is a small women’s liberal arts college found a few miles west of Philadelphia. Established as a Quaker institution in 1885, Bryn Mawr currently enrolls around 1,370 undergraduate students, and is a part of the Tri-College Consortium alongside Haverford and Swarthmore Colleges.


Consistently ranking in the top 30 liberal arts colleges, Bryn Mawr accepted 38% of applicants for the class of 2024. Bryn Mawr also meets 100% of students’ demonstrated financial need.


Looking to join this community of accomplished women? Here’s how you can write a standout supplemental essay to give you a boost. Want to know your chances at Bryn Mawr? Calculate your chances for free right now.


How to Write the Bryn Mawr Essays 

Required: As you prepare to join a new college community, reflect on your role as a community member throughout the past four years. What legacy do you hope to leave behind? 

As the prompt suggests, the first thing you do want to do is reflect on the communities you’ve been a part of during high school. “Community” could mean anything from family, an ethnic community, a club, a religious community, a sports team, a band or orchestra, an online community, or any type of setting in which different people congregate. You ideally want to write about the community you’ve been most dedicated to, and have taken initiative in. 


The key in this essay is to provide a narrative arc for the reader, and supplement it with strong anecdotes. You want to have a compelling, vivid opening that positions you as a key member of a community. You want to brainstorm why you joined this community, how you grew while taking part in it, and the different kinds of effort you put into bettering the group. You should talk about the challenges you’ve faced while in this community, how you’ve overcome these challenges, and end with the legacy you hope to leave behind. 


Bryn Mawr doesn’t provide a definitive word limit for your essay, so you have plenty of space to elaborate. However, you don’t want to write more than 500 words; a good rule of thumb is that your supplemental essays should be shorter than your Common App or Coalition Application essay.  


Here are some examples to think about:


  • Maybe your community is your marching band, in which you were the treasurer and saxophone section leader in. You could begin with an anecdote focusing on your freshman year self at band camp, knowing nobody at a new school, and immediately finding a home within the band. You could talk about the upperclassmen who welcomed you in and pushed you to be a better musician, and how you mirrored these behaviors when you became an upperclassman yourself. You could talk about the different struggles you faced as a marching band leader, such as teacher turnover or lack of funding, and how you, as treasurer, put in countless hours fundraising and getting enough money so your band could go to tournaments. Maybe your intended legacy is for the band to continue to build its culture of hard work and scrappiness. You’re proud of leaving the band better funded and less precarious than it once was. 


  • Maybe your community is your school’s Black Student Union, which you founded during your junior year, after noticing that there was no place for your high school’s Black students to discuss important social and political issues. You could talk about the conversations with friends that sparked the inception of the club, how all of you felt alienated at your high school, how you found a willing teacher advisor, and how you recruited the other Black students in your school to take part. Maybe you faced several challenges once you decided to take action in your school, such as pushback from administrators when you tried to advocate for Black Lives Matter on campus. Maybe the legacy you want to leave is a thriving community for Black students like you to have a haven for friendship and constructive conversations. 


  • Maybe your community is your family’s restaurant, which your parents started before you were even born. As a child, you spent most of your time after school there, and when you entered high school, you started waitressing and bussing and doing anything your parents asked you to do. Because of your family’s tight financial situation, you often spent long hours helping out your parents, and you struggled to fit in your homework and extracurricular activities at the same time. You often fought with your parents about this, but now, you see it as a valuable work and bonding experience. You see your legacy as the different customers whom you’ve befriended, who have become regulars, the countless hours you spent keeping the restaurant running, and the cherished times you’ve shared with your parents and siblings. 

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Our chancing engine factors in extracurricular activities, demographics, and other holistic details. We’ll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools — and how to improve your chances!

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Required: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences in the space below. (50-100 words)

In this prompt, you want to highlight an extracurricular or work experience you’ve dedicated yourself to, but in a way that differentiates it from the extracurricular section of your Common Application. Because you’ve already briefly noted what you’ve done, the time you’ve spent, and the awards you’ve received, you want to use this essay to highlight the personal and emotional elements of an activity. Essentially, you want to highlight your character and passion as best as you can in a paragraph. 


In terms of structure, don’t worry about an introduction or conclusion. You want to dive immediately into a short anecdote that encapsulates your devotion and role within in activity, or bring up a pivotal moment in which you excelled, or faced difficulty. An ideal essay should leave a vivid image in the reader’s mind, and should leave them with a strong idea of your character and personality. 


Here are some examples to think about:


  • Maybe you want to talk about being the captain of your speech and debate team. A great moment to describe would be a big competition, in which you faced crippling anxiety but eventually shined. Or maybe you could choose a moment in which your team performed well, and how your efforts at helping the younger debaters paid off.


  • Maybe it’s your basketball team you’d like to talk about. You could talk about a particularly difficult or low moment, perhaps a practice in which your teammates began arguing and yelling at each other. You could go into how you helped reconcile the team, and helped improve your team’s chemistry, so that your team’s win loss record began improving.


  • Maybe you’re most proud of your digital animation work. The final video you made for your application portfolio is only a few minutes long, and you want to talk about the countless late nights you spent designing and programming and arranging the different frames of your animation. Although you’re proud of the end product, you’re more proud of the effort you put into creating your work, which has inspired you to want to pursue digital animation and computer science at Bryn Mawr. 


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