How to Think About Stanford’s Supplemental Essays
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Johnathan Patin-Sauls in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
- View Your Essays as a Portfolio
- Choose Your Personal Statement Topic Wisely
- Show What Makes You Different
- Budget Enough Time
View Your Essays as a Portfolio
When approaching your Stanford supplemental essays, it can be helpful to think of them as a portfolio.
In the same way that you view your transcript, resume, essays and letters of recommendation as a cohesive unit, you should also consider the bigger picture painted by all of your different essays.
By being strategic with how you choose and respond to the supplemental essay prompts, you can maximize the amount and range of information that you provide the admissions department about yourself.
Choose Your Personal Statement Topic Wisely
The topic that you select for your Common Application essay should pair well with the supplemental prompts you choose.
This means you should try to avoid writing your personal statement about extracurricular activities or selecting Common App Prompt 6, which reads: “Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time.” Writing an essay about one of these topics may not leave you with enough unique material to showcase the different aspects of your life in your Stanford supplemental essays.
Show What Makes You Different
It is important to remember that when the Stanford Admissions team reviews applications, they are building an entire class, and no single student is admitted in a vacuum.
For example, no matter how many outstanding flutists apply, they can’t admit an entire class of world-class flutists. Not even if they all have perfect SAT scores! Building a class requires diversity, so the admissions office will be trying to look at what makes you different and what you will bring to campus.
As you brainstorm your essays, strategize how you can show them what makes you unique. One way to do this is by picking out a couple of different supplemental prompts, or even writing multiple essay drafts so that you have a better idea of the topics you can cover and are prepared for the various questions that schools are asking. Once you understand all of the facets of who you are that you want to convey to the admissions committee, you can select the prompts and topics that will paint the most complete picture of who you are as an applicant.
Budget Enough Time
Finally, it is important to remember that writing essays should be treated more like a marathon than a sprint. In addition to it being much less stressful to begin writing your essays earlier, it is also important to leave time for proofreading.
Oftentimes it is good to put away an essay for a minute and then return to it with fresh eyes. The idea behind this approach is similar to the classroom practice of reviewing a peer’s paper; once you have stepped away from an essay, it is much easier to pick out that missed comma or weird phrasing.
If you are looking for more information and advice on applying to Stanford, check out this post on how to write Stanford’s essays.