While it’s common knowledge that most college applications involve writing an essay or two, it’s not as well known that many—but not all—also require you to answer some shorter questions. These are often referred to as “supplemental questions” or “supplemental essays,” because even schools that participate in the Common Application may ask you to supplement the common essay with some short questions specific to their admissions program. These questions usually ask for very short and concise answers, ranging from 50 to around 200 words. They’re not essays, but they’re more than just filling in a blank with objective information.
Last week I spent two days talking to seniors at Carnegie Vanguard High School during their English class. We talked about what colleges are looking for in applicants, how the different parts of an application work together, and how colleges actually process all those applications. The students also had tons of really great questions.
But first, I had some questions for them. Before our talk, I asked them to fill out a quick questionnaire. Here are the questions I asked and some comments on their responses. If you’re working with college-bound students—either in a school setting, as a parent, or because you are a college-bound student yourself—this may be useful for you.
I was a little surprised to read last week that the people who have the most influence on high school students' college decisions is their parents. (You can read the full Department of Education report here.) For an example of why I found that surprising, consider that a friend told me that the number one question his high schooler son asks him about college is "why do you keep talking to me about college?" But it also makes sense, because your parents have been talking to you about college, directly or indirectly, like it or not, a lot longer than anyone else has. Unless you're going to completely ignore your family and go straight to the second-largest influence, "myself," you can get the most wisdom from what your family says to you.