Supplemental essay prompts come in different forms. One way colleges get to know more about you is by posing questions that ask you to reflect on or interpret a quotation. Once you read carefully, understand what the school is asking for, and determine how you connect with the quotation, you can use such essays to provide insights into your personality and character.
Take a look at some examples of prompts that ask you to respond to a quotation below:
- Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel of Dartmouth’s Class of 1925, wrote, “Think and wonder. Wonder and think.” As you wonder and think, what’s on your mind? (250 words)
- “Strong commitment to the freedom of inquiry lies at the heart of Amherst College’s mission to create a home in which the liberal arts may flourish. As a small residential liberal arts college that prides itself on the ability, curiosity, and diversity of its students, Amherst seeks to create a respectful environment in which members of its community feel emboldened to pursue their intellectual and creative passions.” – from the Amherst College Statement of Academic and Expressive Freedom. Tell us about an intellectual or creative passion you have pursued; what did you learn about yourself through that pursuit? (350 words)
- Generations of students have found connection and meaning in Bowdoin’s “The Offer of the College,” written in 1906 by Bowdoin President William DeWitt Hyde.
“To be at home in all lands and all ages;
to count Nature a familiar acquaintance,
and Art an intimate friend;
to gain a standard for the appreciation of others’ work
and the criticism of your own;
to carry the keys of the world’s library in your pocket,
and feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake;
to make hosts of friends…who are to be leaders in all walks of life;
to lose yourself in generous enthusiasms and cooperate with others for common ends –
this is the offer of the college for the best four years of your life.”
Which line from The Offer resonates most with you? The Offer represents Bowdoin’s values. Please reflect on the line you selected and how it has meaning to you. (250 words)
To begin the process of writing these supplements, it can be helpful to see the full context. Bowdoin, for example, provides you with the entire Offer. However, if you receive a quotation in isolation, such as the ones for Dartmouth and Amherst, you might want to look it up. Google the source and learn more about why it was said or written, who the speaker or writer is, and what their intention was. Being more informed can help you understand what the school is asking for. Ensure that you respond to the entire sentence or paragraph rather than to just one or two keywords.
It’s also important to remember that these are your supplemental essays and part of your college application. As a result, you must keep the focus on you. There’s no need to refer back to the quotation or its speaker in your actual response. The majority of such essays come with a follow-up question. Use that latter half of the prompt to determine what schools want to know about you.
Amherst’s prompt specifically asks students to elaborate on an intellectual or creative pursuit, whereas Dartmouth and Bowdoin’s questions are more open-ended. Often, these essays provide a chance to share more about a side of you that isn’t reflected elsewhere in your application. Consider parts of your identity, interests, and goals that demonstrate who you are and how you’d contribute to a school. Read the college’s mission statement. Help admissions officers see that you’re a good fit by writing about a unique side of your identity or experience that hasn’t been elaborated on in your personal statement or activities list.
In most cases, colleges that pose questions involving a quotation will give you a choice of prompts. If you find yourself at a loss for what to write about or you have strongly critical feelings about the quotation, you may want to choose a different prompt (unless the prompt specifically asks you to write an argumentative response). Since supplemental essays are an opportunity to share more about yourself, pick prompts that will let you highlight your best self and write thoughtful responses.