Creating supporting materials for your college application requires planning. The number one thing that you want to keep in mind is time. College applications that require supplemental materials have deadlines, but you’ll also want to set deadlines for yourself and for anyone else who is writing on your behalf. If you work backwards from the due date, you can plan for drafts, edits and feedback from anyone who helps you.
Not all applications require supporting materials. Check each individual school’s application website to learn more about whether essays, letter of recommendation or personal statements need to be submitted. Even if they are optional, supporting materials are great chances for you to show your stuff! Many scholarship committees and honors colleges like to read supporting materials to make their decisions. If you cannot find the information online, call or email the admissions office at the school. They should be able to help.
Make sure that you are aware of the details of your supporting materials like word limits and essay prompts. Don’t risk submitting something wrong just because you didn’t know! High school counselors are great resources when you are ready to write you supporting materials. Make an appointment with yours and get some in-person guidance once you’ve read through this page.
A personal statement is a letter or essay all about Y-O-U. Many admissions committees like to read these statements to get a feel for who you are and why you want to come to college. There is rarely a prompt or a theme that you should stick to when it comes to your personal statement. Be professional, but be yourself and let your best qualities shine through.
Letters of recommendation are not written by you, but they are written about you. In order for you to have the best letters of recommendation possible, you should ask teachers, counselors, faculty, mentors or community members who have seen the great work you have done throughout high school or truly know you as a person.
If you feel unsure about what someone thinks of you, make sure you have a conversation with them first. Start off by saying, “I wanted to know if you think I’m a strong candidate for a positive recommendation letter,” and see what they say. You always want to make sure that you re in good standing with your recommenders. Many college applications require that they upload the letters themselves, meaning that you may not have the chance to see what they submit until afterwards.
Make sure that you are prepared to give your letter writer all of the most important details about who they are writing to and why. At minimum, provide them with a list of details such as:
- The school you are applying to
- The program you are applying for (if any)
- Three characteristics you’d like to be highlighted (as suggestions)
- The deadline for submission
College application essays give you a chance to elaborate on your strengths and ideas. They usually have a set length and a prompt. An essay prompt is a question or thought that the essay should be about. Many admissions offices post their essay prompts online, so you can see what you’ll need to write about in advance.
Do not neglect to set a timeline for writing your essays. Especially if you are writing them for multiple schools, you will want to make sure that you do not feel rushed or make mistakes because you are writing about different topics.
Give yourself time to ask an English teacher, tutor or someone else you trust to read your essay before you submit it. Outside opinions are a big help when it comes to catching mistakes or letting you know where you need to expand on a subject.
Here is a list of tips for you to follow when writing your essays. Remember, make a plan, and you’ll be fine!