How to write essays that expand on an activity
Choosing your most meaningful experiences to round out your college application
Among the many supplemental school essays you might be asked to write, one of the most common is to expand on one of your activities. On your application, you have already provided them with an activities list that gives them a brief overview of your involvement. This essay is your chance to give them more insight into a particular activity that is significant to you. As with all elements of your application, it’s important to consider how this supplemental essay with fit into your application as a whole.
My first step in writing is to brainstorm openly and freely. Which activities are you considering writing about? A good place to start is to assess which has been the most important and formidable to you. Likely, this answer will come from your gut. You know what has left an impact and which activities you feel the most excited to engage with. You might also think about how certain activities have given you certain exposure to your major, either by practice certain skills or obtaining knowledge. Going in this direction would help to highlight further how you are exploring your future major.
Often times, the response you choose might even be some hybrid of these two. You might want to emphasize your academic strengths and curiosities since it is, after all, a college application for academic studies. However, you don’t have to feel tethered to this. It is absolutely okay to write about an activity that might not be academically inclined. In this case, it’s still important to note your intention. What are you hoping they will learn about you from this? Does it highlight a hobby that is integral to understanding you? Or showcase different aspects of your personality? All of this can help to round out your application.
When choosing what to write about, it is vital to take note of what information has already appeared on your application. If you write about a particular topic on the Common App personal statement, you want the supplemental essays to be distinctly different from this essay. You could either write about a similar topic from a different angle or activity, or you could show them an entirely different side of you. For instance, if you spent your Common App personal statement more focused on your academic interest in history and an internship you did over the summer in a university archive, to spin this from a different angle but to stay in the history lane, you might write about debate club and how your knowledge of historical negotiations inspires your tactics. While both would work to build your interest in history, they should showcase different qualities about you. On the other hand, if you feel that your Common App essay rather exhausts your discussion of your major, that’s okay too! You might then turn to write on a different activity that has been important to you, perhaps a project your spearheaded in Key Club and how you saw it bring people together within your school and community.
The essays can truly go in a number of ways. When working with students, I encourage them to explore their options before landing on a definite topic. What might different activities reveal about you? What are our options?Then, you can begin to think more strategically about how it will fit into the application. What information is already there? What information could be strengthened?
Pulling together the application, in a sense, is like marketing yourself to the university. You are introducing yourself, your brand, to individuals reading your application. You have ultimate control over what information you present them and how you do it. You get to decide what are the most important thinks about you that you want to make sure they know. In my experience, the answers are usually balanced between being heartfelt and intuitive and strategic and thoughtful. Take time to explore your options, and go with your gut about what activities have meant the most to you! If you are enthusiastic about it, your sincerity and energy will come through your essay.