Your college application may not be complete without a supplemental essay.

A supplemental essay may be your best option to explain special circumstances or items beyond your control to college admissions officers.

For example, did you have a light course load during your junior year due to serious illness? Did you you skip visual arts “requirements” because you are visually impaired? You can explain these issues and how you compensated in a supplemental essay.

Is a supplemental essay required?

It’s up to you.

Most applications have at least a small space for additional information of this sort. Some schools may even specify on their application that students can submit an supplemental material and/or an optional essay on the topic of their choice. If this is the case, you still may want to submit a supplemental essay about another topic even if you don’t have an incident in your background that you consider “life-changing.”

How should you write the supplemental essay?

Like any essay you include with your college application, your supplemental essay should be both personal and interesting.

Explain your thoughts concisely. Don’t write what you think an admissions officer wants to read, but at the same time try to write about something unique. Skip the story about your mom or dad being your hero (unless there’s an extraordinary reason), and instead perhaps explore how growing up bilingual has helped you gain a different perspective of the world.
And remember: No matter what your topic, tell the truth!

Is a supplemental essay for you?

You certainly don’t want to keep information from the admissions committee that could keep you from receiving an acceptance letter. At the same time, an uncalled for, unasked for supplemental essay could work against you rather than for you.

Every case is different. Unsure? Talk to a guidance counselor or admissions counselor to find out if a supplement essay is your best option.