From where you sit, basking in the glow of your computer in the comfort of your desk chair, college essay supplements are just another item to be checked off on your to-do list. For colleges, the supplemental question is a way to communicate their values to you—a sort of last-ditch recruiting effort meant to both attract students to the institution and communicate some element of its social or academic experience. Santa Clara asks students to comment on their “strategic vision”; the University of Chicago is infamous for off-the-wall intellectual essay prompts (reminiscent of their off-the-wall intellectual experience); Reed College asks you to write all about Paideia, a unique week of self-taught courses on any subject under the sun. And Amherst College, in Amherst, Massachusetts uses its supplemental essay as a way of introducing both the intellectuality of their community and the impressiveness of their alumni and faculty. While your job isn’t to measure up to that pedigree, your response should be delivered in the spirit of intellectualism.
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