Under what circumstances should I consider whether or not a school requires supplemental essays?
While it’s best to create your college list without regard for supplemental essay requirements, you might encounter situations in which you need to consider the time commitment involved in writing these essays. Given that some schools requiring up to five supplemental essays, you’ll need to plan well in advance if you intend to tackle each one seriously. If you decide that you need to add a few schools to the list at the last minute, or you find yourself suddenly out of time to apply anywhere at all, you’ll want to know which schools don’t require a supplemental essay, and you’ll want to know quick.
If this is the case for you, don’t worry; we’ve done some of the legwork for you. Below, you’ll find a list of some high quality schools that don’t require supplemental essays.
Schools That Don’t Require a Supplemental Essay with the Common Application
Middlebury College: Middlebury requires only the essays from the Common Application, along with the usual teacher recommendations and transcripts. Additional materials such as an arts portfolio can be uploaded through the student portal, but there is no guarantee that they will be reviewed by the admissions committee.
Harvard: While the application requirements for Harvard do require a supplement, each of its required components is a multiple-choice question or a fill-in-the-blank. There is an optional supplemental essay, which we would recommend completing whenever possible, but it is not required. You can read more about this in our post Should You Send the Harvard Optional Supplement Essay?.
Washington University in St. Louis: Washington University in St. Louis does not require any supplement to the Common Application or Coalition Application. They note on the FAQ page of their admissions website that “supplemental essays are required for our Academic Scholarship and Fellowship Programs, which are open to all first-year applicants. Because our application deadline for our academic scholarships is January 5, 2018, we would like students to focus their time to thoughtfully address our scholarship essays and not add an additional strain.”
Williams College: Williams is another strong school with an optional supplement. Of course, as before, we do recommend completing optional essays. You can read more about it in our post How to Write the Williams College Application Essays.
Wesleyan University: Currently ranked 21st in National Liberal Arts Colleges by U.S. News and World Report, Wesleyan requires neither test scores nor supplemental essays. They note in their testing policy that “students should have the power to decide how best to present themselves to the admission committee and whether—or not—their standardized test results accurately reflect their academic ability and potential”. Beginning in fall 2017, it will begin to accept the Coalition Application in addition to the Common Application.
Colby College: Colby College is currently ranked 12th in National Liberal Arts Colleges and does not require a supplement to the Common Application or Coalition Application. Another attractive feature of its application process is its lack of an application fee.
Amherst College: Okay, okay, highly-ranked Amherst College does actually require a writing supplement, but we’re including it on this list because one of the options is something you’ve already written. Though you could write a separate essay for the supplement, you are also invited to “submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year that best represents your writing skills and analytical abilities.” This option specifically invites you to submit a paper you’ve already written for school, and in fact the admissions committee prefers a paper that has your teacher’s grade and comments on it already. Consider this option if you’ve held on to your top work from the year.
No matter where you apply, there will be at least one essay you’ll need to write. If you’re currently considering where to apply and need some help narrowing down your college list, consider checking out CollegeVine’s Applications Guidance service. Here, you’ll be paired with a personal admissions specialist who can provide step-by-step guidance through the entire application process, including how to perfect your approach to the personal essay.
For more about creating a college list and writing application essays, check out these CollegeVine posts:
So, one or more ofyour colleges don’t require an application essay. Woohoo!!! One less thing to worry about, right? Well, not quite.
So far 2016 has proven to be a big year for changes to the college application process, especially where essays are concerned. The SAT is going back to an “optional” Writing section, and many elite colleges, including Cornell, Columbia, and UPenn have already announced that they will no longer require applicants to complete the optional Writing section on standardized tests.
I bring this up because there is a larger trend of colleges that no longer require essay writing as part of their application process. (These include several state schools that work under the assumption that a combination of transcripts and increasingly effective standardized tests will provide an admission “matrix” that is strong enough to assess candidates without considering an essay.) The hope is that doing away with the college application essay allows more accessibility to applicants, not to mention that it saves admission officers time as well.
However, before you get excited about the idea that you don’t have to write an essay to impress the school of your choice, there are several key points to consider and questions you need to ask yourself.
Is the essay actually not required?
First things first: make sure that the essay is, in fact, not required of you.Some “no essay” colleges will still ask for an essay if you are below certain metrics in GPA and standardized testing, so check on this to make sure of their requirements before applying. Admission statistics are usually available in the admission section of a college website and will give you a clear indication of where you rank.
The college specifically says no essay, but should I send an essay anyway?
In general the answer is no. For many colleges that do not ask for an application essay, this would be a waste of time at best, and, at worst, would suggest that you’re not capable of following directions. Follow the guidelines carefully—don’t send an essay if a college doesn’t want one. The exception: many “no essay” colleges still require essays in order to apply for scholarships, so don’t think you’re off the hook if you need financial assistance.
The college says the essay is optional—can I not send an essay?
If a college says the essay is “optional,” you should still send one. It can only help you. The reason essay optional schools include that option is so when they are deciding between students with similar qualifications, they can look to see if there are other possible factors to judge. If you’ve sent an application essay, it shows the college you have initiative, and it might give you a leg up over your competition.
What can I do to stand out if I don’t have an application essay?
You’re right to think of the application essay as a good way to stand out to college admission reps. But there are other ways of achieving this too.
- Focus on writing in your high school classes. The best thing to do is excel in your classes—particularly those in English and literature. These are seen as placeholders for your essay-writing skills. Basically by foregoing your essay, the school is looking more closely at your grades in classes where you have done some writing to prove that you are adept enough to join their program.
- Secure solid recommendations. Though some colleges do not require recommendations either, if they do, make sure your recommendations are from the best possible people for you. Find people who know you well and can speak to who you really are as well as your accomplishments (it doesn’t hurt if those people also happen to be community MVPs—but remember that a good, personal recommendation is way better than a generic one from a state senator who doesn’t know you at all). Without an application essay, you don’t have a place to really talk about your extracurricular leadership, so make sure your recommenders discuss this aspect of your life.
- Have a killer résumé. Another aspect of the essay is that it allows you to promote your extracurricular prowess—something that is left out of a standardized test score. Many students have the option of submitting a résumé with their college applications as a supplement, but they still submit pretty weak ones, often because they either don’t know how to put one together or they feel it’s not important. Do some research, get a solid template and make sure your résumé is well balanced with accomplishments, not too long (one page is best), and free of typos and construction errors. If the college asks only for an “activity listing,” make sure your accomplishments shine through.
What else can I do?
If you have the option of submitting supplemental information, make this a priority. That includes any samples of your high school work or portfolios that relate directly to the field that interests you. Make sure to contact the college to see if adding something like this to your application is appropriate.
Though it’s true that it may be “easier” to apply to a school that doesn’t require an essay, you are also more likely to get lost in the shuffle if you don’t highlight your unique qualifications. Take care to get a handle on the factors you can control—getting good grades and high test scores, having excellent recommendations and a nice résumé—and the admission office will be more likely to have a good impression of who you are and why you should be accepted.
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