The Common Application                                                       by Patti Brugman


         If you have finished your Common Application essay, you’re almost there. All that remains are the supplemental questions for each of your schools. Schools that have supplements are looking for a way to fine tune your application package. For that reason, the questions vary.

         In the case of USC, the supplement is both fun and thought provoking. What is your favorite book, your favorite food, and the greatest invention ever made? In addition, they ask what your plan is for your education. At  Loyola Marymount, you’ll be asked to write an essay on social justice. For those who have a cause or deep feelings about fairness issues this question is as easy as talking over the dinner table. Other students might take this opportunity to apply elsewhere. Each of these supplements defines the school as much as the answers define the applicants.

         Another popular question is:  Why Yale? Why Occidental? Why Wake Forest?  To answer intelligently, you need to know the school’s philosophy. Check their website. If you haven’t had the chance to visit campus, talk to a college rep, a current student, or a recent graduate who has inspired you to apply. You can also visit a podcast class, take a virtual tour, or view the campus on Youtube. You’ll find that a little research on this topic will be a lot better than just guessing.

         Don’t be afraid if the question asks about your diversity. Diversity is the concept of creating a mix of students from different cultures, incomes, and geographic locations who offer a variety of talents and beliefs. Since so much of a student’s education comes from other students, a campus that is diverse offers the maximum learning potential. If that is what you want, answer as if they’re asking, “What makes you different from other students?”

         Many of the college supplements ask for short answers: Describe yourself in a twitter-tweet, or what is your dream job? The school wants to see the real you, the happy, ambitious you.

         The last category of supplemental questions is particular to artists and architects: the portfolio or audition. If you are an artist, now is the time to review your work for submission. Future architects are often asked to submit drawings, so it is essential that know some basics before you apply. If you’re an actor or musician, you might be asked to audition. This is meant to accomplish the same goal as a written supplement:  Are you right for Dream U? Is Dream U right for you?

         Doing your research now, establishing relationships, and knowing what a school believes in will not only help you answer the supplemental questions, but it will also assure you that you’re applying to the right schools. The application process can seem like a portcullis guarding the castle walls, but it’s nice to know that honest, articulate answers may just be right to raise the gate and welcome you in.