Preparing for College

Will So-So Common Application Supplements Hurt Admission Chances?

Question: How important are supplements to the college admission decision? If you have phenomenal Common App essays but decent and generic supplement essays, will that hurt your chances of being accepted to top schools?

Admission officials at highly competitive colleges often have a tough time deciding between one uber-qualified applicant and the next. Thus, any edge you can give yourself is important, and this includes submitting super essays for not only the Common App itself but also for all supplements. In fact, at some colleges, the supplement essays will carry the most weight because these are the topics that admission officials have specifically chosen in order to elicit the information they want to see.

However, while a strong essay can help an applicant's chances, a "generic" one is not necessarily an automatic deal-breaker. For instance, many college supplements require those insidious "Why have you applied to this school?" diatribes, which tend to spawn mediocre responses from the vast majority of candidates. If admission folks ruled against every student who waxed poetic about the caring sharing faculty and fine facilities offered by their institution, there probably wouldn't be enough other applicants left to fill the freshman class. :-)

Thus, the bottom line is this: So-so supplements might hurt your admission odds but, hopefully, other strengths--in Common App essays and elsewhere---will pull you through.