How to Write the Supplemental College Essay on Creativity

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This blog is part of our series on how to write the college application supplemental essays. Check out our blogs on some of the other commonly asked questions, including those about “why us?,” diversity, your community, and your activities.

I have been asked about my creativity. What do I do now?

Creativity is a key trait that colleges and universities are looking for. No matter your intended major or the type of institution where you’re applying, it can be useful to highlight your creativity in your essay and in the supplement questions that some schools require. You might even be able to attach an example of your creative work to the application itself. If you consider yourself an artist, this might seem easier than if you do not. However, no matter how creative or artistic you think you are, there are always aspects to highlight your inventive and imaginative mind.

Here are just a few examples of supplemental essay prompts asking about creativity. How might you approach these essays?

Dartmouth:

In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba, Class of 2014, reflects on constructing a windmill from recycled materials to power the electrical appliances in his family’s Malawian house: “If you want to make it, all you have to do is try.” What drives you to create and what do you hope to make or have you already made? (250-300 words)

Columbia:

We’re interested in learning about some of the ways that you explore your interests. List some resources and outlets that you enjoy, including but not limited to websites, publications, journals, podcasts, social media accounts, lectures, museums, movies, music, or other content with which you regularly engage. (125 words or fewer)

Bennington:

At Bennington, students don’t just study; they’re makers and doers who create original work on their own and in collaboration with others. Tell us about something you’ve created that you’re proud of. Why is it important to you? Alternatively, tell us something you look forward to creating when you get to college. (Optional: We’d love to see your work if you’d like to share it with us. You’ll receive instructions for submitting your work after we process your application.) (250 words)

University of Chicago:

“There is no such thing as a new idea” — Mark Twain. Are any pieces of art, literature, philosophy, or technology truly original, or just a different combination of old ideas? Pick something, anything (besides yourself), and explain why it is, or is not, original. (2 pages)

It can be helpful to ask yourself some questions, as you brainstorm for essays like these:

  • What have you created? Have you made anything in the past? This could be a piece of artwork, a school project, a science experiment, or anything you have made outside of school.
  • What is a piece of art (movie, painting, sculpture, song, book, poem, etc.) that has impacted you? What makes you smile? What can you read/watch/listen to over and over again?
  • If money and time were no object, what would you create? What problem would you like to solve? What would you like to inspire in others?

Use these three questions to get your mind rolling. Look at what creative endeavors you have loved in the past or what things you are excited about in the future. Are there creators you are following on Instagram or TikTok? These could be good places to start.

Once you have answered these questions, you can begin writing your essay. These prompts are more personal than assignments you might be used to writing in school. I encourage you to use “I” statements and talk openly and specifically about your passions and interests. If there are problems you want to create solutions for, describe both in detail. And remember, PrepMatters is always here if you need help with your essays.

If you are thinking about submitting artistic works or scientific endeavors as part of your application, there are places in both the Common and Coalition applications to do so. While you can attach separate documents or images, you may want to consider uploading a variety of work to a website or YouTube and then submitting the link. This way, you can showcase even more of your creativity.

Michael Brick

Essay Specialist

Originally from Potomac, Maryland, Michael personally understands the planning for college mindset and pressures of the Washington metro area. Leaving Maryland for NYU and the big city, Michael fell in love with higher education and has been working professionally at several universities ever since. After graduating with his Master of Science in Higher Education Administration, Michael moved ba...

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