How to Write the Supplemental College Essay on Your Community

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, creativity, and your activities.

What’s the Point of the Community Essay?

Many colleges will ask you to write about a community you belong to and to describe your place within it. This essay can give colleges insight into how you might engage with, enhance, and maybe even build communities on their campus.

Any Group Can Be a Community

The community essay prompt stumps a lot of students because when they hear the word, “community,” they only think of location-based communities such as their school or their hometown. Or sometimes, they only think of communities defined by identities such as religion or ethnicity. 

Of course, a community can be any group that comes together. We all belong to several communities, and these communities often overlap.

A lot of communities are defined by a shared interest like playing chess, swimming, or dancing. 

Your community could be fellow members of a club or the people you interact with at a job. I once worked with a student who wrote about working for a dog grooming business. In her case, the members of her community weren’t just her coworkers and human customers but also included the animals she came to know.

Some of the most meaningful communities form out of a desire to create change. One student I worked with wrote passionately about being part of an organization that speaks to teens about sexual health and gender equality.

Nowadays, many communities are virtual. I know a student who wrote about an advice and support chat group for students stressed about applying to college.

The pandemic has made some communities even more important for some students. I once worked with a student who wrote about taking his leadership responsibilities to his baseball community even more seriously because practices were some of the only in-person social interactions he and his teammates enjoyed for months. 

Why These Essays Worked

What made these essays work were the following:

1) The students wrote about communities that were meaningful to them, and this came through strongly in their essays.

2) They were active participants in their communities and mentioned specific things they did to support their communities.

3) They talked about the insight they gained from being a part of these communities. 

 Writing Your Community Essay

If you’re not sure which community to write about, before you begin the essay, take some time to list some of your communities. Then look at your list and try answering a few questions to help you make a choice.  

Ask yourself questions such as:

1) Why is this community important to me?

2) What is my role in this community? How do I support this community?

3) How has this community influenced me? 

4) What have I learned by being a part of this community?

Keep in mind the word limit. If it’s under 200 words, you might not have space to make every point, so you’ll have to be judicious when selecting which parts of your notes make it into the final draft. 

Remember, This Essay is About You!

As with all your supplemental essays, you should use the community essay as an opportunity to talk about something that isn’t reflected elsewhere in your application. Is there a value you want to convey? Are you a leader but never held an official leadership title like the club president or team captain? Maybe write about being a part of a community where you have had a leadership role. Does your application mostly reflect your serious side? Maybe write about being a part of the Waffle Club. Just remember, ultimately, this essay is an essay about you, not just the community you select. 

The community you decide to write about gives colleges some insight into you, but the reasons why you picked a community are even more insightful.