Some of Our Favorite Supplemental Essay Prompts: 2021-2022 Edition

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A review of essay prompts can be a great way to prepare for the writing process. If you’re anything like me, you might be asking yourself, “I’m supposed to write roughly 650 words — but on what, exactly?” You can head straight for the Common Application prompts and stress yourself out trying to choose the one “right” idea. But what about reading supplemental prompts and taking a mental walk around other questions colleges are asking students? A creative prompt may just spark a fresh perspective or reveal a new insight about yourself, one which could go on to inspire your main essay!

The final 2021-2022 supplemental essay prompts will be uploaded to both college websites and the Common App in August. Some of the essay questions change from year to year, while others stay the same, and this year, some admissions folks predict that we will see more colleges include supplemental essays as part of their application. As more colleges adopt test-optional policies, the supplemental essay is another way to gain a deeper understanding of applicants. As you await the August college essay updates, you might want to take a few minutes to read the following prompts just in case they inspire your next great idea!

Boston College

We would like to get a better sense of you. Please respond to one of the following prompts. (400 word limit)

1. Great art evokes a sense of wonder. It nourishes the mind and spirit. Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?

2. When you choose a college, you will join a new community of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and stories. What is it about your background, your experiences, or your story, that will enrich Boston College’s community?

3. Boston College strives to provide an undergraduate learning experience emphasizing the liberal arts, quality teaching, personal formation, and engagement of critical issues. If you had the opportunity to create your own college course, what enduring question or contemporary problem would you address and why?

4. Jesuit education considers the liberal arts a pathway to intellectual growth and character formation. What beliefs and values inform your decisions and actions today, and how will Boston College assist you in becoming a person who thinks and acts for the common good?

Smith College

Music means so many things to so many people. It can bring us joy, inspire us, validate us or heal us. Please tell us about a song or piece of music that is particularly meaningful to you and why. Please include the name of the song/piece and the artist. 200 words

University of Richmond

Prompt 1
What is an urgent global challenge, social justice topic, or racial injustice issue about which you are passionate? What solutions or outcomes do you hope to see?

Prompt 2
By the time you graduate from college, there will be jobs that don’t exist today. Describe one of them and how Richmond might prepare you for it.

Prompt 3
You are required to spend the next year in either the past or the future. To what year would you travel and why?

Choose one. (350-650 words)

Occidental College

Why are you applying to Occidental? What are your intellectual curiosities and why do you think Occidental is the right place for you to pursue them? (200 words maximum length)

Oxy’s central mission emphasizes the value of community amidst diversity. What do you value in a community and how do you see your perspectives and life experiences enhancing it? (200 words maximum length)

Quirks, idiosyncrasies, peculiarities. They help differentiate us. What is one of yours? (134 words max) 

Please answer one of the following questions (300 words max):


A. Research is an integral part of an Oxy education. Completing a senior comprehensive is a requirement of every Oxy student. Additionally, there are opportunities with the the International Richter Grant, the Summer Undergraduate Research Center, and other departments to conduct research. What is something you would like to research and why?


B. Briefly describe a current event or social movement that is affecting a city, town, or place that is important to you. Describe its significance to the community as well as its future implications for that community.

And more…….

What is the first song you would play for your roommates on move-in day?

If you had your own food truck or restaurant, what would it be called?

Brandeis University

Please include a short response to one of the three prompts below (250 words or fewer).

Why would you like to attend Brandeis?

Justice Brandeis once said, “If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.” Tell us about something bold that you’ve recently done.

There are approximately 171,476 words in the English dictionary. Pick your favorite word and tell us why you picked it.

University of Chicago

Choose one of the seven extended essay options and upload a one- or two-page response. Please include the prompt at the top of the page.

Who does Sally sell her seashells to? How much wood can a woodchuck really chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Pick a favorite tongue twister (either originally in English or translated from another language) and consider a resolution to its conundrum using the method of your choice. Math, philosophy, linguistics… it’s all up to you (or your woodchuck).
—Inspired by Blessing Nnate, Class of 2024

What can actually be divided by zero?
—Inspired by Mai Vu, Class of 2024

The seven liberal arts in antiquity consisted of the Quadrivium – astronomy, mathematics, geometry, and music, and the Trivium – rhetoric, grammar, and logic. Describe your own take on the Quadrivium or the Trivium. What do you think it is essential for everyone to know?
—Inspired by Peter Wang, Class of 2022

Subway maps, evolutionary trees, Lewis diagrams. Each of these schematics tells the relationships and stories of their component parts. Reimagine a map, diagram, or chart. If your work is largely or exclusively visual, please include a cartographer’s key of at least 300 words to help us best understand your creation.
—Inspired by Maximilian Site, Class of 2020

“Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” – Eleanor Roosevelt. Misattribute a famous quote and explore the implications of doing so.
—Inspired by Chris Davey, AB ’13

Engineer George de Mestral got frustrated with burrs stuck to his dog’s fur and applied the same mechanic to create Velcro. Scientist Percy Lebaron Spencer found a melted chocolate bar in his magnetron lab and discovered microwave cooking. Dye-works owner Jean Baptiste Jolly found his tablecloth clean after a kerosene lamp was knocked over on it, consequently shaping the future of dry cleaning. Describe a creative or interesting solution, and then find the problem that it solves.
—Inspired by Steve Berkowitz, AB ’19, and Neeharika Venuturupalli, Class of 2024

In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose your own question or choose one of our past prompts. Be original, creative, thought provoking. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun.

University of Virginia

1. We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer this question, which corresponds to the school/program you selected above, in a half page or roughly 250 words.

College of Arts and Sciences: What work of art, music, science, mathematics, literature, or other media has surprised, unsettled, or inspired you, and in what way? 

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences: Describe an engineering feat that serves the common good and why it inspires you to study engineering.

School of Architecture: Describe a significant experience that deepened your interest in studying in the School of Architecture.

School of Nursing:  Describe a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying Nursing.

Kinesiology Program: Discuss an experience that led you to apply to the kinesiology major.*

2. Required of ALL applicants, regardless of school or program. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words:

What’s your favorite word and why?

We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.

Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?

UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?

Rita Dove, UVA English professor and former U.S. Poet Laureate, once said in an interview that “…there are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints.” Describe a time when, instead of complaining, you took action for the greater good.

Wake Forest University

Help us to get to know you better by responding briefly to these questions. Be creative, and enjoy the process!

In Brief:

1a. List five books you’ve read that intrigued you.

1b. Explain how a book you’ve read has helped you to understand the world’s complexity. (150 words) 

2. Tell us more about the topic that most engages your intellectual curiosity. (150 words)

3. Describe a community that is important to you. How has that community prepared you to engage with, change, or even build the Wake Forest community? (150 words)

4. Give us your Top Ten list.

Maureen Delaney

Educational Counselor

As a Counselor in Educational Planning, Maureen Delaney considers the strengths and interests of students and helps them to achieve their academic and personal goals. As the former Director of College Guidance at independent schools in both the Washington DC area and Manhattan, Maureen uses her deep experience to establish authentic connections both to students planning for college and those ad...

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