Some of Our Favorite Supplemental Essay Prompts (2022-2023 edition)

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A review of essay prompts can be a great way to prepare for the writing process.  I am supposed to write roughly 650 words — but on what?  Now, you will probably head straight for the Common Application prompts and prepare to stress out choosing one 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 a new insight about yourself. And this new idea could go on to inspire your main essay, after you’re well-rested and ready to start writing your college essay.

The final 2022-2023 supplemental essay prompts will be uploaded to college websites and the Common App in August. Some of the questions change from year to year while others stay the same. The supplemental essay is a great way for colleges to gain a deeper understanding of applicants and, perhaps, find out why you want to attend their particular school. As you await the August updates, take a few minutes to read the following prompts because they just may inspire your next great idea.

Northwestern University

(This is a great example of the classic “why us?” supplemental question)

While other parts of your application give us a sense of who you are, we are also excited to hear more about how you see yourself engaging with the larger Northwestern community.

In 300 words or less, help us understand how you might engage specific resources, opportunities, and/or communities here. We are curious about what these specifics are, as well as how they may enrich your time at Northwestern and beyond.

(We strongly encourage a response, as your answer will help us connect the dots across your application to imagine what kind of college student you might become.)

University of Miami

The University of Miami’s official mascot is the ibis. Folklore maintains that the native marsh bird is the last to take shelter before a hurricane hits and the first to emerge once the storm passes, making it an apt symbol of courage and resilience.

Considering your ability to control your own motivation and behavior, how have past experiences helped build your courage and resilience to persist in the face of academic and life challenges so that, once these storms pass, you can emerge in continued pursuit of your goals? (250 words or less)

University of Vermont

If you would like an opportunity to further present yourself to the Admissions Committee, you may submit a response to ONE of the following prompts. (500 words or less)

* Established in 1978 in a renovated gas station in Burlington, VT, Ben and Jerry’s is synonymous with the ice cream business. The company’s success and unique brand identity are due in part to their one-of-a-kind flavors. Which Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor (real or imagined) best describes you?

* Whether they are constructing a robot, a stronger sense of community or an identity, UVM students are builders. What would you like to build?

* At UVM, learning extends far beyond the walls of our classrooms. From student-led organizations, to internships and study abroad experiences, UVM students are encouraged to pursue knowledge in all environments. Describe a time when you’ve learned in a non-traditional setting.

* Communities and organizations are stronger when they value diversity of thought. How do you create meaningful connections or conversations with others when they express opinions that differ from your own?

College of William & Mary

Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh. Think of this optional opportunity as show and tell by proxy and with an attitude.

University of Colorado Boulder

At the University of Colorado Boulder, no two Buffs are alike. We value difference and support equity and inclusion of all students and their many intersecting identities. Pick one of your unique identities and describe its significance. 

Please share a bit more about your academic interests. What do you hope to study at CU Boulder? What has inspired your interests in this area? Or if you are undecided, what area(s) of study are you considering? Think about your prior/current coursework, extracurricular activities, work/volunteer experiences, future goals, or anything else that has shaped your interests.

(each 250 words or less)

Southern Methodist University

SMU appeals to students for a variety of reasons. Briefly describe why you are interested in attending SMU and what specific factors have led you to apply.

SMU is a diverse learning environment shaped by the convergence of ideas and cultures. How will your unique experiences or background enhance the University, and how will you benefit from this community?

(each 250 words or less)

Boston College

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

1. Students at Boston College are encouraged to consider critical questions as they pursue lives of meaning and purpose. What is a question that matters to you and how do you hope Boston College will help you answer it?

2. In 2020, we faced a national reckoning on racial injustice in America – a reckoning that continues today. Discuss how this has affected you, what you have learned, or how you have been inspired to be a change agent around this important issue.

3. At Boston College, we hope to draw on the Jesuit tradition of finding conversation partners to discuss issues and problems facing society. Who is your favorite conversation partner? What do you discuss with that person?

4. Socrates stated that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Discuss a time when reflection, prayer, or introspection led to clarity or understanding of an issue that is important to you.

5. Each year at University Convocation, the incoming class engages in reflective dialogue around a common text. What book would you recommend for your class to read and explore together – and why?

6. Human-Centered Engineering (HCE) Applicants: One goal of a Jesuit education is to prepare students to serve the Common Good. Human-Centered Engineering at Boston College integrates technical knowledge, creativity, and a humanistic perspective to address societal challenges and opportunities. What societal problems are important to you and how will you use your HCE education to solve them?

University of Chicago

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


1. What if the moon were made of cheese? Or Neptune made of soap? Pick a celestial object, reimagine its material composition, and explore the implications. Feel free to explore the realms of physics, philosophy, fantasy…the sky is the limit!
—Inspired by Tate Flicker, Class of 2025


2. What’s so easy about pie?
—Inspired by Arjun Kalia, Class of 2025


3. In Homer’s Iliad, Helen had a “face that launched a thousand ships.” A millihelen, then, measures the beauty needed to launch one ship. The Sagan unit is used to denote any large quantity (in place of “billions and billions”). A New York Minute measures the period of time between a traffic light turning green and the cab behind you honking. Invent a new unit of measurement. How is it derived? How is it used? What are its equivalents?
—Inspired by Carina Kane, Class of 2024, and Ishaan Goel, Class of 2025


4. “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.
—Inspired by Haina Lu, Class of 2022


5. It’s said that history repeats itself. But what about other disciplines? Choose another field (chemistry, philosophy, etc.) and explain how it repeats itself. Explain how it repeats itself.
—Inspired by Ori Brian, AB’19


6. 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.

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