Stumped by the University of Colorado Supp? Me, too!
I’ve had quite a few students this “season” who were flummoxed by the supplement for the University of Colorado. It kind of threw me a bit as well. But behind all that blah, blah, blah, I believe it was just another way of asking: Why Our College? or more specifically, Why YOU At Our College?
This is a common theme of many of the supplemental college application essays. And even though most students are pretty fried after writing their core essays, they shouldn’t overlook these supps and just give back a bunch of blah, blah, blah. It can be challenging, but it’s worth the time to find some tangible, specific and personal details to give your answer meaning and interest. I’ve bolded some key words in the official prompt to get you thinking of ways to respond:
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Essay B (required, 250 to 500 words).
“The University of Colorado Boulder’s Flagship 2030 strategic plan promotes exceptional teaching, research, scholarship, creative works, and service distinguishing us as a premier university. We strive to foster a diverse and inclusivecommunity for all that engages each member in opportunities for academic excellence, leadership, and a deeper understanding of the world in which we live.
Given the statement above, how do you think you could enrich our diverse and inclusive community, and what are your hopes for your college experience?”
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It’s the first part of that question that seemed to confound us the most: “How do you think you could enrich our diverse and inclusive community?”
First, don’t get tripped up on the awkward wording of this question. Replace the word “enrich” with “contribute to.” Basically, they want to know how and what you will contribute to their college (which just happens to pride itself on being diverse and inclusive.) The main thing you are contributing is YOU! If you are unique and participate in unique activities, you will naturally contribute to their prized diverse community.
To answer this, I would talk about:
1. (Briefly) What you have done so far to develop your unique interests, talents and passion for specific topics (mainly those you intend to continue into college). Just pick a couple–this will keep your answer focused. These can be academic, extra-curricular or social (a mix is good.) Or you could focus on specific qualities that you have developed so far, and include examples of how you developed them. If you want to spin off key words in the prompt, leadership or creativity could be a good ones, as would qualities that reflect upon diversity or inclusivity.
2. (Main Part!) And then go on to explain how you plan/hope to continue to pursue those at Boulder, as well as any other new ones you hope to pursue as well.
For point #2, you need to dig around to find details that link all these together. That is, you need to have specific examples of how you will do this, and why. These specifics will help make your answer meaningful and personal. Yes, this might take a little time, but look at this as another opportunity to set yourself apart from the pack.
Here are some places to look:
1. The school Web site. Look for courses, programs and opportunities that the school showcases that relate to your interests–both those you have already developed and even those you find intriguing. Check the course list for unusual classes; look for speaker programs; for internships, study abroad programs, work-study or other opportunities.
2. Check student life Web sites, such as College Prowler and College Confidential, which are loaded with insider details from real students about specific parts of their experience. You can source these in a casual way, saying, “From what I’ve read, Boulder is known for this and that, and that’s exactly what I want…” or “Boulder has a reputation for this and that, and I like that because…”
3. Get personal. If you have a friend or relative attending Boulder, ask them for details about what they like, and some activities they think you would like, or things you might not learn anywhere else. You could even track down acquaintances over Facebook or other social media sites, and just zip them an email with some questions.
4. Use Social Media as research tool. Follow The University of Colorado at Boulder on Facebook and Twitter. Search #universityofcolorado or check out @cuboulder or @mycuboulder (the admissions folks there) and @cuboulderalerts. Also, search Tumblr: There are many students who blog about college admissions.
5. Tours. If you were lucky enough to visit the school, think back to some things that stood out to you while walking around. You can quote something the guide told you, or something you saw while there (students working together with a professor in a chemistry lab, the types of (diverse) students you saw hanging out on the lawn, a cool new building, etc. Share your impressions as they relate to what you care about and want to participate in while at Boulder.
5. Google search. Conduct your own search around a specific area of interest. Put in search words for University of Colorado and some of those key words: leadership, clubs, opportunities, programs, study abroad, speaker program, study groups, support groups, etc. (narrow it by adding your interests: engineering, art, etc.)
6. The Inclusivity angle: When you mention something about one of your interests or passions, talk about how you plan to participate, but also how you are the type who also enjoys giving back, getting out the word, contributing and all that good stuff.
7. The Diversity angle: A good place to draw off would be your cultural background–this can be anything from a Southern California surfer who wants to experience a mountain environment or someone from India who wants to join the ethnic dance scene at Boulder. Another approach: share the interests, talents, qualities and experiences that show how you are unique–which will prove how your joining their community will enhance its diversity.
8. Learn some details about the surrounding community, the town or city. In this case, Boulder. Gather some details about the type of people who live there, (Google it!) and talk about how you are a fit, or if not, how you want to learn more about how they are. (Progressive, outdoorsy, worldly, small town with big city vibe, etc…)
Of course, there’s often no getting around including some of the same generic information that everyone includes, such as loving the location, the class sizes, the diverse student body, the outstanding professors, its reputation in a certain field, etc. If you are thin on material, go ahead and use some of these points, but try to drill deeper and offer specific examples that support your points: a name, an interaction, an observation, a description, a title, etc. This is what will bump up your answer and take it out of the mind-numbingly boring category.
Admissions officers want to see your passion for their school, and giving examples that show that you have taken the time to truly learn about it–and thought about how you would fit into it–are a great way to demonstrate how much you care.
I would shoot for at least several hundred words addressing this part of the prompt, and then a hundred or so for the final part asking about your “hopes for your college experience.” Remember, you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do or achieve at this point. Just offer what you are thinking about at this point; share what interests you and how you see yourself pursuing that, or how you plan to try to figure that out.
Read my Why College X post if you are still hungry for help on these types of supps. Also, my friend Ethan of College Essay Guy has this great list of resources to help you find details about your target schools.
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As an admissions counselor, one of my primary roles when I am on the road during the fall is attending college fairs, high school visits and other events throughout the year to meet with prospective students and families and answer their questions about CU. You can imagine all the of the questions I get asked, everything from “What is the average GPA and test score?” to “How good is the campus food?” and everything in between. One of the most common questions I answer though is “Do you REALLY read the essays? And do they ACTUALLY make a difference in the admissions process?” My answer every time is, “Yes!”
“What makes an essay stand out?” “What are we REALLY looking for in those essays?” “Where do I get started when writing my essay?” These are just a few of the questions many students have about the college application process, and questions I hope to help answer! I have broken down the college essay writing process into 5 easy steps to help you tackle the Common Application essay questions, as well as CU Boulder’s supplemental essay prompt.
- Brainstorm: This is the very first step to any writing assignment you may encounter. Don’t you dare put that pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) without brainstorming first! Many of the essay prompts on the Common Application, the CU Boulder supplement and other college applications ask you about yourself. The whole point of the essays is for us to get to know you personally. Start by brainstorming events that have shaped your life, traits you see in yourself or that accurately describe you, your strengths and weaknesses and anything that makes you, well YOU.
- Write: Just put pen to paper. No matter how you work best, if that is in an outline format, writing full paragraphs, thought bubbles or mapping out your thoughts, get it down on paper! This will help you start to see any themes and recurring traits, events and people that may be important to you and your life. Consider this step your first draft, let your ideas flow and don’t edit anything during this part of the creative process.
- Be Honest: Remember when I said earlier that reading students’ essays is both the best and worst part of my job? What makes it the worst is when students are clearly just writing what they think their admission counselor wants to hear. It is very obvious when you write about an event that didn’t actually happen to you, an experience that wasn’t yours, or just writing about an activity/event that you think we are interested in hearing about. Sometimes the best essays aren’t about profound, life-changing events, they are reflections on a personal experience no matter how big or small. Take the time to reflect in your brainstorming session to focus on what really matters to you, what you want to convey to the admissions committee and how you want us to feel after we read your essay.
- Get Feedback: Have an actual human (or a few) – a parent, counselor, teacher, friend, brother, sister, coach, SOMEONE read your essay. I know it can be tough to allow other people to proofread (and criticize) your work, but no one’s first draft is the best version of their work. The more people you have read your essay, give constructive criticism and provide you with helpful feedback the better your essay is going to read. Plain and simple. Also included in this step; make sure you are actually answering the essay prompt. It seems obvious, but many students get so caught up in if their essay reads well, that they forget to answer the question in the first place.
- Submit: YAY! The last step. You may have stressed out over this essay for days, weeks or even months, but now you are in the final stretch! Make any last minute changes (check for spelling mistakes, obvious grammar errors, etc.) and save the final draft just in case, then you are ready to submit your college essay.
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