Happy Supplementary Application Season!

As application season ramps up, so too does supplementary application season. For the more competitive university programs, schools have long sought to narrow the pool by asking prospective applicants to complete some form of secondary application. And I urge students not to take this lightly, as many schools actually give considerable weight to these additional pieces of information. After all, in an applicant pool where everyone holds a similar average comes from schools with similar curriculum, and are generally all around the same age, the decision made by the university to choose to invest in your education comes down to what you can offer to them that another applicant cannot. They are looking for the best fit, as are you, and the supplementary application is one more way to get it right. So, no matter how annoying or irrelevant it may seem during a hectic school schedule, it really is an important aspect of the process and one that should not be ignored. This is the university equivalent of the elevator pitch.

Here are some useful tips when sitting down to write one:

Be Creative
Your answers should be crafted and tell a story. You are the main character and your readers want to see a story, not read an essay. No matter how straightforward the question might be, your job is to make you and your answer stand out. But don’t confuse creativity with fiction. Your answers need to be accurate, but the manner in which you present the information is just as important as the content.

As is always the case when writing, you must give considerable thought to the identity of your audience. In this case, it is an admissions team that reads hundreds, if not thousands, of applications. Many of them lack uniqueness or preparation. Keep that in mind and tell them something that no one can or will be able to.

Be You
I already said this is about fit, but this is where you reveal who you are and how you will make an impact. You are selling yourself to the committee, so make sure that they see the real you, and can visualize you roaming the campus and attending classes. Unless there is a personal interview on the horizon, this is your best and only chance to make sure your personality and character to life in the application process. Don’t squander the opportunity!

Show, Don’t Tell
The committee wants to hear, specifically, what you have done. They don’t want a list. And they do not want meaningless generalities. They want examples and they want to see a progression. Lots of kids may talk about volunteering or clubs or sports, but no one can tell your story in these situations except for you. Be unique, but not too quirky. Unique is good. 

Mind the Limit
There is no room for fluff in a supplementary application answer. Get out the thesaurus – showing my age – go online to a thesaurus and use it. You don’t have to use big words, just use good words, and make every one of them count. The thesaurus will also help you find shorter words so you make the limit. 

Know the Program
Wherever possible, your stories should intersect with the program. Leadership. Volunteering. Canoe tripping. All are great things to talk about, but make sure that your skills and experiences deal with aspects of the program you are considering. And again, be specific. A general statement about leadership doesn’t show the committee that you will fit the structure or tone of the program. A well-crafted example does.

Don’t Be Humble
I am not saying that you need to be a braggart or a bore, but do not miss the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the field. All applicants will hit all the minimum requirements aunty top applicants will exceed them. This application is the place where you can have the opportunity to showcase yourself and to shine. The committee will not call you up and ask what you left out if your application is close but not quite good enough. They will just go on to the next applicant. , meaning it’s always a good idea to take advantage of the application (even if it’s optional).

Edit, Edit & Edit…
Do not leave anything to chance. Have multiple eyes look over your drafts. Peers. Parents. Teachers. The more people who can look it over the better. And do not take their advice personally. Listen and learn. The only thing that comes out of the whole process is a stronger application. And if possible, have someone who is already in or who has graduated from the program look over your work. They have a more experienced perspective to offer and may have suggestions that you would’ve never have considered. 

Accept the Option
Not all programs demand that all candidates submit a supplementary application. But given the opportunity to do so, always write one. Yes, I know it is extra work, but it is also one more opportunity to show the committee that you are the right fit for the program. Just choosing to submit one reveals a greater level of interest and engagement. And if someone is giving you the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the pool of applicants, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking advantage of the opportunity afforded to you.

COVID 19 Impact
Of course, there is one proviso when choosing to submit a supplementaryvapplication when afforded the chance to do so. Many schools are offering the option of explaining how COVID has disadvantaged them. If you feel that the disruption to your education as a result of the pandemic has been truly out of the ordinary an different from your peers, answer the question. If on the other hand, your experience is no different than anyone else’s, don’t submit an answer. It is a bit of a Catch 22. On the one hand, schools truly want to know if you have faced undo hardship and overcome unique obstacles. On the other hand, they don’t want to know that you weren’t able to handle the same challenging circumstances as your peers.

There are no guarantees in the application process, but hopefully, these suggestions will get you one step closer to that coveted acceptance letter!


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