Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


College Supplemental Essay Prompts: Best and Worst

Analyzing the Best and Worst Essay Prompts of the 2023-2024 College Admission Season

It’s college application season, and what better way to celebrate than by examining supplemental essay prompts? Many colleges offer supplemental essays to gain additional insight into an applicant’s background, character, or values not present in their personal statement. Though these may be time-consuming or difficult to write, they can add depth to your application. While some colleges require or give the option (not truly optional) of answering one supplemental prompt, others may require answering five or seven. After reading through and answering numerous prompts, I believe I am qualified to share MY favorite and least favorite prompts of this application season.

Favorite: University of Chicago 

“Where have all the flowers gone?” – Pete Seeger. Pick a question from a song title or lyric and give it your best answer.

The University of Chicago is known for its quirky supplemental prompts written by current students and alums, and this year did not disappoint! On top of answering a required Why us? prompt👎, applicants must also respond to one of seven long essay prompts. While I absolutely loved all of the prompts, I had to pick a favorite (the option of defending a misnomer was a close second). I love this prompt because it allows applicants to answer artful and philosophical questions posed by songs. However, there are 2 blatant challenges to this prompt: choosing a song to answer and reaching the 650-word goal that UChicago suggests applicants aim for. It took me about fifteen minutes to decide on “Are there still beautiful things?” from “Seven” by Taylor Swift. Regardless, I know that others may struggle to select their perfect song lyric to write an extensive essay on. But, I believe that when one picks a question to write about that they have previously thought of or find interesting, the word count can be easily achieved. In all, this prompt is incredibly unique and very thought-provoking.

Least Favorite: William and Mary 

Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful?

This prompt is a more sophisticated version of the repetitive “What makes you different?” prompt. While your answer to this prompt will help admissions get to know you better, it is strange and boring. I think that it is hard enough to differentiate myself from other applicants already, and taking away the ability to include academic and extracurricular information makes it even more difficult. When questioned how he would respond to this prompt, Wilson Swenson (12) asked: “what else do I do outside of school other than extracurriculars?” I also feel that I would be better able to show myself and my character by including this information. There aren’t many other things that make me “unique and colorful.” If there is some defining characteristic of your identity that highly represents you, this prompt will be easy and enjoyable to answer. Still, I believe this is a vague and weirdly worded question, and I am glad this is one option out of five prompts.

Favorite: University of Vermont

Established in Burlington, VT, Ben & Jerry’s is synonymous with both ice cream and social change. The “Save Our Swirled” flavor raises awareness of climate change, and “I Dough, I Dough” celebrates marriage equality. If you worked alongside Ben & Jerry, what charitable flavor would you develop and why?

I absolutely love that this prompt allows applicants to blend their creativity with their individual passions for social justice issues. The causes that one supports can reveal a lot about a person, so I believe UVM’s admissions are gaining valuable insight into applicants. I also like that they chose a Vermont company because it makes the prompt unique to the university. The question is direct and easy to answer. When asked this question, Aiden Ball (11), a Ben and Jerry’s employee, responded that he would develop “honey bun ice cream to save the bees.” Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t enjoy responding to this prompt?

Least Favorite: Dartmouth

“Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel of Dartmouth’s Class of 1925, wrote, “Think and wonder. Wonder and think.” As you wonder and think, what’s on your mind?”

This is another vague and strange question. One commendable aspect of this prompt is the tie to the university, as it uses a quote from a famous graduate. However, I feel there are many better Dr. Seuss quotes that Dartmouth could have used. What about, “the more that ‌you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Where do you want your Dartmouth experience to take you? Maybe something like that? This prompt seems like a poor attempt at flexing Darthmouth’s alumni. When asked the question, Milla Broadwater (12) says that the prompt is very philosophical but does not mean anything. Personally, I would not like to write about my wonderings and thinkings. 

Favorite: Wake Forest

Give us your top ten list of anything.

I like this prompt as it allows applicants the freedom to express themselves and write about anything that is of significance to them. Although it may be hard to pick the subject of your list initially, it will be simple to do once you get going. But it entirely depends on the type of person you are. Lilly Murphy (12) answered this prompt by giving her top ten list of quotes from her dad.

Least Favorite: Pomona College

What item are you excited to bring with you to college?

I dislike prompts where I believe that I am giving admission officers irrelevant information. What would they learn about me from asking about an item I would bring? I did not think anyone would be excited to bring something to college until I talked to William McCarty (10). When asked about the prompt, he responded that he is most excited to bring all of his notes from high school so that they could help him with introductions to his college classes. Still, I believe college admissions would not learn considerable information about anyone from a single item.

Favorite: University of Georgia

The transition from middle to high school is a key time for students as they reach new levels of both academic and personal discovery. Please share a book (novel, non-fiction, etc.) that had a serious impact on you during this time. Please focus more on why this book made an impact on you.

I believe that books can heavily impact and change people by opening us up to new possibilities and perspectives in the world around us. So, I would find fun in finding and reflecting on a novel. This prompt allows a person to be vulnerable about a critical period and how they changed during it. Holly Manning (12) said she answered this prompt by sharing the novel, “Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbitt. This novel explores a theme of everlasting life, and as she was transitioning from middle to high school, it had a distinctive effect on her.

Least Favorite: Bowdoin College

Generations of students have found connection and meaning in Bowdoin’s “The Offer of the College,” written in 1906 by Bowdoin President William DeWitt Hyde.

To be home in all lands and all ages;

to count Nature a familiar acquaintance,
and Art an intimate friend;
to gain a standard for the appreciation of others’ work
and the criticism of your own;
to carry the keys of the world’s library in your pocket,
and feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake;
to make hosts of friends…who are to be leaders in all walks of life;
to lose yourself in generous enthusiasms and cooperate with others for common ends –
this is the offer of the college for the best four years of your life.

Which line from The Offer resonates most with you?  The Offer represents Bowdoin’s values. Please reflect on the line you selected and how it has meaning to you.


Oh. My. God. I strongly dislike this prompt. Why would I want to turn in an English assignment to college? Examining a poem, picking a line, and writing a 250-word analysis about it is not something I would enjoy doing. However, if you love analyzing poetry, you will love this prompt. Alessandro Mazzi (10) says that the line “To be home in all lands and all ages” resonates the most with him because he says he wishes to be at home instead of torturing himself with college and this prompt. 



Supplemental Essay Guide 2023-24 – College Essay Advisors: Admissions Essay Experts 

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