Supplemental college essay prompts are trickling out

If you’re a rising senior and you ask any of your soon-to-be-college-freshmen friends for one piece of advise about college applications, I know what it would be…

They would tell you to NOT procrastinate, and to do your best to get as many of your college essays done over the summer.

The Common Application goes live on August 1 and so many colleges will likely release their supplemental prompts by then. As of July 10, here are the colleges that have released their supplemental prompts for 2020 grads and a notation about whether they have stayed the same or changed from last year:

  • Boston College – Same as last year
  • Dartmouth – Made changes from last year
  • Emory – Supplements changed
  • Tufts – Supplements changed
  • UC Boulder – Supplement changed
  • University of Chicago – Change of prompt for extended essay
  • University of Georgia – Single supplement changed
  • University of Kansas – Honors prompts changed
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Same as last year
  • University of Texas at Austin – Made changes from last year
  • University of Virginia – Single prompt changed
  • University of Washington – Made changes from last year
  • Villanova – Supplement changed
  • Wake Forest – Supplements changed

A word to the wise, if you are thinking of taking the easy way out and using a sibling or friend’s essay that was written last year, in one word: DON’T! Most colleges across the country employ a variety of tools to make certain that your essay is your own work. If there is one sure way to get rejected, it is to plagiarize someone else’s essay.

Here’s what UNC Chapel Hill’s admissions office had to say about how they evaluate applications and the importance of the essay. “As we sit down to read each application, we really don’t have an “ideal” student in mind. Rather, we like being surprised by each individual applicant’s interests and talents.”

An Assistant Director of Admissions at UNC Chapel Hill shared her thoughts on what she recommends students should write about in their essays.

  • Take some time and think about what makes you who you are
  • Think about your journey up until this point, your defining moments
  • You don’t need to tell us your entire life story
  • We want to get to know you better and find out how you’ll contribute to the university community

Common themes that emerge as favorites are students who are:

  • Smart
  • Motivated
  • Service-Oriented
  • Curious
  • Creative
  • Courageous

Colleges will tell you that they’re looking for students who will not only flourish in, but will actively enhance, their community. Strong academic performance and leadership in high school are the greatest indicators for strong academic performance and leadership in college, and for students who will contribute to their communities after graduation.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;