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3 Tips for Writing Your Williams College Supplement

Posted by Hayley Milliman | Jan 23, 2019 3:00:00 PM

College Essays

 

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Williams is among the most selective colleges in the country, with an acceptance rate of 15 percent. As part of your Williams application, you’ll need to respond to the Williams writing supplement.

In this article, we’ll cover the three questions that make up the Williams writing supplement, offer suggestions for what to write about in your essay, and give you tips for crafting the best essay possible.

 

The Williams Writing Supplement

There are three different questions on the Williams writing supplement. You need to respond to one of them as part of your application.

1. At Williams we believe that bringing together students and professors in small groups produces extraordinary academic outcomes. Our distinctive Oxford-style tutorial classes—in which two students are guided by a professor in deep exploration of a single topic—are a prime example. Each week the students take turns developing independent work—an essay, a problem set, a piece of art—and critiquing their partner’s work. Focused on close reading, writing and oral defense of ideas, more than 60 tutorials a year are offered across the curriculum, with titles like Aesthetic Outrage, Financial Crises: Causes and Cures, and Genome Sciences: At the Cutting Edge.

Imagine yourself in a tutorial at Williams. Of anyone in the world, whom would you choose to be your partner in the class, and why?

2. Each Sunday night, in a tradition called Storytime, students, faculty and staff gather to hear a fellow community member relate a brief story from their life (and to munch on the storyteller’s favorite homemade cookies).

What story would you share? What lessons have you drawn from that story, and how would those lessons inform your time at Williams?

3. Every first-year student at Williams lives in an Entry—a thoughtfully constructed microcosm of the student community that’s a defining part of the Williams experience. From the moment they arrive, students find themselves in what’s likely the most diverse collection of backgrounds, perspectives and interests they’ve ever encountered.

What might differentiate you from the 19 other first-year students in an entry? What perspective(s) would you add to the conversation with your peers?

Each question has the same instructions: respond to the prompt in 300 words or fewer. Writing the Williams writing supplement is optional, so you can choose whether you want to answer a question or not.

 

Should I Write an Essay for the Williams Writing Supplement?

When you’re working on your Williams College application, you might notice that the Williams Writing Supplement is entirely optional. So should you write an essay? Or skip it altogether?

It would be a huge mistake to not write the Williams College supplement. While the instructions do say optional, the statement isn’t really optional. Choosing not to write an essay will make you look like you don’t care that much about being accepted to Williams.

Along the same lines, your Williams writing supplement is a great way to show the admissions committee aspects of your personality that aren’t highlighted in the rest of your application. Take that opportunity! Show the admissions committee why you belong on Williams’ campus.

 

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What Should I Write About in My Williams College Supplement?

Let’s take a look at each of the Williams College supplement questions and discuss what you could write about in each.

 

At Williams we believe that bringing together students and professors in small groups produces extraordinary academic outcomes. Our distinctive Oxford-style tutorial classes—in which two students are guided by a professor in deep exploration of a single topic—are a prime example. Each week the students take turns developing independent work—an essay, a problem set, a piece of art—and critiquing their partner’s work. Focused on close reading, writing and oral defense of ideas, more than 60 tutorials a year are offered across the curriculum, with titles like Aesthetic Outrage, Financial Crises: Causes and Cures, and Genome Sciences: At the Cutting Edge.

 

Imagine yourself in a tutorial at Williams. Of anyone in the world, whom would you choose to be your partner in the class, and why?

While it may seem like there are endless ways to answer this question, there are really only two real options: you can pick someone you know personally or you can pick someone you’ve never met, but have always wanted to. Whichever direction you go in, you should make sure to have a specific reason for choosing that person.

If you pick someone you know personally, you can use this essay as an opportunity to talk about experiences you’ve had that have greatly affected you. You could, for instance, choose someone you met on a service trip who taught you about hard work or the director of a musical that you participated in that taught you a lot about self confidence. In either of these examples, you’ll be able to talk not only about the influential figure, but about an important part of your life (the service trip or the musical).

If you decide to go the celebrity or famous person route, you should make sure to have a real reason why you want to meet that person - a reason that reflects how they influence you. Love isn’t the same as influence - you can love a celebrity but that doesn’t mean they’ve had a huge impact on your life. It’s fine to pick Chrissy Teigen, but only if you talk about how you’d really like her help dissecting a tutorial on social media.

If you’re struggling to pick a person, it can be helpful to come up with a tutorial topic that you’d like to participate in first. Having parameters like class topic can be useful for giving you ideas for how to answer the question.

 

Each Sunday night, in a tradition called Storytime, students, faculty and staff gather to hear a fellow community member relate a brief story from their life (and to munch on the storyteller’s favorite homemade cookies).

 

What story would you share? What lessons have you drawn from that story, and how would those lessons inform your time at Williams?

While this prompt talks a Williams-specific tradition, Storytime, the question itself is a common one in admissions essays: sharing about a time when you learned an important lesson.

To master this prompt, you need to pick a specific experience. It doesn’t need to be earth-shattering or impressive, but it does need to have real significance in your life. You should pick an authentic experience that you actually had - don’t make something up or exaggerate to try to seem more important.

Your essay should have a clear narrative arc with a beginning, middle, and end. Make sure to include your takeaways and reflections in the end of the response.

 

Every first-year student at Williams lives in an Entry—a thoughtfully constructed microcosm of the student community that’s a defining part of the Williams experience. From the moment they arrive, students find themselves in what’s likely the most diverse collection of backgrounds, perspectives and interests they’ve ever encountered.

 

What might differentiate you from the 19 other first-year students in an entry? What perspective(s) would you add to the conversation with your peers?

This Williams College supplement prompt gives you an opportunity to share more about what makes you unique. Don’t fall into the trap, though, of sharing too much! Pick one specific trait or identity to talk about. You don’t need to talk about every single thing you’ve ever done or liked.

In your essay, be sure to talk about how the trait or identity you chose has affected your perspective. Maybe being introverted has let you observe more about other people. Maybe being a member of the LGBTQ+ community has taught you about the importance of respecting others’ differences.

Whatever you choose, make sure to fully flesh out how and why that trait has affected your perspective and why that perspective would be valuable to the Williams community.

 

Tips for Writing a Strong Williams College Supplement Essay

Writing a strong Williams College supplement essay isn’t just about picking the right prompt to answer. You need to make sure your essay is the best possible example of your work in order to wow the admissions committee. Follow these three tips for writing an amazing Williams supplement essay.

 

#1: Be Authentic

The point of a college essay is for the admissions committee to have the chance to get to know you beyond your test scores, grades, and honors. Your admissions essays are your opportunity to make yourself come alive for the essay readers and to present yourself as a fully fleshed out person.

You should, then, make sure that the person you’re presenting in your college essays is yourself. Don’t try to emulate what you think the committee wants to hear or try to act like someone you’re not.

If you lie or exaggerate, your essay will come across as insincere, which will diminish its effectiveness. Stick to telling real stories about the person you really are, not who you think Williams wants you to be.

 

#2: Play With Form

The Williams College supplement essays leave a lot of room open for creative expression - use that! You don’t need to stick to a five paragraph essay structure here. You can play with the length and style of your sentences - you could even dabble in poetry if that makes sense!

Whichever form you pick, make sure it fits with the story you’re trying to tell and how you want to express yourself.

 

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#3: Proofread and Polish Your Essay

Your Williams essay should be the strongest example of your work possible. Before you turn in your application, make sure to edit and proofread your essays.

Your work should be free of spelling and grammar errors. Make sure to run your essays through a spelling and grammar check before you submit.

It’s a good idea to have someone else read your Williams College supplement essay, too. You can seek a second opinion on your work from a parent, teacher, or friend. Ask them whether your work represents you as a student and person. Have them check and make sure you haven’t missed any small writing errors. Having a second opinion will help your work be the best it possibly can be.

 

Final Thoughts

While the Williams College supplement says it’s optional, it’s not really! You should answer the essay as part of your application.

When writing your Williams College supplement response,

DO:

  • Be authentic and true to yourself.
  • Tell stories that are meaningful to your identity and experience.

DON’T:

  • Lie or exaggerate to seem more important.
  • Forget to proofread or polish your essay.

 

What’s Next?

Wondering how to ace the Common Application? No problem! We’ve got you covered with tips and tricks to make your application stand out from the crowd.

Starting your essay is often the hardest part. If you're unsure where to begin, check out this guide to starting a college essay perfectly, and don't be afraid to just dive right in!

If you're applying to Williams College, you're likely applying to other colleges on the East Coast, too. Check out our expert guides to the Duke essay, the Tufts essays, and the Harvard essay.

 


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Hayley Milliman
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