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3 Tips for Writing Your Williams College Supplement

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Williams is among the most selective colleges in the country. In 2022, its acceptance rate was only 8.5%. As part of your Williams application, you’ll need to respond to the Williams writing supplement.

In this article, we’ll cover the question that makes 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

The Williams writing supplement includes one required “long answer” question (150-300 words). You’ll need to respond to it as part of your application!

Williams believes that in a residential learning community, some of the most important experiences happen while living and learning alongside those different from oneself. Please describe a time when you learned or grew through the process of interacting with someone whose background, identity, lived experience or perspective differs from your own.


As we mentioned, Williams instructs applicants to respond to this question in 150-300 words. Writing this essay is not optional, so you’ll need to make sure you write a thoughtful response before you submit your application!

 

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What Should I Write About in My Williams College Supplement?

Let’s take a look at the Williams College supplement question and discuss what you could write about in it. To recap, here’s how the prompt reads on the application: 

Williams believes that in a residential learning community, some of the most important experiences happen while living and learning alongside those different from oneself. Please describe a time when you learned or grew through the process of interacting with someone whose background, identity, lived experience or perspective differs from your own. 

 

Let’s take a look at the Williams College supplement question and discuss what you could write about in it. To recap, here’s how the prompt reads on the application

Williams believes that in a residential learning community, some of the most important experiences happen while living and learning alongside those different from oneself. Please describe a time when you learned or grew through the process of interacting with someone whose background, identity, lived experience or perspective differs from your own. 

The residential learning community program at Williams is designed to help students plug into the Williams community and give you the support you'll need to be successful during your first year. Knowing that, it makes sense that admissions counselors would want to know more about how you'll fit into both your residential community and the Williams student body! Especially since you’ll likely be living among people who are different from you. 

The first step to answering this prompt is choosing a person/community and experience to focus on in your essay. You should pick an experience that has both impacted your personal growth in a meaningful way and taught you how to have positive interactions with people who are different from you. 

Most of us have had multiple learning experiences with people who are different from us. For instance, you may have had experiences in school, church, clubs or extracurriculars, or even in your family or friend group that brought you in contact with people and perspectives that differed from yours. Try to pick out the experience where you learned something really important–and that taught you something that’s stuck with you over time. 

From there, it's time to tell a story. Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools you have to help others understand your values and experiences. That's why we recommend that you tell a story that helps illustrate how the experience you've chosen impacted your life and perspective!

For example, let's say you immigrated to the U.S. as a kid and just recently became a U.S. citizen. Telling the story of what you learned by coming into contact with people who are different from you during that experience will help admissions counselors a) get to know you better, and b) understand your values. 

In telling that story, make sure you don't forget to explain how the experience changed your perspective or impacted who you are. This prompt is designed to help admissions counselors get to know you better, so don't be afraid to be authentic and honest! 

 

UPDATE for 2022-2023 Williams Applicants

For students applying to Williams during the 2022/2023 school year, there’s an additional optional writing supplement. This essay is separate from the required long answer question we mentioned above. It appears at the end of the Williams application, and you must submit all required parts of the Common App (including the required long answer response!) before you can upload an optional essay. 

On their website, Williams states:

Some students feel they do their best writing in an academic context rather than through narrative pieces like admission applications. If you are interested in submitting an example of your academic writing from the last year, you may share a 3-5 page paper. The paper may be creative or analytical, can cover any topic, and need not be graded. We ask that you include a description of the assignment or prompt. Please do not submit lab reports. Students can apply and submit this optional writing supplement using the Common Application or QuestBridge Application.


As this supplement is optional, you can choose whether or not you want to submit something for it.
If you choose not to, it won't negatively affect your application. If you do decide to submit a paper, don't write something new just for this prompt. Choose a school paper you think is a great example of your writing skills, and submit that. You may want to choose a paper that relates to the subject you want to major in at Williams, but that isn't required. Remember to include a description of the assignment, as Williams requests.

 

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Should I Write an Essay for the Optional Williams Writing Supplement?

When you’re working on your Williams College application, you’ll notice that the Williams Academic 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.

 

What Should I Write About in the Optional Williams Writing Supplement?

If you do choose this prompt, there are a few things to consider. First, your paper needs to be A+ level excellent (though it doesn’t necessarily have to be a graded paper!). If there's a paper you have in mind, we recommend talking to your teacher about it before you decide it's the paper you want to submit. They will be able to give you honest feedback and encouragement about your paper and help you ensure it’s in tip top shape before you send it in.

Second, make sure you edit your paper before you send it to Williams. That doesn't mean you need to completely rewrite your paper, but you should make the revisions your teacher mentions on your essay. Also, make sure you proofread, proofread, proofread. Williams will expect your paper to be free of typos and grammatical errors! 

 

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Tips for Writing a Strong Williams College Supplement Essay

To write a strong Williams College long answer and optional supplemental essay, you need to make sure your essays are the best possible example of your work. Follow these three tips for writing amazing Williams essays to wow the admissions committee!

 

#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 can possibly be.

 

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re writing the required long answer response or the optional academic supplement, there are a few rules of thumb that apply if you want your responses to be the best they can be. 

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.

 

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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
About the Author

Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.



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