Supplemental Essays: A Take on Short Takes

Supplemental Essays: A Take on Short Takes

The Application Season is here and we are as excited as you are!

In this blog, I will take you through tips for writing those seemingly insignificant short take supplemental questions that first few, now many, colleges are including as part of their mandatory essay requirements. This year has seen a rise in Short Take Questions asked by colleges. Well, if you are wondering why here’s the reason –

Like the Short Answer Questions, Short Takes too are extremely personal ‘essays’ but the difference is that these help the University get to know a LOT about you in just a FEW words. These could range from 25 characters to 100 words. Let’s look at which Universities love to ask Short Takes:

1. Stanford University

  • What is the most significant challenge that society faces today?*

  • How did you spend your last two summers?*

  • What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?*

  • Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family.*

  • Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford.*

2. University of Southern California

  • Describe yourself in three words. First Word:* Second Word. Third Word. (25 characters each)

  • What is your favorite snack?*

  • Best movie of all time:*

  • Dream job:*

  • If your life had a theme song, what would it be?*

  • Dream trip:*

  • What TV show will you binge watch next? *

  • Which well-known person or fictional character would be your ideal roommate?*

  • Favorite book:*

  • If you could teach a class on any topic, what would it be?*

3. Columbia University

  • List the titles of the required readings from academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school. (75 words or fewer)*

  • List the titles of the books, essays, poetry, short stories or plays you read outside of academic courses that you enjoyed most during secondary/high school. (75 words or fewer)*

  • We’re interested in learning about some of the ways that you explore your interests. List some resources and outlets that you enjoy, including but not limited to websites, publications,  journals, podcasts, social media accounts, lectures, museums, movies, music, or other content with which you regularly engage. (125 words or fewer)*

General Tips to Answer Short Take Questions

1. Do not take them lightly 

Short Takes need to be taken as seriously as the longer supplemental questions. They would be evaluated nearly the same way the other essays would be. Short Takes in themselves are an excellent way to judge character, so ensure you are not underestimating them.

2. Include a variety, wherever appropriate

Short Takes on books you have read, movies you have watched etc are included to see if you like to learn for the sake of learning. Do you only read/watch subject specific books/movies or would you expose yourself to a myriad other topics?

For reading lists, you want to include something from the fiction and non fiction categories, while also mentioning different literary forms (poetry/short stories/novellas) and genres (go beyond sci fiction).

3. Make meaningful connections

For Short Takes that allow you the space to explain your choice, do form an uncommon, meaningful, personal connection with yourself. For example, if you picked the ‘Purple Hibiscus’ by Adichie, explain why you enjoyed reading it. Was it because you started analysing the role of religious propaganda in Nigeria, or got a chance to explore an English dialect? This also becomes a way for you to differentiate yourself from your peers applying to the same university.

Your Dream Trip should probably not be Vegas. Try something that’s relatively unexplored, but also aligns with your personality.

4. Demonstrate a strong interest in your intended field of study 

Continuing the example above, what you choose to write about can be a strong indicator of your interest in a specific major. Mention books you’ve read outside of your class that align with these subject areas and also unique takeaways from the books you have read inside and outside of the classroom.

Here are a couple of recommendations –

a) News Articles – to demonstrate that you like to be aware of what’s happening in the world (Economics/Finance/Business)

b) Historical Fiction – such as the Kite Runner (History/Literature)

c) Shoe Dog – Design/Business

d) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Biomedical Sciences/Pre-med/Race Studies/Law)

Along with these, it is also a good idea to select those texts that have helped you gain time management skills (Mindset – Carol Derek) and further develop your interests or hobbies.

5. Be Creative

Do try to give thoughtful and thought-provoking answers to these questions. Be creative where you need to be, and try to incorporate humor where you can.

Final word

Short Takes are a lot of fun, but, ironically take longer to complete. Do start early, and explore different options before closing in on a final one. Wish you luck with your Short Takes!

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