Ways to Approach the Williams Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

Padya Paramita

Ways to Approach the Williams Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

Williams College has ranked number one on US News’ Best Liberal Arts Colleges list for 17 years in a row. Once you’ve let that sink in, there’s no point sitting around and wondering how you can make your application strong enough to fall within the 500 students accepted every year. It’s time to put your best foot forward and tell the admissions officers more about yourself through the Williams supplemental essays 2019-2020.

You might be used to writing 2 or 3 essays (or more) for each of the colleges on your list. But for Williams, you have to write just one to convey more information about yourself that can help distinguish you from your peers. Here’s the good news - you get to pick from three different prompts in order to write a response that brings out the most powerful essay possible. To help guide you through these questions, I’ve outlined them, the dos and don’ts for your responses, and additional tips to ensure you take full advantage of the Williams supplemental essays 2019-2020.

Prompts for the Williams Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

Please respond to one of the prompts below in a short essay of 300 words or fewer.

Prompt 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?

Don’t panic looking at the sheer length of the first prompt among the Williams supplemental essays 2019-2020. The root of the question lies in figuring out what you look for in fellow team members, how you collaborate with others, and to help admissions officers envision how you might engage in the classroom. When it comes to picking your ideal partner, a good place to start would be to look at the list of tutorials offered by Williams in the upcoming academic year. You could be inspired by “Interpreting Film” to choose a director whose work you enjoy, or by “Women in National Politics” to talk about conversations you’d have with your favorite female politician. 

You can also take a more personal approach to the essay and talk about a friend or family member you get along with exceptionally well, one who sparks the best ideas out of you, and encourages you to get out of your comfort zone and think critically. While you should dedicate a couple of sentences to the person, what they do, and how you came across them, remember that your supplemental essay is meant to boost your own college application. So keep the main focus on yourself. How would partnering with the person encourage growth in you? Why do you think you’d work well as a team? Since you’re collaborating with them in a classroom setting, choosing this essay is a great way to expand on your academic interests and teamwork skills.

Finally, avoid common answers and controversial figures. Picking Walt Disney or Stephen Spielberg for the film tutorial won’t help you stand out. At the same time, picking Hitler for the Second World War tutorial will probably not work in your favor either. Make sure you’ve made your choice carefully, and backed it up in a way that conveys new and impressive information about you. 


Download Every Supplemental Prompt Here!



Prompt 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?

Through this option within the Williams supplemental essays 2019-2020, the school wants to know the ways in which you would uniquely contribute to campus, as well as to gauge your enthusiasm towards Williams College traditions. In the first quarter of your essay, you should talk about the story. Your choice of story doesn’t have to be serious, especially if you’ve gone over a big part of your identity in your Common Application personal statement. There’s no scale that the story has to fit. Williams will appreciate learning about a creative or fun side of you, or reading about an incident that showcases your humor. Don’t go on and on about the story. Spend the next 75 words discussing the lessons you’ve picked up from the story, how it has shaped your perspective, and why it plays such a significant part of your life.

Now we get to the latter part of your response. How will the incident outlined in your essay impact your time at Williams? Mention any characteristics that you’ve picked up that can help you fit in at the school. How has the experience enhanced your creativity? Has it taught you something about community? If you’ve talked about a story surrounding a favorite course or important extracurricular, are there similar opportunities at Williams that you hope to continue pursuing? It’s always good to “show, not tell” in your supplemental essays. For example, instead of simply saying “this story has made me stronger,” outline the ways in which you’ve significantly developed resilience, and how this newfound grit can help you survive in an academically intensive environment like Williams’. Admissions officers should read your essay and form a clear idea of where and how you are likely to contribute on campus.

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

If you don’t have a specific story to highlight your unique perspective, but you have a part of your identity or application profile you want to bring to light regardless, this prompt among the Williams supplemental essays 2019-2020 might be the one for you. As outlined clearly in the question itself, you don’t have to talk about diversity in terms of just your ethnic background. Yes, of course, that’s definitely worth including if you believe your family background has helped make you a perceptive and unique individual. But if you feel that where you come from won’t inspire a memorable story, think beyond characteristics you cannot control.

Williams also mentions “perspectives” or “interests.” Your perspective might have completely shifted from an encounter with a person, or after participating in a program. You could also be involved in unusual extracurriculars, enjoy hobbies uncommon for people your age, or you could have started your own organization or project. Whatever you write about, ultimately, it’s less about what you’ve chosen to elaborate on, and more about the way you’ve chosen to present it. Your stance on the experience, and takeaway from it, must stand out to admissions officers. By providing more information on your background or how you spend your free time, you might surprise them - you would be adding information that doesn’t come across elsewhere in your application. Your essay should not only frame you as a likable and dynamic individual, but also demonstrate your passion and commitment towards what you love to do.

More Tips for the Williams Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

  • Research the School - While you don’t have to specifically outline what appeals to you the most about the college in the Williams supplemental essays 2019-2020, you do still have to familiarize yourself with the opportunities available at this esteemed liberal arts institution. In fact, in order to answer the prompt about your tutorial partner, you need to research the tutorials. To know how you’d contribute to the school, you actually have to read up more on the campus. So don’t shrug away the idea of thorough research just because you haven’t been asked “Why Williams” directly. 
  • Don’t Repeat Your Common App - You have to be careful when brainstorming your answers to the Williams supplemental essays 2019-2020. You might have already elaborated on an important activity, or what appeals to you about your academic interests in your personal statement or activities list. Your response is supposed to add new information about you to help you stand out, so watch out for repetition! Admissions officers don’t want to read about the same thing over and over.
  • Don’t Stress Too Much About the Choice - Yes you only have to write one essay, which puts a lot of pressure on making the right call when it comes to picking the prompt that can bring out your best writing. But the Williams prompts are flexible. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to find the topic. If you decide after you’ve written your essay that it fits the second prompt better than the third one, all it takes is one click of a button to let the college know which prompt you’ve answered.

    While the Williams supplemental essays 2019-2020 don’t provide you with a world of space, you must use it to the best of your ability to convey the unique perspective you hope to bring to the school. Since Williams is a competitive college, the odds are stacked against you. But, a well-written essay can help make a lasting impact on the reader and support your chances of admission. Best of luck!

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