Ways to Approach the Williams Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

Padya Paramita

How to Approach the Williams Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

Williams College has ranked first on US News’ Best Liberal Arts Colleges list for 17 years in a row. Once you’ve worked up the courage to apply to such an excellent school,it’s time to put your best foot forward and tell the admissions officers more about yourself through the Williams supplemental essays 2020-2021.

You might be used to writing two or three essays for each of the colleges on your list, but for Williams, you get just one. You get just one shot to  distinguish yourself 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 2020-2021.

Prompts for the Williams Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

This is an opportunity for you to present another writing sample. It’s entirely optional, and you can either respond to one of the prompts below in an essay of no more than 300 words, or you can upload an academic paper (preferably in the humanities or social sciences) completed in the last academic year.

Prompt 1

The first-year Entry–a thoughtfully constructed residential microcosm of the student community that’s a defining part of the Williams experience–brings together students from around the world with different perspectives, interests and backgrounds. Imagine having a late-night conversation with your Entrymates about a community that you value. Describe that community and why it’s important to you.

Since the prompt clearly states that there are no specific boxes which your choice of community has to check, think about a place where you’ve actually made an impact and vice versa. Think about how to differentiate yourself - while your debate or MUN club may have been a key part of your high school career, they won’t paint a memorable picture of you because many students participate in them. You could write about the smaller circles such as your family, friend group, or neighborhood. Williams wants to know what’s important to you — be as authentic as possible.

To think about the kinds of community to elaborate on, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where do you spend the most time outside the classroom?
  • Which aspects of your life have particularly shaped your identity?
  • If you could only pursue one of the extracurriculars on your activities list which would it be?
  • Which of your communities could you passionately talk about for a long time?
  • Is there something you can participate in without ever feeling bored?
  • Why do you care about this community? How have you shown it? 
  • Have you spearheaded any initiatives?

Consider if there is a community or group which has played a strong role in solidifying who you are. If the answer is yes, there’s your clue. Start your essay by introducing the chosen world - keep it brief as you have another segment to cover. If you choose a larger community - like your whole school or city - make sure your essay still focuses on why it’s valuable to you. A response to such a prompt needs to follow the classic “show, not tell” advice. Admissions officers won’t be satisfied with just “I value my family.” You need to dig deeper and convince them through the Williams supplemental essays 2020-2021 that you are the kind of hardworking and passionate individual who can bring a unique point of view to campus.


Download Every Supplemental Prompt Here!



Prompt 2

All-Campus Entertainment (ACE), a student organization, hosts a weekly event called “Stressbusters”–an opportunity for students to focus on self-care by stepping away from their typical routine and enjoying some unscheduled time--and snacks!--with friends. Weekly Stressbuster activities might include a concert, playing with a therapy dog, painting pumpkins, building with Legos, etc. What’s your version of a “stressbuster,” and how does it help you rejuvenate in the midst of a hectic week?

This is a pretty open-ended question that can help Williams admissions officers understand who you are outside the classroom and how you spend your free time. This is a prompt that diverts from the academic approach. Admissions officers want to know how you would fit into the community. Since the question specifically mentions Stressbuster activities, Williams would appreciate any examples which showcase a playful side of you or demonstrate an interest you have that hasn’t come forward in the rest of your application. You don’t have to go off the examples given, but you should definitely take inspiration from them.

Pick one or two activities that you enjoy the most - and bring up any anecdotes that portray you as a fun and creative individual. Remember to stay away from activities that you think the admissions officers want to hear. If you don’t spend your free time drawing portraits or making films don’t write about that. Nor should you say that you enjoy eating and sleeping unless you have a very unique take on these everyday activities. Think about what you like to do when you have a long weekend, or what you do when you have the most fun with your friends. Find innovative ways to bring light to a side of you that isn’t mentioned in the rest of your application. 

Prompt 3

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 pre-determined tutorials a year are offered across the curriculum. Imagine yourself in a tutorial at Williams. What topic would you be most excited to study in that setting and why?

Don’t panic looking at the sheer length of this prompt among the Williams supplemental essays 2020-2021. The root of the question lies in figuring out what you look for in an academic setting, 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 topic, 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 different type of course that analyzes a particular theme in film, or draw from “Women in National Politics” to create a different course on the representation of women in a different industry.

While you should dedicate a couple of sentences to the course, the syllabus, and how you might have discovered it first, remember that your main focus should lie in explaining why you’re excited to learn more about this topic. How would a tutorial on the class encourage growth in you? Why do you think you’d work well in a team with others when discussing the subject? Since you’re collaborating with others in a tutorial setting, choosing this essay is a great way to expand on your academic interests and teamwork skills. Finally, avoid common answers and controversial courses. Make sure you’ve made your choice carefully, and backed it up in a way that conveys new and impressive information about you. 

More Tips for the Williams Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

  • 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 2020-2021, 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 2020-2021. 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 will 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 2020-2021 don’t provide you with a world of space, you must use the limited room 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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