Most of you will write one or two “core” essays for your college applications.

These essays will focus on revealing who you are and why you are unique.

But you will also write numerous supplemental (shorter) essays.

The good news is that many of these “supps” ask similar questions. So if you are smart, you will find ways to re-use parts of your answers and streamline the process.

At the same time, you also will hone, sharpen and improve your answers.

Here are some examples of typical sup questions that are looking for similar answers:

  • Why do you want to go to OUR UNIVERSITY?
  • Why are you a “good match” for OUR UNIVERSITY?
  • What is it that you like the best about OUR UNIVERSITY?
  • How will you contribute to OUR UNIVERSITY?

Basically, there are two parts to these prompts. One: Why YOU? Two: Why COLLEGE X? Your job is show how and why they fit together. Here is a short guide on how  to do this:

ONE: State your main goal for your education at your target schools. To be an engineer? To get a liberal arts education? To play waterpolo? To become a filmmaker? To earn a pre-med degree? To figure out what you want to do in the future?

TWO: Now jot down some of your other goals for your college experience at your target schools:

To meet different types of students?  To join activities that support your interests and hobbies?

To connect with real-world opportunities (study abroad/internships/etc.)? To enjoy the school’s traditions and programs?

THREE: Now figure out how your target school would help you meet these goals. If you are really wise, you will first take time to investigate your target schools. Start at the web site. Or recall specific facts or observations you collected during a visit. You want details.

Jot down specific examples of what features will help you meet your goals: unique programs/curricula/classes/clubs, student-teacher ratios, class sizes, accolades of professors, reasons for status among other colleges, the campus and specific facilities (classroom buildings, architecture, dorms, gathering places), the surrounding environment (big city, small college town, etc.), size of school, vibe of student body, location in country (near mountains, close to home, etc).

FOUR: Even though these supps are very short, it’s best to focus on (and start with) your main point—that is, the strongest way that College X meets your most important personal goal.

Even better, give an example of how you believe this college will meet your most important goal. Be specific. After that, you can add other examples of how this college will meet your other goals.

Whenever possible, make it personal!

Example: If you want to be an engineer, and you believe the strongest asset College X has for you is their intellectual, eclectic study body, then start with that.

You could start by describing the type of students you noticed during a college visit, and how you relate to them.

After that, include other examples, such as specific programs, activities, etc.

If your main goal is to study in a big city so you can have access to real-world opportunities, describe the urban environment during a previous visit and explain why it’s important to you.

FIVE: Once you have a list of goals and specifics about how College X would help you meet these goals, you are ready to write. The trick is to write it all out and don’t worry about the word limit.

MAIN OBJECTIVE: Explain how College X will help you meet your goals. Give specific details on both your goals and what College X offers that links to them.

Once you have all your ideas out, re-read and underline the best ideas. Now re-write it and chop out the stuff you don’t need. You want to pack in your best examples and points.

SIX: Make sure to tweak your answers to address the different questions and schools: This should be obvious, but you will use your same personal goals but provide varying examples and details depending on the school you are writing about.

For instance, if you want a college with outstanding study abroad programs, you will be as specific as possible when describing each school’s unique study abroad offerings.

A hot tip: Do not re-state the question in your answer. This takes up your precious word or character count. Launch directly into your answer.

WARNING: If you are re-using your answers and only making minor changes, you must make sure that you only talk about your target school. Re-read each supplement to triple check for any inadvertent mentions of the wrong school.

If you are so certain you are a perfect match for a school, your answer had better match perfectly!!!