A Current Student's Guide to the Barnard Supplement
It’s almost August, which means that the Common App is going live soon! You’re likely brainstorming or drafting all those supplemental essays colleges require. As someone who has experienced writing all of those essays before and has lived to tell the tale, I thought I’d give you some tips on how to best present yourself in your supplements.
I know it seems like dreadfully far away, but January will come eventually, and you will be FREE!*
*From college essay writing.
1. Why Barnard?
For the first supplemental essay on the Barnard application, you are asked to explain why you are applying to Barnard and what makes Barnard unique from the other colleges/universities you are applying to. Many schools ask a question like this, and it can be really difficult to explain why you love one school when you have to keep writing similar essays again and again. However, I assure you there is something unique about each and every school to which you are applying. You just have to find that unique thing which appeals to you and write about it.
Do your research. Consider Barnard’s identity as a women’s college, its relationship with Columbia, and its location in New York City. What is it about Barnard that excites you the most?
Once you’ve finished your draft, ask yourself this: if you replaced “Barnard” with the name of another school, would your essay still make sense? If the answer is yes, it’s time to do more research and start rewriting.
2. A Conversation with a Woman in History/Fiction
For the second supplemental essay on the Barnard application, you are asked to choose a woman in history or fiction you’d like to talk to, and then explain what your conversation would be like. This is a creative piece that is fun to write (and I’m told it’s also fun to read!).
Find a woman -- whether they’re real or fictional, living or dead -- who genuinely interests you. It can be someone you admire, or it can be someone you’d like to better understand. As long as your reasons for picking that particular figure are honest and well-supported, don’t be afraid to write about her! Since there are thousands of applicants to Barnard each year, admissions officers often read multiple essays about the same person. So ask yourself why you specifically would like to talk to this person. Try to add your own unique perspective.
Additionally, don’t be scared to pick someone you think an admissions counselor might find “silly.” One admissions officer was thrilled when she read about sitting down to waffles with Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec (who wouldn’t dream of doing this???).
When I wrote this supplemental essay, I chose Elizabeth I of England. While I imagined it wouldn’t be the most novel answer, it was the most compelling choice to me at the time. I was drawn to her because I viewed her as a sort of proto-feminist figure, revolutionary in her status as a woman occupying one of the most powerful positions in Europe. In addition to her being a strong woman, history was something I knew I wanted to continue to study. At the time I wrote my supplements, I didn’t know I would want to major in history--I just found it really interesting. It’s always more natural to write about something that genuinely interests you. Remember that when you apply to Barnard, you don’t commit to any particular major, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to think about your interests/passions when writing this essay!
Words of Wisdom
Above all else, be yourself. The Office of Admissions is going to be admitting you, not the applicant you conjured up that you think they want. Admissions officers are looking for diversity of thought, intellectual curiosity, and nuanced writing; your supplements are precious space within your application where you can reveal aspects of yourself that aren’t present anywhere else on the Common App. There is only one you in the entire world; admissions officers are interested in getting to know you, not someone you created for the purpose of this application.
- Cassandra Clifford '21