Zach Feldman — University of Virginia

Prompt: We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are (300 words).

Essay:
I am inexplicably addicted to Google Maps. While my peers spent hours playing Xbox and watching Nickelodeon, I logged endless time virtually touring obscure places around the globe. The more remote the destination, the better. It was amazing that I could step into Street View and experience a location as if I were really there (Oh, I did not realize that Barrow, Alaska sits on the Arctic coast!). This awesome application satisfies my near-insatiable passion for geography.

Geography is a wondrous amalgam of adventure, travel, and nature. I spent my childhood glued to the car window watching the world as it passed. I mentally noted signs, landmarks, and how to travel from place to place. Over time, I had come to know my town like the back of my hand. My mom started to endearingly refer to me as her human GPS.

My love of geography stems from one of my core traits: I notice details that people sometimes ignore. To many, the scenery that whizzes by serves as just background filler, but to me, it provides the color for humanity’s palate.

When I visited the University of Virginia as a sophomore, I took curious note of the fascinating and historical details of the grounds. Whether it be the symbiotic interplay between the grounds and Charlottesville or the perfect proportionality of The Lawn, I know that Virginia will be well-suited for my love of geography and will further develop my global perspective.

And yes, while I have (and will continue to) gaze at the University through the portal of Street View, it would be an honor to experience all of this firsthand next fall as a student.

Tips for Writing:

This was the third supplemental essay I wrote, and it was by far the easiest to write. The process of writing this essay taught me that when you are easily able to write about a topic, it is most likely the right one.
This supplemental essay prompt falls under the “What is unique about you?” category, one of the most common questions that a college may ask. On one hand, everyone is unique in every way, but pinpointing exactly what you want a college to know about you can be difficult. For an essay of this kind, I suggest picking one of your passions that you often take for granted and comes naturally to you. Instead of a sport, instrument, or time-consuming passion, pick something subtle but meaningful. For me, that was geography. It can be an unique skill, such as having perfect pitch or knowing a ridiculous amount of sports facts, or it can be something interesting about you, like being rather tall or always able to make your friends laugh. As you can see, the last portion of my essay is geared directly referenced aspects of the school I applied to. This is not necessary, but if you do find a way to make you essay personable to a particular college, go for it.
For all supplemental essays, make sure you have several trusted adults read it before submission. I would recommend involving your parents as well as a teacher/educator/tutor in the editing process to pinpoint the areas that need strengthening. As well, do not put yourself into a time-crunch situation when it comes to supplemental essays. Especially if you are applying via Early Action/Decision, start brainstorming essay ideas over the summer and have a draft completed by early to mid September. This will allow for ample time for peer editing, and more importantly, will reduce your college process stress closer to those menacing application deadlines!
Finally, make sure you have fun with your supplemental essays. Show a side of you that was not captured in the Common Application essay that is truly unique to you. When it comes to the “What is unique about you” prompt, the more light and entertaining the response is, the more college admissions counselors will enjoy reading it.